There’s a grocery store just down the street from my apartment. Around the corner from this grocery store there is a white, metal, glass-fronted box. It’s a few feet high and a few feet wide. It’s labeled “Dog Parker.” And as the cutesy instructive text explains, it’s an alternative to tying your dog’s leash to a pole while you step into a store. You just walk your dog in there! And then you download the app! And then you lock the dog inside! With the app!
I’d never seen it in use. But for months, every single time I walked by I’d slow my step, add a beat of delicious anticipation, and say a silent prayer: Please, Lord, let this be the day I see a dog trapped in a tiny pop-up prison.
After long hours of idle speculation, I finally read up. According to the the official origin story on DogParker.com, founder Chelsea Brownridge found inspiration for the start-up through her own dog, Winston, “a terrier mix rescue who lives with me in Brooklyn” and “is extremely high-energy” and “suffers from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).” Too often, Brownridge continues, “Winston needed to stay home more than either of us wanted just because I’d go into a store for a few minutes where he wasn’t allowed. I hated that Winston and I were missing out on lots of extra walks and adventures together.”
As you won’t be surprised to hear, the official Dog Parker verbiage avoids terms common to incarceration. (Like “solitary confinement,” or “restrictive housing,” or “the hole,” or “the bing,” or “torture according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.”) The company’s marketing refers to their product as “on demand neighborhood dog houses.” Very cute! One thing, though, I thought to myself as I read that: dog houses don’t lock you inside via app once you enter them.