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Tag: game

Pet Rescue Saga: How I single-handedly saved hundreds of pets from being crushed

petrescuesaga

I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.

But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.

Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first,  but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.

The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.

When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.

It’s not, and it doesn’t.

There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.

Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like –  I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.

No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.

Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)

There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” – like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.

In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress – might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.

“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”

Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.

It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.

I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.

But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.

I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.

Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.

Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)

And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.

But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?

“Dog Wars” is back as “KG Dogfighting”

After a brief hiatus due to copyright infringement concerns, “Dog Wars” — the controversial game app for Android smartphones — is back on the online marketplace, where it’s being offered under the new name of “KG Dogfighting.”

Google’s Android Market website began offering the renamed app Saturday. While originally available for free, it’s now listed at $2.99.

A Google representative said the application was removed last week ”based on a trademark infringement complaint” but did not say at the time whether it would be sold again if those issues were resolved, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The game application allows players to raise and train a virtual pit bull to fight other virtual dogs, garnering streed “cred” and “money in your pocket,” according to its developers.

Among those who have filed complaints about the application with Google is the president of Los Angeles police officer’s union.

In the letter sent to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page, Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber urged Google “to do the right thing and ban this game permanently.”

“The game teaches users how to breed, train, fight, medicate and kill virtual dogs,” Weber wrote. “The entire concept is repulsive and sickening.”

Animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have voiced concerns about the game and urged it be removed from the market.

Kage Games, the creators of the Dog Wars application, said in an email to The Times that the game was meant to educate the public on the evils of animal cruelty.

Objections mount to ‘Dog Wars’ app

Opposition is mounting to the new game app “Dog Wars,” and among those speaking out is Michael Vick.

According to the NBC blog, Digital Life, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who served 21 months in jail for operating a dogfighting ring, released a statement, in conjuntion with the Humane Society of the United States, against the free app, now available as a free download through Google’s Android Market.

“I’ve come to learn the hard way that dogfighting is a dead-end street.  Now, I am on the right side of this issue, and I think it’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app,” Vick is quoted as saying in the statement.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, added, “Android should drop ‘Dog Wars’ from its online market and join the national movement to save dogs from this violent practice. Because “Dog Wars” actually instructs players on how to condition a dog using methods that are standard in organized dogfighting, this game may be a virtual training ground for would-be dogfighters. Its timing and message are all wrong.” 

Meanhile, a petition calling for the game’s removal from the marketplace has been launched at Change.org, the same open petition website on which 150,000 people signed a petition demanding Apple drop a “gay cure” game from its App store. 

(Android is an open source operating system created by Google. While Google does not approve every app offered there, it does maintain a website where people can complain about objectionable content in games and apps. You can find it here.)

The Massachusetts SPCA also has spoken out against the dogfighting game app.

“Although illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, dog fighting remains a pervasive problem in America and is investigated inby the MSPCA’s Law Enforcement department. Dog Wars is a sickening tool that can be used to recruit potential dogfighters about how to train future victims, perpetuate breed specific stereotypes, and undermine the many years of hard work that animal protection agencies, including the MSPCA-Angell, have contributed to ensure strong penalties against dog fighters and spectators,” said Carter Luke, MSPCA-Angell president

“In the past, dog fighting instruction remained underground; however this ‘game’ brings this knowledge to the mainstream public through a tool attractive to young game players. Similar to the Dog Wars application, real life trainers work to ensure a mean temperament in kind animals from puppyhood, subjecting the young animals to ongoing cruelty and neglect, including living without shelter, enduring bouts of starvation, and sustaining beatings. To improve stamina and muscle mass, trainers also impose exhausting treadmill exercises on their dogs and force them to wear heavy chains around their necks. Identical to Dog Wars, the dogs are fed steroids and stimulants to increase their aggression. Dogs who refuse to fight, or consistently lose, may be shot, hanged, drowned, or electrocuted by their trainers. To further promote viciousness, trainers bait their dogs with intentionally wounded dogs, puppies, cats, and other small animals. 

“The training ground that Dog Wars provides has the potential to increase occurrences of animal cruelty as well as violence against humans. In a study performed by the MSPCA and Northeastern University we definitively discovered the correlation between those who abuse both animals and humans. Our research proved that those who abuse animals have the same psychological detachment as those who abuse humans and may harm animals after purposefully injuring people.”

Today’s target: The Minnesota Twins

bullseye

 
Alright, Minnesota Twins. You don’t allow dogs in your new baseball park — named after the Target Corp. So who was that in the box seats behind home plate at your home opener?

Oh, it was Bullseye? The dog Target uses to advertise its chain of discount stores? The one with two red circles painted around her left eye?

That makes it all ok.

NOT!

If dogs are banned, dogs are banned — and it shouldn’t matter how much money her corporate owners have, or even if the stadium is named after the corporation she represents.

If you’re going to allow Target corporate honchos to bring a dog in, you need to allow everyone else as well — and not just those who can afford to buy a $275 box seat behind home plate for their dog. Those in the right field bleachers should be allowed, too.

Bullseye “was there after the [military jet] flyover [and] through the bottom of the first inning,” Chris Iles, a Twins spokesman, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Iles took the opportunity to caution fans against bringing their pets to a game.

“Any type of service animal is allowed, but no other animals,” he said. “That said, given the commitment Target has made to the organization, we made a one-time decision to allow Bullseye, a highly trained and constantly supervised dog, to sit in a seat for a half-inning.”

Baloney.

Lena Michaud, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target, said Tuesday that Bullseye was in one of Target’s corporate seats merely as “a fun element to commemorate the day. … That was the vein in which it was intended.”

More baloney. (I’d spell it correctly — bologna — but that is not the vein in which it is intended.)

The Twins/Target front offices can spin the situation until the cows come home, but the message has already been received: Rules don’t apply to the very rich, especially those who help pay for your stadium.

On top of rising ticket and concession prices, baseball continues to give blue collar fans, us average mutts, the brush off – becoming ever closer to becoming a game played by the rich for the rich.

How do you think a fan who can no longer to afford to go to a game might have felt sitting at home and seeing a dog in the $275 box seats behind home plate? Sorry, the Twins seem to be saying, we welcome rich people, and their dogs, but you, Joe Sixpack, are just not in our league … And don’t even think of bringing your non-painted dog, that doesn’t have a corporate logo stamped on his eye,  in here.

(Actually, Bullseye’s bullseye is applied by a trainer and makeup artist –  Rose Ordile of Animals of a Different Color — using nontoxic red paint.)

Michaud said there was no commercial shot or marketing strategy surrounding Bullseye’s attendance. The dog sat in a custom-made Twins jersey with her name on the back as well as the number 10 to commemorate the Target Field opening in 2010.

The six-year-old miniature bull terrier’s presence at Monday night’s game was captured via television frame grab off ESPN.

Dog shoots hunter in the back

A California man was treated and released after being shot in the back by his dog.

The unidentified 53-year-old man was hunting in Merced County when he set the safety on his loaded shotgun and put it on the ground while he grabbed his decoy ducks, according to the Fresno Bee.

Merced County sheriff’s officials say the hunter’s black Lab stepped on the loaded shotgun, causing the safety to release and the gun to fire.

Take Mimi out to the ballgame

 

The Houston Astros let the dogs out yesterday — with more than 300 taking to the field, then the stands, for the first annual Bring Your Dog to the Game Day.

Half of the $20 ticket price went to benefit the Houston Humane Society.

Vick makes his debut as a Philadelphia Eagle

Michael Vick received a rousing ovation from Philadelphia Eagles fans last night when he took the field for the first time.

Only a handful of protesters gathered at the stadium before Thursday night’s exhibition game against Jacksonville, including three women who held a sign outside Lincoln Financial Field that said, “Murderers are not role models.”

Inside the stadium, though, Eagles fans, some clad in Vick jerseys, defended the quarterback, saying he had been punished for his crime and deserved a second chance.

Prior to the game, as fans tailgated outside the stadium, dog lovers were holding a competing tailgate party on the other side of town.

It was part of the Pennsylvania SPCA’s “2nd Chance Dogs” campaign to increase awareness of dogfighting and encourage adoption of rescued pit bulls. The initiative was launched after the Eagles signed Vick, upon completion of his 18 month term in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring.

“As a lot of people have pointed out, the animals never got a second chance,” the SPCA chief executive Sue Cosby said. “We need to speak for them.”

Dog missing after Hurricane Ike returns home

One of the Bauer family’s two Blue Lacy game dogs returned after it went missing in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

But, after nearly ten months, they’d all but given up on seeing the second one again.

Earlier this month, after another resident of the neighborhood spotted the second dog, she was reunited with the family, 14 pounds lighter, covered in ticks and fleas, but in otherwise good shape, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“We were telling the kids all the time that if there’s any dog out there that is going to make it on its own, it’s Daizy,” recalls Joe Bauer, of Clear Lake, whose family owns the two Blue Lacy game dogs.

In September, the two dogs, Daizy and Hank, escaped from a kennel after Hurricane Ike. Hank returned, but despite repeated efforts to track down Daizy, she couldn’t be found. Nine months later, though, she was spotted by another resident, who was able to follow the dog in her car to an overgrown easement area she’d apparently been staying in, near some electrical towers about a mile from the kennel.

LaRocca alerted the Bauers, who were able to track Daizy down.

The Bauers went to the area, whistled Daizy’s favorite tune, and the dog came running. The pet was in good shape according to the veterinarian who examined her Friday.

The Blue Lacy, a hunting dog that was named state Dog Breed of Texas by the 79th Legislature, was developed by three brothers from Kentucky who reportecly began interbreeding gryehounds, scent hounds and coyotes.

Heads and tails: You can build your own mutt

If you need something to keep the kids busy on Christmas Eve, or perhaps even simple-minded grown-ups like myself, here’s a website that can provide, if not hours of entertainment, at least enough time to run out for some last minute gifts, or egg nog.

It’s the Mutt Maker, from Animal Planet, which allows you to combine attributes of 20 dog breeds — head, body, tail, legs — and fashion your own mutt. It then shows you a cartoon image of it, and gives it a name.

Example: Take the pug head, put it on a Rottweiler body, add poodle legs and a shih-tzu tail, and you’ve got a “Purotttzuoodle.” In a nice touch, every time you put on a new head, you hear the bark of that breed.

After that, you have the options of entering it in “best in show,” getting a “certificate of legacy” for your creation, or adorning it with accessories, including bonnet, cowboy boots, cape, glasses, pipe and more.

It’s not exactly the same as a puppy under the tree, but it’s free, interactive, won’t soil the carpet, and is relatively quiet — and for the child who’s not quite ready for a living, breathing, responsibility-laden puppy of his own, it’s a good way to learn a little more about dogs.

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