dog camp Archive

The algorithm as god

It’s a strange world where an evolving commercial algorithm — a bunch of ideas, suppositions, experiments, results, and prejudices of a team of people over time codified into a system of action — becomes a god. It has power. It’s not listening to you. It’s fairly arbitrary. Sounds like a Greek god to me.

In 2012,  we had a dog fight. Knock wood, we haven’t had a fight since. If you think about it, with hundreds of dogs here, socializing– not pretending to socialize– how could there be so few fights? Because we’re good at organizing dogs– we were good before and have only improved our methods with time– and have huge amounts of space. Our record of safe socializing is excellent and the last thing anyone should worry about is socialization gone wrong.

When you google the business, however, this one incident seven years ago is all over the place. Why? Because it was published in a source that Google considers major and reliable. As part of Google taking the primary place among a system of established business, Google’s search algorithm is highly biased toward other established players in the same system. If the system thinks a source is reliable and big, then it seems like time is not a factor in the compiling of results.

What happened was I had an aggressive dog here. I isolated her up carefully, as I wouldn’t want her to hurt anyone. The owner did not advise me that the dog was aggressive to other dogs before we brought her here. Although she was alone, her growling and snarling somehow triggered the nice dogs on the other side of the door fought with each other. Either one dog didn’t realize who was growling and snarling and mistakenly bit the wrong dog or the negative energy from the other room just transferred to a different area, as happens with dogs.

Anyway, as unfortunate as that was, everyone was eventually okay. I learned that negative energy can pass through a closed door. People still see the story — published in 2013 about something that happened in 2012 — and I have to talk about this incident more than I’d like. Ask anyone who works with dogs about people and accidents and customers. Anyone. Caesar, the dog whisperer, was sued.

Since 2012, we have completely revamped the facilities. More people, different procedures, not much the same, except Google insists on this not going away ever. And, honestly, we’re pretty much full much of the year and business is great and it doesn’t really matter in that sense, as illogical as it seems from my point of view to have to discuss something that happened so long ago. I think Google should factor time more significantly into their search results and factor out pro-establishment bias more. That would improve the results, closer to reality and further from the potential manipulation and distortion from a few well-positioned people as opposed to the natural interplay of people and time. But who am I to criticize a god?


Glencadia 2.0: the upstate dog camp gets a complete makeover for 2019

After twelve years, Glencadia Dog Camp is getting a whole new look. So much has changed over here, but let me start by saying what hasn’t changed: we remain dedicated to affordable quality dog care that emphasizes true dog happiness and safety. Glencadia remains a small family business that aims to be easy to work with and generally accommodating, trusting and reasonable. I’m still here (Will). Vern has been working here for 10 years, as did his mother and sometimes his sister, and he’s still here. Gary has been here for many years, building, repairing, expanding and helping with dogs, now with his son. My family is still popping into the kennel to see old friends when they arrive. Plus new people, as I’ll discuss. It’s really family: we all live nearby, employees and owner and relatives. My mother lives at the end of the driveway and is doing dog portraits.

With some consistency, a vast amount has changed in the past few months: new fences, ponds, and fields, a new kennel, a new van, new people, new website and communications software, everything. I’m happy about it all. Working with great people means all around more attention to the dogs and help to get arrangements straight with customers. Walking into our new interior spaces is satisfying. Taking more dogs out in more exterior fenced fields is tremendous fun. Reservations and pick up/delivery should be smoother with streamlined communications. The brand new Mercedes van is comfortable, roomy and a pleasure to drive. For those of you out there that have sent your dog before, I’ll just go over some of the changes.

Interior: In 2018, we borrowed a boatload of money (for me) and renovated the kennel area. More rooms, central heat, and AC, hot water, insulated like crazy, added a grooming station, large windows, more light, music, new beds, bathroom for people, kitchen: it’s a major change. We now have 5000sf 40 rooms including two inside playgrounds for bad weather.

Exterior: We moved fences, added double fencing, gates, enclosed several more acres, dredged one pond and made another, added aeration to the pond (to keep grass carp fish healthy and prevent pondweed growth), took all chainlink out, resurfaced below, then put fencing back, mulch, re-seed… phew. We have 14 outside fenced areas, ranging from smaller yards to several acres for a total of 20 acres fenced. Some of this is not quite finished: the woods area did not get graded and re-seeded before winter hit, so in the spring, you will see a lot more varied outside areas.

Van: We now have a new Mercedes Sprinter with secondary AC and plenty of room. We kept the older minivan for overflow and back up on busy nights. At some point, we might add a second Sprinter as I kind of love that machine.

Reservation system: The reservation system has been completely overhauled. For example, if we open up additional free pick up/drop off trips to the city around holidays, those days will appear on the calendar as they should. You should not have trouble paying through the site, modifying your existing reservation, entering in vaccine records, etc. The discounts for long term members should work better and automatically. Any problems, let us know ASAP.

Website: The site is both to explain what we do to new customers and has a lot of functionality for the existing clients. Look for the “Our Fleet” link in the menu. This is our GPS tracker for pick up/drop off in the city. This system will help you know when the van is coming. You can find a map of our coverage area for free pick up and drop off. This map may prove to be completely useless, but, hey, there it is. NYC, more or less. Next, I think there are several posts on this blog that might well be useful. Take a peek at our FAQ. On the blog, there are posts about new features, such as integration with Google calendar, or on using the GPS tracker. More to come!

Photos, videos, and social media: We will upload a few pictures to Instagram every day or so. If you give us your @name for Instagram, we’ll be sure to tag you in photos of your dog so you get an alert right away. If you go into the reservation system, log in, and click “contact information” you will see fields for your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram handles and if you put something in there, we will be sure to post more pictures of your dog just to tag you as we think that’s fun. In addition to the few we post on social media, the folders for each month with thousands of images are linked from the front page of the website. Also, we will be sending more photos by text and email, if you text +1-518-203-1537 or email when your dog is here.

Text/phone: For voice, call +1-518-294-4343. One way or another you’ll get in touch with the right person. For text, you can click the chat icon here on the website or text +1-518-333-9202. Various people will be on the other end, sometimes me, Will, sometimes someone else.

Prices: From now on, when you make a reservation the price will either be generated by an AI system that searches public databases to determine your probable annual income and/or the price you pay will vary in real time based on the actual value of the Dow Jones Average, such that the price may vary by 50% from hour to hour. Just kidding. We have raised prices only an average of 8% from last year and we remain the most high quality, low-cost option for dog boarding in New York City.

Paying: 50% when you make the reservation, then 50% at the end of the stay, 100% refund if you cancel 24 hours before stay starts.

Believe it or not, I actually have more changes than that! Don’t we all? But really, if you made it this far in the blog post, you can’t be expected to continue… thank you! Here, have a discount: use voucher/discount code “glencadia2” on any reservation made before June 2019 and you get $40 off the stay! You earned it, reading this long-winded blab.

Thank you as always for sending your dog to camp. Get in touch! Try out my new text system: click the chat button in the lower right-hand corner and say hello. Really, it’s pretty cool. Love to all the dogs.

See you soon, Will

Mood transfer in dogs (and other critters, like people)

We often say “dogs are social animals” around here — it’s a truism basic to our philosophy of dog care. However, all animals are at sometimes social. Even famous loners like orangutangs and sloths have to be with others to mate and nurse young. Cats seem to be perfectly capable of living in a community, even when they are feral in the street. The “social” versus “loner” distinction are two poles on a continuum, rather than categorical and discrete identifiers.

Still, dogs like to be other dogs almost all the time, seems like. As highly social animals, they must be able to find ways to communicate and adapt to the others in the group. Hierarchy and displays of power are certainly part of it but they clearly have various techniques to convey their mood or feelings with one another. They communicate their moods even when they cannot see each other. Obviously, a dog barking or howling will unsettle another dog on the other side of a wall but even the sound of pacing or heavy breathing seems to rattle another dog who cannot see the nervous or upset dog.

Conversely, when dogs are comfortable and content, they can convey this sentiment through a wall or without making much or any noise or showing any evidence of their state of mind. I see this in the van when I pick the dogs up. If there are three mellow, calm, dogs practically asleep and a fourth one who is nervous or upset gets in the van, the new arrival will settle down and become calmer in most cases.

I try to use this system of communication to help nervous or upset dogs by creating a critical mass of “calm” around a high strung dog.