Have you ever wanted to play with a dog for just an afternoon?
Well, Boston, one mobile app is making that dream a reality: Bark’N’Borrow is a service that allows you to “borrow’’ eligible dogs in the area for brief periods of time.
Here’s how it works: users browse the free app for dogs in their area. Then they reach out to the dog’s owner, establish a line of communication, and set up a time to either “borrow’’ the dog briefly or “sit’’ them for a longer period of time. Borrowers do it for the joy; sitters, who tend to be professional and/or certified, do it for the joy and some money.
Bark’N’Borrow founder Liam Berkeley said that the app has been called “Tinder for dogs’’ and a “dog-sharing’’ platform, but he thinks of his business in much simpler terms.
“I started this because I wanted a dog, and I couldn’t have one,’’ Berkeley said. He often looked after friends’ and neighbors’ dogs to get some quality canine time, and after successfully “borrowing’’ other people’s pups for a while, the idea for Bark’N’Borrow came to him.
The company has been expanding ever since its official start in 2014, and the iOS version of Bark’N’Borrow launched in Boston in November of 2015–which is about the same time that Somerville resident Sarah Urban added her dog, Bruno, to her family. Urban uses Bark’N’Borrow to connect with folks in the area who want to play with Bruno for the day.
“My girlfriend thinks I’m nuts for using it,’’ Urban said, but notes that being able to have people watch Bruno when she can’t has been beneficial for both her, the borrowers, and the pup.
“Either [Bruno] sits at home in his little gated area, or he goes out and plays with new people,’’ Urban continued.
But Urban’s girlfriend’s concerns are expressed by many. Berkeley himself acknowledges the stakes of Bark’N’Borrow arrangements. Unlike other service apps that lease out a commodity like a house or a car, the “item’’ behind Bark’N’Borrow is not an item at all.
“This is not a product,’’ Berkeley said. “This is someone’s baby.’’
So to protect the critters in question, the app thoroughly vets its potential borrowers, according to Berkeley.
“So far, we’ve had a great track record of people having a great experience,’’ he said. “So we’re doing something right.’’
Bark’N’Borrow’s screening goes both ways. When using the app, borrowers are allowed to request certain kinds of dogs; when browsing for a pup, they have the option to enter size preference, training level preference, and age preference for the dogs in question. Borrowers can also list specific breeds, temperaments, and special needs that they don’t accept.
“It’s a three-way relationship,’’ Berkeley said of the connection between borrower, owner, and pup. “It’s establishing a relationship with someone that loves your dog as much as you do.’’
So far, Urban has had nothing but positive experiences with letting borrowers watch her pup.
“Mostly college girls have watched him. I’ll take him in on the T and they’ll meet me around Park Street and take him for the day and send all kinds of cute pictures,’’ she said. “I wish I had that when I was in college. I know you miss having a dog around, and he does bring a lot of happiness to people.’’
So much happiness, in fact, that Bruno is one of the most-requested dogs in Boston. Recently, Bark’N’Borrow released the list of the “most eligible dogs in Boston,’’ and Bruno came in at #4.
Who needs Tinder, anyway?