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Canine genius develops dog-centric app

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FetchR set to totally disrupt the playdate paradigm

BANGOR – It looks like the future of tech might be going to the dogs thanks to the unbelievable efforts of one area pooch.

Regular readers of The Maine Edge might remember a story from last year where we reported on a man whose dog was a gifted chess player. That man – one Anthony DiCicco – has reached out to us yet again. It seems that after taking the chess world by storm, his adorable dog Stella decided she needed a bigger – and far more lucrative – challenge.

It seems that after teaching herself to play chess, Stella went ahead and taught herself to code. She has been working diligently for the past six months on developing an app that could be a real game-changer in the realm of pet playdates.

Called FetchR, this app is designed to help dogs locate suitable playmates and schedule playdates, all with limited involvement by their owners. It’s the first dog-friendly app, designed with large buttons and easy swiping – all of it intended to maximize utility for canine paws.

“It all really began when she started playing chess online,” said DiCicco. “She blew by me in terms of competitive ability; I couldn’t give her any kind of a challenge anymore. So I set her up on a chess website and gave her some basic guidance on how to use the thing. She picked up the basics really quickly, so I just left her to it.”

It was only months later that DiCicco realized that Stella’s computer usage had advanced far beyond the “basics” that allowed her to soundly thrash internet grandmasters at the chessboard.

“She sometimes forgets to shut down the computer after she’s done,” he said. “One night, I went in and saw all this stuff – code and design and a bunch of other junk I couldn’t understand. That’s when I realized that maybe she was doing more than just playing chess.”

Indeed. What DiCicco was seeing was Stella’s foundational designs for the app that would become FetchR. We’ve been given access to a beta version and we have to say, it is remarkably sophisticated for a first-time developer - particularly one with no color vision or opposable thumbs.

The user signs up for the service – it’s free for now; there’s no indication as to when or how membership will be monetized, though one guesses the advertising revenue potential is significant, so perhaps it will remain free. The user is then invited to view profiles of fellow FetchR members; it’s a swiping model similar to certain dating apps – swipe right if there’s interest in a playdate, swipe left if not.

In addition, the service is customizable. One can narrow or broaden the search area at will. One can look for nearby dog parks and rate other locations for canine friendliness. One can even sort by size – certain dogs are more comfortable playing with smaller or larger friends.

(Note: One thing that is made clear throughout – FetchR DOES NOT discriminate by breed. According to the mission statement put forth by Stella, all dogs are good dogs. Every boy is a good boy and every girl is a good girl. No exceptions. FetchR is not a place for breed-based prejudices; calling any dog a bad dog will not be tolerated under the FetchR terms of service.)

It’s a quantum leap forward for canine socialization. No longer will dogs be beholden to whoever happens to be at the dog park or out walking the neighborhood when they go out. They’ll be able to take some initiative, to establish a degree of agency regarding when, where and with whom they frolic, romp and/or gambol. All in all, a remarkable accomplishment for anyone – let alone a sweet-faced dog with no formal education and a kind of dopey puppy parent. FetchR has the chance to change the paradigm.

It has all proven a bit overwhelming for DiCicco, who had no idea what he was getting into when he adopted Stella five years ago.

“At first, it bothered me that my dog turned out to be smarter than I am,” said DiCicco sheepishly. “It’s the sort of thing that can really hurt your ego.”

He shrugged.

“But hey … she’s smarter than pretty much everybody else too, so what the hell, right? And I mean, she still snugs with me and wants me to scratch her butt and lets me kiss her on the snout. None of this has changed who she is – and who she is is just the best dog that ever dogged. Forget the chess and the computers and all of it … she’s my girl and always will be.”

It’s a remarkable story about a remarkable dog. With FetchR, Stella has brought doggie dynamics into the 21st century. The app’s motto says it all: FetchR is the future.

(Editor’s note: This is the annual April Fool’s edition of The Maine Edge. As such, most – if not all – of this story is completely and utterly made up.)

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