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Tag: culture

The dogs of Amazon: Their numbers keep growing

Just as the number of employees is skyrocketing at Amazon’s Seattle campus, so too are the number of dogs.

Not too long ago, the company boasted that 4,000 dogs were coming to work regularly with employees.

In this recent post on the Amazon blog, it was revealed there are now 6,000 dogs “working” at Amazon’s Seattle campus, which has about 40,000 employees.

Of course not that many show up on campus every day — only about 500 do — but that’s the number of dogs Amazon’s dogs at work program has registered.

For those who do come along, it’s a pretty sweet set up. They have a “doggie deck” with a fake fire hydrant where dogs can run around and burn off energy. They also have “Dogs Only” water fountains, a 1,000-square-foot dog park with rocks and other structures to climb on, poop bag stations, designated dog relief areas, receptionists armed with dog treats, a doggie treat truck called The Seattle Barkery, and regularly scheduled dog events.

Amazon even has it’s own equivalent of a human resources chief for dogs — Lara Hirschfield, the company’s “Woof Pack” manager.

“The dog-friendly policy also contributes to the company’s culture of collaboration.” Hirschfield said in the blog post. “Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection. I see Amazonians meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs.”

There are no breed or size restrictions.

The policy reflects the company’s belief that pets at work can reduce stress, increase productivity, improve morale, expedite social interaction, improve job satisfaction and provide companionship. A few moments relaxing with a dog, can improve concentration on the job afterwards.

The dog friendly policy dates back to a pup named Rufus, a Welsh corgi who belonged to Amazon’s former editor-in-chief and principal engineer. Rufus came to work every day, and employees would even use Rufus’ paw to click a computer mouse when launching early pages on Amazon. Rufus died in 2009, and a building on the Amazon campus is named after him.

You can see more of the dogs of Amazon here.

Japanese robot dog can tell you if your feet are stinky

It’s one thing — one seemingly very strange thing — to build a robot whose only job is to tell us if our feet stink.

But to make it in the form of a fluffy little white dog? That’s a pretty odious, and odorous, task to assign to the species, even a robot member of the species, and it’s degrading to robot dogs everywhere — many of which perform far more important duties, like sitting, and laying down, and barking and fetching a ball.

This new odor-detecting technology comes from Japan, which leads the world in producing robot dogs.

Its name is Hana-chan, and the six-inch long robot dog from Next Technology has a built-in odor detection sensor in its nose that assesses just how malodorous you feet may be, according to Japan Times.

JAPAN-TECHNOLOGY-ROBOT-OFFBEATIf your feet are slightly smelly, Hana-chan will bark. If they are truly pungent, Hana-chan will faint and fall over on its side.

But not before spraying a little air freshener on your toes.

Hana is the Japanese word for nose and Chan is a common girl’s nickname.

Next Technology plans to start selling the robot dog in early 2018 — at about $900 each.

Now, as absurd as Hana-chan might seem, the product makes more sense when you consider the cultural context.

Traditional Japanese remove their shoes before entering a home — both their own and those of others.

Traditional Japanese are also respectful, and not as likely as, say, an American friend — or wife — to blurt out, “Jesus! Your feet stink.”

Next Technology says it created the robot in response to a request from a man who suspected he had a foot odor issue.

“He told us his daughter had said his feet were smelly . . . But he didn’t want to know how bad the odor was because he would feel hurt,” a company representative said. “That’s why we developed this cute robot.”

With the robot dog, people can avoid the embarrassment of being told their feet stink, or perhaps the even greater embarrassment of not being told and offending everyone in the room.

(Photo: Next Technology)

When is a hoarder not a hoarder?


If you were to pick up Jung Myoung Sook, her 200 dogs and her ramshackle hillside compound and plop them down in rural America, she’d be consider a hoarder for sure.

But in South Korea, where the dogs she’s caring for might well have otherwise ended up as meals in homes and restaurants, she’s really more of a saint.

Her neighbors don’t always feel that way, but I do.

Jung, who was featured on NBC Nightly News last week, has had to pack up and relocate seven times in the more than 25 years she has been rescuing dogs, due to complaints from those living nearby.

Jung picks ups strays living on the street, and she has also bought dogs that were headed to be sold for their meat.

The AP article said all the dogs in the compound appeared to be healthy.

While a small minority of South Koreans eat dog meat, dogs are raised on farms for that purpose, and can be bought, slaughtered and butchered at open-air markets.

While it has been six years since I visited one there, while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on dog cloning, I haven’t been able to get those images out of my head since.

Seeing Jung’s smiling face, and reading of her work, helps some.

“My babies aren’t hungry. They can play and live freely here,” said Jung, 61. “Some people talk about me, saying, ‘Why is that beggar-like middle-aged woman smiling all the time,’ but I just focus on feeding my babies. I’m happy and healthy.”

Corn dog, horn dog, porn dog


We all know what a corn dog is, and most of us know what a horn dog is, but what about the newest dog-derived term that is popping up in the news media:

Porn dog?

We humans tend to stick “dog” at the end of other words with reckless abandon — hang dog, hot dog, top dog, underdog, salty dog, shaggy dog, lucky dog, sly dog.

We’re prone to sticking “dog” at the beginning of phrases also — dog days, dog-eared, dog tired, dog eat dog, dog and pony show — and it doesn’t seem to matter whether there is any rhyme or reason or logic to it.

Sometimes the phrases are based on supposed traits pertaining to dogs, sometimes not — as in raining cats and dogs.

Today’s etymological discussion, aimed at clearing up such misnomers, will be limited to three dog terms, starting with the corn dog, a simple little invention with a long-running dispute over its origin.

Carl and Neil Fletcher claim they introduced the world to “Corny Dogs” at the Texas State Fair sometime between 1938 and 1942. Pronto Pup, which sells corn dogs at the Minnesota State Fair, says it invented the cornmeal covered, deep fried treat in 1941. Cozy Dog Drive-in, in Springfield, Illinois, claims to have been the first to serve corn dogs on sticks in 1946 — the same year Dave Barham opened the first location of Hot Dog on a Stick.

Possibly, they are all wrong. Author Linda Campbell, in “300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles,” points out that a “Krusty Korn Dog” baker machine appeared in the 1929 Albert Pick-L. Barth wholesale catalog of hotel and restaurant supplies.

And two years earlier, in 1927, a patent was filed for a device for making battered and deep fried foods, wieners included, impaled on a stick.

(Similarly, the origin of the term “hot dog” is hotly debated, with numerous Americans saying they invented the term for what originated as a German (or Austrian) sausage. The exact year the term “hot dog” began being used as a synonym for “show-off” is not known, but my guess is surfers were behind it.)

horn-dogLess disputed — and far more insulting to dogs, we would submit — is the phrase “horn dog.”

Merriam-Webster defines it as a slang term for “a lustful or sexually aggressive man.” It says the term’s first known use was around 1984.

Dictionary.com says that while the word “horny” dates back to the 1300’s, using it to describe sexual arousal didn’t begin until the latter half of the 1800s. Initially, it was used only to describe male excitement — a man was said to “have the horn” — but eventually it was applied to women as well.

Similarly, the term “horn dog” is most often applied to men, though some females have commented online that, hey, they can be horn dogs, too.

Why did we humans feel the need to tack “dog” onto horn? Like many other phrases using the word dog — and I’m being serious for a moment here — it is based on an outdated and negative view of dogs as beasts who live only to sleep, eat and mate.

All of those are worthy pursuits, but admitting they are what we humans live for (when in reality, we also like to make and spend money) is to portray us as animals, and we like to think we are more than that. So calling someone a horn dog, as opposed to a horn human, somehow makes life easier.

What the phrase, and many dog phrases, overlook is that in reality, more often that not, someone “behaving like a dog” is actually an improvement.

Which brings us to porn dogs.

This one is clearly a misnomer. It’s not someone who watches XXX-rated movies that were filmed in seedy motels (fleabags, perhaps?). Although that (given the pre-existence of the phrase horn dog) would make sense.

Instead, it’s being used to describe dogs who are trained to sniff out a certain adhesive used in electronic storage devices, such as thumb drives, hard drives, and SD cards.

You may recall that such a dog discovered the key evidence that led to a guilty plea in the child pornography case against Jared Fogle, the former Subway spokesperson.

That’s when the term “porn dog” first popped up, and now it’s being perpetuated by others. It doesn’t describe what the dogs do at all, but the term has more zing to it, and is easier to say than “electronic storage device adhesive-sniffing dog.”

“It’s extremely catching and fitting, because that’s what it’s there to do, sniff out child pornographers,” said Jon Dumas, whose organization, Montgomery County Crimestoppers, helped buy such a dog for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department in Texas.

Actually, it’s not fitting at all because the dogs are sniffing out devices, not pornography, and because child pornography doesn’t smell any different from adult pornography, and because any number of things — incriminating and not incriminating — can be stored on a thumb drive.

The specially-trained dog, named Brody, is a chocolate Labrador, KHOU reported.

The new “porn dog” is expected to arrive next month, at which time I’m sure everyone will continue to refer to him as the “porn dog” — to the detriment of dogs, to the detriment of Brody and in defiance of truth.

Humans these days play a little too fast and loose with labels, both in terms of applying them and accepting them. If it’s catchy enough, it doesn’t have to be factual, we seem to think.

Take this year’s hot Christmas gift — the “hoverboard.”

On top of the fact that it is maiming people left and right, it doesn’t hover at all. It has wheels, and it stays on the ground — at least until you fly off of it and break a bone.

Yet everyone — or at least everyone who doesn’t want a drone — wants a hoverboard.

Doggone stupid, is it not?

U.S. ambassador to South Korea receives outpouring of respect, love … and dog meat


It may not have been the most diplomatic of gifts,  but one of  Mark Lippert’s well-wishers had only good intentions when he delivered a package of dog meat for the hospitalized U.S. ambassador.

Lippert, who is recovering from an attack by a knife-wielding anti-U.S. activist, is a dog lover who regularly walks his basset hound, Grigsby, near his residence in Seoul.

The gift, delivered to Seoul’s Severance Hospital Friday morning by an elderly man, didn’t make it to Lippert’s room. Hospital rules prohibit any outside food being delivered to patients.

The gift giver said the package contained dog meat and seaweed soup, according to an official who didn’t want to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, according to the Associated Press.

Some South Koreans believe dog meat promotes health, heals wounds and can help patients recover from surgery.

The Thursday attack left Lippert with deep gashes on his face and arm and damaged tendons and nerves. The hospital plans to remove the 80 stiches on Lippert’s face on Monday and Tuesday and release him on Wednesday.

The suspect in the attack, Kim Ki-jong, 55, could face charges including attempted murder, assaulting a foreign envoy, obstruction, and violating a controversial law that bans praise or assistance for North Korea.

(Photo: South Korean conservative activists hold portraits of Lippert during a rally for his quick recovery; by Ahn Young-Joon / Associated Press)

South Korean dog farmer agrees to raise dog meat no more — and switch to blueberries


A South Korean dog farmer has signed a pact with an animal welfare organization, agreeing to stop raising dogs for meat and, in exchange for some financial assistance, devote his acreage instead to growing blueberries.

The agreement included his relinquishing 23 dogs from the farm, which Humane Society International have transported to Washington for future adoption.

While the organization has been working to sway dog farmers to turn to other crops, “This is the first farm that we were able to negotiate with and make an agreement to shut the doors for good,” said Kelly O’Meara, of HSI.

She says her group met with the farmer, and he has pledged that from now on he will focus on growing blueberries.

HSI, the international affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, is working to reduce the dog meat trade in Asia, including South Korea, where dogs are farmed for the industry. HSI hopes to work with more South Korean dog meat farmers to help them transition out of the business.

Dogs kept on meat farms are kept outdoors in crowded cages. “They live there their entire lives. They never get out of the cage; they never are handled by people,” O’Meara said.

Of the 23 dogs that were rescued from the farm, about half arrived Monday night in Alexandria.WTOP reported. The rest arrived at the shelter on Tuesday.

“We’ve given them all new beds and comfy toys and all those things they’ve probably never had before,” said Megan Webb, executive director of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.

Five other area shelters have agreed to help house the dogs until they find find forever homes: the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the City of Manassas Animal Control and Adoption Shelter, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Loudoun County Animal Services and the Washington Animal Rescue League.

HSI’s O’Meara said about one to two million dogs are consumed in South Korea a year, most of which are raised on such farms.

(Photo: Humane Society International)

How a dog named Scout avoided becoming dinner and became the life of the party


Talk about your culture shock.

One week, this chow mix appeared destined to become somebody’s dinner. The next — after being rescued from a dog meat market in Yulin, China — he was mingling with celebrities and members of congress at a Humane Society of the United States’s (HSUS) gala in Washington, D.C.

Just two nights after arriving in the U.S., the dog, since named Scout, was the life of the party at a fundraiser that brought in more than $100,000 in pledges for Humane Society International (HSI) to open an office in Vietnam that will work to end the custom of eating dogs, according to HSUS Chief Program and Policy Officer Mike Markarian

The event was part of last week’s Taking Action for Animals conference.

Dog meat for sale in a shop in Yulin city, Guangxi province June 20, 2014.Scout was one of 200 dogs recently rescued by Chinese animal protection activists from a dog meat market in Yulin.

Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China specialist, was in Yulin with other activists protesting a dog meat festival.

He came across Scout and another pup, sharing a small cage on the back of a motorcycle, and purchased them from a vendor, according to a Humane Society blog. Li kept one of the dogs and shipped the other to the U.S.

Days later, rather than being dinner, Scout attended one, where he was showered with attention, according to Animal Issues Reporter.

While the 12-week-old dog has landed in the lap of luxury, Scout will likely be earning his keep, becoming a poster boy in the campaign to end the consumption of dogs by some humans in some Asian countries

“I would really like to make sure he’s an ambassador to the community” said Leslie Barcus, HSI board member and executive director of VegFund, who adopted Scout. “We could use his help for educational purposes about the plight of street dogs and of dogs used as food —  for human consumption –across Asia and other parts of the world. He’ll be in the community a lot, and he’ll be a friend of everybody.”

(Photos: HSUS)