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Archive for 'Muttsblog'

Revolt of the robot dogs?

It may look like this robot dog is attempting to escape and carry out whatever other carnage he was programmed to inflict.

But it’s only a test by Boston Dynamics, the company developing these creatures for wartime and other uses.

The robot dog has been directed to open the door and leave the room. The technician has been assigned to pose an obstacle, using a hockey stick. The resulting struggle — in which the technician ends up grabbing the metal beast’s tail/handle, and breaking a piece of it off — is shown in this newly released video.

Boston Dynamics describes the video as a test of the dog’s (named SpotMini) “ability to adjust to disturbances as it opens and walks through a door” because “the ability to tolerate and respond to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot.”

In other words, they want to be sure the dogs will complete their assigned mission at all costs.

It’s that “at all costs” part that gets a little scary. When you program a robot to “do this and don’t let anything get in the way,” you want to be sure that you, and other living breathing humans, aren’t in the way.

In this case, the robot succeeds in getting out the door. Boston Dynamics assured watchers that “this testing does not irritate or harm the robot.”

The company, owned by Google at the time, took a little heat three years ago when it released a video that showed a technician kicking a robot dog. Even back then, they assured watchers, “No robot dogs were harmed in the making of this video.”

Last year the company was sold to SoftBank.

Group seeks to ban shock collars in England

shockThe Dogs Trust has launched a campaign to end the use of shock collars in England.

Calling the collars “unnecessary and cruel,” the organization is working to immediately ban their sale.

It is urging members of the public to tweet their representatives in Parliament using the hashtag #ShockinglyLegal.

As part of the campaign, they also plan to hold a “reception” — how civilized! — at the House of Commons where they will ask members of Parliament to sign a letter to the secretary of state backing the proposal.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is already on board, pledging his support to bring an end to a practice he compared to caning a child, the Daily Mail reported.

The Dogs Trust said it conducted a poll that showed most members of the public knew the collars caused dogs pain. Almost a third wrongly thought that the collars, which can continuously shock a dog for 11 seconds, were already banned. Only about 13 percent said they would ever use them.

“The sad reality is that they are still readily available to buy at the click of a button, the organization said. “These torturous devices can send between 100 to 6000 volts to a dog’s neck, and have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 terrifying seconds at a time.”

“It is both unnecessary and cruel to resort to the use of these collars on dogs,” said Rachel Casey, director of canine behavior and research at the Dogs Trust.

“This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical well-being,” she added. “A dog can’t understand when or why it’s being shocked and this can cause it immense distress, with many dogs exhibiting signs of anxiety and worsened behavior as a result.”

Wales, Quebec and parts of Australia — have banned shock collars. There’s a growing chorus of voices trying to prohibit — or at least regulate — the collars in the United States, as well. While no legislation has been passed on the state level, an ordinance in Alexandria, Va., limits their use on public property.

Dog’s bid to become governor of Kansas is crushed (by the man he would run against)

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Angus P. Woolley, a 3-year-old wire-haired Vizsla, will not be allowed to run for governor in Kansas.

The Kansas secretary of state’s office confirmed that decision last week.

The secretary of state, it should be pointed out, is running for governor.

“Officially, we will not allow a dog to run for governor,” said Bryan Caskey, director of elections for the Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach’s office. “There’s several laws that reference that the governor has to be an individual or a person, and so we are relying on that, and if a dog comes in to file for office, we will not allow that.”

Now it could be argued that a dog is an individual, and it could be pointed out that Kansas has no law specifically preventing dogs or other animals from running for office.

And it could be speculated, for amusement purposes, that Kobach, a Republican, is afraid of a little canine competition. Angus’ owner has suggested as much.

But, for now, it appears dogs in Kansas will not be eligible to run for state-wide elected office.

Toto, too.

angus2The dog’s owner, Terran Woolley, a dental hygienist in Hutchinson, filed paperwork last week to create a committee for the Angus, the Hutchinson News reported.

“I thought, ‘Hey, why not Angus?’ He’s a good dog, he’s smart. And I think he could provide better leadership than what we’ve had the last seven years in our state,” Woolley said.

Angus is at the third level of obedience school, Woolley said.

The Kobach campaign has not said what level of obedience school the secretary of state completed.

Woolley said the idea of the candidacy came from the number of teenagers announcing bids for governor because there is no age requirement to run for governor or some other statewide offices in Kansas.

In addition to Angus, six teenagers are trying to run in the 2018 governor’s race, according to the Kansas City Star.

That has led lawmakers to consider legislation requiring that people be at least 18 before they can become a candidate. The new bill would also mean dogs, cats and inmates and inanimate objects wouldn’t be able to run.

(Photos: Terran Wooley)

Bring in the comfort dogs — again

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Jacob is a golden retriever who gets to go on lots of trips.

In 2016, he got to go to Orlando.

In 2017, he got to go to Las Vegas.

This year’s excursion was back to Florida, to a town called Parkland.

Jacob, you’d think, should be one happy dog, getting to go on all those trips, and getting lots of attention each time.

jacobBut Jacob, a four-year-old dog who lives in Illinois, is a comfort dog, specially trained to help survivors of tragedies.

He was present in the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas (58 left dead), and at the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre (49 left dead).

This week he’s helping the students, teachers and parents dealing with the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left at least 17 people, mostly children, dead.

You’d think, by now, comfort dogs such as he would be wondering about a species that harms its own members with such devastating regularity — and does such woefully little about it.

Likely not. Perhaps dogs don’t wonder about things like that.

Clearly, we humans don’t either — at least not enough to bring about real change.

Instead, we vent. We ache. Then we return to our own comfortable lives — lives not quite as plush and secure and NRA-supported as those politicians lead.

jacob3We are happy to see the comfort dogs arrive at the scene, happy to see people getting helped. The images serve as salve to our wounds — but they are wounds that should stay open, stay oozing and never stop throbbing until we get those politicians to act.

Dogs can lick our wounds. Humans can actually take steps to prevent them in the first place. But they don’t. Why? Because Bubba likes to hunt, and it’s his constitutional right, and if, every year or so, some deranged human decides gunning down fleeing people might be more fun, that’s the price we pay.

The rest of us, and dogs like Jacob, are left to mop up.

Jacob has been working since he was 16 months old. He’s had a lot of on-the-job experience — too much, says Tim Hetzner, president and CEO of Lutheran Church Charities, which runs the K-9 Comfort Dogs Ministry.

“I’d prefer they’d never have to be deployed for these type of situations,” Hetzner said.

Jacob is one of 130 dogs in 23 states who have been trained by LCC to be comfort dogs. They arrive in the aftermath of tragedies to soothe those coping with the trauma or mourning loved ones they lost.

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They are, basically, grief sponges, absorbing the gut-wrenching misery of victims and survivors.

“They don’t bark, bite, jump up,” Hetzner told Yahoo News. “They’re trained to either sit or to lie down on the ground — it depends on the situation. A lot of times with students that are on the ground, the dog lies down on the ground, and they lie on top of the dog. They’re kind of comfort rugs with a heartbeat sometimes.”

Jacob is expected to be in Parkland until the middle of the week before returning home and awaiting the next call to duty.

Unfortunately — as politicians twiddle their thumbs and debate actually doing something, as the gun lobby digs in to ensure they won’t — there will be a next one.

And we’ll bring out the comfort dogs again.

(Top photo, Associated Press; other photos courtesy of Comfort Dogs Ministry)

After euthanasia drug found in dog food, Smucker recalls Gravy Train and more

gravytrainThe J.M. Smucker Co. is withdrawing some shipments of dog food amid reports that it could be tainted with traces of a drug used to euthanize animals.

The company said Thursday it is pulling back shipments of 27 of its brands, including canned Gravy Train, Kibble ‘N Bits, Skippy and Ol’ Roy brands.

It said it is investigating how the euthanasia drug pentobarbital got into its supply chain and is focusing on a single supplier of a minor ingredient used at one manufacturing facility.

The recalls come after WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., said it tested 15 cans of Gravy Train and found nine cans, or 60 percent of the sample, tested positive for pentobarbital.

Smucker pointed out that the low levels of the drug cited in the report do not pose a threat to pets.

“However, the presence of this substance at any level is not acceptable to us and not up to our quality standards,” the company said in a statement.

The company, based in Orrville, Ohio, said it does not use meat from euthanized animals in its pet food.

A consumer-level product recall has not been initiated, and neither Smucker nor any government agencies has said if any of the implicated dog food made it to retail shelves.

Smucker has requested retailers remove the potentially affected brands from their warehouses.

Read on for the full list:

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There’s more than one way to trim a dog

oliverA Minnesota man came up with a novel way of trimming the nails of his Boston terrier, Oliver, a little fellow who squirmed and struggled mightily when nail-trimming time came around.

Get an old purse. Cut four holes into the bottom corners. Insert dog in purse. Hang up purse and dog on a sturdy rod, such as one of those exercise bars you put in the doorway.

Then as the doggie dangles, just trim away.

Patrick Peifer said the idea came from something similar he once saw, but clearly he has an inventive mind.

We bet he could also come up with a way to pick a peck of pickled peppers — one that calculates exactly how many pickled peppers Patrick Peifer picked.

As his daughter Kendal explained, “It was his DIY project for the night.”

Oliver, Kendal told BuzzFeed, doesn’t cooperate when the time comes for a manicure. “It’s very difficult to keep him still while clipping nails,” said Kendal.

She said her father “literally” went to Goodwill and bought a purse, cut four holes in it, placed Oliver into the purse with his legs sticking out and hooked it through some gym equipment on a door.

Kendal tweeted out her dad’s invention and got a huge response.

“A lot of people are saying how genius the idea was,” said Kendal.

In the photos, it looks like Oliver is pretty calm, as if he doesn’t mind being suspended in the air. Then again, maybe he’s just petrified.

We’re not recommending this technique, but, if you do try it, make sure you’re using a bar that is well anchored. Make sure you’re not doing it with a big dog. And make sure your wife doesn’t start using the purse you sawed holes into.

(Photo: Twitter)

Michigan funeral home holds service for dog who comforted thousands of the grieving

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Hollie, a golden retriever who for 16 years comforted mourners at a Kalamazoo funeral home, was remembered yesterday with a ceremony in her honor.

Betzler Life Story Funeral Home held an open house for the therapy dog they believe to have been the first used in Michigan by a funeral home.

While more funeral homes have begun having therapy dogs on the premises, Betzler’s started their program at a time it was mostly unheard of.

Scott Betzler, Hollie’s owner, got the idea while he served on the board of directors of the Kalamazoo Humane Society. That organization offered a pet visitation program for nursing homes at the time, and Betzler decided to try to incorporate it at the funeral home.

“It was very different at the time to have a dog in a funeral home,” said Patrick Bauschke, a funeral director at Betzler. “But Hollie made it the most natural fit. She’s worked thousands of funerals and visitations and helped countless people.”

“Mention the Betzler name and chances are people will remember Hollie,” he added. “She happily greeted people at the door, mingled throughout visitations and services, and offered a calming and comforting influence on those who needed her most.”

Bauschke said Hollie had a soothing effect on visitors — “an unmatched sense of knowing just who needed her and when.”

holly2MLive reported that setting aside some time for people to remember and honor Hollie was an obvious idea.

“So many people have adored her, it is a time for people to come in and visit,” Funeral Director Joe Buysse said. “We have so many people who say, ‘I remember when I was here for Grandma or Uncle Charlie and she was here. She was a big comfort to me when I was a kid. Now I’m grown up.’ It is amazing how she has touched so many people.”

Hollie completed temperance training through the Kalamazoo Humane Society and was the first official funeral home therapy dog in the Greater Kalamazoo and Paw Paw areas.

Her work was featured in articles by the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, the Michigan Funeral Directors Association and the Kalamazoo Gazette.

She was often taken on visits to local senior communities, and visited elementary schools for book-reading sessions with children.

You can read more about Hollie’s life here.

With Hollie’s passing, the funeral home says her role will be taken over by Ellie, a 3-year-old English retriever who has been working alongside her.

(Photos: Betzler Life Story Funeral Home)