Hey! I’m Rho 🙂 I’m 36, married with kids and living in Canada. I love coffee, gardening— well you know. All the things I made cliques for!
What follows is a comprehensive reflection on my history with Petz and how it has affected parts of my life. I don’t expect anyone to read this absolute wall of text but I wanted to write it all down for the sake of posterity.
For me it actually started with Oddballz. I don’t remember how we ended up with the game but my brother and I just loved Oddballz and played it daily for months. My favourite was Skorch and his favourite was Walret. (Ironically I was not at all interested in the dalmatian Oddball named 102, even though later it would become my favourite dogz breed!)
Dogz II was next, but my brother was not really into it. Myself, I loved it! When Petz 3 introduced the breeding feature, I begged and begged my parents and eventually had my paws on Dogz 3, a very happy day. I was in grade seven at the time and showed all my friends who came to my house after school. They thought it was pretty cute but only my best friend really loved it the way I did.
Petz websites started being made by fans of the game and I started wondering what it would take to make one of my own. In a notebook I drew a layout and planned out all the pages I would have. My dad had webspace and a domain already for his business, so he let me start my website Lucky Kennelz as a subdomain. I was thrilled because it meant no geocities ads! It was a slow learning process but I built up my website in Microsoft FrontPage with graphics in Paint Shop Pro and, dreams really do come true because bam, I had my own Petz website. This was 1999, the days when plenty of people didn’t even have an email address yet so I considered myself pretty cutting-edge. I RAN to my computer science classroom the next day at school and forced my poor teacher Mr Hagen to view my handiwork. I was so proud!
It was a bare-bones website but I ran a petz photography service and a photo editing service (I would draw a collar onto a picture of your pet— people hadn’t figured out a lot of clothes hexing yet). I also ran shows which was probably my favourite part! I told my parents that only having Dogz 3 but not Catz 3 was really holding me back as a popular website contender. I remember my mom laughed and said, what’s the difference? Can’t you just pretend the dogs are cats? What a thing to say. I must have pressed the issue in the months to follow because ultimately I had both Catz and Dogz 3.
What a fun time in life this was! I distinctly remember sitting in social studies class and plotting all the shows I was going to enter when I got home and which midi song I should play on my homepage. Also, the petz community was growing to include what I thought was a pretty impressive amount of people. I spent a lot of time chatting with other petz website owners all around the world on MSN messenger and AIM. It was sort of a weird phenomenon— the idea of “online friends” was still a very new thing, but in this virtual world I felt cool and popular— the exact opposite of how I felt in “real life” at school— awkward, shy and dorky.
When hexing started to crop up, I was so excited. I managed to download a hex editor but it was absolute Greek to me when I opened a file to edit, and I wasn’t able to find documentation detailed enough that I understood even the basics like changing eye colour. I sat back and watched amazed as my peers figured out increasingly complicated hexes.
Collectively, we were all learning more and more about web design and graphics as time went on. I can’t imagine the hours I clocked making show awards, website remodels, petz collars, eye shines, etc. Petz websites had started out looking pretty bad on average, but in time they were beginning to look beautiful and sleek.
My “real-life” best friend who also liked Petz had a website as well and after a while we thought that making graphics was starting to be the most fun part of it all. Sometimes we would get requests from people to make graphics for their sites, or to just flat-out make a site for them. So when we were in grade nine we opened Tearstone Graphics which offered free website layouts and graphics. We made so many!
Later that year, I was working on an FAQ page for Lucky Kennelz and one of the questions was, “will you make a website for me?” to which my answer was, “sure, how much will you pay me?” I meant it as part joke, part deterrent to having to field that question. But somehow my dad saw it and said to me, “you’re really just testing the waters aren’t you?” I was a bit embarrassed and said I was only joking about anyone paying me to make a website but he said, “no, I don’t think you are.”
Within a few months he had brought me three real paid website contracts— friends of his— and one logo design job. After that, word got around and I also made a website for the guidance counsellor of my school (who I found out bred Birman cats!) and my auntie who breeds Arabian horses. Right at the end of grade eight I also started a personal blog, which I still write in today! All throughout high school I continued to do freelance design jobs as they crossed my path.
Sometime in grade ten it seemed to me that the petz community was slowing down; almost all the links were dead. I was spending a lot of my free time in dance lessons by then, and also, something about my Windows install was making Petz run at a too-fast speed that made the game pretty much unplayable, so I stopped.
After high school graduation I enrolled in a tech school’s program called “Digital Graphics Communications”. I should have researched the program more thoroughly because really it was more geared for total beginners who wanted to learn to design for printed products. But halfway through that diploma, my friend told me to apply at this company she was consulting for, which made online education courses. It was a perfect fit for me, but of course I was drawing on all the skills that owning my little Petz website had taught me and none of the skills that half of my college education had taught me! I never did finish any secondary education but that was not a big deal for me because always my life’s dream was to be a stay-at-home mom.
Fast-forward twelve years and, dreams come true again! June 2019 and I am mother to two sons. My second baby had severe jaundice and needed to go back to the hospital for almost a week when he was just two days old. I wanted to be there with him and hold him and feed him when he woke up hungry, so my husband stayed home with our toddler and I spent many hours in the hospital room with Owen sleeping in that big bluelight incubator. (I actually have a separate blog post about these five days because I consider them profoundly special in my life.)
With so, so much time to fill while sitting (essentially) alone and healing from what was really a beautiful birth, I found myself thinking for hours about petz, my old website, and the friends I had back then. It felt so right to reminisce on what had been such a special and happy time. On my phone I typed out a site map for what I would have on a petz website if any of it was still around today. If only I could go back, because those days were over. I was wistful for the petz community.
Then, May 2020. I can’t even remember what gave me the idea but one random day I just thought, I should see if I can download a copy of Petz 4 and get it running and show Adam, my first son, who had fairly recently turned three. He loves animals so I thought he would get a kick out of it. I did find a download link and it did run!!! I was impressed. But I noticed that it took a long time to load, like over ten minutes.
I knew it was a long shot but I tried to Google a solution and my search brought me to an old thread on message board called RKC. My problem was solved! Thank you, thread from 2013! I was curious about when this message board had died, because 2013 was a lot more recent than I expected a petz thread to be timestamped. What was the most recent post? I went to the main page and couldn’t believe my eyes. Today. It was updated today. Wait a minute. This message board is active. This message board is hoppin’! I could barely contain my excitement as a registered for an account.
While I waited to be approved I continued my search on my old external hard drives for old pet files. I found quite a few including my favourite harlequin dane ever, Chansey!
I couldn’t believe how intact everything was, even the old show ranks! And all these new tools— PetzA, LNZ pro, Pet Workshop, Tinker!! Discord! I felt I owed it to my thirteen year old self to take up hexing and it has been such a fun creative outlet in these weird times. And finally, if you’re still reading this, you probably know firsthand what a beautiful, friendly community the petz community is.
So, that’s my history with Petz! I played lots of computer games as a child/teen but I can’t say that those others acted as a springboard into the path my life took. ♡