(159) Robodog: The Ultimate Service Animal

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Molly and I are late in coming to the party. We missed BigDog, the 240-pound military service dog that is as high tech as the Apple iphone. Apparently, she made her world début in the early 2000s as a work-in-progress by Boston Dynamics whiz kids. 

BigDog is a four-legged robot that can maneuver rough terrain, run for hours at a time, carry its own fuel and equipment, and even roll over. Once thought to be a dog that could provide vital assistance to the US military, this robotic dog returns to scrap metal. As it turns out, she is so noisy that she makes it difficult for troops to sneak up on the enemy.

Despite the military’s plan to tank the dog, likely BigDog will remain the pet project of Boston Dynamics because of its promise. As it turns out, BigDog is touted as being the most advanced rough-terrain robot on the planet. She runs 4 mph; climbs slopes up to 35 degrees; walks through mud, water, and on hillsides; comes with shock absorbers; and can carry a payload of 340 pounds.

Videos of the project through its development are available here and across the internet. Why wouldn’t they be? This project is freaky scientific like something out of Star Wars.

In the original planning paper, the BigDog team said the robotic dog will “travel in cities and in our homes, doing chores and providing care where steps, stairways and household clutter limit the utility of wheeled vehicles.” Sounds like a service dog!

Miss Molly considered going to the Canine Critter Union to complain about BigDog but decided not to pursue the matter when the military cancelled the project earlier this month. Molly’s letter of appeal to the Union to decertify BigDog as a service dog contained the following:

“BigDog doesn’t have a tail or even ears. Sure she can carry a big payload but I can, too—in a keg around my neck. She’s received millions of taxpayers’ dollars in training and still can’t fetch a stick. You can’t tell which is her front end and which is her back. She is extraordinarily ugly without any fur and she buzzes instead of barks. She cannot predict a seizure, a panic attack, or wake her owner from a nightmare. She pollutes the air and is even more costly to feed than a Saint Bernard. Overall, I think BigDog belongs in a logo on a sweatshirt rather than on a poster as a war hero.”

Miss Molly on her backMiss Molly has been roughed up over this news story. She has calmed down and is back to her big loveable self. I think her criticism has merit, however, as I can’t imagine Robodog crawling into bed at night with my Veteran.

Post your Comments: 

Do you think a robotic dog could ever replace your service dog? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Sources cited:

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.