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updated: 7/18/2011 3:05 PM

DoggySpace helps foster friendship, generosity

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  • Karen Schlabach of Glen Ellyn is an avid user of DoggySpace, a social media site for dogs to express themselves on the Internet. She is the secretary for her three cocker spaniels and says she writes down what they dictate for the website.

       Karen Schlabach of Glen Ellyn is an avid user of DoggySpace, a social media site for dogs to express themselves on the Internet. She is the secretary for her three cocker spaniels and says she writes down what they dictate for the website.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Karen Schlabach is the owner of three black-and-white cocker spaniels, Romeo, Chipper and Cooper. Each dog has his own profile with hundreds of friends on the canine social network DoggySpace.

       Karen Schlabach is the owner of three black-and-white cocker spaniels, Romeo, Chipper and Cooper. Each dog has his own profile with hundreds of friends on the canine social network DoggySpace.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
By Megan Bannister
mbannister@dailyherald.com

With the help of social media outlets, Internet enthusiasts have learned how to tweet and yelp.

But now technology-savvy canines can get in on the action with the help of the social networking site DoggySpace.

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"It is an absolutely wonderful group of friends we've made," said Karen Schlabach, a 40-year resident of Glen Ellyn who joined the social media site in August 2008.

Schlabach is the "pawrent" of three black-and-white cocker spaniels adopted from Illinois Cocker Rescue, each of whom has his own page on DoggySpace.com.

The site's users write in third person to update their dog's page as would a Facebook or MySpace user, sending virtual "barkday" greetings and complimenting new profile pictures. Launched in 2008, DoggySpace was created for users to "keep up with friends, upload funny dog videos and to give their dogs their own virtual place," according to the site's homepage.

Both Romeo, 6, and Chipper, 4, Schlabach's two older dogs, have made more than 1,700 international "furends" on the site.

"It's a very, very nice group of people," Schlabach said.

The site has proved to be more than a cute way for pet owners to interact with one another.

Last September when Cooper, Schlabach's youngest cocker spaniel, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and needed an emergency blood transfusion, the pup's virtual friends at DoggySpace were there to help.

After posting about Cooper's condition on the site, Schlabach said she received more than $1,500 to help foot medical bills from a fund set up by the social network.

"Having a dog, it's like your child," Schlabach said. "We all worry about each other's dogs."

While the family has never met many of their pooches' virtual acquaintances, they have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure each furry friend has a loving home and a healthy life.

When one DoggySpace friend from Iowa died of cancer, the close knit community sprang into action to get a beagle named Freddy to her adoptive home in Florida.

Schlabach took care of the dog for a week before her flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and even contacted NBC meteorologist Andy Avalos to ensure the chilly winter weather conditions would not affect Freddy's pilgrimage. The story was featured on the morning news and Schlabach said she still keeps in touch with both Avalos and the dog's new owner.

"We're friends with people all over the world just through the dogs," she said.

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