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The dogs of Amazon: Their numbers keep growing

Just as the number of employees is skyrocketing at Amazon’s Seattle campus, so too are the number of dogs.

Not too long ago, the company boasted that 4,000 dogs were coming to work regularly with employees.

In this recent post on the Amazon blog, it was revealed there are now 6,000 dogs “working” at Amazon’s Seattle campus, which has about 40,000 employees.

Of course not that many show up on campus every day — only about 500 do — but that’s the number of dogs Amazon’s dogs at work program has registered.

For those who do come along, it’s a pretty sweet set up. They have a “doggie deck” with a fake fire hydrant where dogs can run around and burn off energy. They also have “Dogs Only” water fountains, a 1,000-square-foot dog park with rocks and other structures to climb on, poop bag stations, designated dog relief areas, receptionists armed with dog treats, a doggie treat truck called The Seattle Barkery, and regularly scheduled dog events.

Amazon even has it’s own equivalent of a human resources chief for dogs — Lara Hirschfield, the company’s “Woof Pack” manager.

“The dog-friendly policy also contributes to the company’s culture of collaboration.” Hirschfield said in the blog post. “Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection. I see Amazonians meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs.”

There are no breed or size restrictions.

The policy reflects the company’s belief that pets at work can reduce stress, increase productivity, improve morale, expedite social interaction, improve job satisfaction and provide companionship. A few moments relaxing with a dog, can improve concentration on the job afterwards.

The dog friendly policy dates back to a pup named Rufus, a Welsh corgi who belonged to Amazon’s former editor-in-chief and principal engineer. Rufus came to work every day, and employees would even use Rufus’ paw to click a computer mouse when launching early pages on Amazon. Rufus died in 2009, and a building on the Amazon campus is named after him.

You can see more of the dogs of Amazon here.

PETA disrupts best in show at Crufts

As a whippet named Tease was being crowned best in show at Crufts, protesters disrupted the prestigious UK dog show by running onto the field and unfurling a banner that read “Crufts: Canine Eugenics.”

The owner of Tease grabbed her dog, Crufts officials quickly secured the trophy even more protectively, and it was all over in less than a minute, after the two protesters were promptly tackled by security officers and whisked away, along with their banner.

The protest broke out just as Yvette Short of Edinburgh lifted her dog onto the podium as the event’s live feed broadcast across the globe.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) took responsibility for the incident.

“Crufts glorifies pedigree fetishists’ twisted pursuit of the ‘perfect’ dog,” Elisa Allen, PETA’s UK’s director, told the Independent on Sunday. “There’s nothing natural about breeding dogs with extreme and debilitating physical traits, and PETA urges everyone to stay away from this cruel beauty pageant.”

Many animal welfare groups take issue with the over-breeding of pedigree dogs to meet arbitrary physical standards and at the expense of health problems and physical ailments, but none with quite the zeal of PETA.

In 2008, the BBC stopped broadcasting Crufts after 40 years following public outcry over health concerns that were raised by a BBC One investigation called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”

The documentary focused on chronic health concerns that have resulted from breeders trying to attain physical standards The Kennel Club and breeders promulgate.

The Kennel Club, the organization behind Crufts, called the documentary “biased and selective,” but went on to revise some of the least healthy breeding standards it calls for.

Still, “canine eugenics” remains a pretty apt description of what dog shows are all about.

After Sunday’s demonstration, a Crufts spokesman said the protesters “scared the dogs and put the safety of both dogs and people at risk in a hugely irresponsible way.”

We’d suggest that the security response to the protesters looked far scarier than anything those two were doing, and that the Kennel Club, over its long history, has behaved more irresponsibly than a couple of PETA protesters ever could.

Theater to offer dogs a screening of new Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco is having a bring-your-dog screening of Wes Anderson’s new movie, “Isle of Dogs.”

Why? Well for one reason, publicity just like this. For another, they think dog owners will be willing to buy their dogs a ticket, which will allow them to double sales.

The 4 p.m. (Pacific Time) screening will be March 19, Indie Wire reported Tuesday.

According to the theater, “This is a BYOD event! Dogs are invited and will be in attendance at this screening. Dogs and owners will each need to have a ticket to attend. You do not need to have/bring a dog to attend. Owners are responsible for their dog’s behavior. Overly aggressive or uncontrollable dogs will be asked to leave.”

The movie will open in select theaters March 23.

“Isle of Dogs” features the voices of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Scarlett Johnasson, Yoko Ono, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Frances McDormand.

The stop action movie is set 20 years in the future in a Japanese city, where canine overpopulation and an outbreak of dog flu has led the local government to banish dogs to an island filled with trash.

A 12-year-old boy hijacks a plane and flies to the island in search of his dog, Spots, beginning a quest in which he is assisted by five other exiled dogs (all of whom speak, of course).

Perfectly imperfect: Picasso the dog honored for showing what beauty really is

Picasso, the rescued dog with a twisted snout, was honored by the Oregon Humane Society for showing the world how perfect one with an imperfection can be.

At a ceremony In Portland last week, the 2-year-old pit bull-Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix received a Diamond Collar Hero Award.

The awards honor animals and people who have acted to save a human or animal life in peril, performed services within the community with undying loyalty, or overcome incredible odds in order to survive.

Picasso and his brother were picked up as strays in southern California. They were on the list to be euthanized when Liesl Wilhardt, the founder and executive director of Luvable Dog Rescue, pulled them out and brought them to Eugene last year.

She later decided to keep both as her own, unwilling to let them be separated because of Picasso’s devotion to his brother.

picasso11Picasso and Pablo quickly became part of her extended dog family, and Picasso became an Internet sensation as well — both for his story of survival and his unique appearance.

“Picasso has overcome challenges that most dogs don’t ever have to, from surviving an assaulter to living on the streets. And he’s done it all with courage and grace,” Wilhardt says. “Picasso’s personality and temperament is just loving and accepting to all living things, despite what he’s suffered in the past.”

Pablo died in October from a brain aneurysm, according to the Eugene Register-Guard. Picasso, unlike his brother, was born with his facial deformity.

Picasso is now in training to become a therapy dog, but he has already touched many lives

“He really does touch people, especially those who look a little different like him,” Wilhardt said. “Whether they were born different or had an illness or accident that led them to looking different, he’s helped and inspired so many people.”

Those offering him praise and thanks include soldiers with disfiguring wounds and children coming to terms with looking different.

Picasso also has been nominated for a 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Award, an annual nationwide competition that searches out and recognizes “America’s Hero Dogs.”

People can see the nominees and vote for an American Humane Hero Dog Award at herodogawards.org/vote.

Darwin’s Dogs: Organization tests dog DNA for free as part of research project

We doubt this is going over well with those companies who want to charge you upwards of $100 to tell you what breeds are in your dog, but a research-based organization is offering to do the same thing for free.

You might have to wait, though, and there will be some paperwork.

Darwin’s Dogs is a research project affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School that uses your dog’s DNA, and other information you supply, to study the connection between DNA and behavior.

Thousands of dogs are now enrolled in the project, the initial goal of which was to look at obsessive-compulsive behavior in dogs. It has since branched into exploring food allergies among pets, CBS in Pittsburgh reports.

The first step in signing a dog up, though, remains providing a dog owner with a free DNA test, and a report on the findings.

That’s followed up with online questionnaires in which dog owners provide information on their dog’s traits and behaviors.

“We can study behavior in dogs really easily by just working with the dog owners, by just asking them with a goal of trying to look at how differences in a dog’s DNA matches up with differences in their behavior,” says Darwin’s Dogs researcher Elinor Karlsson.

They hope that causes to diseases and disorders can be found in dogs’ genetics — and that those could lead to breakthroughs in treating the same conditions in people.

“We don’t understand what causes these diseases and the only way to really find new treatments and new effective ways of treating them is to know what the cause is,” Karlsson said.

“Even though there are a lot of differences between dogs and humans, you look at the really important things that are relevant to health, there’s not that many differences. Dogs get the same cancers, the same psychiatric diseases that we do,” she added.

The DNA information the organization provides on your dog is roughly similar to that offered by products such as Wisdom Panel, DNA My Dog and Embark.

Darwin’s Dogs tests a saliva sample that you mail to them. Commercially available DNA tests use either saliva or, through veterinarians, blood.

Darwin’s Dogs is free — for now.

According to the Darwin’s Dogs website, demand has been so high for the test they might have to limit participants, or start charging in the future.

“We have been brainstorming ways of allowing our participants to contribute financially. We are committed to keeping the Darwin’s Dogs project free to anyone who is willing to participate, but with the cost of the genotyping this means we currently have to pick-and-chose which dogs to genotype based on the grant funding support we can receive. We are considering options to allow participants to contribute to offset those costs.

More information about the project can also be found in this Scientific American description.

A little reminder from Jinjja and me

A friend came across this ABC News video from a year and a half ago, depicting more than 30 dogs rescued from a meat farm in Korea on their way to shelters in North Carolina to be put up for adoption.

As she guessed, the second dog to last dog shown in the video, is — though Jindos can look pretty similar — the one that now belongs to me, I think.

jindolJinjja is his name.

He has come a long way since this news footage (which I’d never seen) was shot — turning from a virtually wild dog scared of everything to a trusting and loyal companion.

I thought, with the 2018 Winter Olympics concluding, with the controversial dog meat trade having diverted only a little focus from the games, this would be a good time to remember that a small minority of Koreans eat dog.

Despite government efforts to suspend or at least better hide the practice, dog meat was still being served in restaurants in PyeongChang, and numerous dog farms are located within just miles of Olympic venues.

With all those inspiring moments of athletic achievement we watched, all those examples of humans trying to be their best, it was easy to ignore that harsh reality — that one to two million farm dogs are butchered each year in South Korea.

Some news media used the Olympics as an opportunity to remind us of it. Others, like NBC, barely touched on it — apparently not wanting to turns its spotlight from those inspiring moments of athletic achievement. Instead, it presented South Korea’s best side, and that best side is a truly great side.

But South Korea has a worst side, too, and yes, we just reminded you of it.

Some would say eating dog meat is part of Korean culture, and thus deserves to be free from criticism, but it doesn’t — not anymore than the tradition of slavery in America deserves to be excused, forgotten or forgiven.

gus-kenworthy-matt-wilkas-dogBefore the Olympics was a good time to let South Korea know, as many did, what the rest of the world thinks about the practice. During the Olympics was a good time too, and some Olympians even did.

In addition to the other Olympians who were planning to help a Korean farm dog get to the U.S., one, Gus Kenworthy, a member of the US. Olympic ski team, also took action.

Kenworthy, who brought home a rescue dog after the Sochi Olympics, visited a dog farm near PyeongChang in the process of being closed by Humane Society International and left with a puppy named Beemo, according to PEOPLE magazine.

He didn’t single-handedly rescue 90 dogs from the farm, as a Fox News headline shouted: “US Olympian Gus Gus Kenworthy rescues 90 dogs from Korean dog meat farm.” But he did assist Humane Society International in gathering up the dogs and arranged to adopt one of them.

Hyped as reports like that might be, photo ops that they might be, its good so see some attention on the issue.

If it’s one you feel strongly about, express that somehow. Comment here, or elsewhere, or sign a petition. Contribute to Humane Society International’s program that cuts deals with the dog farmers to close their farms, and brings the dogs to the U.S. and Canada for adoption. Provide a home to one of those who end up here.

You won’t get a gold medal for it. But you might keep one dog from ending up on a dinner plate or in a soup bowl. And for that you can feel proud.

(Bottom photo: Gus Kenworthy /Instagram)

Deaf pit bull gets job in law enforcement

A deaf and “unadoptable” dog in Florida is now working in law enforcement in the opposite corner of the country.

Ghost, a pitbull mix, was deemed unadoptable by animal control officials in Florida because of his deafness.

Ghostleashes1A Florida rescue group, Swamp Haven Rescue, assisted in having him moved to Washington state, where he was spotted by longtime dog trainer Barb Davenport, KING5 reported.

Davenport has been training drug search dogs for the state since the 1980s. She says Ghost is the first deaf dog that the state has used in law enforcement — and might be the first in the country.

On the job, Ghost’s handicap may serve as an advantage.

“It seems to make him even more focused,” said Davenport, K-9 Program Manager for the state’s Department of Corrections.

Ghost started searching for drugs inside state prisons and other secure facilities in January.

Already he has located drugs hidden in the prison, officials say.

(Photo: Washington state DSHS)