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Keeping an eye on Fido gets easier with home security system

Union Leader Correspondent

October 15. 2013 7:17PM

Amherst resident Jonathan Dubois programs his home security system using his iPad as his two poodle mixes, Daisy and Jessie, look on. Dubois, like many other pet owners, has discovered the many perks of remote home management, which allows him to check in on the two feisty pooches throughout the work day. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

Jonathan Dubois's job takes him miles from his Amherst home most days, but that doesn't mean he can't keep a watchful eye on the daily activities of his two energetic poodle mixes, Daisy and Jessie.

Dubois, who works as an Xfinity Home Expert at Comcast's Granite State headquarters in Salem, can personally attest to the many perks offered to pet owners as part of the company's home security packages.

"People are always asking me what the dogs are doing all day when my wife and I go to work," Dubois said. "That's when I take out my iPad and show them the dogs sound asleep on the couch."

With recent advances in technology making it easier and more economical for pet owners to keep their pets safe and comfortable when they're at work, on vacation or out running errands, more households are relying on their digital cable and communications providers to keep a watchful eye on Fido and Fluffy when they're not at home.

About a year and a half ago, Comcast launched Xfinity Home, a security, home control and energy management service that's been catching on with pet owners ever since.

Earlier this year AT&T launched a similar product, Digital Life Home Security and Automation.

Both services offer a complete lineup of wirelessly enabled devices, including security cameras, motion sensors, door locks and remote controls for thermostats, water, appliances and lighting.

The new technology, with packages starting at approximately $10 per month, allows customers to get text and email alerts when doors or windows are opened or closed, tune into live streaming video inside their homes via their tablet or smart phone and turn on lights and heat remotely to make sure their four-footed friends are lounging in comfort.

"We want to treat our pets well," said Dubois, who also uses the technology to keep an eye on his family's flock of backyard chickens.

Comcast spokesman Marc Goodman said it's difficult to determine just how many Xfinity customers are using the technology specifically for their pets, but so far "feedback has been positive."

The technology also comes in handy for folks relying on the services of a pet sitter, particularly those who'd like to make sure their pet sitter is arriving and departing at certain times.

Both text and email alerts can notify an offsite pet parent when their scheduled sitter arrives and departs.

Kristen Levine, a national pet expert and blogger, said she first learned of the demand for new solutions when she was working at a Florida animal shelter 18 years ago.

Levine said the new technologies on the market might even save animals' lives.

"It soon became pretty clear to me that people surrender their pets for silly reasons," she noted, adding that's made it her life's mission to offer resources and information to pet parents.

"A recent survey of pet owners showed that 75 percent of them worry about leaving their animals alone in the house all day," Levine said. "Technology is growing fast in the pet industry for that reason."

Levine noted that video monitoring systems originally intended for home security can also be used to trouble-shoot pet behavior issues, such as separation anxiety, as well as allow working pet parents to check in on sick or elderly pets.

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