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Archive for August, 2018

Your dog is loyal — your smartphone is not

If you have a few years on you, you remember the stool pigeon from old black and white movies.

He was a jumpy fellow, usually, maybe with a twitch, ready to rat out a fellow con in exchange for a few bucks, a bottle of gin, or a break on his sentence.

He was usually less than totally trustworthy, and he usually came to a bad end.

In today’s full color, technology-obsessed world, there’s a new, far more reliable, stool pigeon.

He’s far easier to access than meeting up in a smoky bar. He has a photographic memory. He has the goods on you. And he’ll dish that information out to the coppers with just the push of a few buttons.

He is generally one of two varieties — Apple or Android.

When Pennsylvania State Police in Harrisburg found the bodies of two boxer mixes near the roadway, and learned through a tip who they belonged to, the suspect’s cell phone provided virtually all the information needed to make their case.

On it, they found texts to his wife which included his messages that “someone called the cops and told them I killed them” and “do not tell the state police anything.”

They also found he had been googling — 82 incriminating cell phone searches that included “how to destroy your house pet,” “is it legal to kill your dog,” and “punishment for killing your dog in PA.”

Bryan Gardner, 47, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, cruelty to animals, and neglect of animals after the dogs were discovered, back in March, in a ditch in Middle Paxton Township.

One dog had a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and the other had significant trauma to its head and stomach.

In an interview with police, Gardner denied any involvement with the killing or dumping of the dogs, and told his interviewer “you don’t have anything,” according to a criminal complaint.

PennLive.com reports that Gardner told officers the dogs ran off while he was walking them.

Investigators spoke with Gardner’s wife, Andrea, who said her husband told her he gave the dogs away. Andrea refused to take a polygraph test or allow police to review text messages between her and her husband.

Police then obtained a search warrant for Gardner’s cell phone records, and officers found the text messages.

The web searches were made both before an after Gardner was initially confronted by police, according to the complaint.

If the warrant to get his phone holds up in court, he faces a bit of an uphill battle.

Good, you might say, and you might be right.

There are arguments to be made about privacy, too, but for now we will make these two conclusions:

One, smartphones, like computers, have made it much easier to pull off a host of bad deeds — from scams to affairs and with the Internet serving as accomplice — but they have also made it a whole lot easier to get caught.

Two, this guy’s smartphone showed itself to be about as loyal to him as he (allegedly) was to his dogs.

Another Wag! nightmare, and it’s a doozie

A Colorado dog owner says he came home to find his dog sitting his his own urine in a locked bedroom, his dog-sitter in the shower and two shirtless men sitting on his couch with a bottle of lubricant and a video camera.

Klete Keller, of Colorado Springs, told Fox 21 that upon his return home on Monday around 1 a.m., the sitter he had had hired through the dog-sitting service Wag! was nowhere to be seen.

He later learned she was taking a shower.

Keller said he asked the two men on the couch to leave. That’s when he noticed the open bottle of personal lubricant and camcorder.

Keller said the scene was “just a total mess,” and included “what I can only assume are bodily fluids on the couch.”

“I can only imagine what poor Jimbo saw in there,” he said in reference to his dog.

The unidentified dog-sitter told the news station she had been using the lubricant to remove her keys which were stuck in her car.

Wag!, the Uber-like dog-sitting service which Keller said he used to find someone to watch Jimbo, said in a statement that they are investigating what allegedly took place in Keller’s home and have suspended the dog-sitter.

“We have launched an investigation into this incident and have suspended the sitter from our platform. The circumstances around this incident are unacceptable, and we expect everyone on our platform to conduct themselves in a professional manner,” the statement read. “We have worked closely with the dog’s owner to restore his trust in Wag! and appreciate his understanding. The trust and safety of the Wag! community is very important to us.”

The company says it uses a thorough vetting process for their dog walkers and sitters, which includes a social security number trace and several criminal checks.

Keller’s dog-sitter had a 4.96 out of 5 star rating on Wag! and had a combined total of 305 dog walks and sittings. She passed all of the background checks, the company said.

(Photo of Jimbo from Klete Keller’s Facebook page)

Hope for glioblastoma victims seen in dog experiments underway at Virginia Tech

The rare form of brain cancer that killed John McCain and Ted Kennedy has also been a death sentence for many dogs, but researchers are seeing at least a little hope for canines in an experimental treatment being studied at Virginia Tech.

Researchers at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech are enrolling dogs with glioblastoma into a clinical trial to test the experimental drug that is injected directly into the tumors.

They say the results are so promising that the National Institutes of Health is now helping fund the trial, hoping it could eventually lead to a breakthrough in humans.

McCain succumbed to the cancer Aug. 25, exactly nine years to the day after Kennedy, his former colleague in the Senate, did.

Dogs and humans are the only species in which primary brain tumors are common. In dogs, a glioma accounts for about 35% of all spontaneous primary brain tumors. The prognosis for both dogs and humans diagnosed with the cancer is poor.

In the Virginia Tech clinical trial, researchers are testing the safety and effectiveness of molecularly targeted cytotoxins, which are chemotherapeutic drugs — a treatment developed at the Thomas K. Hearn Brain Tumor Research Center at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The drugs are designed to affect only cancerous cells, and not normal brain tissue. Using specialized catheters the cytotoxins are infused into the tumor over a several hour period. The drug treatment is monitored continuously with MRI to allow the neurosurgeon to precisely track the drug delivery.

CBS News reported on the trials recently and interviewed the owners of one of the study’s participants — a 10-year-old Portuguese water dog named Emily.

Laura Kamienski said she was devastated when her dog was diagnosed earlier this year, and was willing to try any experimental treatment available.

It has been six weeks since Emily’s first treatment and Kamienski said Emily hasn’t had a seizure. MRI scans show Emily’s tumors are shrinking.

“She’s herself,” she said.

“We watch the entire treatment on MRI,” Dr. John Rossmeisl, professor neurology and neurosurgery at Virginia Tech, told CBS News. “So we can watch the drug cover the tumor. And so we know we’ve achieved the treatment goals of actually targeting all the cancer cells.”

“The black spot means the tumor is dying. That’s what we want to see,” Rossmeisl said. “The only way this could have been better if it was totally gone. This is really good news.”

“It’s not a cure, Kamienski said. “I knew that going in. This is the best hope — to give her more time.”

(Photos: At top, brain scans from a 7-year-old female Boston terrier, Virginia Tech; lower, McCain and Kennedy, Twitter)

How much is that doggie in the home place?

Anywhere from $130 to $150 a month — that’s what maintaining a dog costs on average, according to two recent surveys.

The higher estimate comes from Rover.com, which, being a network of pet sitters, would like to see you spending as much as possible on your pet.

The lower one comes from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a group that — while less fun at parties — is probably better equipped to objectively and accurately count such beans.

The estimates are even farther apart when you consider that the higher Rover.com one does not include routine non-emergency veterinary care, while the AICPA one does.

In any event, it adds up to a chunk of change — about $1,560 to $1,800 a year.

Being unable to afford a dog is one of the most cited reasons dogs are returned to shelters — along with behavior problems, families moving and landlords not allowing them.

Both studies found that potential pet parents are not aware of the true cost of getting a dog, with most people thinking a dog will only cost $26-$75 a month.

The findings from the two studies come as more American households — 54 percent in 2017 — owned a pet than ever before.

The AICPA study, done at the end of last year, showed people consider themselves unlikely to return a dog that had become part of the household. Sixty-one percent of pet owners said they’d sacrifice their cable and TV streaming services to pay for their pet expenses. A third of pet owners said they’d sacrifice their cell phone plan.

Both surveys found that pet owners would make significant financial sacrifices for their pet.

Many pet owners are willing to purchase luxury goods and services for their dogs: One in three would throw their dog a birthday party, one in three would spend over $250 on a special gift for their dog, one in four have purchased a massage for their dog, and 43 percent would consider signing their dog up for yoga, the Rover.com survey noted.

It also found one in three pet owners would consider cloning their pet.

(Image, print from an original artwork by Coco de Paris)

Royal news: Prince Harry and Meghan reportedly are parents (of a new dog)

Reports are that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a new addition — though photographs have yet to be published, a name has not been mentioned, and lineage has yet to be established.

PEOPLE says it has confirmed that a new pup has joined the family. The puppy photos in the video above (not from PEOPLE) are not believed to be the new royal pup.

The magazine says the couple got the dog — believed to be a Labrador — in early summer, and quotes sources as saying the new dog has been joining them at their country getaway in the Cotswolds area and Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace in London.

Harry and Meghan’s path, in that way, follows that of Harry’s brother, Prince William, and Kate Middleton. Shortly after they married they got a cocker spaniel. Shortly after that, they were parents of human babies.

Meghan and Harry’s new dog will join Guy, the rescued beagle that Meghan entered the marriage with.

Meghan, 37, had to leave her other aging dog, Bogart, with a friend when she moved to London from Toronto last November, when the couple got engaged.

Guy went from a U.S. shelter to a Canadian adoption group and was then adopted by Meghan Markle in 2015. He has become a visible part of Meghan’s new royal life. He sat her feet as she sat for her hair and makeup on her wedding morning, and was said to be one of the highlights at the wedding reception.

A spokeswoman at Kensington Palace declined to comment on the new arrival, PEOPLE said.

(Photos: Guy and Bogart, at left; Harry and Meghan, on wedding day, at right)

Mississippi State football player charged with starving Great Dane

storyA member of the Mississippi State football team has been suspended after his arrest on animal cruelty charges related to allegations he left a Great Dane locked in a room without food or water for at least three days.

Head Coach Joe Moorhead devoted a full 30 seconds to the incident in an 11-minute press conference Wednesday, stating little more than that offensive lineman Michael Story was indefinitely suspended as soon as the team learned about the charges.

Police in Starkville apparently did not reveal much about the incident either.

Both the name of the complainant and the address of the home where the incident occurred were redacted in the police complaint, which made no mention of any reasons Story might have had for sequestering the dog.

Story was charged Saturday on a misdemeanor count of aggravated cruelty to a cat or dog, WTVA reported.

The complainant told police that Story “shut Kodak the Great Dane in the back room of his apartment and did not feed or water Kodak the Great Dane since Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, until Aug. 18, 2018. Mr. Story then stated at a later time that Kodak the Great Dane had been in the bedroom of the apartment for roughly a week’s time.”

At a press conference on the final day of training, Coach Moorhead answered questions about training and the outlook for the team before a reporter asked, “What is Michael Story’s status with the team?”

“I’d rather just meet this out in front of it,” the coach answered, but his subsequent remarks shed little light on what happened.

He confirmed that Story had been suspended indefinitely as soon as the charges became known.

“We talk to our team all the time about our decision-making and our conduct off the field, and that’s something we certainly stress everyday. The discipline of this will be handled accordingly,” he said.

He added no more, and the next question was, “What’s the rotation at cornerback?”

You can watch the full press conference here.

Story, a junior from Ripley, was practicing as a second-team left guard early in preseason camp. He started twice as a freshman in 2016 but hasn’t started since.

(Associated Press photo by Michael Woods)

Paw-ternity leave, despite all the media hype, isn’t exactly sweeping the nation

Paw-ternity leave — or employers giving employees paid time off to care for a new dog in the family — is being called a “growing trend” again.

Don’t let your expectations grow too high, though, because it’s not really.

It’s instead what happens when cute idea meets catchy name (fur-ternity leave, it’s also called), and the news media forgets (or just doesn’t care) that they did pretty much the same story a year or two ago.

This latest round of attention the idea is receiving stems from a single report about a single company in Minneapolis.

Nina Hale, a digital marketing company, is offering employees one week of flexible hours to care for new pets. The company started the policy — not exactly the same thing as paid leave — after receiving multiple requests from employees with new or sick pets.

Basically it allows the company’s 85 employees to, after approval, work from home for a week.

Of course there are probably many companies that, being decent, already offer such compromises to employees without touting it.

But when a “marketing firm” does it, rest assured it will magically become big news, whether it’s really big or not.

In this case, the Star Tribune story led to a New York Times story that led to a Daily Mail story that led to every other media outfit and blogger to jump on it, in the process calling it a “growing trend” and making much more of it than it is.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic idea, but it’s not spreading like wildfire.

If there is a true trend here it is that companies — generally smaller, tech-related ones — are offering more lucrative benefits in an attempt to attract the best employees.

In reality, paw-ternity leave has been a little quicker to catch on overseas than in the U.S.

Musti Group, a pet food company based in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, offers a three-day paw-ternity leave plan to its 1,500 employees.

In the U.S., New York data company mParticle has a paw-ternity program that gives employees two weeks of paid time off if they adopt a rescue dog or other pet.

But, as we wrote two years ago — the last time it surfaced as a “growing trend” — don’t hold your breath waiting for your employer to offer it.

You’d be much better off going to the boss and seeing what kind of deal you can make, and if the answer is none, take some vacation time. Your new dog deserves it.