Ava has a face made for a dating app. Radiant smile. Wide, friendly eyes. A personality that jumps off the smartphone screen.
It’s a profile that’s sure to see plenty of play from online relationship-seekers, but only if they check out Share A Dog, a phone app that matches Southern Nevada canine caregivers with dog owners.
Cheryl Moss, co-founder of Let’s Share a Dog — a Las Vegas nonprofit that unleashed the Share A Dog app in early April — says it can be used when dog owners travel, need a sitter when they’re at work, or simply when they go out for a few hours and don’t want to leave their dogs alone at home.
Another sure-to-be-popular use: Matching dogs with non-dog owners who don’t, or can’t, have a dog themselves but who’d love to spend regular quality time with somebody else’s.
Share a Dog — available through Apple’s App Store — is free, and caregivers who sign up aren’t paid. Rather, Moss hopes that creating extended families of dog lovers will ensure that the animals will be cared for and reduce the number of dogs who are surrendered to shelters because owners can’t find or afford caregivers.
Rachel Boyle, Ava’s owner, says she learned about Share a Dog from a friend.
She has used it to find one volunteer caregiver for Ava, and plans to use it when she has to travel or plans an evening out but doesn’t want Ava to be alone.
“I like to have someone watch my dog when I travel, and I’ve asked friends I don’t know how many times, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Boyle says. “So this is a perfect fit for me and Ava. I know she’s going to be in a safe place and I don’t have to put her in a kennel. I don’t want her in a kennel all day.”
The app has “just been great,” Boyle says. “You can see there are (interested caregivers) all over the city, so you can look and see who’s logged on from a map and you can start a chat and talk back and forth.”
Potential caregivers and owners can message within the app, compare schedules, and, if all goes well, arrange a meeting. Dog owners can also rate companions.
In fact, it’s not too far fetched to think of Share a Dog as a sort of interspecies dating app. “I guess it’s the same as in your online dating world: You look for someone you can trust and who has a good track record,” Boyle says.
Moss says the app also can be used while traveling or vacationing out of town, because it offers matches based on wherever the phone happens to be.
What distinguishes Share a Dog from other dog-walking, dog-sharing or dog-sitting apps is that that it’s free. “We are not dog sitters. We do not ask people to be paid. We try try to match up busy dog owners with interested neighbors who’d benefit from spending time with a dog, not a dog-sitter.”
The goal is “to build a relationship,” and ensuring that “the dog has an aunt or an uncle down the street.”
Just getting started
Cheryl Moss, co-founder of Let’s Share a Dog, said the group’s app had about 100 users nationally as of two weeks ago, and about 15 caregiver-dog owner matches had been made. She’s pleased with the app’s early word-of-mouth response.
“We’ve always known it was something that we, as a community, needed,” Moss says. “I fully anticipate we’ll have donations and sponsorship that can help to support it.”
The organization’s website — LetsShareADog.org — offers, in addition to information about the app and how it works, a shop where visitors can purchase picture books about and a plush toy in the the form of Jenny, the nonprofit’s mascot, based on one of Moss’ own dogs.
Kelly Leahy, communications manager for The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, said the shelter receives an average of 80 animals a day, some of which are surrenders, and owners sometimes do give up dogs because their schedules don’t allow for an animal’s proper care.
While she wasn’t familiar with the Share a Dog app, “any kind of app or process that helps to reduce surrenders is wonderful,” Leahy says.