AUSTIN, Texas — The giant dog known as the St. Bernard is best known for search and rescue work in the Swiss Alps. But at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, they’re being pressed into work searching and rescuing smartphone owners with near-dead devices.
Nine full-size dogs and three puppies provided by the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation are taking turns delivering chargers provided by external phone battery company Mophie. Inside their brandy barrel necklaces, the dogs carry keychain chargers.
But seeking to avoid the kind of controversy that erupted over the employment of homeless people as Wi-Fi hotspots at SXSW 2012, Mophie was careful to point out that the dogs are being treated humanely.
“Every dog goes out no more than one or two times a day,” Russ Howe, Mophie’s VP of marketing, told Mashable. “They’ve been through the rescue program, or their owners support it; they’re from the area, they’re acclimated to the Texas heat, and they’re very comfortable around crowds.”
To summon the dogs, SXSW attendees had to tweet at the Mophie account with a screenshot of their battery life and their location. There was no set condition for which user would get one of the two hourly visits from the dogs, however. Mophie’s social media team decided which were the neediest cases.
Rescue Foundation employees accompanied the dogs that Mashable saw being walked around Austin to deliver chargers.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.