By Cindie Farley
Image Courtesy of Isqueek
There’s something endearing about finding your dog’s toys left here or there around the house. The worn-out squirrel teetering on the edge of an armchair. Or the rubber chicken without its beak on the bathroom floor. Reminders that a furry four-legged family member was there and filling your life with playful love. As my dog, Gus, has gotten older, I’ve had those bittersweet moments when I imagine how the toys will still be there even when he is not. And then I quickly grab one to lure him into a game of hide-and-seek—to comfort myself more than anything else really. Of course, the squeak is a very important part of the game. This is the backstory of how one of those left-behind squeaks inspired another type of squeak.
After Dave Alexander and his wife, Carolyn, lost their dog, Hemmy, to a rare blood disorder in 2007, Dave kept Hemmy’s red squeak ball on his desk as a comforting reminder. It had come with Hemmy, a five-year-old short-haired red standard Dachshund when they adopted him from a rescue network. The ball had been his favorite toy there.
Hemmy and his red squeak ball captured the hearts of his new family and turned Dave into “a silly, sentimental man.” (And one who believes that he’s the lucky one when adopting a pet.) Hemmy particularly took to Dave, following him around and sitting next to him on the couch after work. And every time Dave and Carolyn went to the market, a new squeak toy ended up in their bag of groceries.
Dave noticed that grocery clerks always like to squeak the toys as they scan them. There seems to be something irresistible about that simple action—to people as well as dogs. Indeed, it’s sort of a call for us humans to stop and smile and enjoy a playful moment.
Over the years, Hemmy’s collection of toys grew a lot, but his original red ball remained one of his favorites. Dave and Carolyn packed up all the toys—except the red squeak ball—when Hemmy was gone, planning to donate them. Shortly after that, however, they rescued another short-haired red Dachshund, Eddy, who happily inherited Hemmy’s collection of squeak toys.
Several years went by, and Dave and his brother, Daniel, were thinking about an iPhone app they could come up with, strictly as a learning tool for their own programming with the iPhone. Daniel is the “coding brains,” Dave notes; Dave himself has a fine arts background.
Dave had the idea one day while looking at Hemmy’s red ball still sitting on his desk, that a virtual squeak ball might be a neat idea. There wouldn’t be much to the app, but that was okay, given its purpose. And, Dave thought, he could then have Hemmy’s “squeak” with him all the time. As he and Daniel worked on the app, they got more and more excited about their creation.
With Daniel, Dave repeated what he and Carolyn had done with Hemmy’s toys. What started out as one red squeak ball turned into a collection—and then it became an app called iSqueek. Its lineup of 18 colorful toys starts with Hemmy’s original ball (of course), along with all sorts of other balls and two bones for yours and your dog’s squeaking pleasure. And each has its own unique squeak.
Although iSqueek started out more for fun, Dave says that a number of dog trainers have asked that it be expanded to include such features as a clicker, a whistle, and a yes/no button they can train dogs to touch with their noses. There will also be more toys added, possibly holiday-related.
When I downloaded iSqueek, Gus flew off the couch wondering what kind of work I was doing. I showed him my phone and he cocked his head, looking at me with confused interest. He likes cell phones anyway because there's a good chance they might reflect light from a lamp into patterns on the ceiling. Now cell phones are even better! And I will have yet another fond memory of my boy.
For a look at some other “human” fun Dave is having with a squeak ball, check out iSqueek’s Facebook page to see how the app has made it into some rather well-known art masterpieces. Another way a dog has ultimately inspired a man.