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Archive for 'Muttsblog'

Love those ugly dogs, just not the contest

quasi1

It was last year I decided that I’d had enough of the “Worlds Ugliest Dog Contest” — a cute little idea that has become too big, too cutthroat and, by putting so much emphasis on appearance, too much like all those beauty contests whose superficiality it was created to counter.

What finally sent me past the tipping point was that last year’s winner, Peanut, was said to look the way he looked at least in part because he had been abused — back before he was rescued by a loving family.

Giving prizes to dogs whose appearances have been mangled by humans — though that’s kind of what happens every year at Westminster — is a bad idea.

Giving prizes to dogs who are deformed, or just plain ugly, was a sweet concept at first. Then, despite its good intentions, it grew into a beast.

So with a nod to this year’s winner, Quasimodo — that’s him above in an Associated Press photo by Noah Berger — we reprint last year’s ohmidog! post on the topic, which asked the question, “Has the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest run its course?”

It seems like every year I’ve teetered a little closer to disliking the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.

A cute concept at first — and one that helped remind us what a superficial thing beauty can be — it seems to have grown into a pageant that, despite its focus on “ugliness,” inches ever closer to reflecting many of the same negative traits of purebred dog shows and beauty contests.

As the quirky little contest at the Sonoma County Fair in Petaluma has grown huge, and the title more sought after, there has been a concurrent increase in cut-throat competition, campaigning and hype.

But it’s the choice of this year’s winner that may have finally pushed me into being a fan no more. The title of World’s Ugliest Dog was won by a dog whose unusual appearance is the result of being abused.

And that troubles me.

This year’s winning dog, Peanut, a two-year-old mixed breed, is from Greenville, N.C. He was adopted from a shelter after being found abandoned and severely abused. It is suspected he was set on fire. While he’s healthy now, his eyelids, lips and patches of hair on his body were burned off, which accounts for much of his unusual appearance.

His owner, Holly Chandler, held fundraising campaigns to travel to California and enter Peanut in the contest — all, she said, to help raise awareness about animal abuse.

Given that’s a large part of this website’s mission, too, I have no problem with that cause.

I’m all for celebrating dogs who look different. I’m all for celebrating dogs who have overcome harsh odds. I’m all for abused dogs recovering and becoming rich and famous while their abusers rot in prison.

Where my discomfort comes in, I think, is placing abused animals in a “contest” context and, within that party atmosphere, picking a winner whose looks are the result of being horribly mistreated at the hands of man.

Abuse, it seems to me, should not be connected to pageantry and cash prizes, no matter how circuitous that link is.

Yesterday, I watched a local TV report about Peanut winning the contest. The anchor people, while noting Peanut had an inner beauty, laughed and joked about his appearance, as I’m sure the crowd did at the contest.

Peanut beat 24 other dogs to win the contest Friday, receiving more than double the votes the second-place dog received.

While his owner seemed sincere in her purpose, and probably did raise awareness about animal abuse, I can’t help but wonder whether we should all be chuckling — even while feeling sympathy and love for Peanut — at his appearance, at his prominent teeth, or his eyes that never close, given it was all the result of a cruel criminal act.

On the other hand, the world should know Peanut’s story — and the contest was a way to make that happen.

Maybe, though, there are better, more dignified ways, such as writing a book, or taking him to schools, or sharing his story with the news media — ways that might avoid the appearance of exploitation and have a little less of the circus atmosphere that seems, in my mind at least, to clash with serious nature of animal abuse.

I doubt there is any danger of people disfiguring their dogs in hopes of winning the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, but — given the world can be pretty ugly — stranger things have happened.

I think it would be wise, and in good taste, for contest officials to impose and enforce a ban on dogs whose “ugliness” or unusual looks are a result of actions taken by humans — whether those actions are heinous criminal acts or cosmetic steps, like dyeing, taken for amusement purposes.

While the contest’s web page states that “all the dogs must provide a veterinarian’s paperwork asserting that they are healthy and are ‘naturally ugly,’ Peanut’s victory casts some doubt on how strongly that’s being enforced.

All that said, I don’t find any fault with Chandler entering Peanut in the contest. She was on a mission. She made her point.

Maybe the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, after 25 years, has made its point too. A cute and well-intentioned gimmick with a sweet message, it might be growing into a bit of a monster. Maybe it should fade way before it becomes too Westminstery.

I have problems with contests that award people, or dogs, for good looks and conformity. Maybe I have issues with awarding them for “bad” looks and non-conformity, too.

Definitely I don’t like the idea of people laughing and finding amusement in a dog’s misery, which, in a very distant, removed and indirect way, is what’s going on.

That’s the best I can do at explaining the ill-at-ease feeling Peanut’s victory gives me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Young actress lends hand to old dog

A young actress helped save an old dog in New Mexico last week, and Grandpa, as he’s being called, is now resting comfortably at a dog hospice and animal sanctuary that provides elderly animals with acupuncture and other Western and alternative medication.

“His life force is not strong,” said the founder and director of Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary, in (you guessed it, didn’t you?) Santa Fe. “It’s hard to tell how long he’ll be with us.”

But, Ulla Pedersen told the New Mexican, “you’d be surprised how some make a complete turnaround after they’ve been with us only a few weeks.”

The dog — thought to be about 15 years old — had apparently been abandoned at Santa Fe’s Frank Ortiz Dog Park, where actress Rachel Brosnahan came across him last Friday while at the park with her boyfriend and two dogs.

Others at the park had already reported his condition to animal control, but Brosnahan  sat with Grandpa until help arrived.

“We thought he was injured because he couldn’t stand up,” said Brosnahan, who stars in the television series Manhattan, which is filmed in the area.

“I think he was in shock,” added Brosnahan, who also appeared in the Netflix series House of Cards. ” He was panting a lot and we brought him some water, but he only drank a little.”

Grandpa seemed to appreciate the company, she said, especially that of her own dogs, including Nicky, a pit-bull mix.

Jennifer Steketee, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter’s director of veterinary services, said staff gave the dehydrated dog IV fluids, and that — other than arthritis and other symptoms associated with his advanced age — he showed no other signs of illness.

The dog was not microchipped and had no tags or other identification.

Because of his age, the shelter contacted Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary.

Pedersen, who met the dog on Tuesday, said Grandpa would be a perfect fit for her sanctuary, which provides eldercare and hospice for dogs, horses and poultry.

Brosnahan, who offered to foster the dog, said she was happy to hear Grandpa would be living the rest of his life there — and that she plans to visit him soon.

“I am so happy he’s going to be cared for at such a wonderful place,” she said.

Deputy dogs: A good idea is catching on

Natasha Hernanadez, community services officer with the Laguna Beach Police Department, speaks with a dog owner about the Dog Walker Watch program one morning at the Laguna Beach Dog Park on Laguna Canyon Road. The city is asking dog walkers to help be aware of issues in and around their neighborhoods to help fight the rise in residential burglaries. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:   dogwalker ? 06/18/15 ? MARK RIGHTMIRE, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

In lovely Laguna Beach, California, the police department is seeking out dogs and their walkers to help take a bite out of crime.

The department has launched its own local version of a national campaign known as Dog Walker Watch, variations of which are now operating in more than 1,300 cities.

It enlists those who are out on the streets anyway, to serve as extra eyes and ears, reporting any suspicious activity or unusual behavior to authorities.

The Orange County Register reports that 20 dog owners have been trained so far this summer, and the police department is looking for more.

Natasha Hernandez, the department’s community service officer, has set up a stand at the Laguna Beach Dog Park to spread word about the program, handing out brochures and poop bags emblazoned with the police phone number. She has also posted fliers at pets shops and approached many professional dog walkers and sitters.

One of those who signed up is Diane Berger, who walks her neighborhood daily with her golden retriever, Casey.

“It’s an amazing idea,” she said. “We kind of have responsibility to help out. It’s our community. If we want to keep it safe, we can’t always expect others to take care of it.”

As part of the training, the police department makes a point of telling dog owners to stay alert, and to call when they see anything suspicious. The program stresses that calls to police aren’t bothersome.

The idea was hatched a year ago in Pennsylvania by Matt Peskin, the Register reported.

“I realized there are 75 million dog walkers in the country,” Peskin said. “If you could train a percentage to become even more aware, you’d have the perfect eyes and ears in the community.”

(Photo: Diane Berger walks with Casey, her 8-year-old golden retriever; by Mark Rightmire / Orange County Register)

Another police dog perishes in hot vehicle

mason


Another police dog has died after being left in a police vehicle — this time one in Alabama whose purpose wasn’t law enforcement, but “community engagement.”

Mason was left by his handler in a hot patrol car without its air conditioning turned on June 18, and died the next night.

His handler, Corporal Josh Coleman, said he forgot that he’d left Mason in the car after attending a hurricane preparation conference in Gulf Shores.

A city press release offered little explanation of how that happened.

“On Thursday, June 18th, while transitioning between duties, Mason’s handler Corporal Josh Coleman forgot that Mason was still in the back seat of his patrol car. On discovering Mason’s absence Cpl. Coleman located him in the vehicle.”

The press release gave no indication of how long Mason was left inside the car.

Al.com reports that the dog had entered the conference with Coleman, and had his picture taken at the event.

WISH-TV quoted a police sergeant as saying that Coleman left the dog in the car after the conference.

“He was going to take care of some paperwork in his office and he straight up forgot him,” says Woodruff. “Left him in the car.”

At some point, Coleman “discovered” him in the car. Mason was rushed to a local veterinarian, then transported to a vet in Penascola.

His condition seemed to be improving Friday morning, but died later in the evening.

The Gulf Shores Police Department acquired Mason on November 17, 2014, and had celebrated the dog’s third birthday on June 9.

While it was reported by some news outlets that Coleman would not face criminal charges, WISH reported the case will go to a grand jury. Coleman also faces “sanctions” from the police department and city.

According to the city press release, the department’s K-9′s usually travel in vehicles equipped with remote heat alarms, water bowls, and other protective measures.

“Because Mason’s duties did not include long periods in a vehicle, those protective measures were not available in his handler’s car,” it said.

The Gulf Shores Police Department might want to give that policy a second look — so its next “community relations” dog, if they get one, doesn’t turn into another public relations nightmare.

(Photo: Gulf Shores Police Department)

Trying to save his dog, man in wheelchair is killed by train in California

    A man in a wheelchair who witnesses say was trying to save his dog was struck by a train and killed Friday.

    Jim Boswell, an amputee who lived at a mobile home park in Wheatland, Calif., was said to be a quiet man in his 60’s, and a good friend to his dog, who was also killed.

    Boswell had left his prosthetic leg at home and taken his wheelchair to a store down the road, his dog at his side.

    “He had just come in,” said Rachel Sewell, an employee at Big Al’s Market. “We had literally just helped him less than five minutes before it happened.”

    After he left the store, around 7:45 p.m., she and others in the neighborhood heard the squeal of train brakes.

    While no one witnessed the accident, CBS 13 in Sacramento reported that they think the dog got away from Boswell who then tried to catch him before the train roared through.

    Neighbors say Boswell and a female relative who acted as his caretaker had been living in the mobile home park a few months.

The robot dog: An idea whose time never came and (we hope) never will

wowweerobotics

Can we go ahead and bury the robot dog, once and for all?

It was an inane idea from the get go — thinking that Americans or people from any other reasonable country would want a pet with batteries.

The robot dog is the antithesis of dog — a soul-less collection of moving metal parts that, while it may obey your every command; while it may not pee, poop, drool or shed; while it might even make you laugh; isn’t ever going to lead to any sort of real bond.

cybieIf someone truly loves their robot dog, well, they most likely have become a robot, too, having let technology, and all the ease and superficiality it offers, write a new script for their lives.

I suspect the same is true as well of those who came up with and developed the idea.

A robot dog is to dog what a light bulb is to the sun.

Turn it on, turn it off. You might be seeing a harsh and glaring light, but you are not seeing “the” light. Only dogs can provide that.

It’s not surprising that robot dogs are burning out.

It is surprising that an Australian researcher recently suggested that robotic dogs could begin replacing real dogs as pets in the world’s largest cities in as little as 35 years.

Jean-Loup Rault, writing in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, says burgeoning populations in big cities won’t leave much room for man’s best friend in the future — and he predicts that living, breathing dogs will disappear as digital technologies “revolutionize” the human-animal relationship.

Rault is wrong, and here’s why.

Dog robotTrue, robots are on the rise. We will increasingly rely on them, or something close, to wash our dishes, vacuum our floors and do all those other tasks that take up time we could spend online, or, better yet, actually living life.

But we will never really connect with them — not even sex robots.

Anyone who does, probably should see a psychiatrist or, if they only want to pretend someone is listening to them, a robot psychiatrist.

Even in a world increasingly falling in love with material things, and increasingly falling in love with technology, and increasingly finding its social life on the Internet, the rise and fall of the robot dog shows us that — even when we can predict and control something’s every move, and put it in the closet when we tire of it — a mechanical canine just can’t compete with the real thing.

Dogs — though technology has messed with them (always with bad results) — are the antidote, I think, to technological overload. They are the cure. They keep life real. They lead to real bonds, real emotions, happiness and pain.

Overall, they soothe us, while technology often does the opposite.

Anyone who thinks a robot dog is going to lower their blood pressure, as dogs do, provide eye contact that stirs the soul, or be comforting to play with or pet is caught up in self-delusion.

What is hoped for by companies that make such devices, or provide us with Internet-based fantasies, or come up with ideas like pet rocks and the Tamagotchie, is that we all find self-delusion a happier place to be, and stay there, and spend our money there.

aibo_robot_dogSo I’m glad the obituary has been written for Sony’s “Aibo,” the best known robot dog.

Production ended eight years ago, and the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year.

Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, and by 2006 had only sold 150,000 “units.” according to the New York Times.

Given it was not providing much profit, the company decided to put Aibo down.

Despite that, and the failure of many of the robotic/digital pets that preceded and followed it, Jean-Loup Rault, on the faculty at the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne, suspects they have a future.

“Pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population. Digital technologies have quickly revolutionized human communication and social relationships,” he says.

“We are possibly witnessing the dawn of a new era, the digital revolution with likely effects on pet ownership, similar to the industrial revolution which replaced animal power for petrol and electrical engines.”

He points to the popularity, or at least former popularity, of devices like the Tamagotchie, and Paro, a robotic baby seal used by medical professionals, and Aibo, which never really became popular at all. He points to games and apps that allow people to keep fake farm animals. He points to the movie, “Her,” in which a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system.

“Robots can without doubt trigger human emotions,” he concludes, perhaps a little too quickly.

phonedogAnd robotic pets, he says, are just so much easier — especially in “situations where live pets are undesirable (e.g., old or allergic people).”

“The pace of artificial pet development, and underlying research, remains in its infancy with much to be discovered,” he notes. “At present, artificial pets can be described as mediocre substitutes for live counterparts. Yet, quick technological progress is to be expected …”

He concludes with a quote from Nikola Tesla: “Let the future tell the truth.”

I, for one, am not willing to do that. I don’t trust the future one bit, or those who are trying to take us there too quickly — and at the expense of what is pure and real and true.

Much more than the future, I put my trust, and faith, in dog. Real dog.

Your Friday flashback: Owner asked that her dog be put down; stronger wills prevailed

Sido in the wind.jpg

When Mary Murphy died in San Francisco 35 years ago, a provision of her will named her dog, Sido — but not as what you might call a beneficiary.

Murphy asked in her will that Sido, an 11-year-old part collie, part sheepdog, be killed.

Murphy didn’t want her dog languishing in a shelter, or ending up as part of a laboratory research project, and she feared that even if she did get adopted, her new family might not be as loving and caring as she had been.

In short, she thought Sido would be better off dead.

It all made for a fascinating little story (with big implications) back in 1980, with the case ending up in court and making it onto the June 17 broadcast of the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.”

It was animal advocate Richard Avanzino who, after the terms of Murphy’s will became known, took up Sido’s cause, and took in Sido, serving as the dog’s foster parent until things got straightened out in court. At the time, he was head of the San Francisco SPCA.

“There’s no justification for her life to be taken,” Avanzino said at the time. “She’s committed no crime. The only crime that she committed was that she loved totally her master and for that she’s been condemned to die.”

CBS dug up the original news report this week, and reinterviewed Avanzino — soon to retire as head of Maddie’s Fund, the largest dog and cat charity in the world.

Today, Avanzino considers Sido the original poster child for the no-kill movement.

sido2“Sido was just the quintessential champion for animal rescue,” he said. “I’m eternally grateful for the time that I had with her but more importantly for the great role she played in telling America that we can be a no-kill nation.”

“I took Sido into my home realizing that the lawsuit would probably take months to resolve the outcome and Sido joined my family as a foster pet,” Avanzino told CBS News this week from San Francisco.

Avanzino fought in court for Sido’s life, arguing that the dog wasn’t “property.”

At the same time, he and others lobbied state politicians to work on a measure that would save Sido’s life.

A bill was drafted, passed and sent to then-Governor Jerry Brown to consider.

The judge’s ruling came the same day the governor signed the bill.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jay Pfotenhauer — whose name, CBS pointed out, translates to Paw-Slapper from German — decided that the killing of pets as personal property no longer had validity and that pets have rights.

Sido was spared, and spent the next five years as a member of Avanzino’s family.

On Sido’s 16th birthday, just hours before the cake was to be cut, Sido had a stroke and was rushed to UC Davis Veterinary School. She died three days later.

Avanzino says he believes Sido’s case served to inspire animal lovers, and help stem the number of euthanizations across the country.

In 1980, 16 million dogs and cats were killed in shelters; today that number is closer to 2.7 million.

(Photos: Courtesy of Richard Avanzino)


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