Searching for a way to entertain his pup, Monty, while he worked long hours-as John Travolta's double-he came up with the idea for a continuous-run DVD for dogs. The resulting electronic version of doggy daycare is called "Dog-on Television," a production of BowWow TV, that promises "60 minutes of non-stop doggy action." The object is to keep Bowser engaged with footage of barking and playing dogs while his owner is out. A day's worth of entertainment for $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
Silly? It seems so-until you look at the numbers. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association, U.S. consumers lavished $32.4 billion on pet products last year-more than was spent on children's toys ($2.2 billion of the total went toward pet "services" such as therapy and massage). And pets outnumber people in this country-378 million to 290 million.
Keeping them busy while owners are out is already a big business. Pet Sitters International claims 6,000 members in 50 states and there's enormous growth in pet daycare outlets-with some boasting amenities including TV, music, gourmet snacks and even bone-shaped pools.
The way Loren figures it, if he could win over even 1% of owners of the country's 67 million dogs, it'd be a coup.
So far, "Dog-on Television" is sold on the Net (bowwowtv.com) and in 100 dog boutiques, and Loren is meeting with Petco after the first of the year. He's also had a boost from friends in the business. He says he didn't even have plans to market the film until Travolta, who gives a product testimonial in Loren's press kit, passed along the DVD to Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey, both of which, he claims, loved it. (Loren says Streisand wrote him a personal note of thanks-in the persona of her dog.)
Hollywood honchos helped him with the filming in a dog park and with a TV spot that he's aiming to air-he hopes nationally-once his distribution increases sufficiently. "I want to direct buyers to the retailers, rather than do an infomercial," he says. He's also targeting video stores and bookstores as potential distribution outlets. Part of the proceeds, Loren says, go toward actress Linda Blair's WorldHeart Foundation charity. Leanza Cornett, a former Miss America and host of Eukanuba-sponsored dog shows on Animal Planet, has also signed on as spokeswoman.
In what may be a smart move, considering the $15.2 billion Americans spent last year on vets and supplies/medicine, "Dog-on Television" is being positioned not simply as entertainment, but as a means to promote dogs' well-being, as important as vaccinations and teeth cleaning. Dogs watching the video are "much happier and more content when left alone, and we feel that they are certainly happier and more content with their owners," Loren says.
It's not much for people to watch. There's a lot of in-your-face closeups of snouts, snuffling and sniffling and some general rolling around in the dirt.
So how do non-celebrity dogs react? My German shepherd mix, Scout, was instantly rapt, leaping toward the TV, pacing just inches in front of the screen, watching intently. The other subject in my ad-hoc focus group, a Pomeranian, paid no attention to the screen, running from door to door barking as if real dogs clamored there to come in.
What they didn't do while the DVD was on was play with one another. Which makes one wonder: Can couch-potato canines be far behind?