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Who wouldn’t be distracted by Pluto?

Testing how calm he could remain amid the crowds and distractions was exactly the reason Ace, a guide dog in training, was taken to Disneyland.

But throwing Pluto into the mix seems almost unfair.

Ace, who began his formal training with Guide Dogs of America at the end of January, was with his caretaker, Sandy Steinblums, when they bumped into Pluto.

While he might not have followed his training to the letter, Ace did calm down after some initial excitement and, once directed to stay a few times, he did a pretty good job, given Pluto was egging him on.

Steinblums said that, though it’s not in the video, Ace remained in the stay position for several minutes.

A video of the meeting was posted on Disney Dorks, a Disney fan page on Facebook, and it has been shared more than 15 million times in three days.

Ace will undergo six to nine months of training before he graduates and is matched with a human.

Dog rental company comes under scrutiny

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Want all the joys of having a dog and none of the responsibility?

You could do the smart thing, and avoid getting a dog.

You could volunteer with a shelter or humane society, or go to dog parks and get your doggie fix by hanging out and bonding with other people’s canines.

Or you could turn to a company — and make no mistake, it is a company — like Hannah the Pet Society.

Based in Oregon, it is a pet leasing company, and more — much more.

Picture a combination of a pet store, Jenny Craig, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motel 6 and eHarmony, with your own personal trainer and what used to be called burial insurance thrown in.

Hannah the Pet Society will match you up with a dog, and provide that dog with what it calls “Total Lifetime Care” — from dog food to boarding, from veterinary care to final arrangements.

All for a start-up fee and “low” monthly payment.

Founded in 2010, it offers a whole new model of pet ownership that really isn’t pet ownership at all.

Hannah retains ownership of all the dogs it places, which means that, under the law, it can apparently do with them as it pleases, including euthanizing them.

Last month, after Seattle Dog Spot exposed some of the questionable practices at Hannah, an investigation began into complaints against the company that include unnecessarily euthanizing three dogs in November.

The Oregonian reported yesterday that the state Department of Justice is looking into the euthanizations and the 10 complaints and two lawsuits filed against the company since 2012.

The euthanizations were brought to light by a dog rescue in Vancouver, Washington, which posted about them on Facebook to warn other shelters and rescues that may be providing dogs to Hannah:

“Two weeks ago Hannah the Pet Society euthanized 3 shelter dogs – Pip, Charlie Bear and Kelso. Rather than offer them back to the shelters they came from or provide the support that they needed to rehabilitate them, Hannah chose to kill them. We’re sending this information to as many shelters as possible to get the word out.

“These may have been dogs that they received from you. I know that you work hard to save as many animals as possible. Unfortunately Hannah does not have the same passionate commitment as you do. When you provide an animal to Hannah, there is no guarantee that they won’t put to sleep an animal that could be re-homed with a little bit of effort. There is no guarantee that they will return an animal to you.

“You may want to reconsider working with Hannah. At the very least, please think twice before putting an innocent life into their hands.”

Hannah chief executive Fred Wich said all three dogs had bitten people and been deemed aggressive. Here’s one of them:

Wich said returning the dogs to the shelters they came from would have been irresponsible.

Those who have gotten dogs through Hannah are required to feed that dog the food Hannah supplies, get veterinary care from the vets Hannah specifies and, to get out of their contract when a dog dies, bring proof of that death — often the dog’s carcass — to Hannah headquarters.

Hannah also offers to provide a dog that is a perfect and “harmonious” match for a potential customer, using a “proprietary placement process was created exclusively by Hannah with the help of psychologists, veterinary behaviorists and personality testing experts.”

Hannah offers, or claims to offer, so many things that it defies simple description.

But we’ll describe it this way — it’s creepy, and becomes even creepier yet when you throw in the fact that company officials decline to say where the dogs it places come from, except to say some come from shelters.

Several shelters in the northwest say they had relationships with Hannah in the past, but have terminated them.

Apparently they’ve come to realize what has been proven over and over again — dog leasing, for profit, isn’t a good idea. It’s a business model that may work with automobiles, but not with family members.

When is a hoarder not a hoarder?

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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.”

This year’s Super Bowl ads left me cold

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This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads was disappointing — and not just because there weren’t enough commercials with dogs in them.

I counted two ads in which dogs played a significant role, compared to nearly a dozen featuring celebrities, among them Alec Baldwin, Jeff Goldblum, Helen Mirren, Amy Schumer, Anthony Hopkins, Seth Rogen, Christopher Walken, Kevin Hart, Willem Dafoe, Liam Neeson, Ryan Reynolds and Drake.

woof in advertisingThat seemed to be the theme — if there was one — to this year’s ads: Let’s get some overexposed celebrities and expose them a little more.

And throw in a dizzying amount of special effects.

Yes, there was that stampede of dachshunds, all in hot dog costumes, making a mad dash for the Heinz family of condiments:

And there were those dogs scheming on how to get their paws on some of the Doritos displayed in the grocery store.

Neither of those knocked me out, and they pale in comparison with some of the far more funny, far more human, dog ads of previous Super Bowls.

Several other ads featured dogs in small supporting roles — in an ad with singing sheep, and in one where a town seems to occupied nearly entirely by clones of Ryan Reynolds (as if we’re not already seeing enough of the real one of him).

Then, too, a dog was part — and I do mean part — of my least favorite dog-related Super Bowl ad.

Mountain Dew, in an ad for its new beverage, Kick Start, unveiled a puppy-monkey-baby that looked like it would be more at home in a bad acid trip. I can only assume its creators had a little too much Kick Start during their creative process.

I didn’t keep a tally, but I’m pretty sure monstrous or otherwise fictional creatures far outnumbered dogs in this year’s ads — just as special effects far outnumbered moments of humanity, and flash far outdistanced substance.

I won’t show you the worst of them — that pink blob of bulging intestines wandering the stadium in search of a free bathroom. Nor will I mention the name the prescription drug it advertised. I’ll just remind you that Super Bowl ads cost $5 million per spot — and that’s just for the time.

Throw in the production costs involved with having a celebrity or animated intestinal blob tout your product and you’ll begin to understand why you probably won’t be paying bargain prices for anti-diarrhea meds or your next Hyundai.

All in all, Super Bowl ads this year left me unimpressed, feeling a little cold, and feeling a little old. They often left me creeped out — and I include the “Super Bowl babies” in that group. (Is the NFL so hard up for something to brag about that it must boast that the big game makes people copulate?)

This year’s ads left me longing for some of those ads of previous years — when dogs were dogs, and men were men, and internal organs stayed inside us.

Not being a big fan of talking dogs, dogs in costume, or dogs being part of some monstrous hyperactive multi-species hybrid, I didn’t really have a favorite dog ad among them.

Instead, I’d have to give this year’s top honors to the Subaru ads featured during the Puppy Bowl.

(You can find more of our Woof in Advertising posts here.)

It looked like they needed each other

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A dog at a Canadian pet motel and foster care center broke out of her kennel and positioned herself outside the kennel of two whimpering foster puppies spending their first night there.

The center’s employees had gone home for the night, but when one checked surveillance cameras they saw that a dog named Maggie had somehow gotten out of her kennel and was sitting in front of the kennels the puppies were in.

maggieAlex Aldred said his mother, Sandy, returned to the kennel to put Maggie back in her own kennel.

When Maggie indicated she wanted to be with the pups, Sandy let her into that kennel.

“Sandy stayed in there for about 15 minutes and then said, ‘Well it looks like they need each other,’ and then let Maggie stay the night in their kennel,” Alex Aldred, who also works at Barker’s Pet Motel and Grooming in St. Albert, explained.

“When we came back in the morning they were all still cuddled up together,” he added.

Turns out Maggie had recently had a litter of her own, and all the pups she gave birth to had been adopted.

“We think that’s why she got so attached to the puppies,” Aldred told ABC News. “We’ve never really seen it before, where a dog sneaks out to some puppies and is so excited to see them.”

Deanna Thompson, who works at the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), the organization that rescued the puppies, said she was not surprised by what Maggie did.

“It’s innate in a lot of female dogs, especially if they’ve had a litter in the past. It’s just in their nature. We’ve seen it in a lot of dogs, even with male dogs, when they hear other puppies crying they want to console them and make sure they’re feeling safe.”

(Photos: ABC News)

Number of animals removed from overwhelmed N.C. shelter rises to 700

The number of animals taken from a no-kill shelter in Hoke County, N.C., has risen to nearly 700.

Hoke County sheriff’s deputies and about 140 ASPCA staff members cleared the last of the animals off the 122-acre property Saturday, officials said Monday.

The state shut down The Haven – Friends for Life shelter on Jan. 27, charging its owners, Linden and Stephen Spears, with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

The Spears, who had been barred from their home by court order, are now able to return, said sheriff’s Capt. John Kivett.

“The investigation is still continuing, and possibly more charges will be brought in the very near future,” Kivett told the Fayetteville Observer.

The ASPCA has taken temporary custody of the animals — more than 300 dogs, 250 cats, as well as horses, birds and pigs — and they are being cared for at undisclosed locations across North Carolina.

Investigators also found the remains of 15 dogs buried on the property.

As of Monday, about half of the adult dogs and 182 cats were in isolation due to respiratory illnesses and other contagious conditions. Ten veterinarians have been treating the animals, some of which have open wounds and some of which appeared malnourished.

“Hopefully, they’ll continue to recover,” ASPCA spokeswoman Kelly Krause said. “We will be making sure they are staying healthy, treating them and making sure they have care.”

Once healthy the ASPCA hopes to make the dogs and cats available for adoption, but that can’t happen until a court determines the custody of the animals, she said.

The next court appearance for the Spears is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Dogs vs. cats: The battle goes on

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In the perpetual debate over which makes a better pet — dog or cat — cats have been taking a drubbing lately.

It’s a silly argument to begin with: Why must we deem one species superior? What possible good does that serve? And it’s mostly a waste of time. Converting a dyed-in-the-wool dog lover to a staunch cat lover is about as likely as getting someone to switch from Donald to Hillary.

Yet, conflict seems to be something we humans require, or at least enjoy. And the endless argument does provide fodder for bloggers. And, every now and then, something interesting comes up.

In the past year, scientific and semi-scientific studies comparing dogs and cats have come down more squarely on the side of dogs — enough so that you’ve got to wonder if some cat-hater is behind it all.

dog_wins_tee_cat_tic_tac_toe_1024x1024(For the record, we confess a personal preference for dog right here at the start, though we like cats, too.)

One such study was conducted as part of a new BBC2 documentary called “Cats v. Dogs: Which is Better” — a silly concept for a TV show, though we admit some of what they bring to light is thought provoking.

Dr. Paul Zak, a California neuroscientist, compared how much oxytocin dogs produce compared to cats, and he concluded that dogs love humans more than cats do. Five times as much to be exact.

It has been well documented that bonding, petting and having eye contact with your dog produces increased levels of the oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, in both dog and human.

“It’s one of the chemical measures of love in mammals,” Zak said. “Humans produce the hormone in our brains when we care about someone. For example, when we see our spouse or child the levels in our bloodstream typically rise by 40-60 percent.”

The neuroscientist checked the oxytocin levels in both cats and dogs, taking saliva samples from 10 cats and 10 dogs on two occasions – 10 minutes before a playtime session with their owners and immediately after.

“I was really surprised to discover that dogs produced such high levels of oxytocin .. The dog level of 57.2 percent is a very powerful response. It shows these dogs really care about their owners,” he said.

dog-ppl-vs-cat-ppl4Zak said he was surprised to find any oxytocin at all in cats, which he said had never been tested for the hormone before.

Zak, also known as “Dr.Love,” believes upping our oxytocin (and hugging more) could change the world. He once took blood from an entire wedding party and a sampling of guests, to see how their oxytocin levels went up during the ceremony.

He also spent two years trying to get the Food and Drug Administration to approve his use of oxytocin inhalers on experimental subjects. (In the meantime, as reported in The Guardian, he used one on himself.)

Zak’s determination that canines love us more than felines do was just the latest bit of bad press for cats.

Another recent study, at Manhattanville College in New York, found canines provide humans with more benefits than cats.

The research suggested dog owners are more conscientious, less neurotic and more agreeable than cat owners. Dog owners scored higher in well-being than cat owners on all measures.

Last year, a study at the University of California, Berkeley, found, through web-based surveying, that cat owners were more anxious than cat owners.

If you still don’t believe cats have been getting some bad press, check out this headline on a story about a study of cats last year: “Study: Your cat might be trying to kill you.”

The story dealt with a study by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Bronx Zoo that compared the personality of the domestic cat with bigger, wilder members of the cat species.

The headline … well, it’s what happens when you try to condense a 40-page study into eight catchy words.

So if you find yourself reading/listening to/watching the latest account of which is better, cats or dogs — whether it’s labeled science or not — be at least a little wary.

And if it stresses you out, go pet your dog. Or cat.

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