A week before Guy Fawkes, Tiny, the ironically named greyhound (who is also the largest greyhound to have ever raced in New Zealand), was out with his owner on his nightly constitutional in their local park.
So were several kids who'd got hold of a bunch of fireworks.
The resulting pyrotechnics and noise proved too much for poor Tiny. He bolted into the bush at the back of the park. His distraught owners searched for hours in increasingly dire weather. Tiny wasn't having a bar of it. He was nowhere to be found.
That feeling when you realise that your dog has vanished is something all dog owners dread. Awful scenarios run through your head, driving you to distraction. You imagine horrors such as your dog being hit by a car after straying onto a busy road, or abducted for dog fighting, along with other situations that are just too horrific to contemplate.
Thankfully finding that lost dog has just got easier thanks to Mongoose pet tracking technologies. Consisting of a collar and tracking module, the Mongoose collar uses GPS positioning to pinpoint your dog's location to less than a metre. Its position is sent back to your smartphone or a web browser using mobile phone networks thanks to the built in GPRS mobile data radio in the tracker.
The Mongoose pet tracker comes with a small adjustable collar which is worn along with your dog's normal collar.
The module itself is about the size of a box of matches. For my two greyhounds it didn't seem all that bulky, but for smaller breeds, the tracker might seem big.
I got into the habit of putting the tracking collars on when we headed out on walks and taking them off when we got home so the tracker size was never an issue. The tracker has rounded edges which makes them reasonably unobtrusive for canine wearers too.
The tracker is water resistant and self-contained. It has a slot on its left side covered with a flap that protects a micro USB port (for charging) and SIM card slot (so the tracker can relay its GPS location to you over a mobile network).
A small button on top of the tracker switches it on. Pressing it sees a blue LED on the top of the tracker illuminate to tell you that your pooch is now trackable.
There's also an accelerometer built in, which helps extend the trackers battery life. If your dog is like mine, chances are that it'll spend a lot of its time sleeping. When your dog is still for more than a few minutes, the tracker goes into a power saving sleep mode. Should the accelerometer detect movement, the tracker wakes up, gets a GPS location fix. This clever solution translated into several days battery life.
Getting set up wasn't difficult. After inserting a prepaid SIM card (you need to use a mobile operator that supports GPRS data) and adjusting the collars to fit my dogs, I charged them up.
I then registered each tracker with my smartphone so it would receive notifications from the tracker. This was done by sending a text message to both collars containing a specific code.
The tracking magic happens thanks to the TKSTAR GPS smartphone app which is a free download from the app store. While you can log into the app using the IMEI serial no. of the cellular modem in each collar, I was tracking two dogs so Mongoose set me up with a user ID (it'll also work with a vehicle tracker). The app superimposed the location of both my greyhounds on a map with cartographic or satellite views.
I was also able to see where my two greyhounds were, how fast they were going and what direction they were heading in. The App also has a historical tracking function which lets me review where they'd been for times and dates I'd specified.
By default, the tracker reports its location every 30 minutes, however this can be changed using the website so if you were tracking your dog you could increase the frequency with which the tracker reports its location to get near real time tracking happening.
Because the tracker uses mobile technologies it can also triangulate its rough position off of cell sites. So even if the tracker cannot get a GPS signal to determine its location, it'll still be able to report its rough location based on nearby cell sites.
Perhaps one of the niftiest features of all with the tracker is called Geo-fencing. This allows you to place a virtual electronic perimeter around your property using the web or smartphone app. should your dog's tracker record that your dog has strayed beyond the Geo-fence boundary, you'll get an alert. Given most dogs go missing by escaping from their home; Geo-fencing provides a smart way to keep an eye on your dog.
If you don't own a smart phone, you can also call the phone number of the SIM card in the tracker and then hang up. The Collar will then text you its map coordinate, which should make locating a missing dog much more of a doable proposition. You can also track your dog's position using a web browser too.
With legions of Greyhound owners out looking for Tiny, he was eventually found, much to his owner's relief.
Had he been wearing one of the Mongoose collars the odds are that Tiny would've avoided several cold and wet nights alone in the bush. Knowing where my dogs are (and where they've been) is both a useful and straightforward process. Being able to know if and when they've escaped from my property is useful beyond measure.
Provided you keep the trackers charged and their SIMs topped up, you'll always be able to track down your dogs (provided they remain within mobile coverage). This peace of mind alone makes spending $249 on a tracker (plus a prepaid SIM) from Mongoose a complete no-brainer for any dog owner.