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Which Petey is which? The historical record about “Our Gang” dog isn’t exactly spot on

Before Lassie, before Rin Tin Tin, even before broadcast television itself, there was Petey — the canine character in the Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies who sported a distinctive dark circle around his right (or was it left?) eye.

Just as plenty of myths have floated up and been deflated around the kid actors who played roles in the series — like Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat — the historical record is so fuzzy when it comes to Petey that trying to separate the facts from the fictions can leave one … well, stymied.

I knew the dog who played Petey was a pit bull (though some dispute that). I assumed the ring around his eye was entirely fake (though some dispute that, too). I’d heard he, in real life, was murdered and that he was buried in a Los Angeles pet cemetery (though not everybody agrees on the specifics of those events, either).

When it comes to the canine star of the Our Gang/ Little Rascals comedies, there’s not too much one can say definitively — partly because there was more than one Petey, partly because 80-plus years have passed, and partly because it all happened in Hollywood, a land where truth and myth often spill across their borders and into each other.

But I’m relatively sure this karma-filled episode — in which Petey is put into a gas chamber by a cranky dog warden who goes on to get what he deserved — was, ironically, Petey’s last. (Or at least the second Petey’s last.)

Entitled “The Pooch, it came out in 1932 — like all the “Our Gang” comedies, in movie theaters. Not until 1955 were they syndicated to appear on television as “The Little Rascals.”

The episode stars the second Petey, son of the first Petey, both of whom were owned by trainer Harry Lucenay.

petey2The first dog to play Petey was Pal, the Wonder Dog.

Pal had appeared earlier in the role of Tige in the Buster Brown comedies.

It was for that role that, with dye, a partial dark circle around his eye was turned into a permanent full circle.

After signing a contract with Hal Roach Studios, Pal reportedly became the second highest paid actor of the “Our Gang” series.

Pal’s last appearance was in the 1930 episode, “A Tough Winter.”

Legend has it that Pal, in real life, died after eating meat tainted with poison, or glass. Some reports say the culprit was someone with a grudge against Lucenay.

Then again, legend also has it that Pal was buried with the actor who played Alfalfa, which — given the decades that passed between their deaths — is likely not true at all.

After the death of Pal, who appeared mostly in  the “Our Gang” silent films, Lucenay turned to one of Pal’s descendants, a pup with slightly different coloring.

petey

The second Petey, named Lucenay’s Pete, was just six months old when he took over the role. He lacked Petey One’s distinctive eye circle, so one was supplied by a make-up artist named Max Factor, according to Wikipedia.

Likely unaware that it would lead to confusion, the trainer had the second Petey’s circle applied around his left eye, while the first Petey’s encircled his right eye.

Eight decades later, the  migrating eye circle remains one of the most hotly debated pieces of Little Rascals trivia.

As a rule, if you see a Petey with a circle around his right eye, it’s the first Petey; if you see a Petey with the circle around his left eye, it’s Petey two.

All that gets further complicated, though, by the fact that many of the images one can find of Petey are the result of reversed negatives, and even more complicated by the fact that, all along, multiple dogs, with slightly different markings, were used in the filming of the series.

Apparently, continuity was not too much of a concern among directors back then.

In any case, the second Petey served from 1930 to 1932, when Lucenay was fired.

There were multiple subsequent dogs — all from different bloodlines — who played the role of Petey between 1932 and 1939, when the final Our Gang episode was released in theaters.

The second Petey retired with Lucenay to Atlantic City and would die at age 18.

Like so much else about them, the second Petey’s final resting place, as with the first Petey’s, is disputed, according to Roadside America.

While Petey was a pit bull, an American bulldog was used in the 1994 “Little Rascals” movie.

Yes, pit bulls can break through walls

roxy

A dog belonging to a misunderstood breed has helped a boy with a misunderstood disorder show a previously unseen side of himself, and his mother couldn’t be happier.

Amanda Granados says her son Joey was diagnosed at age 7 with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that contributed to his getting suspended from school six times — all while in kindergarten.

Joey couldn’t sit still. He sometimes struck himself. And he hated being touched by others. His mother says he had never let her hug and kiss him.

While he was a whiz at math and had a near photographic memory, Joey always had difficulty making friends.

“He has a hard time reading social cues or facial expressions, and there’s awkwardness around making friends, said Granados, a 36-year-old single mother of three boys.

Then, a few months ago, the family adopted a pit bull named Roxy from a Los Angeles shelter — and Joey suddenly had the kind of friend you don’t have to make.

As Joey, now 14, explains it, “I didn’t have too many friends growing up, but then we got Roxy and I’ve been able to make friends ever since. At home, I’ve been able to hold my mom’s hand, kiss her, hug her and do a lot of things that I hadn’t been able to do growing up. She’s opened up my heart.”

“I get emotional thinking about it,” his mother said. “For all those years, he wouldn’t hold my hand, he wouldn’t hug me — it was all part of the autism — but this dog has taught him how to give and show affection. He holds my hand now. He hugs me. The first time I got a kiss on the cheek was when Roxy came home.”

A photo on the Internet led Joey to his new best friend. Joey had been asking his mom for a dog, and she saw that the Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles was planning an event where a shelter dog could be adopted for $10.

“We were looking through pictures online, and Roxy’s picture made us fall in love with her,” Granados told Today.com.

roxy2When they went to the adoption event, Joey and Roxy immediately connected.

“As soon as Roxy met Joey, she totally ignored me and his mother,” said adoptions specialist Denise Landaverde. (That’s her, Roxy and Joey in the photo to the left.) “Amanda was happily surprised to see Roxy go straight to Joey and watch them play together. It just sealed the deal for her.”

Granados said she initially had some qualms due to the bad things she has heard about pit bulls, but seeing her son and Roxy together made those concerns disappear.

“She is literally his best friend,” Granados said. “He can be in the foulest mood, and she comes along and it’s like a light. She doesn’t care about his differences — there’s no judgment with her — she just loves him.”

Joey agreed. “If I’ve been having a bad day, Roxy can hear a tone in my voice,” he said. “She runs up to me to give me a giant hug and lick me to death and do almost anything she can to make me happy.”

Studies have shown that dogs can give children with autism much-needed companionship and help them learn compassion, responsibility and even social skills, such as making eye contact.

What has happened between Joey and Roxy speaks louder than any of those studies, though — or at least it does to Amanda Granados.

Roxy, she agrees, seems to have opened her son’s heart, and she thinks part of it may be because of what they have in common.

“Kids with autism are looked at differently and misunderstood, and so are pit bulls,” Granados said. “I think that’s why they’ve bonded.”

(Top photo courtesy of Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center; photo of Joey and Roxy courtesy of Amanda Granados)

Using dog poop to power your home

poopenergyHow many times have you looked at your dog and remarked to yourself, “I wish I had his energy?”

Maybe one day soon you can, and the source of it would be — barring any digestive issues — plentiful, sustainable and renewable.

A young Swiss designer is showing off her prototype of a home appliance that converts dog poop into power.

Océane Izard, who owns three dogs, created “Poo Poo Power” as a conceptual design. “I have always believed in the potential of my dogs’ droppings,” she says.

To use the appliance, dog owners “place a biodegradable bag of dog waste inside, where sludge-eating bacteria belch out methane that is converted to power,” FastCoExist.com reports.

The electricity is stored in detachable batteries that can be used around the house.

The amount of power it produces depends on the size of the dog.

A beagle, for example, will produce between 250 and 340 grams of feces per day — enough only to run a fan for two hours, Izard says. A German shepherd, producing about twice that, could almost power your refrigerator.

Providing enough electricity to power an entire home, she says, would take about seven dogs.

Izard hopes that the appliance might change how dog owners see poop.

“For me it should not be taboo,” she says. “Dog owners pick up their dog turds every day. This is certainly an ordeal. That’s why there’s so much in the streets. But with this machine, people will want to bring (home) this precious gift that their dogs do one to two times a day.”

izardIzard isn’t the only one to consider using dog waste for power. The city of San Francisco considered a pilot program in 2006 to collect poop at dog parks and bring it to digesters, though the program didn’t move forward. Another project aims to use dog poop to power streetlights at parks.

Izard notes that, in addition to creating a renewable source of energy, the concept, practiced on a larger scale, could also help keep cities cleaner.

Paris cleans up an estimated 12 tons of dog poop from city streets every day. In the U.S., dogs produce around 10 million tons of poop each year, most of which either stays where it was dropped or goes to landfills, where it releases methane into the atmosphere. Dog waste also pollutes watersheds.

Izard thinks, rather than viewing it as an evil scourge, it’s time to make dog poop start working for us.

“My project is an opportunity to say it is possible even at a small scale,” says Izard. “The future of poop is here.”

(Photo: Oceane Izard)

Swiss resort bans selfies with Saint Bernards

posing

The Swiss mountain resort of Zermatt has banned Saint Bernards from being used in photo sessions with tourists.

The town’s council came to the decision after complaints by an animal protection organization that the dogs being used by two local businesses were being kept tied up without access to food and water and forced to carry children on their backs.

Posing with the dogs with the snow-cappped Matterhorn in the background has long been popular with tourists — even though St. Bernards are no longer commonly used in rescue operations. Nowadays, Alsatians are more often used to find lost skiers and avalanche survivors.

Still, Saint Bernards — with or without the whiskey barrel around their necks — remain a symbol of Swiss mountain heritage, and getting a photo with them is a must-have souvenir for many a tourist.

Swissinfo reports that at least two entrepreneurs are making a living supplying Saint Bernards for photo ops for tourists.

The Swiss Animal Protection Agency, which recently published a report on the dogs’ mistreatment, welcomed the decision ending the practice.

By banning the practice, Zermatt shows that “it loves these animals, and it will put an end to the contemptible and dangerous shows these dogs were made part of by being used as tourist props,” the organization said in a statement.

In March, the agency filed a legal complaint against the Saint Bernard owners, claiming that the dogs’ living and working conditions were abusive.

Concerns had been raised over the dogs being forced to pose for hours on end without moving and sometimes having to carry children on their backs. The dogs were also tied up for hours, not taken for walks and often went without food or water for long periods, the report stated.

Zermatt Mayor Christophe Buergin said the two local firms providing the service were in talks with tour operators to come up with alternative offerings for visitors to the Matterhorn, such as posing for photos with a person in a Saint Bernard costume, or posing with an alphorn, a traditional herdsman’s instrument.

The mayor says the practice of offering photos with Saint Bernards would be phased out by next winter, allowing the companies to honor existing contracts.

(Photo: Keystone, via Swissinfo.ch)

Nylabone recalls lot of Puppy Starter Kits

nylaboneThe New Jersey company that makes Nylabones is recalling one lot of its “Puppy Starter Kit” dog chews due to concerns about salmonella contamination.

The product comes in a 1.69 oz. package marked with Lot #21935, UPC 0-18214-81291-3. The lot number can be found on the back of the package. The lot in question has an expiration date of 3/22/18.

The recall was announced after Salmonella was found during routine testing by the company, TFH Publications, Inc./Nylabone Products, of Neptune, N.J.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the problem, the FDA said in a press release.

The recalled Puppy Starter Kits in question were distributed nationwide, to Canada, and through one domestic online mail order facility.

Salmonella can affect animals ingesting the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, the FDA advises you contact your veterinarian.

Symptoms in humans can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Consumers who have purchased packages from the lot should should discontinue use of the product and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-877-273-7527.

How a dog in Massachusetts passed time

watches

Time was of the essence after a Massachusetts dog consumed three wristwatches — almost in their entirety.

The owners of Mocha said they rushed the dog to MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston after finding a few remaining pieces of the watches — which had been inside a drawer the dog somehow opened — on the floor.

mochaMocha was admitted on April 16, the hospital said in a press release, and endured a three-hour endoscopic procedure which allowed the medical team to determine how much material was in her belly — and the best way to remove it.

The team was able to remove some of the leather from Mocha’s stomach using the endoscopy instruments.

As for the rest, they decided to let nature take its course, which nature did.

Over a period of several days, Mocha eliminated another pound of broken leather straps, buckles and various other metal pieces, said Dr. Zachary Crouse.

“We were especially cautious and wanted to avoid surgery—given her history,” he said.

Mocha was admitted to the animal hospital in August of 2014 after swallowing a plastic juice container lid. It obstructed her intestine and had to be surgically removed.

Angell doctors credited the quick thinking of Mocha’s owners, Michele Parkinson and Jeff Courcelle of Salem, who rushed the dog to the animal ER immediately after discovering bits and pieces of the watches on the floor of their home.

“Mocha dodged a bullet for sure and I credit her owners for getting her straight to the hospital,” said Dr. Crouse. “This could easily have turned into a life-threatening situation if they had delayed.”

“We brought her to Angell as soon as my husband saw the broken watch pieces, even though she was showing no symptoms whatsoever,” said Parkinson, who works as a nurse in the hematology department of a major area hospital.

Mocha stayed at the medical center for two days, and returned last Monday for a follow-up exam. An x-ray showed that six small pieces remain inside her, but should pass without surgical intervention.

“One thing’s for sure: we’re going to do everything we can to keep anything remotely ingestible out of her reach,” said Parkinson.

(Photos: Angell Animal Medical Center)

Why some dogs chase their tails

tailchaser

Why do some dogs seem so obsessed with chasing their tails?

Researchers at Bristol University in the UK have entered the second phase of a study aimed at finding the answer.

Scientists from the two-year “Bristol Spinning Dog Project” will visit the homes of the 50 non-spinning dogs to collect urine samples and cheek swabs, and complete training tasks aimed at assessing the pet’s personality and ability to learn, The Independent reports.

In the first phase of the study, the researchers examined spinning dogs, delving into everything from their DNA to their environments to their personalities.

After examining dogs that chase their tails, the researchers will use the non-spinners to act as a control group.

Tail-chasing, while the topic of many a YouTube video, is likely something we shouldn’t be laughing about — out loud or otherwise — at least in those cases where the behavior is obsessive.

The researchers say reasons for the behavior aren’t fully understood — some spinning dogs may be merely seeking attention or expressing a desire to play, but spinning frequently or while alone could be a sign of frustration or a more serious disorder.

“There isn’t much information in the research literature about why dogs spin,” said Beth Loftus, one of the lead researchers. “We think this behavior develops because of personality and genetics, as well as the environment during a dog’s first 16 weeks and learning throughout life. But we don’t really know what it means for dogs’ welfare.”

“We hope to be able to identify dogs that are starting to spin and stop it from developing to the point where they are doing it almost to the complete exclusion of other, more normal types of behavior,” she added.

The research is being funded by the Dogs Trust charity.

(Photo : Flickr Commons / Tim Mowrer)


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