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Justin Fox

Dog-Sitting in the On-Demand Age

DogVacay shows potential and limits of the Uber-Airbnb approach.
A break for them, too.

A break for them, too.

Photographer: Jay L. Clendenin

The headquarters of Uber is in a concrete, bunker-like former bank building on Market Street, downtown San Francisco's unwelcoming main drag. To get in you have to pass through a security gauntlet on the ground floor. Once you get off the elevator in the company's offices there are some electronic documents to sign. After that things start looking more like your basic Internet company, with people sitting on sofas working on their laptops, and lots of free snacks. But the place still feels like it's on a war footing. Which it should be: It's a controversial company, doing battle with entrenched interests and government regulators.

On Wednesday I visited the California headquarters of a much smaller and much, much less controversial outpost of the "sharing economy," "on-demand economy," "gig economy," "1099 economy" or whatever you prefer to call it. It was on a quiet corner in Santa Monica, about 15 very short blocks from the beach. I walked right in from the street, and one of the first things to catch my eye was a tan poodle (named Jasper, I found out later) who looked straight at me and started running in my direction. Dogs were all over the place as I wandered around. Sweet, sleepy-eyed creatures that emerged from under desks for a quick head-pat or ear-rub.