Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Surfing and Making Connections

Most of our trips to the local dog park are an adventure in making new acquaintances. As a young dog, Baxter's entire focus was on meeting all the other dogs. He was the welcoming committee for every new canine that entered the park and he'd circulate like a fundraiser at a black tie soiree. After "working the room," he would engage with one or two dogs and enter into a game of chase or a wrestle (I guess the human equivalent would be conversation or friendly debate over cocktails).

Now that Baxter is older, however, he's friendly, but less involved in the social circles. He takes a few minutes to introduce himself to everyone, then goes about his own business sniffing... surfing the scent molecule Internet, if you will. He'll check all his favorite places first, then spread out to cover large swaths of territory, hunting out new smells and making connections with dogs long gone. In the past couple of years he also has taken a much bigger interest in leaving some of his own messages out there for other dog surfers to find. In the scent language of dogs, I guess this is Baxter's form of publishing.

Ok, I admit it's a rather odd comparison, but it occurs to me that I've done much the same thing on the Internet. My initial experiences were all about sending email, then Websurfing, then getting involved in a discussion board on a topic of particular interest where I could interact with people from all over the world. Pretty cool stuff. Eventually, as I saw the blogging thing take off, I decided to give that a try, as a way to put my thoughts out there for anyone who is interested.

While it seems like a solitary venture as I'm writing, sometimes the blog actually serves to help me connect with new people, and it becomes a two-way social interaction once again. I was reminded of this last evening as I was working on my Adopt a Scruffy Dog blog. Trolling Petfinder I found a picture of a sweet little scruffy dog, but there was a problem with the posting. I emailed the rescue organization, Animals Rule Placement Foundation, to let them know. Soon thereafter I got a nice email from them thanking me for the info. They also put a link to my blog on their site, which was great. And after reading about the great things they are doing, I put a link to their site on both of my blogs.

Think about it. Before the Internet there weren't a whole lot of ways for the average person to put a message out there for likeminded individuals to find. Ok, there were the personal ads in the paper, bumper stickers, graffiti and the occasional message in a bottle. The grocery store bulletin board was certainly the most useful, particularly for lost & found announcements, and my engagements there usually involved posting a flyer for a found stray dog or cat.

The Internet has taken that lost and found idea and given it reach. Sites like Animals Rule and Petfinder do a great service for the animals out there who are looking for homes, and they make it possible for people to connect with their dream pet, even if that pet is far from home. I doubt we would have ever learned about Kirby from a local grocery store bulletin board because he was sitting in a shelter three hours from our home. It was his picture and description that caught our eye and made possible the connection for us with a wonderful little scruffy dog.

The Internet also provides wonderful ways to connect with other people who have similar passions, concerns and ideas. And while it's not quite as much fun as chatting in person, at least not for a social animal like me, the connections I've made online have been meaningful. Connecting with someone I may never have met otherwise, or learning about a resource I wouldn't have otherwise found, makes all the solitary surfing worthwhile.

And I'm sure Baxter gets a similar warm feeling from visiting his dog park posts now and again.

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