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Tag: breeds

Animated Short: Dog movie wins an Oscar

If there’s any dog breed that could be described as an “animated short,” it has to be the Boston terrier.

So it’s fitting that a Boston Terrier — an animated animated Boston terrier — is the star of “Feast,” which won the Academy Award for animated short film Sunday night.

The Disney film depicts a relationship, over the years, between a voracious puppy named Winston and the young man who feeds him.

Through the miracles of animation, this paean to doghood didn’t take 12 years to make.

“Feast” was first-time nominee Patrick Osborne’s directorial debut.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the choice of breed for the film wasn’t taken lightly:

“Because Disney has a long tradition of animated canine superstars — Pluto, Goofy, pampered cocker spaniel Lady, Tramp and the 101 Dalmatians, among them — Osborne watched the studio’s films to make sure he wasn’t repeating a character. He also wanted a dog that wasn’t too big and that had a light-dark pattern that would make its movements more visible.

“The compact, intelligent Boston terrier — a.k.a. the American Gentleman, known for its amusing, bright and friendly personality — fit the bill.”

One of the story artists working on the film had Boston terriers, Osborne said, and brought them in so that their motions and behavior could be observed.

The movie chronicles Winston’s growth, and the coming of age of the boy who owns him.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw a puppy go through from being a young dog to grown up below the table as part of the family and enjoying these meals together?’” Osborne told The Times.

For $1.99 ($2.99 for HD) you can watch it in its six-minute entirety on YouTube.

Osborne said he grew up with dachshunds. “They are all gone now, but there is a little bit of them alive with the short, because of my memory of how they moved and acted.”

While he doesn’t have a dog now, he said he felt like he had one a dog during the year he worked on the film about Winston and his eating habits.

“I spent a lot of time with him,” Osborne said.

Pardon me while I perpetuate your legacy

It’s a well-known but little publicized fact that some dogs competing at Westminster and in many other dog shows aren’t brought into the world in a 100 percent natural way.

Since the 1960s, breeders have been harvesting semen from male purebreds — one technique for which is demonstrated in the video above — and inserting it into females in hopes of creating champions.

The American Kennel Club, though it doesn’t allow cloned dogs to participate in the dog shows it sanctions, has no problem with permitting those who are products of artificial insemination.

Over the decades, as with artificial insemination in humans, the technology has progressed and become widely accepted. (My view is, if we are going to widely accept something, we shouldn’t balk at watching it.)

While some human, uh, effort is involved in the semen-gathering method depicted above, more state of the art techniques involve artificial vaginas and electro-stimulation. Even today though, to get the canine juices flowing, breeders commonly use a female dog in heat, parading her in front of the male. She’s referred to as a “teaser bitch.”

Breeders say practicing artificial insemination can help improve the quality of breeds. For sure, it gives them more control, allowing them to overcome logistical obstacles, such as when a male and female are living on opposite ends of the country. They can still have a long distance relationship, so to speak.

It allows a champion male to breed with many more females than would be physically possible through traditional one-on-one mating. It allows older male dogs to continue reproducing after they can no longer mount a female. And it allows a male dog to keep producing offspring long after his death, which is the case with a champion Old English sheep dog named Yoshi.

yoshiYoshi, under his registered name, Lambluv Desert Dancer, won more best in shows than any other sheep dog. He won Best of Breed at Westminster three times, most recently in 1999. He died in 2006, but he could still be daddy to more than 100 future litters.

“I have about 100 straws,” his owner Jere Marder told Bloomberg.com, in reference to the frozen semen samples from Yoshi she has in storage.

No product of artificial insemination has won at Westminster, but last year’s runner up in Best in Breed was a dog created with 17-year-old sperm from one of Lambluv’s sheep dogs.

“Most serious breeders that I know of have something in store,” says Marder, who owns Lambluv Old English Sheepdogs. “If anything, it’s just a precaution; otherwise, if anything happens to your champion dog before you can breed him, you’re out a good chunk of money.”

“It’s definitely a market — and one that’s growing,” said Randall Popkin, owner of the California-based Breeder’s Veterinary Services, which has been storing frozen semen and inseminating dogs with it since 1984.

“When I first started, few breeders were doing this,” he said. “Nowadays, you travel to dog shows and there’ll be three companies there offering to freeze your dog’s semen.”

According to the American Kennel Club, the number of registered purebred litters conceived with frozen semen has risen by 26 percent over the past decade. In 2013, the year for which the most recent data is available, the AKC registered about 2,200 litters that were produced via artificial insemination. That’s about 1 percent of all AKC-approved litters.

The Bloomberg article notes there are downsides.

In 2009, a Pembroke Welsh corgi breeder sued an animal hospital after her dog was allegedly accidentally inseminated with sperm from a Great Pyrenees — a breed roughly five times her dog’s size. The corgi nearly died giving birth.

In addition, there have been lawsuits over samples that were damaged during shipping or produced puppies that didn’t look purebred. In 2012, a jury awarded $200,000 to a Pennsylvania breeder who had sued a veterinary hospital for accidentally defrosting more than 100 samples from her champion poodles.

Marder, who sat out Westminster this year, says she’d love to see one of dead Yoshi’s offspring win there someday. Doing so, the article said “feels to her as if she’s keeping her old dogs alive.”

(Photo: Yoshi, from the website Lambluv.com)

Who’s the fairest of them all?

bestinshow

Here’s an “infographic” (more graphic than informative, we’d say) that’s popping up a lot on the Internet these days.

It’s from “Knowledge is Beautiful,” a new book by British data-journalist David McCandless.

In it, he crunches data to explain the world, or at least random bits of the world, through graphics that — though they might intimidate those of us who prefer a good old fashioned story — are intended to be entertaining, artful and easy to absorb.

“Every day, every hour, every minute we are bombarded with information, from television, from newspapers, from the Internet, we’re steeped in it. We need a way to relate to it,” his publisher, Harper Collins, writes. The author’s visual presentations ”blend the facts with their connections, contexts, and relationships, making information meaningful, entertaining, and beautiful.”

kibWe’ll withhold comment on the book, because we haven’t read it (if reading is even part of experiencing it.)

But we’ve got problems and questions with this particular chart — a ranking of the 87 “best” dog breeds.

(To see a full size version, click here.)

For starters, why — when there are about 180 recognized breeds now — did he limit himself to only the 87 most popular breeds?

Is that a more algorithm-friendly number? Is that the most that could fit on a page before it became so cluttered as to be reader unfriendly, or leave us feeling dog bombarded?

The infographic contrasts the popularity of the breeds with what (according to the formula used by McCandless) are the “best” breeds. The best breed, according to the chart, is the border collie. It concludes the bulldog the most “inexplicably overrated” dog breed.

McCandless ranks the 87 dog breeds based on these factors — intelligence, lifespan or longevity, ailments, grooming, appetite and costs.

In a way, at least four of those factors are cost-related, aren’t they?

How much a dog eats and how much grooming he requires both can make him a more expensive proposition, which we can only assume McCandless attaches negative points to.

The Newfoundland, for example, falls into the “inexplicably overrated” quadrant of the the chart — well, most of him does, a little bit of his big head seems to stick outside that border.

We’d hope McCandless considers a longer life span for a dog to be a good thing, worth positive points, but wouldn’t a dog gaining points in that category be losing them in the appetite, grooming and costs categories?

Of course, our biggest is complaint — on top of the sheer stupidity of picking a best dog breed — is that the chart ignores the “best” (and most popular) dog of all, the mutt.

That would complicate matters though, and infographics are all about over-simplifying. And stereotyping, and quanitfying the unquantifiable, and smugly considering yourself an expert based on what your computer has churned out, which infographic perusers should bear in mind, is only as reliable as the data it was fed in the first place.

(Photos: “Knowledge is Beautiful”)

The DNA results are in on Pig

pig1

They say everything has a beginning, a middle and an end, but when it comes to an Alabama dog named Pig, she seems to have gotten short-changed on that middle part.

Between her sizable head and her rear end, there’s not much real estate, and as a result of her abbreviated torso, taking her out in public has always led to a lot of stares, and a lot of questions — chief among them, “What kind of dog is that?”

What accounts for Pig’s unusual appearance is called short spine syndrome, a birth defect that prevents the spine from fully forming and often makes everyday tasks — like running, jumping and eating — difficult.

Dogs with the disorder — though it can compress their organs and lead to health problems as they grow — generally can lead normal lives, and reach their full life expectancy.

They can also, as in Pig’s case, become international celebrities.

Pig developed a large following after appearing at this year’s Do Dah Day festival in Birmingham. She was featured in a story on AL.com, and her Facebook page, “Pig the Unusual Dog,” created in June, has more than 76,500 followers.

pig2Now, following up on just what it is that makes Pig Pig, AL.com reports that her owner, Kim Dillenbeck of Helena, has received the results of a DNA test she had conducted on the dog to determine what breeds are in her.

A Wisdom Panel test says Pig is a Boxer, Chow Chow, American Staffordshire Terrier mix.

Dillenbeck who has heard guesses ranging from her dog being half rabbit to half not there, was surprised by the results.

“Everybody thought Akita,” Dillenbeck said. “I was was thinking something like a smaller dog, but I was wide open … Pig has all these interesting traits, and there are so many breeds out there.”

Other breeds showing up in the test results as possibilities include Portuguese Water Dog, Alaskan Klee Kai, Scottish deerhound, Lakeland terrier and Maltese.

Pig weighs in at just 16 pounds, much less than one of her siblings, who doesn’t have the disorder and weighs just under 40 pounds.

Dillenbeck’s experience with Pig led her to form the nonprofit Pig’s Foundation to help raise funds for people and organizations rescuing animals. Another mission of the foundation is to raise awareness that animals who look unusual can still have a happy life.

“Pig is her own breed,” Dillenbeck said. “To me, she is just one in a million. As much as I can see her potential in all these breeds, she is still just Pig.”

(Photos: Mark Almond / AL.com)

Bulldogs being goofballs

Bulldogs are not at the top of the list when it comes to dignified behavior, which is why I like them.

So I wouldn’t say this compilation features bulldogs behaving badly — just bulldogs behaving like bulldogs.

Is artwork an attack on pit bulls?

outofblue3

Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The work  is called ”Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.

outofblue2The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.

The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.

Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.

Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.

Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the  ArtPrize  website. ”Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”

This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.

A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.

When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.

Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”

Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.

Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”

According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website,  Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.

Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.

There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.

Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.

We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.

So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.

Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.

“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”

Two “new” breeds will debut at Westminster

cotons

What do the Hungarian wire-haired vizsla (below) and the coton de tulear (above) have in common?

At first glance, not a lot.

wirehairedvizsla

The fuzzier version of a Vizsla is a mid-sized dog with what’s been called a “professorial” appearance, while the tiny coton de tulear is a fluffy French breed that resembles a Q-Tip on steroids

Both breeds, newly recognized by the American Kennel Club, will be competing for the first time when the Westminster Kennel Club holds its 139th annual dog show in New York in February.

“Coton is the French word for cotton and that’s what this dog looks like, a little bit of a cotton swab,” David Frei, the host and director of communications for the show, explained to NPR.

“It has got a long white coat, smallish dog; looks more like a toy dog than the non-sporting group that it’s in — fun little dog,” Frei added. “The royal dog of Madagascar, if you will, was exported through the Port of Tulear in Madagascar, ended up in France and other places in Europe before it came to this country and now it’s not really a new breed per se, but it’s new to us.”

Unlike their smooth-coated counterparts, the wirehaired vizsla has an inch-long, rust-colored coat that helps protect it while romping through the brush.

While best known for their hunting abilities, their fuzzy faces — with beards and moustaches and, if you will, Andy Rooney eyebrows — give them a distinguished appearance that belies their playfulness.

The two new additions brings the total number of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club to 192..

(Photos: Vizsla photo from  Fassfields Hungarian Wirehaired Vizslas;  coton de tulear photo,  Nicaise, via Wamiz.com)


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