Here’s another special report from your favorite worry wart.
No sooner do I bemoan one high-tech invention for dog owners than another comes rolling along, equally worth fretting about.
This one is a 3-inch remotely controlled orange ball, with a high-def camera inside, that you can watch and listen to on your cell phone.
Its makers boast it will “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”
Let’s hope not.
It’s called PlayDate, now in the Indygogoing stage, and like many other contraptions hitting the market, it’s designed to make all the time your dog spends alone more bearable for him, and more entertaining and guilt-free for you.
The problem I have with that, as I’ve stated before, is how it lets dog owners shrug off the responsibility of dog ownership and diminishes the bond between dog and owner.
What I fret about is that the “future of human-pet interactions” could be long-distance, computer-assisted, virtual and heartless — exactly opposite of what dogs need, and exactly opposite of the reasons for having a dog in the first place.
A Manhattan inventor has come up with what the New York Post called “the next big thing for man’s best friend.”
Company co-founder Kevin Li says he got the idea for PlayDate after adopting his Rhodesian ridgeback-Lab mix, Hulk, three years ago.
“Looking at his sad face every time I left for work, I realized he … needed more time with his best friend.”
So Li (and we hope he worked from home at least a little bit) invented a ball for Hulk to play with — one he could control remotely, issue commands through, observe his dog through, and make squeak.
An adjunct computer-science professor at Columbia, Li described the $249 gadget as “Fitbit meets iPhone localization.”
He has already raised more than $200,000 on Indiegogo and has sold out of pre-orders.
With the rechargable ball, a pet owner can watch and listen to their pet, take photos, and record video, all from their iOS or Android device.
A stabilized camera inside provides real-time HD images. And a clear, replaceable outer shell protects the inner workings while allowing the camera — slobber aside — to see out clearly.
There are just three simple steps, its makers say: Download the free app, connect to wi-fi and “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”
Sorry, but talk like that scares me, as do a few other things.
The shell of the ball is made of a strong, chew-resistant polycarbonate, designed to withstand rambunctious play, according to its makers.
I hope that has been well tested, because I’d prefer not to think about what swallowing a little camera and a lithium polymer battery might do to a dog (or cat).
In the world of pet products, many a toy marketed as indestructible has proved otherwise.
Even PlayDate’s makers are saying that part might take some fine tuning:
“As we put PlayDate’s smart ball in front of more dogs and cats, we may discover the need to make aspects of its design more robust; any pet owner will tell you there’s no such thing as an indestructible toy. We have purposefully designed features like the replaceable outer shell with this in mind. Additional design changes may be required as we perform more testing.”
And what, I wonder, will be the effect of communicating with — and issuing orders to — your dog via an orange ball? Seeing an orange ball wandering around the house on its own, and hearing a disembodied voice come from it would,, at the very least, be confusing, I’d think.
I’m all for keeping a dog active, engaged and feeling loved when the owner is away. But it’s a mistake to assume that technology can make up for failing to give your dog adequate attention.
And — needless to say — one shouldn’t get a dog in the first place if one is unwilling or unable to give him or her their time.
Face-time, I mean, with no cameras, or wi-fi, or remote controls involved.
Before we usher human-pet interaction “into the future,” it might be wise to question whether we really need to take that trip.
Didn’t we pretty much have it down just fine already — most of us, anyway?
(Photo: from PlayDate’s website)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 3rd, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, attention, babysitter, ball, bond, camera, communication, dog, dogs, dogs and technology, humans, inventions, pet, pet ownership, pets, playdate, products, remote, remote control, responsibility, technology, toy, toys, wi-fi
We report often on dog-related technology here on ohmidog! — both that which is budding and that which has found its way to the marketplace — and a good 90 percent of the time we have nothing positive to say about it.
Including this time.
A drone that walks your dog? No. No. And no.
This is just one man’s experiment, but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.
Here’s the thing about dog-centered technology: It’s usually not centered on dogs at all.
Instead, it is aimed at making the lives of dog owners easier. Generally, it is something that relieves dog owners of responsibility, allowing them to both spend less time with their dog and feel less guilty about it.
Like machines that, on a programmed schedule or through remote operation, can dispense a treat to your dog while you’re away.
Or a machine that will play fetch with your dog while you’re away, or just too tired to go to all that effort.
And all those other contraptions, apps and gizmos that allow you to cut down on face to face time with your dog, thereby eroding the one thing that counts — the bond between the two of you.
Those devices aren’t really making it any easier for you to live your life. Your dog, on the other hand, is.
The video above shows Lucy, a golden retriever from Connecticut, being walked by a drone.
Jeff Myers, the mind behind this video, said he wanted to show it could be done — always a dangerous reason to do something, especially when it’s the sole reason.
Myers lives in New York City, and he borrowed his mother’s dog for the experiment, in which dog is leashed to drone and drone is controlled by an app.
It’s just a concept Myers says.
So too, at one point, was dog cloning. Those concepts — good or bad — have a way of turning into business enterprises once the realization that there could be profits kicks in.
This NPR report about the dog walking drone and other technological developments for dogs, concluded, “The future is here and it’s pretty darn cute.”
Pretty darn cute?
Yeah, right up there with using your car to walk your dog:
Posted by John Woestendiek April 29th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bad, bond, car, control, dog, dog technology, dog walking, dogs, driving, drone, drones, exercise, experiment, leash, pets, remote, responsibility, rope, technology, walk, walker, walking
If you are in between dogs — if you’ve recently lost one and can’t quite make the leap to bringing home another — here’s something worth reading.
Allie Potts, a North Carolina writer, puts into words all those hard to pin down feelings that bounce around in one’s head when one is simultaneously coping with grief, dealing with the void of being dog-less, and wondering if getting a new dog is somehow disrespectful to the dear departed old one.
To deal with that, Potts, upon getting a new dog, wrote a letter to her old one.
“Another four-legged creature joined the family and needed a place to sleep. I think you would have liked her. She’s a mix of Lab, like you, but Boxer too, which was always your favorite playmate. But she’s not you.”
Potts recounts the feelings that arose as she sat with the new dog on the couch, much like she did with the old one.
“I felt so guilty. Guilty that I was enjoying her warmth by my side. Guilty that we couldn’t do more to keep you there longer. Guilty I am happy to once again see a bowl on the ground.
“But she really is a good girl and I was the one to suggest we bring her home. In fairness to her, I am trying to remember all your flaws as much as I recall your virtues. How you could clear the room after a meal. The books of mine you destroyed. That incident with the bunny.
“The trouble is, I loved you with your flaws as much as you loved me with mine.”
Having had ten dogs come into and go out of my life, I’d agree with her that comparing dogs is hard to avoid — and at the same time a useless pursuit.
“She’s not you, true, but she’s herself; a dog who is sweet and mostly well-mannered. A dog who deserves to be loved for who she is rather than considered somehow flawed for who she’s not…
“So please forgive me if I eventually allow my heart to stop comparing, as difficult as that seems now. When I scratch her behind her ears or throw her a ball to chase, it doesn’t mean I miss you any less. It will just mean I’ve finally allowed my heart to grow more.”
(Top photo from Fort-morgan.org, Potts photo from Alliepottswrites.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 8th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allie potts, animals, bond, comparing, death, dog, dogs, dying, essay, grieving, loss, mourning, new dog, north carolina, pets, writer
It wasn’t the first time someone has fallen in love online.
It wasn’t the first time someone dropped everything to travel across the country to meet and claim the object of his affection.
But it may be the first time that someone has been able to get members of the public to help finance such a trip.
That’s probably because the girl of Joel Carpenter’s dreams was a dog — a husky-shepherd-collie mix named Sadie that he spotted on Petfinder and was so smitten with that he bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis to adopt her, knowing full well he didn’t have the money to get back home to Maine.
“For whatever reason, Sadie just struck me,” the 23-year-old told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt like I need to fly out to rescue her; at the core, there was just this intense feeling that I was doing the right thing.”
“You could say I’m winging it a little bit,” he added in an interview conducted while he and the dog were stuck in Michigan. “I was just kind of following my heart.”
Joel Carpenter flew from his home in Portland, Maine to Minneapolis on Sept. 22 and adopted Sadie from a local shelter.
While there, what little money he had — what with taxi fares, motels and adoption fees — ran out.
It could be Carpenter is just young and brash and a poor planner, but, more likely, he saw the whole thing as an adventure.
He knew he might have to rely on ride-sharing and couch-surfing on the trip home — and things started out well enough when he got a ride from Minnesota to Grand Rapids in a kindly gentleman’s RV.
There, he found a couple that invited Sadie and him to stay in their home. But when he ran into trouble finding another ride he decided to call a local news station to see if they could help “spread the word that I needed a ride back to Maine.”
Here we have to question whether Carpenter was so gullible as to think a news station would gladly broadcast his ride needs, or so savvy as to know he was sitting in the middle of a pretty good story.
After the news report, Carpenter’s phone started ringing.
“News papers and News stations all curious about my story. What was most encouraging was the positive support for me and Sadie. Many people became invested in our adventure, and wanted to help out any way they could. Many people have told me we should try Go Fund Me … So here we are!” Carpenter wrote on the Gofundme page he established.
Between it and a Facebook page started by his girlfriend, donations and offers of help poured in — food, toys, motel rooms and, finally enough money to buy an airplane ticket.
On Wednesday Joel and Sadie hitched a ride from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where another good Samaritan bought Carpenter and Sadie a hotel room for the night. On Thursday, he and Sadie flew home.
The saga of Carpenter and Sadie raises more than a few questions — including just how loose a screening process that shelter must have had to hand a dog over to someone who lived 1,500 miles away, with no money, and no clear way home. Was that irresponsible, or did they just fall for the romanticism of it all?
I kind of did, and I’m a cynical sort. But then again I uprooted my dog from his stable home to spend a year on the road, traveling across America in a car but on a shoestring, including doing a little couch-surfing and a little relying on the kindness of strangers.
Is the saga of Carpenter and Sadie proof that love conquers all? Is it the epitome of irresponsibility? An excellent adventure? Or is it just the kind of thing dog-crazy people do?
I ‘d love to hear your opinions on all this (and unlike most websites that ask you for that I really mean it) because — other than being happy they are safely back home — I’m not sure what exactly mine is.
(Photo of Joel and Sadie from WZZM)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 5th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animal, animals, bond, couchsurfing, dog, dogs, facebook, gofundme, joel carpenter, love, maine, minnesota, news media, online, online love, petfinder, pets, relationships, ridesharing, sadie, shelter, shelters, social media, trip
When her mother found eight babies too much to handle, a cheetah named Adaeze was cut off — both from her mother’s milk and from being able to bond with her siblings.
Adaeze and two of her male siblings had to be nursed by the staff at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich, Conn. Between the hand feeding and having a brother to bond with, the two young males thrived.
But Adaeze remained something of a social outcast.
Then, about seven weeks after her birth, she met Odie, an overweight Australian shepherd.
“They just, for whatever reason, gravitated toward each other,” said Marcella Leone, founder of the center. “If the dog is with her then she’s just relaxed. He helps her take in change better than a wild animal is programmed to do.”
The center is a nonprofit, off-exhibit, accredited breeding reserve for rare and endangered animals.
Odie, who is neither rare nor endangered, is the pet of Leone’s husband.
Odie and Adaeze spend their days together, and sleep together. They are separated only at mealtime, and as soon as they are done eating they wait, nose-to-nose on opposite sides of a door, to be reunited.
It’s not the first time a dog has been used to chill out cheetahs.
The San Diego Zoo has been pairing dogs and cheetahs for about 40 years. Dogs help the cheetahs remain calm and better respond to each other, boosting the cheetah reproduction rate at the zoo.
Leone was hoping a dog would do that and more for Adaeze.
Leone told ABC News that she first tried pairing the cheetah with a younger dog that was very calm.
She had Odie fill in one day though, and he — despite his rambunctiousness — proved to be a better pairing.
“They roughhouse and play nonstop. They’re just best friends who love each other,” Leone said.
Adaeze is not domesticated, but a tame wild animal who has been trained to appear at wildlife conservation presentations — mainly about the plight the cheetah, an endangered animal, Greenwich Time reported.
Adaeze, with help from Odie, has become so calm and comfortable with crowds that has been selected out of the 18 cheetahs that live at the 100-acre LEO center to be its ambassador animal.
In coming months, the two companions will be attending a fundraiser for the Cheetah Conservation Fund in New York City, and presenting at the American Museum of Natural History and the Explorers Club.
Leone said at such presentation Odie will rarely sit when asked, but Adaeze always will.
“Odie is full of energy but is somehow this calming force for Adaeze,” she said.
(Photo: Leone, Adaeze and Odie, courtesy of LEO Zoological Conservation Center)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 21st, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adaeze, animals, australian shepherd, bond, bonding, breeding, cheetah, cheetah and dog, connecticut, dog, dog and cheetah, dogs, endangered species, family, friendship, greenwich, interspecies, leo, marcella leone, odie, pets, zoological conservation center
Whether its lowering our blood pressure, upping our oxytocin (that hormone that makes us feel warm and fuzzy), or keeping us sane (no small task), you can bet there’s a study underway at some university somewhere seeking to unravel — and dryly present to us — more hard evidence of yet another previously mysterious way that dogs enhance our well-being.
Given that, it’s a nice change of pace to plunge into a more anecdotal account — one that looks at the near magical mental health benefits one woman reaped through her dog, and does so with candor and humor, as opposed to sappiness.
“Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself” is a book that shows, far better than any scientific study, just how valuable — no, make that priceless — the human-dog bond is.
The memoir spans a year in the life of the author, Julie Barton, starting when, just one year out of college and living in Manhattan, she had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.”
A barely coherent phone call from her kitchen floor brought her mother racing to her side from Ohio to take her home.
Barton was diagnosed with major depression — one that didn’t seem to lift, despite the best efforts of family, doctors, therapists and the pharmaceutical industry. She spent entire days in bed, refusing to get up.
Around the same time doctors started her on Zoloft, Barton told her mother she’d like to get a dog. Her mother thought that was a great idea. A few weeks later, they were bringing home a golden retriever pup. Barton named him Bunker.
On that first night, Bunker started whimpering in his crate, and Barton crawled inside with him:
“It occurred to me as I gently stroked his side that this was the first time in recent memory that I was reassuring another living thing. And, miraculously, I knew in that moment that I was more than capable of caring for him. I felt enormously driven to create a space for Bunker that felt safe, free of all worry, fear and anxiety. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I had a purpose.”
Barton’s depression didn’t lift overnight; it never does. But, as the artfully written story unravels, Bunker gives Barton the confidence she needs to start a new life on her own in Seattle.
The are plenty of bumps ahead, and more than a few tests, but, given we’re recommending you read it for yourself, we won’t divulge them here.
Or you can wait for the next scientific study that comes along, proclaiming — in heartless, soulless prose — to prove one way or another what we already know:
Dogs are good for the heart and soul.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, benefits, bond, book, books, books on dogs, bunker, dog books, dog medicine, golden retriever, health, humans, julie barton, memoir, mental health, nurture, nurturin, pets, reading, rescue, science, studies, thinkpiece publishing
Can we go ahead and bury the robot dog, once and for all?
It was an inane idea from the get go — thinking that Americans or people from any other reasonable country would want a pet with batteries.
The robot dog is the antithesis of dog — a soul-less collection of moving metal parts that, while it may obey your every command; while it may not pee, poop, drool or shed; while it might even make you laugh; isn’t ever going to lead to any sort of real bond.
I suspect the same is true as well of those who came up with and developed the idea.
A robot dog is to dog what a light bulb is to the sun.
Turn it on, turn it off. You might be seeing a harsh and glaring light, but you are not seeing “the” light. Only dogs can provide that.
It’s not surprising that robot dogs are burning out.
It is surprising that an Australian researcher recently suggested that robotic dogs could begin replacing real dogs as pets in the world’s largest cities in as little as 35 years.
Jean-Loup Rault, writing in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, says burgeoning populations in big cities won’t leave much room for man’s best friend in the future — and he predicts that living, breathing dogs will disappear as digital technologies “revolutionize” the human-animal relationship.
Rault is wrong, and here’s why.
True, robots are on the rise. We will increasingly rely on them, or something close, to wash our dishes, vacuum our floors and do all those other tasks that take up time we could spend online, or, better yet, actually living life.
But we will never really connect with them — not even sex robots.
Anyone who does, probably should see a psychiatrist or, if they only want to pretend someone is listening to them, a robot psychiatrist.
Even in a world increasingly falling in love with material things, and increasingly falling in love with technology, and increasingly finding its social life on the Internet, the rise and fall of the robot dog shows us that — even when we can predict and control something’s every move, and put it in the closet when we tire of it — a mechanical canine just can’t compete with the real thing.
Dogs — though technology has messed with them (always with bad results) — are the antidote, I think, to technological overload. They are the cure. They keep life real. They lead to real bonds, real emotions, happiness and pain.
Overall, they soothe us, while technology often does the opposite.
Anyone who thinks a robot dog is going to lower their blood pressure, as dogs do, provide eye contact that stirs the soul, or be comforting to play with or pet is caught up in self-delusion.
What is hoped for by companies that make such devices, or provide us with Internet-based fantasies, or come up with ideas like pet rocks and the Tamagotchie, is that we all find self-delusion a happier place to be, and stay there, and spend our money there.
Production ended eight years ago, and the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year.
Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, and by 2006 had only sold 150,000 “units.” according to the New York Times.
Given it was not providing much profit, the company decided to put Aibo down.
Despite that, and the failure of many of the robotic/digital pets that preceded and followed it, Jean-Loup Rault, on the faculty at the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne, suspects they have a future.
“Pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population. Digital technologies have quickly revolutionized human communication and social relationships,” he says.
“We are possibly witnessing the dawn of a new era, the digital revolution with likely effects on pet ownership, similar to the industrial revolution which replaced animal power for petrol and electrical engines.”
He points to the popularity, or at least former popularity, of devices like the Tamagotchie, and Paro, a robotic baby seal used by medical professionals, and Aibo, which never really became popular at all. He points to games and apps that allow people to keep fake farm animals. He points to the movie, “Her,” in which a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system.
“Robots can without doubt trigger human emotions,” he concludes, perhaps a little too quickly.
“The pace of artificial pet development, and underlying research, remains in its infancy with much to be discovered,” he notes. “At present, artificial pets can be described as mediocre substitutes for live counterparts. Yet, quick technological progress is to be expected …”
He concludes with a quote from Nikola Tesla: “Let the future tell the truth.”
I, for one, am not willing to do that. I don’t trust the future one bit, or those who are trying to take us there too quickly — and at the expense of what is pure and real and true.
Much more than the future, I put my trust, and faith, in dog. Real dog.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 22nd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aibo, animals, bond, delusion, digital, dog, dog-human, dogs, emotions, future, internet, Jean-Loup Rault, ownership, pet, pets, reality, relationships, robot, robotics, social, society, sony, technology, truth, virtual