Observing my dog Ace over the past year – at the beach, in the mountains, in deserts, forests, city streets, suburban lawns and campgrounds all across the USA – I’ve noticed that he is much more interested in some forms of wildlife than he is in others.
Between our travels and the five years we shared before that, I’ve been able to chart the degree of fascination he seems to hold for different species of animals — from those that seem to enthrall him to those whose appearances produce a reaction more like ho-hum, been there, done that.
When I say “chart,” I am not using the term loosely:
Using a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being barely piquing his curiousity, 10 being the utmost peak of piqued — I have ranked Ace’s seeming degree of interest in cats, crabs, cows and other creatures. Keep in mind, every dog — based on his genes and environment — probably has a different scale of interest in other species. So your actual dog may vary.
I have no idea how much of Ace’s reaction is sight-based, as opposed to scent-based, but it seems he’s most excited about species he has never seen (or smelled) before, or only rarely sees (or smells), whereas those that are a part of every day, squirrels for instance — abbreviated as SQ in the chart above – are worth little more than a yawn.
If, however, there are two squirrels, and they are chasing each other around a tree, or along a telephone line, making squirrel noises, then Ace’s interest rises to an 8.
He was slightly more interested in the white squirrels of Brevard, but that may be because I didn’t let him out of the car, or because he detected I was more interested in them.
Where we are staying now, in a residential neighborhood in Winston-Salem, N.C., there are tons of chipmunks — OK, not tons, but a whole lot — and I’m pretty sure Ace had never seen a chipmunk before. On Ace’s scale, chipmunks rate a 7. He doesn’t that get excited when he sees one, but when they suddenly disappear from view, going down a hole in the ground, his ears prick up, his head rises, he scouts around with a look of concern in his eyes. Then a minute later he seems to have forgotten about them.
Ducks rate a 2, probably because he sees them often — basically everytime he goes to visit my mother (mom rated a 2 with him, but since she’s gotten into the routine of giving him treats, she’s now a full 10).
Don’t get me wrong. He likes the ducks at Arbor Acres, but they don’t seem to stimulate him as much as they did the first time he saw them.
Baby ducks are another story.
He was fascinated — a 9 on the scale — by those my mother was harboring in her room a couple of years back, perhaps because they were babies, perhaps because they were in her room, or, again, maybe because we were so interested in them.
He seems to be very interested in all forms of babies, with the possible exception of human ones, who rate a quick sniff and only a 2 on the Scale of Interest.
Cats rate the maximum 10. While he has seen a lot, and co-resided temporarily with a couple — Miley, for one – his fascination with cats has never diminished.
No other animal species makes Ace perk up as much as a cat. They tend to avoid him (except for staring contests from afar). In our travels, we stayed with at least three. He befriended those who let him. Those who avoided him only made him more intrigued. The only thing more interesting than a cat in full view, it seems, is an almost hidden one whose, say, tail, is poking out from under a chair.
But I’d probably be wrong.
Rabbits rate an 8 with Ace.
He saw several while we were staying in our trailer in the Arizona desert, and lots more — though they seem a shorter and stubbier, slightly more fluffy variety – here in North Carolina.
I don’t know how skunks rate with Ace, and hope I never find out. I don’t know how bears rate, and would just as soon avoid learning that as well.
As for bugs, it depends on what they’re doing and where they are. A cricket in the house can rise to an 8 on his scale. An ant on the sidewalk rates a 1 or less. A bee or fly hovering around his face gets his attention, but is more an annoyance to be snapped at than a species to be studied.
Cows rate about a 4, while horses come in at an average of 6. Horses in a distant pasture aren’t too exciting to him, but one that’s up close merits his scrutiny. He was all but smitten with, and only slightly wary of, a horse named Goblin that we met in Maine.
Turtles rate a 9, in large part — and again I’m using my human brain to guess — because of their novelty and the way they move, taking a few steps, disappearing into their shells, sticking their heads out and taking a few steps more.
Crabs are a curiosity as well, rating a 5 when they are alive and moving, only a 2 when they’ve gone to the great beyond, leaving their earthly shells behind. Then they are but flotsam, part of the potpourri of beach muck that, while definitely worth a good long sniff, is otherwise like a bad summertime novel. After a chapter or less you move on.
That leaves humans, who in some ways are difficult to rank on the scale.
A baby human, to Ace, is like a crab — about a 5, worth sniffing but not lingering with. A baby’s cry must be checked out, but once it is, Ace no longer appreciates it. A human with a bag — no matter what’s in it — is a full 10.
Humans aged 5 to 12 rate a 7. Adult males rate an 8. Adult females rate a 9. Humans with treats rate a 15.
Homeless people rate an 11. I don’t know if it’s because of more interesting scents, or because they usually have bags. Maybe, too, it’s because they often sit on the sidewalk and dogs seem to appreciate it when humans are at their level.
In every town in our travels that we encountered homeless folk — and that was pretty much every town in our travels — Ace seemed to feel the need to at least say hi, if not take a seat or lay down next to them.
I hesitate to add to all my previous anthropomorphizations — assuming that’s a word, and I spelled it right — but permit me one more unscientific human interpretation of my dog’s behavior.
Most dogs experts will tell you compassion is not in a dog’s emotional repertoire. But this is what I like, and tend, to believe:
I think he can sense when somebody needs a friend.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, adults, america, animals, anthropomorphism, behavior, cats, chart, children, chipmunks, cows, crabs, creatures, curiosity, dog, dogs, ducks, fascination, females, forms, geese, graph, homeless people, horses, interaction, interest, males, observations, pets, rabbits, rate, rating, road trip, seagulls, social, society, species, squirrels, study, travels with ace, turtles, wildlife
Nine people escaped a house fire early Saturday morning in New Jersey after a pit bull’s barking woke them up.
But the young dog died in the fire, police in Hammonton said.
None of the adults and children in the ranch home were injured, according to an Associated Press report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Police said the occupants of the house were sleeping when the dog began barking around 4:30 a.m. When they went to investigate they realized the house was in flames. As they fled, a newspaper carrier in the area noticed the flames and called 911.
The cause of the fire, which destroyed most of the house, was under investigation.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adults, alerts, animals, barking, children, dies, dog, family, fire, hammonton, hero, house, killed, new jersey, news, nine, ohmidog!, pets, pit bull, pitbull, saves
Dogs are better walking companions than humans on almost all counts, a new study shows, with the possible exception of conversation (though I generally favor them in that category as well).
Research at the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise, walk at a brisker (therefore more healthy) pace, and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion, according to the New York Times health blog, “Well.”
In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a 5-day-a-week walking program — 23 walking with a friend or spouse, 12 walking dogs at a local animal shelter.
The dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.
“The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans: “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”
The dog walkers, on the other hand, were nearly always up for the task:
“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’ Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”
The study, not yet published, is continuing, and Johnson said she suspects differences will show up in other areas, like depression and anxiety.
Already, though, Johnson said, many people in the dog-walking group stopped using canes and walkers. “They would say, ‘Now I’m physically fit enough to take my dog for a walk,”’
Posted by jwoestendiek December 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adults, assisted living, balance, better, center, college of veterinary medicine, companions, confidence, dog, dog walking, dogs, fitness, health, human animal interaction, humans, improvement, older, rebecca a. johnson, research, speed, study, university of missouri, walk, walking
Two brothers accused of burning to death the pit bull who became known as Phoenix will face felony charges as adults.
Travers Johnson and Tremayne Johnson, both 17, appeared Tuesday in juvenile court in Baltimore, where a judge ruled they will be tried as adults, WBAL reported.
The teens are charged with dousing the dog with gasoline, then setting her on fire on May 27 in the 1700 block of Calhoun Street in southwest Baltimore. The 2-year-old pit bull suffered burns over 98 percent of her body.
The dog, rescued by a police officer, died four days later at a Pennsylvania animal hospital. Her death led to the formation of a city task force to review animal cruelty laws.
Attorney Caroline Griffin, who chairs the animal abuse task force, observed yesterday’s court proceedings.
“What impressed me was how seriously the state’s attorney’s office is taking this case, as well as the court. The court listened to testimony for hours,” she said. “Juveniles who commit these type of crimes are just so much more likely to commit violent crime in the future, and I think people are aware of that, and that’s why this case is so important.”
Prosecutors said both brothers were involved with gangs, had chronic truancy issues and previous probation violations. Both also face drug charges.
Assistant state’s attorney Jennifer Rallo told the judge that video and witness accounts prove the brothers tortured and mutilated Phoenix. She said the brothers used a vacant home at 1616 Gilmore St. to keep pit pulls, and that police found signs of dogs and gang activity there.
Defense attorneys wanted the case to stay in the juvenile system, where they said rehabilitation services and programs were available. They argued that Tremayne Johnson has health issues and suffers from depression and brain tumors for which he recently underwent brain surgery.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 4th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, adults, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, brothers, burning, charges, court, death, dog, dogfighting, dogs, doused, felony, fire, gangs, gasoline, justice, juvenile, phoenix, pit bull, set on fire, task force, teens, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, tried
Recycled Love, the Baltimore-based animal rescue organization, is urging State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy to charge as adults the two juveniles arrested in connection with the burning death of a pit bull.
In a letter to supporters, Recycled Love says, in addition to being doused with gasoline, the pit bull known as Phoenix had gasoline poured down her throat before she was set on fire.
Two 17-year-old twin brothers have been arrested in connection with the case. Phoenix, found on fire by a police officer last month, received burns to over 90 percent of her body. She died three days later.
“We have seen firsthand the abuse and neglect these animals experience at the hand of city residents. Phoenix ’s case, unfortunately, was one of the most severe,” the letter to Jessamy says. “We are committed to honoring her short life by changing the standards intact for investigation and prosecution of animal abuse and cruelty cases.
“Residents are angry that this type of abuse permeates the city in which they live, work and play … To this end, we are urging the Baltimore City State ’s Attorney office to prosecute all individuals arrested and charged with Phoenix ’s death to the fullest extent of the law.”
The organization has also launched a petition drive, urging Mayor Sheila Dixon and the City Council to take animal abuse more seriously by creating a task force, making the animal control office part of the police department, and ensuring that animal cruelty cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, adults, animal, animal welfare, arrests, baltimore, burned, charge, city council, cruelty, dog, fire, gasoline, jessamy, juvenile, mayor, petition, phoenix, pit bull, recycled love, rescue, state's attorney, trial