I’ve got to admit, when I saw the story about how a photographer is turning his photos of dogs eating peanut butter into a book … and calendar … and more, I got a little jelly.
Jelly as in jealous, that is, and not so much of the photographer’s skills — but of his entrepreneurial abilitities.
You see, I barely have enough of those to spread on a Saltine.
I can take a decent picture, write a decent story, but when it comes to creating anything you might call cash flow, well, it gets sticky.
Cleveland photographer Greg Murray, on the other hand, is managing to turn a simple idea — a very simple idea — into a potential empire.
A couple of years ago, trying to make a mastiff in his studio have an expression that looked less sad, Murray fed the dog some peanut butter.
“I wanted to make her happy, you know. I wanted to get her to drool and hang her tongue out and nothing was really working,” he told TODAY.com.
Now he’s turning that concept — dogs eating peanut butter — into a book and calendar, expected to go on sale sometime between this summer and October.
First, to cover his costs, he launched a Kickstarter campaign, setting a goal of $3,750. As of today, it has raked in $14,348.
That’s a lot of Jif.
Pledge $40 and you’ll get a copy of the calendar when it comes out. Pledge $75 or more and you’ll get a softcover copy of the book. Pledge $390 or more and he’ll put a photo of your dog eating peanut butter in the book (assuming you bring the dog to Cleveland) and give you a hardcover copy.
Pledge $2,500 and he’ll come to your house and take photos of your dog, and you’ll get the book, and he’ll sign it for you. (I’d don’t think he’ll wash your windows, or scoop up poop, but you could ask.)
It’s really quite an ingenious set up. Publicity about the book — and there has been a lot — boosts his contributions, will add to his book sales, and will likely benefit his photo business.
On his Kickstarter page, Murray does point out that peanut butter can be bad for dogs (if it is a brand that contains Xylitol, which, he points out, Jif does not).
Some of the photos I’ve seen are quite charming, others strike me as little more than dogs with dirty faces.
To me, they don’t quite have the appeal of those Underwater Dogs.
Nevertheless, the news media — always in search of stories allowing them to use the word “adorable” — gobbles it up. His venture has been reported on in, among others, the Huffington Post, BarkPost, Mashable, Fox News, the Daily Mail and the aforementioned Today.com.
On his Kickstarter page, there is a prediction the book will end up on the New York Times Bestseller List — but, keep in mind, that prediction comes from a dog he gave peanut butter to.
So yes, I am experiencing a little envy. Not so much of his idea. More of how he deftly he is turning it into a profitable reality.
But I’ve decided to squash that negative emotion and devote my energies to a project of my own:
Dogs eating jelly.
(Photos from “For the Love of Peanut Butter,” by Greg Murray)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 14th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, book, calendar, cleveland, dog, dogs, entrepreneur, envy, for the love of peanut butter, greg murray, jealousy, kickstarter, peanut butter, pets, photographer, photographs, photography, photos
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
That trio of sassy grandmothers currently being featured in a series of Volkswagen ads has a new traveling companion — a Chiweenie with an overbite — and true to his name (Tuna) he’s stinking up the place.
In the ad, the grandmas detect an odor in the vehicle, which they at first blame on it being diesel-powered. After some continued sniffing, they determine the real source of the foul smell: It’s Tuna.
Tuna — that’s his real name — had achieved some major fame even before appearing in the ad, with more than 1.5 million followers on his Instagram page.
And he’s already published his own book, “Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog with an Overbite.”
According to that website, Tuna is a 4 year-old Chiweenie (Chihuahua-dachshund mix) with an exaggerated overbite who was rescued in 2010 by Courtney Dasher at a Farmers Market in LA.
Within a year, Dasher created an Instagram account dedicated to Tuna’s photos. By the end of 2012, he had hundreds of thousands of followers.
Dasher said her goal was to “bring people joy through Tuna’s pictures that showcased his cartoonish looks and his charming personality.”
“Since Tuna is the epitome of the underdog, most people advocate for him and adore him for his endearing qualities. His loyal followers embrace his physical differences, have fallen in love with his charm and connect to his message; that true beauty comes in all forms and radiates from within.
“Furthermore, he is an ambassador for animal rescue, since he too was once rescued, and it has become a part of Courtney’s mission to raise awareness for rescue groups through this platform.”
Dasher met Tuna at an adoption event after he’d been found discarded on the side of the road near San Diego.
You can find more of our “Woof in Advertising” posts — looking at how dogs are used in marketing — here.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ad, ads, advertising, animals, book, chihuahua, chiweenie, courtney dasher, dachshund, diesel, dogs, dogs in advertising, facebook, grandmas, grandmothers, instagram, marketing, mix, odor, overbite, pets, photos, sassy, smell, tuna, tuna melts my heart, tunameltsmyheart, twitter, volkswagen, woof in advertising, woof!
I’m old enough to remember being a little blue when Johnny Carson retired. I was enough of a part-time fan to be sad when David Letterman went off the air.
But tonight, when I turn on the television and Jon Stewart isn’t there, the result is going to be something a lot closer to actual mourning.
His departure from The Daily Show — after 16 years of calling some much needed “bullshit” on all the world’s bullshitters — will leave me with a void in my life, grieving for the loss of a being I saw more often than any friend or family member, except for my dog.
The only thing cushioning the blow is thinking about what new directions Stewart might head in, what his brilliantly acerbic mind might bring us next.
Not so surprisingly, it seems one of those directions might be a greater involvement in animal welfare causes.
Philly.com reports that Stewart and his wife, Tracey, recently purchased a New Jersey farm with hopes of turning it into an animal sanctuary.
In some ways, it already is. In addition to their two children, the Stewarts live with four dogs, two pigs, two hamsters, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, one parrot, and two fish, according to USA Today.
The Stewarts are also supporters of the organization Farm Sanctuary, which Stewart managed to plug — along with his wife’s new book — on the final show:
Tracey Stewart, a former vet tech and long-time animal advocate, is the author of the soon to be released “Do Unto Animals,” all profits from which will go to the Farm Sanctuary.
Jon Stewart has some similar leanings, as could be seen in some Daily Show segments, such as an eight-minute long piece about Chris Christie’s refusal to sign a bill that would end the lifelong confinement of pigs in crates so small they can’t even turn around.
And clearly Stewart has a soft spot for dogs.
The Daily Show was a notoriously dog friendly workplace, as reported by The Bark a while back.
Many a staffer brought their dog to work, and I’m guessing some of them were featured in this segment from the final show, in which Stewart paid tribute to his staff. Check out who’s occupying the executive suite, at about the 4:20 mark of this video:
Posted by John Woestendiek August 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal rights, animal sanctuary, animal welfare, animals, book, do unto animals, dogs, farm, farm animals, farm sanctuary, future, jon stewart, new jersey, next, pets, the daily show, tracey stewart, wife
There’s no question humans played a major — you could even say heavy-handed — role in the evolution of dogs.
But might dogs and their predecessors have played an equally significant role in our’s?
A new book by Pennsylvania State University anthropologist Pat Shipman, “The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction,” suggests that having wolves/dogs on our side allowed humans to survive while Neanderthals went extinct.
(Well, maybe not totally extinct; I know at least two.)
In reality, most humans today — thanks to long-ago couplings between humans and Neanderthals — have anywhere from one to four percent of Neanderthal genes in their systems. (Those genes, I suspect, are responsible for making us tailgate, become bodybuilders and cut in line.)
Neanderthals lived, evolved and pretty much ruled for about 250,000 years. After humans came along, about 40,000 years ago, the numbers of Neanderthals declined, then vanished, falling victim, some think, to the superior intellect, skills and weapons of early humans.
Shipman agrees with that theory, but argues humans having wolves on their side was a critical factor.
Neanderthals, the author says, never buddied up with the wolf, while humans would go on to form an alliance with them, tame them, breed them and assign them the kind of tasks that helped with survival — like hunting, guarding and chasing away enemies.
Given dogs were once thought to have been domesticated only 10,000 to 15,000 years ago — long after Neanderthals and humans had it out — little attention was paid to what, if any role, they might have played in the conflict.
But newer evidence, suggesting the domestication of dog goes back 25,000, 35,000, or even more than 100,000 years ago, lends credence to the conclusion dogs were a factor in the survival of our species.
It’s all pretty fascinating stuff — from whence we came, from whence dog came, and how, when and why we seemingly became allies.
But, other than the fact that knowing how our species has managed to survive this long might help it continue to do so, I’m not sure how relevant it is to modern times — unless, as one writer semi-playfully suggests in a piece for WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, how much an individual likes or dislikes dogs is related to the amount of Neanderthal within.
“Depending on the individual, you might just wonder if dog loving might be an indicator of the ratio of Neanderthal genes you’ve got,” Vicki Croke wrote on the WBUR blog, “The Wild Life.” She quotes Lauren Slater, author of “The $60,000 Dog:”
“What this may mean: all those ‘not dog’ people, the ones who push away the paws and straighten their skirts after being sniffed, well, they may have one foot in the chromosomally compromised Neanderthal pool,” Slater wrote, while dog lovers “may be displaying not idiocy or short-sighted sentimentality, as our critics would call it, but a sign of our superior genetic lineage.”
So the next time some small foreheaded, prim and proper, club-carrying type asks that you keep your dog away from them, by all means comply, but feel free to mutter under your breath as you walk away:
“What a Neanderthal!”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 27th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alliances, allies, animals, anthropology, book, books on dogs, dog, dog books, dogs, evolution, human, humans, neanderthal, neanderthals, pat shipman, pets, survival, the invaders, wolves
Landing on the moon may have been a giant step for mankind, but, before man deemed it safe enough to venture into outer space, four-legged creatures paved the way.
And, while the race to space heated up, with the U.S. opting to use mice and monkeys to test the effects of zero gravity, dogs continued to be the hand-picked pioneers of choice for the Soviets.
They — Mishka, Belka, Strelka and more — were literally picked off the streets of Moscow as strays, trained and sent into space both before and after 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.
The contribution of those dogs — both to the Soviet space program and, through that, to Soviet popular culture — is artfully depicted in “Soviet Space Dogs,” a new book by Olesya Turkina, a research fellow at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
“The Soviet public couldn’t get enough of photographs of their beloved dogs, in rockets, oxygen masks and space helmets,” a New York Times review of the book notes. “But even in that citadel of communism, quick-buck artists made money off Laika, Belka and Strelka, putting the dogs’ heroic images on anything that couldn’t move, including candy bars, postcards, stamps, pins and the inevitable commemorative plates.”
As the author of the book writes, “These dogs are the characters in a fairy tale that was created in the U.S.S.R.: They are the martyrs and saints of communism.” (You can sample the book here.)
Laika, who led the way, didn’t survive her space mission, dying from the heat. Other cosmonaut dogs died as well, and most of those who lived spent the rest of their lives in laboratories, suffering ill effects from space travel.
“The lucky ones lived out their days in the laboratory, where devoted attendants would chew bits of (hard-to-find) sausage before feeding it to the dogs who had lost their teeth in the battle to colonize space,” Turkina writes.
But they’d become revered in Soviet society, and served as symbols of patriotic sacrifice.
After Belka and Strelka returned alive from a day in orbit in 1960, they joined Laika as celebrities, appearing on radio and television. Their portraits were featured in newspapers, on stamps and in magazines, Turkina writes. One could smoke Laika cigarettes, or buy a Belka and Strelka storybook for their children.
“Soviet Space Dogs, while full of images, is a book for all ages — fascinating for its insights into early space travel, but also for what it says about popular culture and patriotism, and the mutts who, through no choice of their own, were catapulted first into space, then into lasting fame.
(Photos from “Soviet Space Dogs”)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 5th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: astronauts, belka, book, books on dogs, cosmonauts, dog books, dogs, laika, mishka, olelsya turkina, outer space, pioneers, race to space, russia, soviet, soviet space dogs, soviet union, space, space travel, strelka, u.s.
Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.
The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.
Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press
While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.
He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”
That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.
“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.
“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.
“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.
Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 13th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, books, books on dogs, children, childrens, death, died, dog, dog books, dogs, eric hill, good dog reads, illustrator, penguin, pets, spot, spot goes to the beach, spot's first walk, where's spot