My Link AKC Smart Collar Experience

I love gadgets. And gadgets for dogs? What’s not to like? So, I ordered the new Link AKC collar because it has GPS tracking and I’m the most paranoid guy in the world who thinks someone is going to steal my puppy. Guess what? Someone stole my black lab puppy from my yard years ago. So, maybe I’m not that paranoid.

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I thought about not posting this picture because it looks like I posed Griff to show off his collar. I didn’t. My wife took this photo. It’s cute. 

Overall, the Link’s quality and craftsmanship are excellent, almost Apple-like. It also arrives in expertly-designed packaging, which is . . . wait for it . . .  almost Apple-like. The collar and its components feel solid and are constructed of quality materials. Kudos to AKC for this. I was happy it was durable, as Griff doesn’t know how to take care of his electronic devices yet.

In addition to its GPS feature, Link tracked Griff during the day and totaled his activity minutes. Though this was interesting, I didn’t find it that valuable. Our dogs get a ton of exercise, thanks to my wife walking them twice a day. However, for someone who isn’t home all day with their dogs, this might be a nice reminder or motivation to get the dog out and about.

Link also has an LED light on it and can make a sound on the collar, which I couldn’t hear but my daughter could. The light is pretty cool at night and I really believe Griff liked going around in the dark being able to see things more clearly. I’ll never know. But it was cute watching him do it. And I liked seeing where he was in the yard at night.

Then there’s a feature on the iPhone app called “Adventure.” It worked once and never again. With Adventure, you can record the distance you walked with your dog and take pictures along the way, creating memories. I thought this was cool the one time it worked. But not so much after numerous error messages, reloading of the app, and more error messages.

 

AKC customer service was helpful and they were quick to respond in Chat and when I phoned.

I did learn that you have to be 150 feet away from Link’s plugged-in base to start an adventure, which customer service told me and I must have missed in the directions (were there directions?).

But I had already tried Adventure more than 150 feet away from the base when I went to the vet, who was miles away. It didn’t work there either; error message again.

I played the role of good customer after talking to the rep and walked Griff around the block until the app showed that Griff and I were together and far enough from the base. BTW, it’s not easy to walk a puppy, hold your phone in one hand and the leash and treats in the other. You should be able to start Adventure before you leave the house, if you want.

Regardless, it still didn’t work. Error message = frustration = time to return it.

For $169 (I had $10 off for Mother’s Day) and 9.95 for monthly GPS (cheaper with a long-term plan), it should work right. And I bet it does for many people, just not me. So it’s going back.

Overall, I give Link AKC 5 out of 5 paws for its quality and potential to be awesome, but 3 paws for my experience and the error messages and the fact I could never figure out how to set the virtual fence to alert me if Griff wandered off.

One day it will be a perfect device. Just not today, and not for me, yet.

 

 

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My last dog?

We have a new dog. A golden retriever. And it’s with a touch of guilt that I write this post to mention it. After Merlin, our shepherd mix, passed away, I looked at adopting again. I started the search process, but grew frustrated and impatient with it. Here in Los Angeles, there are thousands of dogs to choose from. Very sad. It’s overwhelming, and makes you wonder how it’s possible that all of these dogs need homes. Humans, hmm.

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Happy Griff 

I had something else to consider regarding which dog to get: my time is running out. I don’t feel comfortable believing I have loads of days ahead of me thanks to cystic fibrosis and my current health and age. Again, I’m the luckiest guy in the world. But I’m not going to count on that luck holding out forever. One bad virus or infection and who knows.

So, I made an executive decision and chose a predictable dog breed that I’ve always loved, and one that would be great for my daughter and wife, especially in the long run if I’m not around. They love cuddly, friendly dogs. And we couldn’t get another yellow lab because we already had the greatest one ever.

Enter Griffin, or Griff. Or when he steals stuff, Grifter.

He’s 34 pounds of pure fluff and fun, and working on growing into his paws, which look really big right now.

The best news: the reality of having him is better than the dream. He’s a little gem and exactly what I wanted. He’s smart and learns fast. And he’s full of mischief at times, but calm in nature. And he is friendly when meeting people and other dogs.

He draws a crowd in public. It’s like escorting a celebrity around town: “Sorry, folks, Mr. Griff has to leave. He has a meeting at the studio for Air Bud 10. You’ll be seeing him soon on the big screen.”

If you’d like to check out our future grooming headache, I created an Instagram account for him. @GoldenFluffalo.

Griff has already delivered a ton of joy and smiles to our lives. And my crazy dream is to certify him as a therapy dog and have him live with me during hospital stays. It sure would make them easier to survive. I know it’s a crazy idea, but I like thinking of him hanging out in the room.

I’ll train him to pull my IV pole on walks, retrieve my meds from the nurses, and growl at the RTs I don’t care for.

It’s nice when life gives us these little gems to get us through the hard days. I’m forever grateful.