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If the Guardians of Rescue look familiar …

If some of the bulging biceps, shaved heads and never-ending tattoos you see on Animal Planet’s new series, “The Guardians,” look familiar, that may be because they are.

The Guardians, when it comes to both personnel and concept, is a reincarnation of Rescue Ink, the National Geographic Channel program that featured burly and biker-esque “heroes” rescuing dogs in need.

Rescue Ink, the rescue group on which the old reality show was based, underwent a splintering about six years back. Its website remains in existence, but, on TV, it exists only in reruns.

misseriGuardians of Rescue, put together by former Rescue Ink co-founder Robert Misseri, formed not long after that, and now it’s the focus of a six-episode Animal Planet series. It premiered last month, and airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m.

As was the case with Rescue Ink, its members seek out the most heart-wrenching of animal abuse and neglect cases, and do whatever it takes to correct the situation, making sure the cameras don’t miss a second of it.

As with Rescue Ink, some of the tales they tell seem to get a little embellishment — in the name of dramatic license, or, to take a cynical view, evoke more financial support from viewers.

In the video above, for example, the Guardians of Rescue say the Long Island dog they are so dramatically freeing of its chains, is being freed for the first time in 15 years.

Once released, he doesn’t behave too much like a dog that spent 15 years on a chain; instead he trots up and happily greets those who are watching.

Still, this being reality TV, we have to take their word for it.

“The poor dog had spent his whole life attached to a heavy chain,” Misseri told the New York Post.

The dog, a Lab-chow mix named Bear, is now at Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue in Port Jefferson Station, waiting to be adopted.

According to a New York Post feature earlier this month on the group — one that strangely makes no reference to its roots in Rescue Ink — the Guardians of Rescue is a slightly more diverse collection of animal lovers.

“The Long Island-based group counts ex-military personnel, retired police detectives, carpenters, electricians and even former convicts among their unpaid volunteer ranks,” the Post reported.

Rescue Ink’s members spawned a TV show, a book, and some criminal charges.

Member John Orlandini, who ran the Long Island shelter they took over, was charged with grand larceny and accused of personally profiting from public donations. In 2014, though, a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to go to trial.

rescueinkRescue Ink’s popular TV show brought them large numbers of fans and followers, but there were a few doubters as well.

Some of those questioned whether the group was more focused on achieving fame and fortune than rescuing dogs.

A lot of those concerns show up on this Facebook page, created to inform the public that the group — even though people are continuing donating to it — is no longer in existence.

The group fractured in 2010, with about half of its members leaving, including Misseri.

“(Rescue Ink) was an organization I started,” Misseri told a blogger for Newsday. “I was against doing a TV show at the time, but there was another guy who was the face of the show and it got to his head. I refused to go on and subsequently National Geographic shut it down…”

Clearly, he had no objections to a TV show this time around.

Animal Planet is billing the show this way:

“Though they may be an eclectic team – ex-military personnel, retired police detectives, former FBI investigators, carpenters, electricians and even former convicts and gang members – they unite in their passion and dedication for animal advocacy. With this group, first impressions are not always what they seem. When an animal is in need, their tough facade washes away and clients see their true love and compassion come forth.”

Let’s hope, this time around, the pack of tough guys with hearts of gold stay out of trouble, keep the hype and exaggeration to a minimum, cool it on the self-promotion and portray what they do with some honesty.

“Dog’s Purpose” has solid opening weekend

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“A Dog’s Purpose” opened over the weekend to protests, mixed reviews and box office receipts that, while impressive, were slightly less than those it expected before controversy arose over the treatment of one of its canine stars.

The film pulled in $18.4 million over the weekend — less than the estimated $24 million expected before a video was leaked showing a German shepherd resisting efforts to have him perform a stunt.

After the video appeared on TMZ, PETA called for a boycott of the movie.

Initially, many of those involved in making the movie — including its director and actor Josh Gad — said the video was disturbing.

Gad, who supplies the voice of the continually reincarnating dog in the movie, posted on Twitter that the footage left him “shaken and sad … As the proud owner of a rescued dog and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images.”

The days leading up to the movie’s release saw a scheduled press preview canceled, Gad go silent, and a well choreographed defense of the movie that included appearances by its star, Dennis Quaid, who insisted no animals were harmed and that the video was misleading.

Even the American Humane Association, which monitors the treatment of animals in TV and movie productions — after suspending the monitor assigned to the film and before its investigation was finished — came out in support of the movie in a PETA-bashing letter published by its CEO.

The studio provided additional footage of the dog willingly performing the stunt during rehearsals to support their stance that he was not being mistreated. The movie’s makers also questioned why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was made — and the week before the movie’s opening — suggesting something nefarious was going on.

Dog lovers, generally a united bunch, found themselves on both sides of the issue — some saying the video showed the dog was pushed too far and supporting the boycott; others saying the leaked video lacked context, that the stunt was eventually called off for that day after the dog resisted, and that nothing cruel took place.

For many fans of the best selling book, there was a feeling that the movie’s sweet, dog-loving message didn’t deserve to be tarnished by a video they viewed as dubious.

Forty-five seconds of the video shows the German shepherd being urged to get into the pool, and dipped into it against his will. Another shorter piece of the video — believed to have been recorded on a different day — shows him struggling in the water and going under.

The water in the pool was being churned by outboard motors to create the effect of river rapids.

While the dog had willingly jumped into the pool during rehearsals, the location of where he was entering the pool was changed on the day of filming.

On opening night, there were small protests, including one outside the Arclight theater in Hollywood. Dozens of protesters held up signs that read, “A dog’s purpose is to be loved. Period” and they chanted “There’s no excuse for animal abuse! Dog’s aren’t props!”

PETA and others argued that the effects the movie makers were after could have been achieved with computer graphics, but the movie’s makers said that would have been too expensive.

Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media’s film was released by Universal Pictures, and its weekend receipts were nearly enough to cover the estimated cost of making it, about $22 million.

“A Dog’s Purpose” came in second to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” which tells the story of a man with dissociative identity disorder who takes three teens hostage.

Industry consultants say the leaked video and boycott had some impact on the film’s opening, but apparently a minimal one.

“A Dog’s Purpose is based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, which has spent longer on USA Today’s best-selling book list than any dog book since “Marley & Me.”

(Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Los Angeles Times)

For one rescued Korean “meat dog,” a good night’s sleep comes at last

The 200 dogs freed in the latest closure of a Korean dog farm continue to arrive in the U.S. — and for one of them, it has meant learning a new way of sleeping.

Harriet is one of more than a dozen dogs brought to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where the staff quickly noticed she never laid down — not even to sleep.

Apparently, having spent her life in a cage too small to lay down in, she’d learned and grown accustomed to sleeping in a sitting position.

“Harriet had no idea what a bed was,” Sherry Silk, CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, told WFLA.

Harriet was one of about two dozen dogs to arrive in Florida from Korea recently. In the weeks and months ahead, more will be arriving in other cities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

They’re coming from the sixth farm that Humane Society International has closed by cutting deals with their operators to release the dogs and find other occupations.

The dogs — raised, like livestock, to be slaughtered for their meat — are being relocated to other countries for adoption in part because there is little interest in them in Korea, where many prefer small dogs and have the misconception that “meat dogs” don’t make good pets.

Additionally, HSI hopes the program will raise awareness about the dog meat trade and increase pressure on Korea to ban it.

The dogs most recently shipped will likely be up for adoption in the next few weeks.

About a week ago, after 14 of them arrived in Orlando, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay posted a video on its Facebook page of Harriet falling asleep while in the sitting position, which they theorized was because she’d never had the space to lay down.

They’ve also learned that one of the Korean arrivals is pregnant.

Staff worked to show Harriet how to get in a laying down position, and she now regularly curls up on her bed.

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To see all our stories on Jinjja, my Korean rescue dog, and the dog meat trade, click here.

Beware of “Beware of dog” signs

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There’s nothing funny about home security.

Well, maybe a couple of things.

There are some “Beware of the dog” type signs that are pretty funny in themselves, such as the one above.

And there are some that aren’t funny until you see the dog the sign is warning you about. Like this one (keep scrolling):

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The photos here are part of a collection posted by Shareably.net.

The “Beware of dog” sign is the poor man’s version of home protection.

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Sometimes there is no actual dog behind the warning, which I’m pretty sure is sometimes also the case with those “This home protected by (security company name here)” signs.

I was going to make up a fake one for Ace Home Security, named after my previous dog, Ace. Ace Home Security, in reality, would consist of that sole sign and a very large dog who, in reality, would greet intruders with wagging tail and slobbery kisses. In other words it would be entirely wireless.

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Those ads for home security systems and companies often make me laugh, too — especially when they feature comical drawings in which the burglars wear eye masks and are dressed in striped prison garb.

Do they wear that so they’ll be ready, fashion-wise, when they get arrested and sent to prison?

Such security systems are pretty fancy nowadays, and some even confront intruders with a verbal warning, as in “CPI Security! Identify yourself!”

Identify yourself?

What do they expect the burglar to say in response to that?

“I’m Tom Delaney, from Shreveport, Louisiana. I’m 25 years old, and have been burgling for, oh, about six years now. I’m married to my lovely wife, Cindy, and we have three wonderful kids, Tom Jr., Doug and Melissa. My hobbies include Tai Chi and stamp collecting.”

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“Beware of Dog” signs have some advantages over home security systems. You don’t have to remember a password, or put up with false alarms, and they are far cheaper. On top of that, you don’t have to feed them, or groom them, or clean up after them, or take them to the vet.

Still, we must point out, those who just get the sign and not the dog are missing out.

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(Photos: Shareably.net)

Study finds dogs prefer reggae

A new study by the Scotland SPCA and the University of Glasgow reveals that dogs have a preference for reggae music.

The study concluded that, while each dog has its own musical preferences, reggae and soft rock were the two most favored genres of the five that shelter dogs were exposed to during the tests.

“Overall, the response to different genres was mixed highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences,” said Neil Evans, professor of integrative physiology at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine.

“That being said, reggae music and soft rock showed the highest positive changes in behavior,” he added.

Five types of music were played for the shelter dogs used in the experiment — Motown, pop, classical, soft rock and reggae, according to the BBC.

The dogs’ heart rates showed a decrease in stress levels while listening to soft rock and reggae, and researchers suspect that could have something to do with the tempo and repetitive themes of those genres.

The experiments were conducted at a rehoming center in Dumbarton, and based on its findings the Scottish SPCA says it plans to invest in sounds systems for all its kennels.

“At present both our Glasgow and Edinburgh centers are able to pipe music into their kennels,” said Gilly Mendes Ferreira, education and research manager. In the future every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist, with the view to extending this research to other species in our care.”

Scotland’s animal welfare charity released research in 2015 that showed classical music led dogs to become more relaxed, but that those effects were only short term.

Both that study and the new one were published in the journal Physiology and Behaviour.

(The video above, showing a dog howling along with a Bob Marely song, is unconnected to the study and not presented here as either anecdotal or scientific proof of absolutely anything)

It’s all good, American Humane CEO says

Suddenly, it seems, that video of a dog being coerced into a pool during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose” is not so “disturbing” at all.

When the video was first leaked, by TMZ, even the makers of the movie — all avoiding any responsibility for what might have happened — all said at least some aspects of it appeared disturbing.

But in the week leading up to the film’s release, the reassurances that nothing bad happened have poured out — from the author of the popular book of the same name, from the star of the movie, Dennis Quaid, from its producer, even from Ellen Degeneres.

And now even the CEO of the non-profit organization that is supposedly “investigating” the incident(s) seems to be saying — before the investigation is even concluded — that nothing inappropriate happened.

Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association — the agency that monitors the safety of animals in movie productions — said in a piece written for Variety that the leaked video was “misleading” and “edited” and reflects no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

“The beautiful story opens at the box office this weekend mired in controversy stemming from the release of an edited video manipulated in an effort to mischaracterize the behind-the-scenes treatment of the film’s four-legged stars,” she wrote.

The film’s official release date is today.

The viral video has provoked a call for a boycott of the movie by PETA, and some conflicting feelings even among dog lovers — both those who insist the German shepherd, named Hercules, is being mistreated, and those who say the edited video is not to be trusted.

The video shows the dog being nudged and coerced to get into a churning pool of water. He had performed the stunt gladly in rehearsals, but the location of where he was entering the pool had been changed on the day of filming.

He clearly resists getting in, and struggles to get out during the first 45 seconds of the video. Another piece of video was edited onto that, showing the dog, on a different day, swimming in the pool before going underwater, at which point someone yells “cut it” and the dog is helped out of the pool.

To restate our take on all this: That second snippet of video is too short, out of context and blurry to draw any conclusions from. The first 45 seconds, in our view, shows a dog being pushed more than a dog performing a stunt in a movie should be pushed. The stunt was called off that day, but not soon enough.

Is that a crime? No. Should it result in the movie being boycotted? We vote no, but that’s up to you. Should there be repercussions — say a warning, or a fine? Probably, but the agency that would impose that appears to have already made up its mind.

Should the makers of the movie, somewhere along the line, admit to an iota of responsibility for what was a small mistake on the set of the movie they were making? Should they make some amends, maybe offering a percentage of opening week receipts to dog-related charities (likely not PETA)?

Well, that would be classy — a whole lot classier than circling the wagons, denying responsibility, and launching a public relations effort to rescue, not a dog, but their movie.

Yesterday, Dennis Quaid defended the movie on The Today Show, and then did the same on Ellen.

Meanwhile, in her piece for Variety, Ganzert acknowledged that the dog “appeared to show signs of resistance” to getting in the water. The rest of the piece is a defense of the movie, a diatribe against PETA and more questioning of why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was taken.

But what about those 45 seconds?

“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) swiftly called for a boycott of the film, and has since continued to exploit — and further sensationalize — the controversy as an opportunity to argue that the animal actors who enchant and educate audiences don’t belong on the Silver Screen,” Ganzert continued.

But what about those 45 seconds?

“A full spectrum of rigorous safety measures was in place to protect the dog throughout this particular scene,” she added. “In addition to one of American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives, five individuals –including scuba divers and animal handlers — were present on the set at the time to ensure the safety of the dog.”

But what about those 45 seconds?

Here is what I would like to hear from the AHA — were the methods used trying to get Hercules in the water during those 45 seconds acceptable to them? Was the level of stress the dog was allowed to reach acceptable? Should a dog be allowed to get stressed at all during the filming of a movie stunt?

AHA suspended the monitor it had assigned to the film pending the results of the “third-party” investigation it says has been launched.

But with the publication of his Variety article, it’s pretty clear what Ganzert and the AHA want that “ongoing” investigation to find.

Dog’s can’t talk. Dogs don’t have a union. If the American Humane Association has appointed itself as their guardian in Hollywood — and is soliciting our donations to carry out that mission — we’d like to think it is objective, vigilant and doesn’t give a hot damn about the profit margins of movie makers.

In that respect, Ganzert’s article, on the eve of the movie’s release, is not too reassuring.

As for the movie’s makers, we’d like to think that your production treated dogs in a manner as sweet as your movie’s message and that, if you didn’t, even in small way that has been blown out of proportion, you are at least a little bit sorry it.

Three puppies lift spirits of rescuers

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The rescue of three puppies who’d been buried for five days under a deadly avalanche provided a glimmer of comfort during the continuing rescue effort in central Italy.

Firefighters on Monday pulled the white Maremma sheepdogs from the wreckage of Hotel Rigopiano in the Pescara province, where 23 people have been found dead.

Nine survivors have been found and six people remain missing.

The puppies had been born in December to the hotel’s resident dogs, Lupo and Nuvola (Wolf and Cloud), who had escaped the quake and found shelter in the nearby village of Farindola, according to a report in The Local.

The births had been prominently featured on the resort’s website.

The discovery lifted spirits of the rescue teams as they searched for more survivors.

The one-month-old pups were found in an isolated part of the resort, which was slammed by a series of powerful earthquakes and avalanche Jan. 18.

“They just started barking very softly,” said Sonia Marini, a member of the Forestry Corps. “In fact, it was hard to find them right away because they were hidden. Then we heard this very tiny bark and we saw them from a little hole the firefighters had opened in the wall. Then we expanded the hole and we pulled them out.”

After their rescue and medical checks, the puppies were reunited with their parents in Farindola, where one of the hotel employees had taken them in.

(Photo by Marisa Basilavecchia / AP)