Hot Digital Dog! Virtual Pets, Animal Avatars & Fun Sims

max1.jpgThis is Max II, (the sequel) admittedly not a virtual dog. MaxII is a very real pup entering the life of one of my dearest friends, Brett Montana, who runs The Pet Staff, an award-winning dog walking, training and pet-sitting service in the L.A. area.

Brett keeps me apprised of “tails” in Hollywood circles and tempers my reaction to all the wild and wacky pet trends in media and entertainment, including purse pups and chic-boutique acoutrements for the bowser bunch. (there’s even a MySpace for dogs)

It’s part of his business to attend fundraisers like Aspen’s Bow-Wow Ball (shades of Disney bounce-along-dalmation-songs) and be tuned in to the Dogster and Catster social media communities exploding in the blogosphere’s digital pet world. He knows I’m crazy for canines, clearly have a bias for all 2 & 4-legged critters, and that I pay close attention to how media morphs into kid-culture impacting “all creatures great and small.”

Like most media, there are animal positives (Nintendogs, icons, avatars, pet simulations) and negatives (trendy societal backwash) that vary in impact with mass proliferation.

For instance, Legally Blonde’s pocket-dog/purse-pooch element played itself out in the marketplace ad nauseum through toys, handbags, designer pet carriers, ‘doggie dress-ups’ and eventually…real dogs themselves. Ugh.

Most people are completely unaware of the discarded animals at shelters following a hyped up media phenom like that. I’ve volunteered at Humane Societies for years, witnessing the impact of movie releases firsthand. Predictably one year post fad, we’d see a steady stream of abandoned animals when the novelty had worn off…

Whether Dalmations, Siamese cats, Jack Russell Terriers (Frasier, Wishbone) a slew of St. Bernard cuties (Beethoven) or commercial fare (Chihuahuas/Taco Bell or the Spuds MacKenzie Bull Terrier-n-brewski ads) we could almost set our clocks to the timing of a steady stream of purebreds traced directly to pop culture consumption.

Are people really this shallow and clueless? Do humans actually choose pets to match their ‘awww’ factor of media intake or carpet and couch décor?

PLEASE don’t make me answer that. It’s perhaps my biggest ‘pet peeve’ of all. That, and the abandonment of Senior Dogs unceremoniously dumped after their prime.

But wait, there’s good news…If junior is power-whining about bringing a critter into the clan and you’re not so sure that’s a good thing, consider a virtual pet simulation and see where it goes.

This makes solid sense to me…kind of a Second Life avatar or virtual Rover. SLDogs even defines the difference to further confuse the digitally uninitiated.

(Dog is moving their site into Second Life’s virtual world where they’ll now be “off-leash, online, and in-world.” Wonder if they’ll be romping around Global Kids’ Island in Teen SL? Who knows? Okay. Back to basic virtual animals in a non-virtual world…did I really just write that?)

Nintendog has received stellar reviews from some of our own aligned partners as well as many others, for teaching kids responsibility.

They’re absolutely surreal in their lifelike mannerisms, whimpers, pleading eyes, and pet play interaction. Pretty remarkable.

Whether it’s airplanes or pups, I’m all for experimentation in simulation scenarios sans ‘oops’ moments, so any media that enables care-providing sans carpet soiling, chewed shoes and baseboard damage…count me in.

Seems like a VERY pragmatic approach for newbie pet fans to preclude hasty decisions and a good use of sim-cities overall.

Here’s a more comprehensive “links list” to ALL kinds of virtual pets, from the basics to beyond.

Horses, cats, dogs, fish and frogs, sure…but virtual sheep? Camels? Evidently, it’s not all mythical creatures, Neopets and Tamagotchi out there.

Virtual Pets even makes note of what’s ad-laden, product-driven, community-social media-based or inappropriate too…Handy!

Cyber-sims range from pet portals and software like Sims2 Pets, to this philanthropic virtual guide dogs site in beta.

Some are not sims at all, simply animal games that involve feeding and pet chores, like Club Penguin. Even though their “Puffles” require SOME care-providing and nourishment, it’s not a sim. The consequences of the critter going hungry are far less dire than reality, so if you’re encouraging a ‘practice’ pet, you might want to veer towards realism over site creatures that digitally fade, fold, vanish, or run away.

Same goes for Neopets. (which have a discordant undertone of expendability to me, construed as ‘oops, they’re dead, so what, get a new one’ if kids randomly neglect their charges) Maybe I’m hyper critical of them, since they have a proclivity for embedding sugary sales pitches to wee ones with advergaming, so they’re already in the doghouse with me.

The whimsy with animals is endless, so I’ll save the rest for another time, since there are too many virtual critters and animal links to cover, including the ubiquitous “Petz with a Z” collection…Horsez. Dogz. Catz. Hamsterz. (Sheeshz. Training Bad Spellerz.)

And because I’m passionate about animals, I can’t help but collect the links for all the kids I know that adore them…

Virtual desktop dogs scamper around as screensavers.

Hilarious pet videos are fetched up on YouTube. (like this REAL dog chasing a VIRTUAL ball!)

And there are even send-ups of popular ad campaigns, like the ‘Dog Campaign for Real Beauty.’

Adopting virtual pets is certainly getting a lot of play, and animal avatars and animal buddy icons are big too…

Kids love to carve out their cyberspace identities like a virtual totem. It’s sort of a visual calling card attached to e-mail, MySpace or tween imbee profiles. But since this is on the merits of sim, next time you hear:

“Mommy, I want a pony!” And muse, “Yeah, right kid. And I want a Lear Jet to a Bahamian island away from it all.” Take a deep breath…and send them to a virtual tack room.

I won’t even touch upon equine enthusiasts just yet, as we’re doing a full feature on Girls Horse Club soon, which takes tween stories, peer ratings, language arts literacy and blogging into an active rather than passive arena…pardon the pun.

Ok, I’ll put a muzzle on it for now. But stay tuned…



  1. how do you get one they are adorable

  2. i love animals

  3. Hi gang, I love animals too…(both real ones AND virtual pets!)

    In fact, I just got back from Ft. Funston Beach in S.F. romping with my golden retriever, and she’s POOPED. Laying at my feet.

    On the way home a techie friend of mine told me he had purchased a robotic critter of all things, that simulates a 2 and a half week year old dinosaur! (makes noises, ‘learns’ and responds to touch all via microchips…check this out:



  5. Hi Bre Bre, Could you elaborate a bit more I’d like to hear what you have to say…

  6. HI I loove animals

  7. So do I, bre bre, so do I!!! Ever since I was a tiny tot in fact! I can’t get enough of ’em!

    Do you volunteer with animals anywhere? It’s a great way to learn about different kinds at the shelter, etc. Best, Amy

  8. Новый способ давления на кандидата на пост Главы г. Химки

    Новый способ “наказать” тех, кто посмел участвовать в выборной кампании не на стороне действующей власти изобрели правоохранительные органы г.о. Химки.
    Руководствуясь не нормой закона, а чьей-то “волей” сотрудники милиции решили “проверить” все фирмы, внесшие денежные средства в избирательный фонд неудобных кандидатов.
    Начались “проверки” с телефонных звонков – где директор, сколько человек работает на фирме. После чего последовали “письма счастья” с просьбой предоставить всю бухгалтерскую документацию, учредительные документы фирмы, и даже, план экспликации БТИ.
    Такие запросы химкинским фирмам рассылает 1 отдел Оперативно-розыскной части № 9 Управления по налоговым преступлениям ГУВД Московской области за подписью начальника подполковника милиции Д.В. Языкова.
    И всё это в то время, когда Президент дал прямое указание правоохранительным органам о прекращении всех незаконных проверок малого и среднего бизнеса. С это целью внесены изменения в Федеральный закон “О милиции” – из статьи 11 этого закона исключены пункты 25 и 35, на основании которых ранее правоохранительные органы имели право проверять финансово-хозяйственную деятельность предприятий.
    Видно, об изменениях действующего законодательства местные правоохранительные органы не уведомлены. И не смотрят телепередачи с выступлениями Президента.
    Может быть, эта публикация подвигнет их к исполнению указаний Президента, а также к изучению и соблюдению действующего законодательства

  9. The Virtual Games says

    Virtual pets and toys market is growing. It’ll be even more powerfull in the future.

  10. I think you’re right for many reasons…do you have favorites that are particularly worthy? Having just lost my REAL dog, I’ve taken comfort in the virtual world of social networking where people have been incredibly supportive with links and data to get through a tough time…(and yes, some have even suggested ‘grief loss’ inside VW and that virtual pets cause less pain…no substitute as far as I’m concerned though…) 😉

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  13. Money is very tight in my family correct now so quite a few extras can be found eliminated from our budget. The 1st issue to go was our cell phone plan and cable wasn’t far behind. At initial I thought this would be a huge issue as my husband likes to watch sitcom re-runs. Yet, this hasn’t been a difficulty as he is capable to Watch Frasier Online. as well as other favorites of his. I’m glad he found these as I don’t want him to lose everything he loves. Thankfully, I am capable to write part of our Internet fees off for my job so we didn’t have to get rid of that also. I think that would are already the final straw for him.

  14. HI I loove animals

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