Sunday musings: Franklin’s America, artificial dog-nose research, dog B&Bs


This Sunday after Thanksgiving, Ben Franklin’s vision of America finds its way to these pages. The search for an artificial dog nose continues and a doggy version of AirBnB is thrown a $6 million bone.

The America Ben Franklin saw

Every so often, I come across an opinion piece that speaks directly to the kind of America in which I believe. This piece in Thanksgiving Day’s Washington Post did just that. It is what I refer to as responsible capitalism.

This captures the positive hopefulness I have for our country and the inner soul that I believe America still has; an “America — built on freedom, liberty, opportunity, shared aspirations and diversity — that Franklin and his fellow founders helped create.” It is well worth reading. I hope you do. And, I hope you agree.

[Franklin] believed that the business of America was not merely to celebrate success but also to ensure that each new generation had the opportunity to achieve it.

Franklin had the vision to see America as made up of rugged individualists who valued their freedom but also cared about the aspirations of others. …Franklin left the bulk of his wealth to create revolving loan funds so that aspiring young tradesmen and shopkeepers could borrow a little money to get started, then pay it back so that subsequent young entrepreneurs could get a helping hand. These loan funds worked for more than two centuries.

…he donated to the building fund of every church constructed in Philadelphia. When a hall was being built to accommodate visiting preachers, Franklin urged his fellow citizens to donate “so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”

Developing an artificial dog nose

More than two years ago after a Senate hearing, I wrote about the Holy Grail of a dog’s nose when it came to bomb sniffing. During the ensuing 30-plus months, research has been continuing.

A team of engineers in California have created and are patenting technology based on findings about how a dog’s nose works. Their research targeted 2,4-dinitrotoluene, the primary vapor emanating from TNT-based explosives.

Mechanical and chemical engineers at University of California, Santa Barbara, have designed a detector that uses microfluidic nanotechnology to mimic the biological mechanism behind the dog’s sensing apparatus. Basically, they’ve developed a mechanical bomb sniffer based on the dog’s nose, which they claim is not only accurate, but actually more precise than the canine nose. If the device catches on – the scientists have already obtained a patent and exclusive license – then it could become just as common in potentially hazardous zones as smoke detectors.

An online dog B&B, Dogvacay, just got $6 million venture funding

From deep thoughts about the founding of our country to research about artificial dog noses, we come to another canine story about doggy B&Bs. One might scoff at this concept, but a very respected venture capital company has just plunked down $6 million to fund the canine B&B venture. This is on top of an initial multimillion round of funding.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “DogVacay Inc. allows dog owners to search for potential hosts, all of whom have been screened, based on experience, lifestyle, location and home type. The host sets the rate, ranging from $15 to $80 a night, and DogVacay takes a cut. The service provides 24-hour emergency veterinary care coverage.”

DogVacay has been experiencing exponential growth. Since launching in March, the company has reportedly seen 60 percent month-over-month revenue growth and is undisputedly the largest home dog boarding and pet services marketplace in the US.

Consumers seem to love the service because it’s generally cheaper to use than kennels or other private dog care services. Pet caregivers gravitate toward the turnkey nature of the platform. This said, the company is barely scratching the surface in terms of awareness and has plenty of room for additional growth. DogVacay and Benchmark are aiming to wrangle a US market consisting of 78 million pet dogs (more than live-at-home kids) and in which $5 billion per year is spent on pet boarding.

The young startup offers a number of technological bells and whistles to both pet owners and sitters, in addition to its matchmaking services. Owners in New York and Los Angeles, for example, can use GPS to track their pet’s whereabouts at any moment and can view real time daily activity logs that calculate things like time spent running, playing, and resting (reporting features coming to more markets soon). Another similar features [sic] in the works is live or recorded pet activity videos, which anyone who has a pet owner friend can attest will be feel-good gold.

Photo of Ben Franklin from wikipedia