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Talking dogs: A device, from Sweden, that tells you what your dog is thinking

A group of Swedes is selling a device they say can translate your dog’s thoughts into English — and they’re seeking investors to help pay for further development of what they admit is a “work in progress.”

The first of many things we find questionable about this is why the young researchers at Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery — constantly on the lookout, they say, for “cool” and “awesome” things they can do with technology — wouldn’t be translating the thoughts of dogs into Swedish.

The only answers I can come up with are that either they are far more interested in making some money than in figuring out what goes on in a dog’s head, or they view the residents of dog-loving, English-speaking countries as more gullible, and more likely to fall for what they are peddling.

We did buy a lot of Abba albums after all, didn’t we?

Already, they’ve raked in more than $16,000 in their IndieGoGo fund-raising drive.

nomorewoofThe product is called No More Woof. It consists of a headset, worn by your dog, the (non-intrusive) sensors of which pick up EEG signals, and software that translates those signals, via loudspeaker, into thoughts.

Strangely, this company-made video (above) never shows the device in action, yet the inventors are ready to sell you one — either a basic model for $60, or an advanced model for $85, or a more advanced model for $300, or a really, really advanced model for $600.

The development firm also takes credit for inventing a hovering lamp that follows you from room to room, an iPad-charging rocking chair, and “Nebula 12,” described as an indoor cloud. They are currently at work on a flying carpet.

It’s no joke — even if No More Woof sounds pretty laughable.

So far, No More Woof has come up with only four distinguishable statements they can attribute to a dog, based on EEG readings: “I’m excited, “I’m tired, “I am hungry,” and “Who are you?” Once detected by the headset, they are voiced by a loudspeaker.

The bottom line, as we see it, is that they’ve come up with a way — or claim to have, at least – to make the most fascinating animal on earth boring.

Imagine a quiet evening at home, your headset-wearing dog at your side: “I’m hungry. I’m excited. I’m hungry. I’m hungry. I’m hungry.”

And this after you spend hours trying to set the whole thing up, using directions we can only assume will be Ikea-like.

The firm says it is trying to advance human-dog communication. But it doesn’t come across as being sincerely interested in that. It seems much more interested in fund-raising.

nsidNo More Woof’s Indiegogo page repeatedly stresses that the device, while already for sale, is still in development: “To be completely honest, the first version will be quite rudimentary. But hey, the first computer was pretty crappy too.”

They don’t insist that you buy one. If you prefer, you can just send them some money for their continued research.

Our advice would be to hold on to your money, and if you want to communicate with your dog, spend more time with him or her, pay more attention to him or her, look more deeply into him and her, and make your relationship not one of giving and taking orders, but one of learning from each other and exploring life together.

You already know — or at least you should — when your dog is hungry, excited or tired.

Do we really need to be hearing a robot voice tell us that? Do we really need — even if it did work and could develop into something more sophisticated — to turn our intriguing companions into the equivalent of a nagging wife, demanding husband, whining kid, or, worse yet, Siri?

I prefer the silence. And, much as I often wonder what my own dog is thinking, I prefer the mystery.

(Photos and video from NoMoreWoof.com)

Much ado about poo in Spain

There might not be any town as intent — you might even say obsessed — with wiping out dog poop as Brunete, Spain.

First, officials in the town on the outskirts of Madrid launched a social awareness campaign, aimed at encouraging pet owners to pick up after their dogs.

Part of it included a remote control pile of poop on wheels, which approached citizens bearing the message “Don’t leave me, pick me up!”

“The amount of dog poo on our streets dropped considerably as a result,” a town spokesman is quoted as saying in this article.

When “volume” started rising again, the town opted for a sneakier approach — though it, too, has an in-your-face element.

In February of this year, officials in the town of 10,100 assigned 20 volunteers to patrol the streets in search of dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs.

Upon seeing an offense, the undercover volunteers approach the owners and strike up a casual conversation — not mentioning the poop, just feigning interest in the dog and asking about its name and breed.

Once the dog walker departs, the volunteer would pick up the dog poop and put it in a box. Then, using the town’s database of registered dogs, they find out the address of the dog walker. Then they’d deliver the surprise package by hand to the pet owner’s home, along with an official warning.

If that weren’t embarassing enough, they film the reunions between dog owners and their dog’s poop.

Brunete Town Hall estimates the program has reduced the amount of unpicked up dog waste by 70 percent.

Officials aren’t sure whether it’s the threat of the fine, receiving a package of poop, or getting humiliated on camera that’s doing the trick, but they say the program seems to be working.

Donations pour in for Barbara and Bowser

The Oklahoma tornado victim whose missing dog emerged from the rubble in the middle of a TV news interview may get another prayer answered.

Barbara Garcia’s Scottish terrier, Bowser, was spotted under a pile debris by the news team interviewing her after she lost her home in Moore.

“Well, I thought that God had just answered one prayer, to let me be OK,” Garcia said after freeing her dog. “But he answered both of them.”

Now, those touched by the scene, which went viral on the Internet, have donated enough money to make a new home a possibility.

A fund set up to help her get back on her feet and under a new roof was approaching $40,000 as of Monday night, just $10,000 short of its $50,000 goal.

“We’re still looking for a corporate sponsor who will match funds donated, so we can make the dream of building a new home for Barbara and Bowser a reality. Not only did Barbara lose her home, her daughter did as well,” said Erin DeRuggiero who’s spearheading the fund drive.

According to CBS News, the clip of Bowser emerging from the rubble has been viewed more than 3 million times.

“All of the other things … you know, one by one they can be replaced. A lot of it wasn’t even important, but I couldn’t replace him,” Garcia said in an interview.

Garcia didn’t have homeowner’s insurance.

“I was really just compelled, personally, to do something,” said DeRuggiero. In the first five days of the fundraiser, more than $35,000 was raised.

“Before the CBS piece aired, I didn’t know Barbara Garcia personally, but was incredibly moved by her story and of her reunion with her sweet dog,” DeRuggiero wrote on the Gofundme page. “… My goal is to ease her recovery, raise enough money to help her start to rebuild or relocate her life, and above all else, to show her that ‘life in the big city’ also means helping one another, even from 1500 miles away.”

Garcia says she’s overwhelmed by the support: “I didn’t know I was that important. Really, truly, I didn’t. I just thank everybody,” Garcia said in a follow-up interview with CBS News.

The “Build Barbara Garcia a Home” fundraising page can be found here.

Utah labs cease use of shelter animals

The University of Utah has announced that it will no longer purchase dogs and cats from North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) — or any other animal shelter — for use in medical experiments.

The decision was praised by PETA, which has waged a lengthy campaign against the practice.

“PETA is thrilled for the dogs, cats and people of Utah now that the University of Utah has stopped using animal shelters as dirt-cheap sources of living lab equipment, marking the complete end of pound seizure in the state,’’ said Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s vice president for laboratory investigations.

Until last year, animal shelters in Utah were required to sell cats and dogs in their custody to the university under a practice known as pound seizure. A change in state law made it voluntary for shelters to participate. The North Utah Valley Animal Shelter, however, continued to supply animals for research in the belief that it was helping to ease human suffering and advance medical knowledge.

NUVAS sold the university about 100 dogs and cats a year, Director Tug Gettling told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The practice, over the years, saw hundreds of former pets and strays sacrificed for purposes of medical experimentation — though not all that were used in experiments were killed.  Last year, a pet owner who turned her dog, Sheena (above) over to the shelter was shocked to learn — when she called to see if she had been adopted — that the dog had been sold to the university for experimentation. Later, with help from PETA, she launched a successful campaign to get the dog back from the university and into an adoptive home.

According to the Tribune, the decades-old practice of buying animals from shelters was halted by the university in mid-January.

Thomas Parks, the university’s vice president for research, said the decision was aimed at bringing an end to the campaign against the shelter by animal welfare advocates. Parks said the university will instead obtain dogs bred for laboratory use by certified breeders — a costlier but less controversial method.

PETA’s Guillermo said she hoped the added cost of specially bred animals would lead the university to seek alternatives to using live animals in its experiments.

Parks said employees at the non-profit municipal shelter “have been suffering a lot of harassment” and that the shelter has received thousands of hostile emails and phone calls, several bomb threats and at least three public protests.

A Salt Lake Tribune investigation a year ago found that about 60 percent of all shelter animals the shelter provided to the university between 2007 and 2009 were killed after being experimented on, while the rest entered an adoption program.

Utah shelter selling dogs for experiments

“Very cute.” “Cuddly.” “Enjoys belly rubs.”

That’s how the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) described the dogs in its care that were up for adoption — some of the same dogs it later sold for use in university laboratories.

PETA says the dogs were sold to the University of Utah and used for “deadly and invasive” experiments: 

“Dogs recently purchased from the animal shelter had holes cut into their chests and necks and pacemakers implanted onto their hearts in order to induce irregular heartbeats; the dogs were then killed and dissected.”

North Utah Valley Animal Shelter is the only animal shelter in Utah that continues to sell animals entrusted to its care for use in experiments, according to PETA’s blog, The Peta Files.

PETA conducted an undercover investigation and says it found more than 100 animals were purchased from shelters by the University of Utah.

Demonstrations have been held at the shelter, with activists handing out leaflets that warned of the possibility that surrendered dogs and cats could end up being used in experiments. Activists personally rescued two surrendered cats, Angel and Libby, who might have otherwise ended up being used in experiments. The organization is urging supporters to join a campaign calling for an end to the shelter’s practice.

You can learn more about the campaign here.

Anti-dogfighting PSA gives voice to dogs

 

I’m all for giving dogs a voice, I just get a little creeped out when it’s a human one.

Talking dog movies, for example, strike me as another example of making them (dogs) more like us (humans), when they are perfect just as they are — and when they’re not, it’s usually because of something we humans imposed on them.

Nevertheless, this public service announcement from KnockOutDogFighting.org is so well done, and rings so true, and is for such a good cause, it’s worth a look.

The Knock Out Dog Fighting program is an award-winning anti-dogfighting campaign that makes use of professional athletes – professional boxers and fighters who partner with schools, juvenile detention facilities, community centers, community-based organizations, dog trainers, law enforcement agencies and gang prevention task forces with the goal of stopping cruelty and abuse.

The program identifies the underlying reasons kids and young adults are fighting dogs and provides resources and youth intervention programs to address those issues, working to help at-risk youth make better choices and develop empathy for animals.

What’s in a name? Ask Young Boozer

Does what you name a dog shape that dog’s personality? Will “Killer” turn out to be one? Of course not. Dogs, or for that matter, people, don’t always live up to their names, which is fortunate for Young Boozer.

It was while driving through Alabama last week that I first became aware — through a campaign ad on the radio — of Young Boozer, a former banker who is running for state treasurer.

I started scouting for his campaign signs, but, amid the thousands of candidate signs stuck in the ground last week, I couldn’t find one bearing his name, which is just as well because I would have been tempted to take it.

I did find his campaign ad online though (above), which ends with the tagline: “Funny name, serious leadership.”

Today, we’re happy to report that Young Boozer’s name didn’t hold him down. He won the Republican primary over another name that may ring some bells: George Wallace Jr.

 Young Boozer captured 64 percent of the vote in the primary, the Gadsden Times reports.

Young Boozer– he’s actually Young Boozer III, meaning there were two other Young Boozers before him — will face Democratic candidate Charley Grimsley in the general election.

Postal service wants to stamp out dog bites

Happy National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Once again, the U.S. Postal Service — 2,863 of whose letter carriers were bitten last year — is launching its annual dog bite prevention campaign.

And that’s just part of a larger effort aimed at reducing the 4.7 million dog bites that occur each year,  mostly with youngsters as the victims.

Half of all U.S. children will be bitten by a dog by the time they’re high school seniors, says pediatrician Alison Tothy, chairwoman of the committee on injury and poison prevention of the American Academy of Pediatrics Illinois chapter.

The academy, postal service, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and several other groups have joined in the National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 16 – 22) campaign, according to UPI.

Here are the tips the Postal Service provides on avoiding dog bites.

– Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.

– If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.

– Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.

– If you believe a dog is about to attack, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

Dog owners, meanwhile, are encouraged to keep dogs inside and away from the door when the postal carrier comes, and to not let children take mail from the carrier in the presence of a dog.

(Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)

Dachshund killer gets 1/6th of max sentence

An email campaign, aimed at ensuring dachshund killer Dudley Ramsay receive a full two-year sentence for fatally bashing his dog against a bathtub, failed to produce the intended result.

Ramsay was sentenced to just four months in prison on Friday by New York Judge Michael Gary.

Ramsay, of Fort Greene, was convicted of aggravated animal cruelty in March for disciplining the 5-month-old dog, named Junior, by smashing him against a bathtub, causing six fractured ribs and damage to the pup’s lungs and liver, according to The Brooklyn Paper. Then he waited several hours before taking the dog to a veterinary hospital, where he died.

Syzmanski

An email campaign was launched after Ramsay’s conviction by Mike Szymanski, of Greenwood Heights, who owns three dachshunds and writes the Dachshund Examiner for Examiner.com.

“This is a tragedy,” said Szymanski, who noted Ramsay had freely admitted by then to killing another dachshund earlier. The sentence, he said, “is a fraction of what Ramsay certainly deserves. It was a slap on the wrist and showed that the judge didn’t care.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said it received over 100 emails from pet owners across the country, demanding that Ramsay gets the maximum sentence. Deputy District Attorney Carol Moran pushed for the maximum sentence, the spokesman said, but the sentencing decision rested with the judge.

“People have to realize that Dachshund lovers can be way more radical than the Tea Party if we find out than an injustice has been done,” Szymanski said. “This is something that could cost this judge his office.”

PETA drops plans to use Tiger Woods in ad

tigerpeta

 
Tiger Woods’ attorneys apparently growled loudly enough to dissuade PETA  from using the troubled golfer’s image in a public service announcement for spaying and neutering.

So now the organization is considering using South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford instead as their roll in the hay model.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals planned to put up billboards bearing Woods’ face and the slogan, “Too much sex can be a bad thing … for little tigers too. Help keep cats (and dogs) out of trouble: Always spay or neuter!”

After lawyers for the golfer threatened to sue if his image was used, PETA set its sites on Sanford for a similar billboard, with  the possible tagline: “Your dog doesn’t have to go to South America to get laid,” the New York Post reports.

The ad campaign is aimed at preventing millions of abandoned cats and dogs from being euthanized at shelters each year.

PETA now  intends to poke fun at Sanford, who flew to Buenos Aires last year for a romantic assignation with someone other than his wife — when he claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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