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Tag: human

Now open in L.A.: PetSpace, an adoption center that’s much, much more

All humane societies and SPCA’s see education as a large part of their mission, but few if any have taken that to the heights of PetSpace, a newly opened center in Los Angeles that is finding new homes for dogs and increasing our understanding of them at the same time.

Over a dozen dogs and cats were adopted during Saturday’s opening of PetSpace, the brainchild of Wallis Annenberg, the CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

But, as the Los Angles Times reported over the weekend, PetSpace is about much more than rehoming dogs.

It’s part interactive science center, part children’s playground, part pet paradise, part research institute and part adoption center.

On top of facilitating adoptions, PetSpace will offer educational programming for the general public on how to care for pets, all while conducting its own scientific research focused on the human-animal bond.

To that end, it has established a Leadership Institute with 16 research fellows — experts in different academic fields — who will write a white paper on the science behind the human-animal bond.

“This whole notion of the human-animal bond goes so much deeper than how you choose a pet,” said Eric Strauss, a biology professor at Loyola Marymount University and the research paper’s lead author.

“We’re bonded emotionally through our pets. But we’re also bonded ecologically, medically and economically. I think that’s the real genesis of a new science here.”

Located in Silicon Beach in Playa Vista, the 30,000-square-foot facility houses more than 80 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control shelters.

It has a staff of 30, assisted by more than 100 volunteers and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission.

Its creators see it as a destination in itself, a fun place that will inform and delight adults and children (and maybe make them even happier yet if they end up taking home a dog or cat).

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During Saturday’s opening, a large mechanical dog barked and wagged his tongue while perched on the second floor. On the ground level, visitors read animal adoption stories displayed on panels and explored an interactive touch screen wall announcing upcoming events.

The center, in addition to periodic seminars, will have a Sunday reading program where children can sit down with a book and an animal.

Meanwhile, in the various play areas, visitors snuggled with cats and dogs, while others met with dogs in their “suites.” Outside each is an interactive digital screen with information about the pets up for adoption.

The center will be making an intense effort to match the right dog to the right owner.

“What’s your lifestyle like? What time commitment do you have? We’ll have a pretty extensive conversation,” said J.J. Rawlinson, the center’s animal care manager and veterinarian. “We really take time to get to know the animals.”

The adoption fee is $80.

PetSpace has partnered with organizations across the city to develop its programming, which will also include higher education workshops on human-animal relationships.

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It will also provide medical resources, including aqua therapy, that are generally not available in shelters.

Part of the center’s mission will be to educate the public about spaying, neutering, grooming and other aspects of caring for a pet.

Wallis Annenberg is a billionaire philanthropist who has long made pets one of her pet projects.

“In my life, animals have been a profound gift — not just dear companions, but teachers and healers, showing how to live and love fully and in the moment. That’s why the opening of Annenberg PetSpace is so thrilling for me,” said Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation’s chair and CEO.

The family foundation was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, whose company published, among others, TV Guide, Seventeen magazine and my old alma mater, the Philadelphia Inquirer. It also operated radio and TV stations nationwide. Annenberg died in 2002.

Wallis Annenberg, his daughter, described PetSpace as “a world-class space in which to study the joys and mysteries of life in all its forms. It will be an innovative and interactive place for families to engage with animals and animal lovers of all kinds.”

“And it will be a chance for me to pass on the kind of awe and affection and insight animals have provided me for all my years,” she told the San Diego News Daily.

The Annenberg team worked with Los Angeles area animal welfare organizations, including Los Angeles Animal Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, spcaLA and the Humane Association of California to design the center.

(Photos and video from the PetSpace website)

Your attention, please …

SONY DSC

Look at you! Look at you! You are the cutest little reader I’ve ever seen. Yes you are. Yes you are! You’re just the sweetest reader ever. What a good reader! And, yes, you’re a genius, too. So very smart. Just a good good good pretty genius reader. Yes. Yes!

Talk to a baby like that (and most people do) and you’re going to get a reaction, studies show. You’re going to hold their attention, stimulate their brain, and (put most unscientifically) make them feel warm and bubbly inside.

Talk to a dog like that — especially if it’s a puppy and you have a higher-pitched, female type voice — and you’re going to achieve the same, a new study suggests. They’ll be more responsive and more likely to retain what (though it’s mostly gibberish) you’re saying.

Talk to your website readers like that, and they’re likely to think you’ve gone off the deep end, that you’re either stalking or patronizing them, and report you to the Internet police.

But you wouldn’t do that. Would you, pretty reader? Noooo. ‘Cuz you’re a good reader. Yes! You’re such a sweetie pie. Yes! Yes!

SONY DSCDogs, at least younger ones, find being talked to in a slow, sing-song, high-pitched, “baby-talk” type voice exciting, and react better to it, a new study says.

The findings show that the voice pitch and patterns of humans may help dogs learn words, as is believed to be the case with human babies.

To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, recorded the voices of 30 women.

The women were asked to read the scripted phrases as they would to dogs, and as they would to humans. For the dog-directed readings, researchers provided them with photos of dogs to help them get in the mood.

Each woman read the following words: “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!”

The women read the words as they would to a puppy, as they would to an older dog, and as they would to a human.

The recordings were then played to dogs — 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a New York City animal shelter.

Nine of the 10 puppies reacted strongly to the pupy-directed recordings, barking and running toward the loudspeaker and even going into a play stance.

The pups were less interested when the women were using the lower pitched, less playful voices they would use while talking to other humans.

The older dogs, possibly having heard their fill of baby talk, didn’t react at all — likely because they’d become more attuned to their master’s voice and less to those of strangers.

The study’s findings were presented this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Why we talk to babies this ultra-animated, affirmation-filled way — both our own and those we’re just meeting — is instinctual. Why we talk to dogs, especially puppies, like this, is a result of their big-eyed, baby-like appearance that brings out similar instincts in us.

SONY DSCIn either case, it’s all related to our instinct for nurturing, and our desire to communicate with a non-verbal, or not-yet-verbal, being.

In the study, the women’s exaggerated, high-pitched speech served far better to get the attention of the dogs, said Mathevon, who believes this way of talking may help dogs learn words.

I couldn’t find an explanation of why only women’s voices — 30 of them aged 18 to 55 — were used in the study, but I’d guess it’s because women are generally better at, and less embarrassed, at using baby talk in public.

Most of my dogs have favored women. Ace always preferred females, and my dog new dog, Jinjja, is much more comfortable around them too. If he hears a female voice in the distance he pulls toward it, if he hears a male one, he stops or retreats.

A lot of it I think is simply a matter of pitch. A higher pitch is less threatening.

Likely, with Jinjja, it also has to do with how he was raised. Probably, men ran the Korean dog farm he was rescued from, and during and after that rescue it was probably mostly women who were kind to him.

The same is probably true of many a shelter or rescue dog. Given women make up the bulk of the staff and volunteers at animal rescue and shelter operations, those dogs often tend to associate a female voice with food, warmth and safety.

Possibly, dogs have figured out females are the kinder and more nurturing gender (though that might be a little sexist to say). Or it could be women’s voices, in general, sound more like squeaky toys (though that might be a little sexist to say).

But you’re not going to hold that against me. Nooooooo. You’re too nice to do that, aren’t you? Aren’t you? You’re such a good reader. Yes, you are.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Loyalty: That “human” emotion that dogs have become way better at than us

The true meaning of loyalty, like the true meaning of Christmas, often goes overlooked.

Leave it to a Ukranian dog named Panda to show us the epitome of the former here in the season of the latter.

After his friend Lucy was apparently injured when hit by a train, Panda reportedly spent two days at her side — on the tracks — as more oncoming trains passed over the two of them.

pandalucy2The man who took the video above, Denis Malafeyev, was apparently part of a group from the village of Tseglovka that went to rescue the dogs.

Malafeyev said as they approached the dogs, an oncoming train came into view, and he recorded it as it passed over the dogs.

“I saw a train approaching – and felt sick,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“The male dog heard the sound of the approaching train, came close to the female dog and laid down next to her. Both of them pushed their heads towards the ground, and let the train pass.”

pandalucy1After that, the dogs were rescued, treated for injuries and returned to their owner. Lucy had severe bruises, but no fractures.

Local media in Uzhgorod published news reports about the dogs, and tabloids in the UK picked up the story, pulling out their adjectives lists to describe the “spine-tingling” but also “heartwarming” video and recounting the “harrowing” ordeal of the “terrified” dogs who faced “certain” death in the “bitter” cold.

If ever there was a dog story that didn’t need to be injected with hyperbole, this was it. But stories in the Daily Mail, The Sun and others are all oozing with it, and both overdo it a bit in describing what’s going on in the dog’s heads with human emotions.

“Loyalty” is the only one I would find acceptable, because even though there are human versions of it, I’m pretty sure dogs invented it.

(Photos: Facebook)

Pedaling your dog to better health

I’ve long felt that that the modern day treadmill is a backwards concept.

Instead of using up electricity, they should be be creating it.

If all the energy being expended in gyms and homes across the country could be harnessed, it would be enough to … well, I have no idea, but it would make more sense than all that treadmills and exercise bicycles use up, especially at gyms where the temperature is set at 68 degrees and 20 televisions, all tuned to a different channel, line the walls.

So, silly as this Japanese-made device might look, it makes some sense.

The Doggy Health Run Pet Owner Exercise Treadmill — aka DoggyMan — doesn’t need to be plugged in. A human pedals the bicycle, which in turn powers the treadmill that the dog happily trots along on.

As a result, both human and dog get much needed exercise — much like they would on, say, a walk.

The treadmill — too small to be used with a larger dog — can be placed alongside the exercise bike or in front of it.

“Every dog owner wants their fluffy friend to be in the best of health. But sometimes, it’s just too hot or cold to play outdoors, or maybe your canine pal wants to head out a little too late at night,” the website Japantrendshop.com explains.

“Well, with the Doggy Health Run Pet Owner Exercise Treadmill, your dog can get all the exercise they need … with a little help from their owner!”

You might want to be fairly certain before you purchase it that your dog will like it, and not run away from it.

It comes with a price tag of $2,082.

Secret Life of the Human Pups

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All we can learn from dogs, and how, in many ways, we should strive to be more like them, are recurring themes on this website.

But, for the record, this is not what we mean.

A new documentary by Channel 4 in the UK takes a look at the “secretive” world of men who like to dress up as, and play the role of, dogs.

Around 10,000 people follow the pet play craze in the UK, according to “Secret Life of the Human Pups” — in which several members of this “secret” society dress up and strut before the cameras.

Apparently, it’s another one of those secret societies that — judging from some of its related websites, and the public competition it holds every year — really craves attention.

The documentary — sensationalistic as it is, albeit in a properly restrained British kind of way — isn’t unearthing any new ground.

Furries — people who dress up and behave as animals — have been around for decades, and the only new twist we can see is a trend towards preferring latex over fur costumes.

Participants, as always, range from those who enjoy a playful escape from reality to those who truly wish to be another species, from those seeking to shock and grab attention to those who are probably in need of some mental health counseling.

Anonymous sex, as always, while not what it’s entirely about, remains a strong component — at least for some participants.

The director of the documentary, Guy Simmonds told Newsweek he began pursuing the project after he “stumbled across some pictures [of human dogs] on the Internet.”

“… The more we researched it, the more surprised I was to learn how large the community was in the U.K. They’ve got their own social networking sites, events and competitions.”

The documentary aired Wednesday night.

Simmonds says puppy players (generally men) come from all walks of life: “We’ve come across librarians, security guards, even CEOs of huge corporations who wanted to remain anonymous. There are gay, straight, transsexual, asexual pups.”

One 42-year-old man described the appeal of pretending to be a pup this way:

“Life is getting more hectic nowadays, so much pressure on work and life. Some people drink, there’s drugs… You’ve got to be civilized in our society. When you’re in puppy mode, all that goes away. We don’t care about money; we don’t care about what job you’ve got, or the bigger car.”

For other people, role-playing as a dog can be a way of dealing with social anxiety, deep-rooted childhood issues or chronic medical conditions.

London-based psychotherapist Wendy Bristow says it is not uncommon for those who have experienced childhood trauma to seek comfort in forms of escapism. She points to cases of paraphilic infantilism, in which adults seek comfort by putting on diapers and regressing back to being a baby.

By taking on the role of something in need of nurturing — be it puppy or baby — they may be attempting to make up for a lack of it in their pasts.

“The technical term is displacement,” she said. “They’re doing an activity that gets them comfort, but they’re not expected to relate back apart from being grateful.”

Whatever the case, it seems there is one thing that both dogs and men who dress up as dogs are probably seeking more than anything else — attention.

Two hearts beating as one? Study suggests, with dogs and owners, it’s almost true

Even though this may be more marketing than science, we can’t help but like the results of this experiment in Australia.

Researchers, in an experiment funded by Pedigree, found that not only do our heart rates lower when we and our pets are together (as everybody knows by now), but they begin to mirror one another.

True, only three dogs and owners were involved in the study. True, the main interest of the company that sponsored it is to sell dog food. And true, what’s new about their findings — how closely the heart rates align — is probably of more poetic than practical use.

But still … It’s good to have a little science (if it can be called that) confirm our feelings of being in sync with our dogs.

In the experiment, three Australian dog owners separated, and then reunited with their pet in a staged but homey setting to see what kind of effect they had on each other’s heart rate.

Both dogs and owners were equipped with heart monitors.

“There was a really strong coherence in the heart rate pattern of both the owner and dog. Upon being reunited within the first minute, each heart rhythm became almost directly aligned and we saw a reduction straight away,” Mia Cobb, canine scientist and demonstration co-conductor told The Huffington Post Australia.

“This project is a really good illustration of what most owners experience every night when they come home from work and are reunited with their companion,” she added.

Is this the dog-human bed of the future?

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Surveys have shown that as many as half of us sleep with our dogs, so isn’t it time the makers of bedroom furniture started to catch up with the dog-loving times?

And, if they did, would this be the bed of the future?

This sort of bed makes pretty good sense to me, and I think Ace would like it, too.

But for you to understand that, I have to explain the tenuous in-bed relationship my dog and I have.

As soon as I turn in, Ace rushes to the bed, waits a second or two for me to say “OK!” and jumps in — jumps in as if he is thrilled beyond belief to have the distinct honor of sleeping at my side.

He settles down, after the mandatory circling, a few feet away, and with his head at the end of the bed my feet are on.

He waits a few seconds for me to get snuggled under the blanket, pat his butt and say goodnight.

The idyllic picture ends there.

From that moment, any movement by me — and especially by my feet — leads him to lift his head, turn and give me an annoyed look. After the third annoyed look, he harrumphs, gets out of the bed and heads to the floor, the futon in the den, or the sofa in the living room.

My recent purchase of a new mattress helped some. I could shift without him being bounced around. But still, any even minor movement of my feet — whether they are under the blanket or not — sets him off.

So, no, we don’t exactly snuggle all night long, even in winter. According to one survey, while 52 percent of pet owners sleep with their pets, only 23 percent snuggle next to them all night long. (We imagine the numbers are similar for spouses.)

For those of you who might also fall into the non-snuggling category, or who have dogs that fall into this category — i.e. those who appreciate the closeness without the contact or movement — this wooden bed by DoggieDilemma might be worth looking at.

This oak and pine king bed frame ($1,700) leaves a 23-inch wide space for a dog bed insert — be it blankets or a doggie mattress. A queen-size version ($1,500) is also available.

Of course, to our human eyes, this bed is not all that different from putting a doggie bed at the foot or side of your bed — especially if your box spring and mattress are, as in my case, on the floor.

But I think most smart dogs know the difference. They want to be not only on the same level, but in, or on, the same piece of furniture as you.

Furniture makers aren’t quite as smart. They’ve only begun to catch on. One can now find bedside tables that double as crates, or stairs that allow your small or elderly dog to climb into bed with you.

But with few exceptions, they haven’t quite realized: It’s not my bed, it’s our bed.

(Photo: Etsy.com)