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Your Friday flashback: Owner asked that her dog be put down; stronger wills prevailed

Sido in the wind.jpg

When Mary Murphy died in San Francisco 35 years ago, a provision of her will named her dog, Sido — but not as what you might call a beneficiary.

Murphy asked in her will that Sido, an 11-year-old part collie, part sheepdog, be killed.

Murphy didn’t want her dog languishing in a shelter, or ending up as part of a laboratory research project, and she feared that even if she did get adopted, her new family might not be as loving and caring as she had been.

In short, she thought Sido would be better off dead.

It all made for a fascinating little story (with big implications) back in 1980, with the case ending up in court and making it onto the June 17 broadcast of the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.”

It was animal advocate Richard Avanzino who, after the terms of Murphy’s will became known, took up Sido’s cause, and took in Sido, serving as the dog’s foster parent until things got straightened out in court. At the time, he was head of the San Francisco SPCA.

“There’s no justification for her life to be taken,” Avanzino said at the time. “She’s committed no crime. The only crime that she committed was that she loved totally her master and for that she’s been condemned to die.”

CBS dug up the original news report this week, and reinterviewed Avanzino — soon to retire as head of Maddie’s Fund, the largest dog and cat charity in the world.

Today, Avanzino considers Sido the original poster child for the no-kill movement.

sido2“Sido was just the quintessential champion for animal rescue,” he said. “I’m eternally grateful for the time that I had with her but more importantly for the great role she played in telling America that we can be a no-kill nation.”

“I took Sido into my home realizing that the lawsuit would probably take months to resolve the outcome and Sido joined my family as a foster pet,” Avanzino told CBS News this week from San Francisco.

Avanzino fought in court for Sido’s life, arguing that the dog wasn’t “property.”

At the same time, he and others lobbied state politicians to work on a measure that would save Sido’s life.

A bill was drafted, passed and sent to then-Governor Jerry Brown to consider.

The judge’s ruling came the same day the governor signed the bill.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jay Pfotenhauer — whose name, CBS pointed out, translates to Paw-Slapper from German — decided that the killing of pets as personal property no longer had validity and that pets have rights.

Sido was spared, and spent the next five years as a member of Avanzino’s family.

On Sido’s 16th birthday, just hours before the cake was to be cut, Sido had a stroke and was rushed to UC Davis Veterinary School. She died three days later.

Avanzino says he believes Sido’s case served to inspire animal lovers, and help stem the number of euthanizations across the country.

In 1980, 16 million dogs and cats were killed in shelters; today that number is closer to 2.7 million.

(Photos: Courtesy of Richard Avanzino)

Is Fox News biased (against big dogs)?

Of all the adoptable pet segments we’ve seen on local TV news, this one — featuring a large dog named Titus — might be our favorite.

Right off the bat, we’d say a dog who has been labeled as one who “needs to live alone” — code for not getting along with other dogs — probably shouldn’t appear on a live TV adoption segment with other dogs.

In the video above, Titus appears on the Fox morning show Good Day New York with animal activist Cornelia Guest and two other dogs — “little treasures,” as she calls them, named Arabella and Nonny.

An 8-year-old Saint Bernard, Titus “wants to be the only dog, he doesn’t want to be with other brothers and sisters,” Guest — a vegan, socialite, caterer and animal activist — explains, while holding the two smaller dogs, just a few feet away, in her arms.

Titus, though neither the show hosts nor Guest seem to notice, is sitting like a statue, entirely focused on the two small dogs as the hosts ask Guest what he likes to eat.

It’s right about then that Titus begins advancing in the direction of the smaller dogs — and Guest’s face, just for a moment, takes on the horrified look of someone who is about to be dinner.

Being a Saint Bernard, Titus is not to be swayed, and even though Guest tries to spin out of his way, he still manages to get in a good sniff of one of her little treasures, which is probably all he wanted in the first place.

After that, he’s tugged out of camera range by a stage hand, and remains out of view for the rest of the segment, in which Guest goes on to tout the other dogs — as well as the vegan chocolate chip cookies her company makes.

All this leads us to ask, did Titus get the respect he deserved when he appeared on Good Day New York? It seemed every remark the hosts made about him was based on big dog stereotypes. It seems he was rudely led off camera for merely wanting to satisfy his sniffer.

Might Fox News, in addition to all the others it so closely holds, have a bias against big dogs?

Compare and contrast the first video with how respectfully Titus was treated, and how calmly he behaved, in an earlier adoptable dog segment on New York’s CBS2. He was quiet and reserved — even though there, too, he was paired with another dog.

We won’t go so far as to suggest there is a different, more dog eat dog, more hate and fear mongering vibe in the Fox News studios, and that maybe Titus was picking up on that. (Woops, I think we just did.)

We’ll just say that this proves dogs, unlike Fox News folk, are unpredictable.

Perhaps I’m biased, and perhaps it’s mean to add this, but I definitely detect a higher degree of on-air air-headedness among the Fox hosts than their CBS counterparts.

I base this on their comments, such as:

She: “I hope Titus doesn’t take a bite of your … whiteus.”

He: “I’ve got a new name for him, Cujo.”

He: “This is a great big dog. I think it’s one of those St. Bernards that usually … they have whiskey and they find those stranded mountain hikers.”

He: “Oh, is he not supposed to go near that dog? He’s not biting them is he?”

All that said, and while admitting to our anti-Fox News bias, we think any network, station or news outlet that uses valuable time/space to showcase adoptable dogs can’t be all bad.

Titus is available for adoption at the Humane Society of New York, as are those little treasures, Nonny and Arabella.

Something different on Saturday morning

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As part of its continuing effort to make Saturday morning television less cartoony and more educational, CBS is premiering a show whose host rescues a dog every week.

We applaud (almost) everything about that idea.

In the show, called “Lucky Dog,” dog trainer Brandon McMillan will rescue, train and find homes for 22 dogs in 22 weeks.

McMillan, who is said to have trained as many as 10,000 dogs — some for television and movie roles — will choose a dog each week from a shelter, bring him home, train him and find him a good home, according to the Associated Press.

The show, produced by Litton Entertainment, airs Saturday mornings (check your local listings) and is targeted to teens 13 to 16 years old.

According to McMillan, he will not pick any dogs for the show who have abuse in their past — something he says he can detect in his first 30 seconds with a dog.

While he works with those dogs on his own time, he says they won’t appear on “Lucky Dog” because “the viewers that watch this show are not going to want to see a dog that’s been in a fight. This is a family show.”

We — though liking the basis for the show — think that kind of thinking is wrong, and a cop-out, and a missed opportunity for educating an age group that needs to be educated about animal abuse, at least by 13, if not sooner.

“Lucky Dog” is one of four new shows replacing  Saturday morning cartoons at CBS, at least in part to fulfill the network’s requirement for educational television.

And it sounds as if — much like the cereal ads it will appear amid — it will be heavily sugar-coated.

But at least it’s educational.

McMillan, 36 , said he will likely choose dogs he “makes a connection with,” then train them so they are proficient in seven common commands — sit, stay, down, come, off, heel and no.

McMillan will choose the family each dog will go to by evaluating emails he receives at his Southern California ranch — the Lucky Dog Ranch — and checking out the house and yard where the new dog will live. He’ll also spend a couple of hours training the family.

Bo and Michelle surprise White House visitors

In honor of the one year anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, Michelle Obama signaled their commitment to creating a more accessible White House by surprising visitors attending public tours.

That included access to Bo, as well — though he’s barely visible in this clip. We’ll just have to assume that he does indeed have a tongue.

“We’d be better off if we acted more like dogs”

In his weekly commentary on CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday, Bob Schieffer passed along some anonymous wisdom, well worth sharing, about what we can learn from dogs.

Christmas countdown: Happy holidays to all

Today we begin our Christmas countdown — an eclectic mix of videos that will serve as our way of wishing you the happiest of holidays.

Of course, we’ll still be bringing you dog news as well this week — along with some possible posts related to my Christmas guests, all of whom are canines. In addition to my dog Ace, I’ll be hosting three other dogs this week whose owners are off to visit family.

There’s Lucas — an old yellow Lab who huffs, puffs and dawdles almost as much as me on his walks in the park. There’s Darcy, a young Boston terror, I mean terrier, who is a perpetually bouncing bundle of energy. And there’s Cheyenne, a sweet 11-year-old yellow Lab who, though bred to be a guide dog, didn’t make the cut, then at age 5 began going blind herself.

The more the merrier, I figured.

But back to our holiday greetings. We’ll be bringing you one a day all week, starting with this vintage R.O. Blechman animation that CBS aired in 1966 as a Christmas message to viewers.

A loyal dog on a lonely stretch of highway


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When Kathy Wilkes-Myers of Love Me Tender Animal Rescue found a Rottweiler on the side of a highway in Tennessee, she immediately got the feeling the dog belonged to somebody — she wasn’t as timid and untrusting as most abandoned dogs.

“I could just tell right away she was somebody’s baby. She just didn’t act like a stray dog to me,” said Wilkes-Myers, who found the dog a few months ago, emaciated and drinking from a drainage ditch along the road.

Wilkes-Myers suspected there was more to the dog’s story, and began doing some detective work.

She returned to where she found the dog, and found the first clues – broken glass and tail lights. Not far away she found a pile of personal items — a toothbrush, comb, razor, and a candle with “Michelle” written on it — that had been gathered, apparently by the dog.

“It was like she was sleeping with them – or waiting with them,” Wilkes-Myers told Steve Hartman of CBS News.

It was then she remembered driving by a bad accident on the same stretch of highway, two weeks earlier.  A car had flipped over and landed on the side of the road, crunched up so badly she was sure there were no survivors.

But it led her to wonder — might the dog have been in the car?

When the highway patrol told her the names of the victims — including a mother named Michelle, the pieces came together.

Ella apparently spent  13 days scavenging for food along the highway – and 13 nights bedding down with whatever she could find that smelled like her lost family, Hartman reported.

Wilkes-Myers also found out that all five members of the family survived the crash. After two weeks believing that their dog, Ella, had died, the Kellys got the good news and were reunited with their dog.

Because of their medical expenses, the Kelly family has had to relocate to temporary housing that doesn’t allow dogs, but Wilkes-Myers has promised to keep Ella for as long as they need.