Pet Stuff

(Part of The Future: A Retrospective)


Edible Pet Spoon

Edible Pet Spoon
Odds ?
Year ?
Cost ?

Nooo, what have you done to Spoony? There is no prediction data for this entry, just a blank space where the data would have been. I feel like the Brent Spiner-looking guy in the "patent your dumb inventions" commercial who says "That was moy oydea!", because this was moy oydea! Suzanna Goodin hated her chore of washing the spoon used to spoon totally gross cat food out of the tin, and came up with the idea of baking garlic dog biscuit dough into a spoon that the cat would eat as part of its meal.

I guess that's all right if you're a small-time operator like Suzanna Goodin, but I was after bigger game. I hated washing all dishes, cat-related or no, and I felt that they should all be edible, possibly to the point where there was no need to put food on the table because the place settings were a complete meal. I believe I also drew up diagrams for dishes that would wash themselves, each dish incorporating the equivalent of a full dishwasher. But I never entered my crackpot inventions in the Weekly Reader Invention Contest, and that, it would seem, was my downfall.

Suzanna and her parents decided not to "[go] into business marketing and selling the edible pet food spoon," probably for the same reason Lilian Lukas decided not to devote her life to selling the puddle detector. There are a wide variety of design patents on edible spoons, the idea on halfbakery (of course), and it occasionally makes an appearance in kids' foods. The most recent incarnation is these disgusting cereal straws.


Pet Vacuum Grooming Device

Pet Vacuum Grooming Device
Odds 100%
Year 1992
Cost $35/1989 ($56/2007)

As seen on TV! Lighting designer Gregory Santana invented the Pet-Vac, a combination vacuum/pet brush. Unfortunately he didn't patent it or anything, and the market is now saturated with lousy vacuum cleaners with pet-grooming attachments. San Francisco's 7 on Your Side, local news at its finest, tested the modern-day Pet-Vac in 2006 and found it wanting. This might be Santana's now-dead trademark. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!


Non-Choking Dog Collar

Non-Choking Dog Collar
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $12-$18/1989 ($20-$30/2007)

Future Stuff lays on the guilt. "If you find walking your rambunctious dog to be a pain in your neck, imagine how the dog feels. Every time you pull on the leash, poor Rover gets choked!" Yes, poor Rover, whipping dog for rambunctious dogs everywhere. What's the alternative to killing him by degrees? It's Gentle Leader, the brand name that was available for a pet product because it focus-grouped really poorly to describe a presidential candidate.

Gentle Leader is a caring introduction to B&D for your dog. After deciding on a safebark, you attach the halter, which "consists of a strap that fits around the dog's nose and lower jaw, and another strap that runs behind the ears and joins under the jaw." Co-inventor Dr. Robert Anderson says, "Older dogs remember [when they were puppies] and recognize pressure to the back of the neck as control."

Here's the now-standard contemporaneous NYT article. Supposedly there's also a 1987 patent, but I can't find it.

The Gentle Leader is still being sold for about $15/2008, and gets generally good reviews. It's made by Premier Pet Products.


"Bark Stopper" Dog Collar

"Bark Stopper" Dog Collar
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $60/1989 ($100/2008)

Maybe your dog's okay when you're with him, so the Non-Choking Dog Collar isn't applicable. But leave him alone and he becomes "the neighborhood nuisance," with unfavorables to match Dennis the Menace's. Well, "Veterinarians at Texas A & M University have developed a dog collar that will transform your canine from a miserable mutt back into man's best friend." It would seem that Snidely Whiplash is one of the veterinarians.

This collar waits for your dog to bark and then emits a high-pitched dog-annoying sound right in her ear. That'll shut her up! Or make her bark more. Eventually the barking stops, according to the veterinarians.

"The collar, however, will not turn your dog into a wimp." The all-knowing veterinarians additionally state that if there's a reason for the barking, a dog will bark despite the discomfort and all the training you just gave her telling her not to bark. Man, dogs get no respect in this messed-up world.

As Future Stuff went to press, Human Technology at Texas A & M was the exclusive distributor of the anti-bark collar. I don't see them around anymore. There are lots of devices that operate on this principle but only a couple are collars: most are loudspeakers you put in your yard or hand-held devices you carry on your mail delivery route. I did see one sonic collar (the Innotek BC200) for $70-$100/2008, and a collar that works on an electroshock principle (PetSafe PBC-102) for $40/2008. I think my mother used one or the other collar on her rambunctious dog Gretel.


Refrigerator Kitty Bowl

Refrigerator Kitty Bowl
Odds 100%
Year 1992
Cost $20/1989 ($33/2007)

William Crowell's cat died of feline urologic syndrome, and he was told that "FUS and Squirt's death could have been prevented had the cat simply drunk more fresh water." Actually it's not clear what causes FUS (probably why it's designated a "syndrome"), and although lots of water (and non-dry cat food) is a must for a cat with FUS, it probably won't prevent it.

Anyway, Crowell lost a second cat to FUS and started inventing. Cat experts agree that "cats will only drink cool water," yet water experts agree that "the average pet bowl leaves water at room temperature within an hour." Crowell created a bowl with a space for "one of those frozen blue ice packages underneath." He went back to the experts, who were probably getting tired of this by this time, and they ascertained that this bowl in fact keeps water cool for "as long as twelve hours" and that this did indeed make cats drink more.

I can't find any trace of Crowell's "Kitty Fridge", even the patent. There's still a Cool Water Company around, but they're in Liverpool, not in Landsdale, PA. Refrigerated pet dishes show up exclusively in patents, including one that looks like a toilet, for that touch of class. What happened? I'm pretty sure people started buying water dishes that use little motorized fountains to aerate and cool the water, instead of dishes that used blue gelpacks or actualy refrigerators to cool it. Today you can get a "pet fountain" from Amazon for $27/2008.


The Nailless Horseshoe

The Nailless Horseshoe
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $43.97/1989 ($76.14/2007) for four

Pull up a stool at my Western-themed bar, The Nailless Horseshoe. Here, we believe in not jamming nails into a horse's hooves. Instead we bond the hoof to a plastic horseshoe. The system was invented by "two Massachussetts dentists, M. John Pautienis and Richard Shakalis," who are still in business together as SBS Shoe Bond Systems, Inc..

There are patents on nailless horseshoes going back to 1889, but Pautienis and Shakalis seem to have been the first to apply the principles of dental bonding to the farrier's trade. Initially the glued shoes were intended to be used "every third time", but now there are plastic and synthetic horn (aka plastic) horseshoes that you can use all the time. SBS doesn't seem to sell the actual horseshoes anymore, though. On the plus side, Pautienis and Shakalis still practice dentistry. There's also a barefoot horse movement.


Two-Way-Mirror Birdfeeder

Two-Way-Mirror Birdfeeder
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $100/1989 ($170/2007)

Recalling the classic cartoon with the jailbird and the stool pigeon, the Meta Birdfeeder uses a two-way mirror (not a misnomer) to let you spy on birds as they eat your tasty, tasty birdseed.

The Meta Birdfeeder is so named because of its other big innovation: it's made of a series of tubes ("clear polycarbonate tubes") attached together to form the human-pleasing outline of a house. You fill the tubes with seed and "[s]everal openings along each tube" allow birds to PECK at the feed. So it's effectively a birdfeeder made out of smaller modular birdfeeders.

But back to the two-way mirror component. There's a two-way mirror birdfeeder ("window birdfeeder") listed on various online stores, but it's also listed as being unavailable. You might have to turn to infomercials if you want one of these, but there are many patents on different types of mirrored birdfeeders. So it's not like they're hard to invent. Just build your own.

Meta Birdfeeder (both product name and company) doesn't show up on the web. Tim Lundquist, the inventor profiled in Future Stuff, does show up as the inventor of a different birdfeeder. This is a feeder that holds forty pounds of birdseed.

On a side note, the awkwardly-domain-named two-waymirrors.com suggests two ways of using a two-way mirror: place them "inconspicuously... so as to blend into the decor," making them "your ace in the hole", or place them blatantly, in a way that screams "Two-way mirror here! Also, talking dog!":

Deterrence means criminals will look elsewhere. It tells employees that you are nearby.

Maybe I don't have the top-notch criminal mind against which two-waymirrors.com is accustomed to matching wits, but if I saw a mirror I'd think it was a mirror. If I saw a surveilance camera, or, say, a window, I might think someone wanted me to think I was being watched. I certainly would never think, "Hmm, that incongrous two-way mirror on the factory floor tells me the boss is 'nearby'." Talk about passive-aggressive!


This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Monday, March 31 2008, 00:26:31 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Wednesday, October 22 2014, 13:00:04 Nowhere Standard Time.

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