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Highlights from our Fireside Chat with Ken Ramirez, Mike McFarland and Marty Becker

By Shannon McClenaghan, COO & President · May 05, 2023

In April, we hosted renowned experts Ken Ramirez, Mike McFarland and Marty Becker at the SF SPCA to discuss Companion.  Meet them and hear what how they think Companion will impact the future.  


Hey, let's go.

Ken Ramirez: My name is Ken Ramirez, and I am the chief trading officer for Karen Prior Clicker Training. Karen Player Clicker Training is one of the leaders in positive reinforcement training. I have been training for over 45 years. When I was first introduced to a Companion, I've always been fascinated with artificial intelligence and what it could do. And I'm always interested in ways that I can help manage animals behavior. And there's often the need to do it remotely or do it when the pet guardian is not present. And so I immediately saw the capabilities and the areas where I have been advising have been with the training team who looks at how to program Companion to do a variety of different things. And so often so much of when their dog is misbehaving or doing unwanted behavior is when they're away at work, when they're away doing other things. And so the the Pet Companion becomes a useful tool for trainers to use to say, here's some ways that we can look at behavior and watch behavior and potentially adapt behavior. When you are away at work, when you're at the grocery store, when you're not able to be with your dog, and maybe even then in another way that I think could be really beneficial is the kind of enrichment opportunities that something like Companion can offer. Because so often, even when we are in our homes, we find ourselves stuck to the computer and we're not able to interact with our dogs. And so the Companion device can be programed to do a variety of different things, to engage the dog and keep the dog active. And so I think there are a lot of ways that gives us possibilities that we just didn't have before.

Mike McFarland: My name is Mike McFarland chief medical officer for Zoetis. I've been a veterinarian for over 35 years, getting close to 40. I spent about half my career in emergency critical care. John exposed me to this device and obviously the first thing I thought of was this could be a critical solution to that challenge of separation anxiety. As people start to go back to work, you've got a device that can meaningfully engage the pet all day, every day and enrich that quality of life, even though the pet owner isn't there. I thought it would be something that would be of tremendous benefit to the pet owner. Once I understood that Companion could do X, Y, and Z, I started thinking about the rest of the alphabet. What are all of the other things that this device might do and those are the areas that I've been focused on most as an advisor. But I think the thing that fascinated me the most was the application of machine learning in the small animal space. We're seeing machine learning being applied to animal health with greater and greater frequency. So what I get super excited about is getting pet owners used to having that capability, that technology in their home, having their pets engage with that technology, creating a database, a very extensive database of normal behaviors, and then being able to track those behaviors exquisitely over time. It's the comfort of knowing that there's a device that's going to be monitoring normal behaviors while you're out, is going to be engaging your pet enriching that experience at home, even when the panel owners not there. So that that all by itself I think is a significant value and justifies the investment in having a companion in your home day one.

Marty Becker: I’m Dr. Marty Becker I'm a veterinarian, and run a syndicated column and then most recently Fear Free, which is an online education company that looks to, we call it taking the pet out of petrifying, put it in a treat into treatments. Really, really glad to be here to be part of this today. I think for pet parents, we all feel guilty. We don't have more time with them to train them to play with them ... Dogs like to have a job to do. They love to learn. Feed somebody, feeds the why the enrichment piece is so important. I think fat cats and dogs are kind of funny in cartoons, but in real life they're like little tummy time bites taken away their health. It's not just joined issues, it's related to heart issues, kidney issues and all sorts of things. You know, the thing I think is interesting is osteoarthritis or joint issues as both under-diagnosed and under treated; dramatically. So for the ones we see, a lot of people say, “oh, this cat’s just getting old”, you know, and they don't realize that there's things you can do, especially if catch it early on or you see a lot of joint damage. But there is no way that that machine not to be able to detect them even before a veterinarian orthopedist. Because of just that perfect learning. So you'll see variances engage and if you've got something and you notice in your dog, that's the gate has changed that it's going to be a game changer because then you can look at the therapeutic joint diets, you can look at the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. So that's going to give us kind of in a different way: eyes and ears in somebody’s home time.

Watch the complete Fireside Chat here.