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Tag: campaign

High tech device promises to tell a dog’s mood — by monitoring the wag of the tail

Yes, ohmidog! pokes cruel fun at “new technology” from time to time, but only when “new technology” deserves it — as is the case with this tail wagging monitor a group hopes to bring to the market.

Some Cornell University graduates have launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the manufacturing of DogStar TailTalk, which they describe as a translator of dog emotions.

The device consists of a lightweight sensor that wraps around your dog’s tail, monitoring the speed and direction of the tail’s movement with an internal accelerometer and a gyroscope.

Coupled with a phone app, the developers say, it will tell you when your dog is happy, and when his or her tail wag may be a sign of stress.

wagThere’s some hard science behind it — but not much.

Scientific studies conducted in Italy have concluded that the prominent direction of a dog’s tail wag is an indicator of whether he’s happy or feeling anxiety, aggression or fear.

Wagging more to the right is said to be an indication of positive feelings.

The developers of the device say the direction of the wag isn’t always discernable to the naked eye: “Tail wagging is asymmetric and includes complex emotional signals that the human eye cannot recognize.”

We’re not so sure about that, just as we’re not so sure that a dog owner, seeing their dog’s tail wagging upon meeting, say, another dog, will have time to fire up the app to determine whether the meeting is going to go well.

Like a lot of canine-oriented technology — from treat poppers to automatic ball throwers to spy cams – this little gizmo takes over a task and/or responsibility that we should be doing ourselves, thereby growing closer and better knowing our dog, as opposed to distancing ourselves from our dog and giving them the features of robots.

As the goofy video above shows, the device may have some value when used remotely, such as learning the dog really doesn’t like the dog walker at all, but that — again — is something a dog owner should be able to ascertain beforehand without gyroscopes or apps.

The design team says it consulted on the project with “professors from the famous College of Veterinary Medicine in Cornell University.”

We think we smell a class project resurfacing for the marketplace. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Current plans call for the TailTalk app to work with iOS or Android phones, and to include features like the “Happiness Overview” function, which tracks a dog’s emotional status over the course of a day, a week, or a month. The monitoring device will be waterproof and “chew-resistant.” We can only hope that dogs, annoyed by having a tail attachment, don’t inadvertently chew through something other than the device.

So far, the campaign has raised about a third of its $100,000 funding goal.

If all goes according to plan, the TailTalk device will be ready to hit the market in about a year, and we suspect that — just as there are those who are willing to fund it — there will be those willing to buy it.

Because while the dog may sometimes wag his tail, and the tail may sometimes wag the dog, technology seems destined to almost always wag us.

Fiorina shows her (dog-inspired) soft side

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who some critics say comes across as “harsh,” showed her softer side this week by singing about her Yorkshire terrier, Snickers, during an appearance on “The Tonight Show.”

Fiorina, who many believe made the strongest showing in last week’s GOP debate, told Jimmy Fallon she often writes songs about her dogs, and volunteered to sing one of them.

The performance cracked Fallon up, but then what doesn’t?

Fiorina has two Yorkshire terriers, Snickers and Max. She performed one of what she said were four verses of a song she wrote about Snick, the lazier of the two, sung to the tune of “Rock Around the Clock.”

My name’s Snick and I’m lazy
Please don’t take a walk with me
I’d rather stay right here at home instead
I want to lie back down in my nice warm bed
My name’s Snick and you’re gonna have to carry me

It should be noted that Fiorina, in addition to humanizing herself, and showing she has a decent singing voice, also looked pretty good — contrary to what fellow candidate Donald Trump criticized as her un-electable face.

“Look at that face!” Trump was quoted as saying about Fiorina in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”

Trump later said he was talking not about Fiorina’s appearance, but her “persona.”

When asked about Trump’s comments in last week’s debate, Fiorina offered a strong rebuke: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Kind of makes you wonder why, between the two, or for that matter among the entire pack of Republican candidates, Fiorina is the one that gets characterized as harsh.

Wouldn’t have anything to do with her gender, would it?

Would you compromise your “manhood” — or at least your dog’s — for a Harley?

desexTo encourage Australian men who don’t get their dogs neutered because they see it as “unmanly,” a RSPCA campaign is offering up two brand new Harley-Davidsons as prizes in a statewide “desexing” campaign.

RSPCA Queensland officials hope it will result in an extra 30,000 animals being spayed and neutered, 9News reports.

The contest, launched today, is part of an ongoing campaign in Queensland aimed at reducing pet overpopulation.

According to RSPCA Queensland, less than half of Queenslanders sterilize their pets. The vast majority of the 45,000 animals that come under its care each year have not been — as they commonly call it — desexed.

RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty said the overpopulation of pets is so bad that a five-person household would need to own 30 cats and 10 dogs for every animal to have a home.

Much of that surplus is blamed on the dim view many Australian men hold when it comes to neutering.

“There is a percentage of men out there who think it’s offensive to their sexuality to desex their dogs,” Beatty said.

While RSPCA Queensland is encouraging as many people as possible to sterilize their pets voluntarily, mandatory desexing is another possbility — and one Beatty would like to see.

Desexing was almost made compulsory under the former Bligh government and officials in the current administration are saying they’d be willing to take another look at it.

As part of the campaign, nearly 200 vets have reduced their spay and neuter fees for three months.

Left for dead, pit bull’s tail is still wagging


She was a truck stop dog — or at least that’s where she seemed to spend most of her time.

Having no real home, and no official owner, she could most often be found at a truck stop in Moses Lake, Wash., taking advantage of the kindness of truckers and others who would pat her on the head and toss some food her way.

Sometime in February, she appeared to have met the fate of many a wandering stray. She was hit by a car on the highway and injured so severely that someone thought it best to put her out of her misery.

She was struck on the head with a hammer and left in a ditch.

A few days later the white pit bull mix —  dirty, limping and emaciated — showed up at a farm outside of town, with her tail wagging.

A farmhand took her to Moses Lake Veterinary Hospital, and the owner-less dog’s plight ended up being posted on Facebook.

When Sara Mellado, a Mose Lake resident, read the post, she offered to provide the dog a temporary home. Mellado, whose German shepherd had died just two weeks earlier, named the dog Theia.

“Considering everything that she’s been through, she’s incredibly gentle and loving,” Mellado said. “She’s a true miracle dog, and she deserves a good life.”

Since then, Mellado has made several trips to Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman, where Theia has been treated for leg injuries, a dislocated jaw, and multiple fractures in her nasal bones that are believed to be a result of the hammer blows.

“When I brought her home, she hardly slept because breathing was such a chore,” said Mellado.

The veterinary hospital’s Good Samaritan Fund committee awarded $700 to help pay for Theia’s treatment, and a GoFundMe campaign started by Mellado has, as of today, raised $12,000 — $2,000 more than its goal.

The money will be used to pay for Theia’s nasal passage surgery which will inolve installing  a stent to help reopen her nasal passages.

The surgery is scheduled for April 22, according to Washington State University News.

(Photo: Washington State University News)

Are we animal lovers just too gullible?


I would no more stereotype animal lovers than I would pit bulls, and yet I have to ask the question:

Are we an overly gullible lot, more likely to be taken advantage of by greedy and unsavory types?

As a rule, yes. As scammers and schemers have realized, our overflowing empathy and eagerness to help an animal in need often overrule our powers of deductive reasoning, leading us to whip out the checkbook and contribute to some pretty suspicious “causes.”

We are going to use the Grieving Rottweiler as our example here — not to say that the owner of that dog (who is asking dog lovers to help him buy a house so he can rescue more dogs) is a scammer or a schemer, but only because his fundraising drive, as explained by him, is so full of conflicting information, question marks and red flags.

We raised questions about it earlier this week, after Brett Bennett of Seattle posted a video of his Rottweiler, Brutus, appearing to mourn the death of his fellow Rottweiler, Hank. His YouTube post links to an indiegogo page aimed at raising money to buy “a house in the country.”

“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks. Instead, he urges people to give Hank’s death some meaning, and honor the dog’s legacy, by making cash contributions so he can buy a house and some acreage in the country.

The viral video of “Brutus grieving” was nearing 4 million views yesterday.

Between the summary he posted there, his indiegogo page, his Rottweiler rescue website, and what he has posted on his Facebook page (which disappeared the day before yesterday), one has to wonder about what a tangled web he has woven — lie-wise — since he first started trying to raise money through his dogs. (Not to mention how a man who describes himself as homeless can be so active on the Internet.)

That Facebook page included photos of Rottweilers fighting, him recounting a plan to sell his Rottweilers to drug dealers, background information on the dogs that vastly differs from what he has stated elsewhere and this warning to a commenter who questioned his motivations:

“F— off, you tweaker white trash c—.”

Bennett raised over $6000 in January to help him and his dogs find a rental property. Then, a week after Hank died, he started another fundraiser to raise an additional $100,000 to help him purchase a home.

As it turns out, one woman has been raising questions about him for a while — Anne Fromm, who, in an attempt to spread the word about his activities, started this “Social Media Scammer” Facebook page.

It points out some of the many discrepancies in the online accounts Bennett has provided, including in the story of Hank’s death.

“Ask WHY he never took the dog to the vet if it was dying, instead videotaped it, for the tearjerker points and the funds that poured in. Is the dog even dead? Or will he show up miraculously in a few more months when Brett needs more money?”

Fromm points out that Bennett has said the dogs are twins, from the same litter. Yet he has also said one was 2 and one was 4 when he took them in.

Bennett said he awoke to find Hank dead, but he also says, in another account, that he held him in his arms when he was dying.

Mainstream media outlets have carried the video of the “grieving Rottweiler,” and helped catapult it to viral-ness, but none apparently had the time to look into its veracity.

As of yesterday, as far as I could see, only this blogBuzzfeed and Seattle Dog Spot had questioned Bennett’s accounts and actions.

Seattle Dog Spot reported that records from VCA Animal Hospital show Bennett took Hank to be cremated on January 22, but the video of Hank’s death was uploaded on January 20. “What did he do with the body of a 150-pound Rottweiler for 2 days?” the blog asks.

That form also showed an address for the homeless man.

Seattle Dog Spot also reported a text message exchange in which Bennett told someone who was questioning how he spent donated money, “They gave me money and I am using the money to pay off my legal matters and for my everyday bills. I can pretend to spend it on whatever these gullable (sic) people will believe.”

Those are just a few of the disconcerting conflicts in Bennett’s story, all of which anyone with enough time could have found on the Internet.

But, dog lovers being trusting and good-hearted sorts, few did.

Dog lovers tend to believe, and they tend to react, and they tend to want to save, if not the world, at least its dogs — all admirable traits.

Schemers and their schemes, in addition to taking money from them, stand to also take away something even more important — their faith.

Do we need something that protects those so committed to protecting, say a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Lovers?

No, but dog lovers do, unfortunately, need at least a tiny grain of cynicism within, enough to consider the possibility that what on the surface appears to be a worthy cause might not be.

When it comes to fund-raising drives being conducted by individuals, and all we know about those individual comes from what they’ve posted online, we need to exercise due diligence — or at least a little diligence — to separate those who are pretending to care about dogs from those who are seeking only our dollars.

(Photo: Bennett, Hank and Brutus, as pictured on the Rottweiler Twins Animal Rescue website)

The case of the grieving Rottweiler

I eschew anthropomorphism. I eat meat. I am neither touchy nor feely. Yet even I, a (mostly) cynical and unemotional sort, couldn’t help feeling some emotions rise up in me when watching this video of a Rottweiler seemingly grieving the death of his litter mate.

It was posted on YouTube last month, by a Seattle man who says he awoke to find one of his Rottweilers dead, and the other resting his head atop the deceased dog, refusing to move.

“Clearly you can see in his eyes, he is crying for his brother who had passed as his world around him just crumbled. We both grieve and cry for our brother … This is proof that animals DO have emotions and feel pain just like we do,” Brett Bennett wrote in the YouTube post.

I, being a cynic, question some of that, particularly the crying — I’m not sure dogs shed actual tears of emotion. But I do believe dogs have emotions, and can feel sadness. 

What I question much more than whether Brutus is truly grieving, though, is how Bennett is using the video to get online donations to buy himself a house in the country.

On the post, he provides a link to an Indiegogo page he created, seeking donations he says will be used to provide housing for himself (he says he’s homeless) and his dogs (he says he has four).

In fairness, he began the campaign before Hank died in late January, initially seeking enough money for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent required to rent a home.

Since reaching that goal, and since the death of Hank, he has apparently set his sights higher:

Under the headline “Help Grieving Rottweiler Buy a New Home ,” he explains, ”before Hank passed, we had started a fundraiser to help us into a nice warm home and off the streets … We have succeeded in our goal, but have been approached by animal lovers from around the world to reach for the stars and to ask for donations to not rent, but to own a home.

“As everyone knows, it is very hard to rent a place with a Rottweiler or with several rescue animals. It would give us the option to rescue as many animals in need or as possible. Our mission goal, our dream, is to buy a house out in the country, on some acreage, with the ability to freely rescue and foster as many animals that we can…”

I applaud his stated intentions — to rescue more animals — and I have no problem with people who are experiencing hard times seeking the public’s help, or with the public providing it.

But even assuming Bennett and his plea are all on the up and up, it still strikes me as a rather bold request. Asking for help to pay for a life-saving veterinary procedure is one thing; asking us to help buy a house in the country for him and his dogs is quite another. And recording and broadcasting the heartstring-tugging reaction of Brutus to the death of Hank may be laying it on so thick as to border, in my opinion, on exploitation.

(Then again, the same could be said of those ultra-sad ads some animal welfare organizations use in their quests to raise funds.)

“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks, “Please share our story.”

So I’m kind of doing that, with obvious reservations.

Being cynical, I’m a little wary of pleas by dog owners appealing to the public for financial help via crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo. There’s really no way to know — short of playing detective yourself  – which ones are legit, and which ones are scams.

With his video of Brutus going viral — more than 2.5 million views as of last weekend — and with it bringing in advertising revenue as well, I suspect Bennett is on his way to amassing a decent down payment, and he’s definitely showing some initiative.

But as with another dog-related story I’ve covered at length, pet cloning, there’s something distasteful about turning people’s tears and grief into big bucks.

Bennett says on his Facebook page for the dogs that he suspects Hank died of a broken heart.

“I’m so sorry you guys … I wasn’t strong enough and had a breakdown in front of the dogs. Hank was right by my side with his Therapy Dog service and grieved with me as I was so upset. He looked so sad. I noticed Hank never came out of his grievance and stopped eating. He was still drinking and nibbling on food so I thought he was okay. A week later Brutus and I awoke to his peaceful body next to us as he passed in the night in his sleep.”

He says the video was shot “about 30 minutes after we woke up and were missing our baby. I normally don’t video record my real life catastrophes or share but decided I needed to send a message to the world and show how much pain my dog was in as he loved his Twin so much.”

Bennett says Brutus is weeping on the video. And, in it, you can hear Bennett sobbing himself. I’m not suggesting any of it is fake. I’m no expert on human emotions, or animal emotions. Is there really any difference between the two? I don’t know, but my hunch is, based on how the video is so blatantly being used to raise money, that it’s the reaction of Brutus that may be more sincere.

She’s one tough cookie (but with soft spots)

She has been called “America’s deadliest DA,” “the queen of death” and “one tough cookie.”

But Lynne Abraham, the former Philadelphia district attorney who sent hundreds of humans to death row, has a soft spot for animals.

And one supporter thinks that’s worth highlighting as Abraham runs for mayor of the City of Brotherly Love — so much so that he produced a campaign ad for her, at his own expense.

It all goes back to 2007, when the ad’s producer, Bill Whiting had to deal with a horrific situation: Some neighborhood kids took his dog, Edna. They held her for ransom, tortured her as Whiting listened over the phone, and killed her.

Abraham went after the suspects with her trademark bulldog-like tenacity, and earned Whiting’s undying respect.

“I could never have realized justice without the help of Lynne Abraham who was Philadelphia’s District Attorney at the time,” Whiting said in the video.

A 15-year-old was arrested, tried and punished in the case.

abrahamadWhiting appears in the ad with his new dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Winnie, praising Abraham’s commitment to fighting animal cruelty. Abraham, and other owners and their dogs, are featured.

Whiting produced the video himself with the help of some friends who donated their time, according to a Newsworks report.

“The ad cost $14 in dog treats,” Whiting said. “That’s all there was.”

The video highlights her stance on animal cruelty, but also describes Abraham, a Democrat, as “a sharp, fair-minded elder stateswoman” who has the skills and experience to become Philadelphia’s first female mayor.

Whiting said he made the ad out of gratitude, and says he hopes it will “humanize” a woman the New York Times called “America’s deadliest D.A.” because of how often she sought the death penalty. That same 1995 article made note of Abraham’s practice of carrying cans of Little Friskies in the trunk of her official car, doling out portions to street cats in need of nourishment.

She’s hardly the only “hard on crime” public official that goes gooey when it comes to animals. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been called the country’s “toughest sheriff” has a well-known soft spot when it comes to dogs — and it has served to help humanize him a bit.

As for Abraham — it was none other than Frank Rizzo (no softy himself) who first called her “one tough cookie” — she’s seen as a “very no-nonsense, straightforward district attorney,” Whiting said. “But I also wanted people to know that she has an extremely kind heart.”

The case of Edna, was “one of many that is emblematic of Lynne’s strong commitment against cruelty to animals,” Abraham’s campaign spokeswoman, Cathie Abookire, wrote in an email promoting the video.

Abookire said Abraham, as district attorney, appointed Philadelphia’s first prosecutor devoted to animal cruelty cases.

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