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Tag: animals

Amazon introduces its own dog food line

wagfoodAmazon (remember when it was a river?) continues its quest to dominate the world (make that the universe) — by selling everything that can possibly be sold, delivering it in ways never before possible, and taking people where they’ve never been able to go.

Now it wants to feed your dog, too.

In its march to ruling every retail category imaginable, Amazon has announced the debut of a dog food line, which will be part of a much bigger step into the highly profitable, nearly inflation-proof world of pet food and products.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon is calling the pet food Wag, named after Wag.com, which Amazon acquired in 2011. Wag.com now redirects to an Amazon landing page.

The food comes in several different varieties, with primarily protein sources including chicken, beef, salmon, lamb, and turkey. It will be available in puppy or adult formula and sold in five-, 15-, and 30-pound bags.

The food line is labeled “no grain added.”

Americans are projected to spend more than $72 billion on their pets in 2018, according to the American Pet Products Association. So the only real surprise here is, what took Amazon, which owns everything from Whole Foods to the Washington Post, which is renowned as a dog-friendly company, so long?

The move is seen as a threat to Petco Animal Supplies Inc. and PetSmart Inc., which purchased Chewy.com last year for more than $3 billion, as well as big box retailers and supermarkets that sell pet supplies online to many of the nation’s 85 million pet-owning households.

So don’t be surprised if you are seeing dog food-toting drones flying over head in your area some day soon.

How much is the dead doggy in the window?

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Everyone should know by now that there are certain things you just don’t procure online — not that oceanfront condo that looks so good in the pictures, not that Russian wife who looks so good in the pictures, and definitely not that adorable puppy whose photos you keep clicking on.

As effort-free as the online purchase has become — to the point that Amazon can now make items magically appear in the trunk of your car (try that, David Copperfield) — we may forget that we are living in the golden age of scamming, and that what’s too good to be true usually is, or may not even exist at all.

Perhaps nowhere is the scamming more rampant than in pet sales.

ABC7 (aka KGO-TV) in northern California took a look at some of those scams in a recent two-part report, interviewing both directly impacted victims and those on the periphery, such as the woman who saw her dead Corgi being offered for sale on two different websites.

(Find part one here, and part two here.)

“Tens of thousands of consumers, at least in the United States, have lost money to these online pet scams,” Rebecca Harpster of the Better Business Bureau told the station.

A BBB report says the scams are on the rise, and the FTC counted 37,000 reports of bogus online pet sellers over five years. The FTC estimates only about 10 percent of victims reported the crime, so the actual number of victims could be in the hundreds of thousands.

Not only do the scammers accept money for dogs that don’t exist, they then often string along the buyer with additional charges they claim are popping up in getting the dog delivered.

They’ll say they need to insure the dog for transport, or that a special crate needs to be purchased, ask for more money and say the dog can’t be delivered until they receive it.

The BBB recommends never buying a dog based on pictures or videos. Scammers use stock photos and videos, or obtain pictures of their own, and post them on the phony websites, claiming the dogs are for sale.

Wendy Hicks is one of many who say photos of her dog have gone on to be used as fake ads in seedy websites.

Her prized Corgi Abby appeared on Corgi Precious Puppies and Elegant Corgi Puppies — both of which have since been shut down. She suspects there might be more.

“It’s like whack-a-mole. You get them taken down here and they’re going to pop up somewhere else,” Hicks said.

PetScams.com has been tracking this kind of scheme for different dog websites around the world.

ABC7 interviewed the site’s administrator, Paul Brady, who says he gets complaints from people around the world who say they’ve lost money trying to buy all kinds of breeds from different online sites.

Pet Scams forwards any reports it receives about fraudulent pet websites to the company that registered the domain name.

(Image: A screenshot of the website Elegant Corgi puppies, which no longer exists)

Happy ending turned bad, new one needed

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That blind dachshund and his pit bull guide dog we wrote about last week are both back in the Richmond animal shelter after the person who adopted them failed to keep her promise to keep the bonded pair together.

Richmond Animal Care and Control Shelter (RACC) proudly announced last week that the pair — surrendered by an owner who had become homeless — had been adopted together.

But a few days later, the happy story took a turn.

OJ, the blind dachshund, was found separated from his friend, about 100 miles away from where they were adopted in Richmond, WRTV reported.

The pair were originally surrendered when their owner became homeless, according to posts by Richmond Animal Care and Control. A picture of the two animals went viral on social media and they were quickly adopted.

OJ., the elder of the two, relied on Blue Dozer, the pit bull, and they would need to be adopted together, according to the posts.

After releasing the dogs to what they thought was a responsible owner, RACC got a call from the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center, reporting that OJ was in their custody after being brought in by someone who claimed to have found him as a stray.

Page Hearn, who runs the rescue group Virginia Paws for Pits in Augusta County, said OJ was found wandering and taken to the shelter, where his microchip was traced back to RACC.

The adopter, Hearn said, declined to take back the blind dog, and declined, at least intitially, to surrender Blue Dozer. Later she agreed to return the pit bull.

In an interview with WWTB, the adopter, identified only as Colleen, said she never intended to keep the dogs separated.

But, she said, OJ bit several people within the first two hours after she brought him home, leading her to ask a friend to temporarily take care of the dachshund.

She said she didn’t know OJ was missing from that friend’s home until the shelter called her.

RACC Director Christie Chipps Peters said in an email that they “are very upset over what has transpired.”

Robin Starr, CEO of Richmond SPCA, noted, “There is no shelter that doesn’t have an adoption not turn out well from time to time because people are not totally predictable.”

(Photo: Blue Dozer and OJ, from RACC Facebook page)

Close encounter of the Great Dane kind


I was hit by a truck over the weekend.

Well, it was a Great Dane, but same difference.

He was a regal beast, and a gentle one, and I don’t think he even saw me until I was up in the air.

He’d come into the dog park, greeted those already there, and when one started chasing him he took off, looking behind him at the dog in pursuit as he gained full momentum.

That’s when he ran smack into me. I saw him coming, and debated veering to one side or another, but the feet have been a little slow to take orders lately.

So all of me went up into the air, where I floated, limbs akimbo, for at least a second before landing with a thud on my side.

The owner immediately approached and asked if I was ok.

I needed a few minutes to figure that out, and a few more to get off the ground.

The owner offered his hand to pull me up, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be up, or if getting pulled up by my arm might not be good for the shoulder that was bothering me before any of this happened.

So I laid there, checked to see if my various parts would move and thanked my own dog, Jinjja, when he came over to check on me — not the sort of thing he usually does as he’s mostly in his own world when he’s at the dog park.

I struggled to get on my knees and then all the way up, dusted myself off and — though the breath that had been knocked out of me hadn’t yet returned — pronounced myself OK.

Embarrassed about being on the ground, embarrassed by how long it took me to get up. But OK, thought.

I spent a few more minutes inside the park, during which time Jinjja would growl at the Great Dane whenever he got close to me, and come back to check on me a few more times.

I was touched, and deemed it progress. For this is a dog that, rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea, has never been great at showing affection, other than enjoying a butt scratch. So I considered it a breakthrough, and one that apparently didn’t involve any parts of me getting broken.

Sore yes — but not broken, or at least I didn’t think so for the next few hours.

Jinjja and I left the dog park a few minutes later, stopping to sit at a nearby picnic table just to regain my composure. The three young women sitting at the next table with their dogs having a picnic asked if I was OK and — all being medical students on the verge of becoming physician assistants — ran me through a checklist of questions, showing vastly more concern than the dog’s owner did.

We decided I would live, and — once their attentions shifted to another dog walking by with a hurt paw — I moved on, proud that nothing had snapped upon impact.

Now, the next day, I’m pretty sure something did, a rib to be precise.

The pain set in during the night, a pretty sharp one when I moved, took a deep breath or –heaven forbid — coughed.

I broke a rib once before and did nothing about it, which as it turns out it is pretty much what doctors do too. You just wait for it to heal. I didn’t visit one then, and I’m still debating what to do now. But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to spend $1,000 for tests and doctors that will tell me I broke a rib and there’s really nothing to be done about it.

Fault? That’s not a factor. Dogs, big and small, will run at dog parks, and not always watch where they are going. Great Danes? They are one of my most favorite breeds, and their clumsiness is part of their appeal. I was too old and slow — neither of which is particularly appealing –to get out of the way. That’s on me. Those who worry about being run over by a dog, should stick to the benches on the sidelines.

So no hard feelings, Great Dane. I hope I run into you again (preferably without you running into me).

And to Jinjja, and those physicians assistants-to-be, thanks for showing you care.

(Photo: An old Great Dane friend from Baltimore, named Soju, who has nothing to with this story)

Blind dog and guide dog adopted together

A blind 12-year-old dachshund and his guide dog — a beefy looking pit bull named Blue Dozer — were adopted together from a shelter in Richmond.

The two were surrendered to the Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) shelter last Thursday after their owner became homeless.

ojanddozerThey were adopted – together – before the weekend was up, WWTB in Richmond reported.

RACC said it tried to help the owner of the dogs find other accommodations without putting them in the shelter, but there were no other options available.

The shelter promised the owner they would try to place the dachshund, named OJ, and Dozer, together in a good home.

The shelter said the animals were adopted by a family that will “keep them together forever.”

WWTB’s original report can be found here.

(Photo, from the Richmond Animal Care and Control Facebook page)

Bill to prohibit eating dog and cat makes gains in Congress


Lawmakers in Washington are pushing ahead with legislation that would ban the eating of dog and cat meat in the U.S.

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2017, first introduced in March, has 100 co-sponsors and has been referred to a House Agriculture subcommittee.

Introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), it would amend the federal Animal Welfare Act to establish legal standards against selling dog and cat meat, currently allowed in 44 states.

“We are very happy to have the support of so many activists who have taken up this issue with their own members of Congress,” Hastings told The Hill Thursday.

jindolBackers of the bill hope that it fills gaps in the animal protection law, and sends a message to Asian countries where dog meat is still consumed, including South Korea and China, where the annual Yulin festival in China sees thousands of dogs and cats are publicly killed and skinned, and their meat marketed for human consumption.

Animal rights activists are hoping publicity about the upcoming festival will provide momentum to the bill in Congress, and that the bill, similarly, will fuel opposition to the festival.

“I think that some people initially considered the idea of killing dogs for meat far-fetched,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told The Hill. “But the very real butchering of dogs in Yulin reminds people that it is a very serious and disturbing issue.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Hastings introduced a resolution condemning the festival, which now has 166 co-sponsors from both parties.

While dog meat consumption in the U.S. is limited, most states still allow dogs to be raised and sold for meat. Only California, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, New York and Virginia have banned such practices.

(Photos: At top, dogs awaiting slaughter at a street market near Seoul; lower, my favorite meat dog, Jinjja, rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea; photos by John Woestendiek)

Don, the talking dog who started it all

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In this era of talking dogs — from the animated creatures in Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” to those so easily found “conversing” on the Internet — it might behoove us to remember the first “real” one, the star of a vaudeville act known as Don the Talking Dog.

And since not too many of us were around in 1912 to recall that, we’re fortunate that Smithsonian Magazine writer Greg Daugherty revisited that era and that dog for the magazine recently.

Don the Talking Dog, a setter or pointer from Germany, made his debut in the U.S. in 1912 — during the golden age of vaudeville, the less salty cousin of burlesque, which was traditionally peppered with acts featuring animals doing human things.

There, for a few quarters, you could see rats riding cats around racetracks, dancing elephants, boxing kangaroos, juggling sea lions and monkeys displaying an array of talents.

smithsonianillustrationDon the Talking Dog — proclaimed “the canine phenomenon of the century” — took things a step further. He, or so his name implied, talked.

Only in German, of course. But with a heavy population of German immigrants at the time in New York City, he became a major hit.

He had already garnered attention in Europe by then, with a vocabulary that reached eight words.

His first word was haben (“have” in English), followed by his own name, the word kuchen (cake or biscuit), ja and nein, ruhe (rest) and hunger (which is the same in both languages).

Generally, he didn’t speak in sentences, just one word at a time, and only when prompted by his trainer.

Don arrived in the U.S. in 1912 at the invitation of the vaudeville impresario William Hammerstein.

“Don will sail on the Kronprinz Wilhelm next Wednesday,” the New York Times noted. “A special cabin has been engaged in order to insure his safety.”

When Don’s ship docked, he was greeted by reporters, though they were disappointed not to get any good quotes.

Don stayed in the U.S for the next two years, making appearances in New York and around the country, once performing on the same bill as escape artist Harry Houdini. He then toured the country, performing in Boston, San Francisco, and other cities.

His act consisted of answering a series of questions served up by his regular straight man and interpreter, a vaudeville veteran known as Loney Haskell. Haskell became so attached to Don, according to news reports at that, “that in one-night stands he slept in the dog’s kennel.”

The journal Science, party poopers even back then, didn’t quite buy his act: “The speech of Don is … to be regarded properly as the production of sounds which produce illusions in the hearer.”

screen_shot_2018-04-20_at_45805_pmDespite his dubious skills and limited vocabulary, Don became a pioneering celebrity endorser, for Milk-Bone dog biscuits.

After two years in the U.S., Don retired and returned to his homeland. Haskell once calculated that their stage performances paid Don $92 per word, the equivalent of about $2,300 a word today. He died at home, near Dresden, Germany, in late 1915.

Smithsonian reported, “His last words, if any, seem to have gone unrecorded.”

Other “talking” dogs would follow, including Rolf, a German-born terrier who supposedly communicated by a form of Morse code, and was able to add and subtract, and Queen, who was described as “positively the only dog in the world that speaks the English language.”

Fast forward 100 years and we still have folks making those claims — dog owners, scientists, and entrepreneurs, each group with probably a few hucksters among them, who claim to be on the verge of a device that translates dog to human.

Take them as you would the dogs speaking in this compilation (none of whom can say compilation, by the way) — with a grain of salt.

(Illustrations: Smithsonian Magazine)