HOME PLACE - E-card humor goes to the dogs

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Anyone who has read this column for long understands that three years ago I left rational behavior behind and became one of those ridiculous people who can't seem to be sane about pets.

Of course, our family did get the best dog in the universe when I adopted Cap'n Jack from the Blue Mountain Humane Society. That's a given. That was a Thursday and it took about 72 hours for me to realize I had fallen off the cliff into the "dog people" vortex. Fell, heck - I threw myself in when I stopped at Petco to look at canine Halloween costumes.

An activity I was previously derisive of, by the way. But dat wittle pumpkin shirt was so cutesy wootsie on da wittle Jack darling, oh yesh it was!

So you can see why one recent marketing bid got my attention, the only one to do so in that day's 73 or so unsolicited amazing deals and "Just for you, Sheila Hagar!"

The subject title? "Pet-a-Greeting." Could it be more inviting for Jack's mommy?

"If your pet could talk ... what would he or she say? Pet-a-Greeting is a site that allows members to create personalized greetings that feature their talking pet and then distribute them via email, Facebook and Twitter."

Here is Gracie, the company's spokesdog that mouths a plethora of voice-overs. As I watch the promo video, Gracie tells me all about Pet-a-Greeting, her mouth moving almost convincingly and ending in a smiling underbite.

Beyond corny, right? Yet instead of hitting "delete," I sent the marketer - Scott - a reply: "OK, I am biting. Can I get an interview with the creator/owner/top dog?"

Steve Miller and Gregory Baker, it turns out, are not just operating from half a bowl of kibble. Miller, 58, has worked in Hollywood in the post-production film industry forever. Baker, slightly older, has 40 years of computer science under his, um, collar, he said.

The two launched the Pet-a-Greeting on Sept. 6 but the concept has been in the mix for quite a few years, Miller explained. "We are crazy dog people," he said of himself and his girlfriend, Susan, about the family's trio of shih tzus.

"The dog walker decided to do a little film on three dogs looking for Susan, so he went to all these places she was and filmed and put in these little cartoon bubbles."

Like uncovering a hidden bone, Miller saw instant potential. It was a time Hollywood was producing films like "Dr. Doolittle," and people could not get enough of talking animals, it seemed.

Miller teamed up with Baker, daddy to Madison, 135 pounds of sweetness in an Alaskan malamute.

The animated card idea took a few walks around the block to get whelped, the men said.

"Our first idea was people could upload a picture of their own dog and make it talk," Miller explained. Which requires snapping a picture of your pooch at full face, sans tongue hanging out, and that can be a little tricky, he noted.

Research, however, showed that a lot of people who love dogs don't actually have their own dog, he said. "So we made a photo library of really nice dogs. So you can download your dog or one of ours. Or cat or bird or whatever."

My first idea was to send a greeting to the person who is letting their ginormous pooch (dinosaur, whatever it is) poop on my front sidewalk. Cap'n Jack would saying in a sweet little voice: "Hey! While I love that you stroll by my house so I can bark like a crazed hound, your poo is a little too exciting when someone steps in it and tracks it into the house."

Not quite the target audience, however. Miller and Baker foresee people sending Pet-a-Greeting annual memberships (less than $10) to those who have everything they will ever need here on Earth. Like your grandma, who keeps returning the Tupperware you got her for Christmas with her famous potato salad inside.

"The way we're looking at it is purely entertaining, a fun ecard," Baker said. People can use the talking pets for party invitations, emails, what have you.

I'm already thinking of sending a talking kitty to my boss for Christmas … showing him how much I care. He hates cats, but that is beside the point.

Neither partner is giving up his day job just yet, but response from a stint at a recent pet expo was very encouraging, Miller said.

That's all to the good for Pet-a-Greeting, but what caught my eye was the company's expectation to build partnerships with nonprofit organizations. When everything is in place, shelters and rescue organizations can make pet-a-greetings for animals that need homes. "We can have the animal tell its story," Baker explained. "Send it out to say this particular dog or cat is available."

I can just hear Cap'n Jack doing such a greeting, in fact: "Hi, I'm Otis (his former "shelter" name). I am waiting for Sheila Hagar to come fetch me so we can all be part of a family that does dog-crazy things like gets pet pictures taken with Santa and buy collars for every dadgum season. Oh, and takes me nearly everywhere."

Right? Jack would say that on an email greeting, doncha think?

If you want to check out this fun idea yourself, go to www.pet-a-greeting.com. Tell them The Cap'n sent you.

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