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Tag: images

Are there too many dogs on the Internet?

image001Depictions of dogs, as any one who has ever read the wall of a prehistoric cave knows, date back to well before ancient times.

Pharaohs commissioned artworks of their favorite pets. Portrayals of hunting and images of medieval banquets often featured dogs in the background or foreground. In the Victorian-era, aristocrats hired painters to make portraits of themselves and their pooches.

As the 20th Century dawned, as humans came to live ever closer to the species, artists seized upon the idea of depicting dogs dressed in human attire and doing human things, bringing us such classes artworks as the inimitable (but often imitated) work, Dogs Playing Poker.

Well before photography went digital, before somebody flicked that World Wide Web switch on, dog depictions were being shared — if not as instantly, often, ridiculously and (often) demaningly as they are today on the Internet, and social media in particular.

Even in my earliest days in journalism, back in the 1970’s, I remember some newspapers had a pet writer — someone who penned a pet column, usually weekly. He or she was commonly an older person who performed mostly clerical duties, maybe a secretary for some top editor, who, due to his or her love for dogs, had volunteered for the task, likely at no increase in pay.

He or she would probably feature a dog in need of adoption every week, or write about pet care and training, or simply ask readers to submit photos of their pets for publication — an opportunity many readers seized, sending actual photos through actual mail.

One of the differences between then and now — a time when many a website is telling you how much they would like to see photos of your dog — is that the old clerk/pet writer’s request for photos was more than likely at least partly sincere.

pokerThose folks who want to see your dog’s photo now? Almost always, they are after something else. You can trust them about as much as the bulldog sneaking an ace to his friend in that painting to the left there.

Pet food websites, pet toy websites, even (we hate to admit it) pet news websites will commonly beg you for a photo of your pooch — not because anyone actually wants to see it, but because they want to get you on their email lists, get you “registered,” introduce you to their products and enlist your loyalty.

They want, more than anything, your money, and like many other businesses that want your money, they will gladly deceive you and try to capitalize on your love for/pride in your pet:

“We’d love to see a photo of your dog!”

Yeah, right.

I’m not here today to say that there are too many dogs on the Internet — even if never before in the history of man have we been so saturated with dog photos and images. The more the merrier, I say.

But I would argue there is too much dog exploitation and too much dog ridicule on the Internet, much of it carried out via those “adorable” photos of your “fur baby” — sometimes by profit-making concerns, sometimes by dog owners themselves.

Compare and contrast, if you will, our old, likely unpaid, pet columnist with someone like Matt Nelson, who is making a six figure annual salary by posting photos sent in by readers, along with a comment and a numerical rating (based on the dog, not the photo) at @dog_rates.

He is not taking any photos. He is not buying any photos. He’s really not doing much work at all, other than accumulating followers. He is merely sharing other people’s photos on Twitter — and managing to make a handsome living from it.

Nelson — profiled by Money magazine recently — dropped out of college once he saw how popular his dog photo sharing Twitter page had become:

There, WeRateDogs’ operations are relatively simple. Nelson estimates he runs 95 percent of things from his iPhone (which, yes, he confirms, does require a massive data plan to handle all the dog photos). He has two remote employees: Ricci, who culls submissions down to about 20 each day, and Tyler Macke, who manages the WeRateDogs online store. His dad, an executive director of a law firm, advises him on finances.

Nelson says he brings in “a low five figures” every month. At minimum, that puts him over $100,000 a year.

Thanks, Money magazine, for doing the math for us.

While Nelson may not be doing much original or creative work, at least his pursuit is mostly cute and kind and well meaning.

20151016_181413-e1522168748576Other dog photo sharing websites are more distasteful to me — dogshaming.com, in particular.

It features photos of dogs who have misbehaved, along with hand-made signs — all submitted by readers.

But perhaps most troubling of all are the photos and videos that individuals post to their Facebook page showing their dogs doing distinctly human things.

Alexandra Horowitz, the author and researcher who has spent her career seriously studying and trying to understand dogs — despite what seems to be society’s preference to see them as dress-up dolls, movie characters with human voices, or (apologies to those who use the term) “fur babies” — made note of the phenomena in last week’s New York Times Opinion section.

In it, she asked the question:

“Why can’t I stand to look at one more photo of a ‘funny dog?'”

She continued, “In a typical image, the dog is posed in a distinctly person-like way, as if on the phone, seated at a table or wearing headphones and dressed up in human attire — glasses, a dog-size suit and tie, even pantyhose.”

” … These dogs are but furry emoji: stand ins for emotions and sentiment. Each representation diminishes this complex, impressive creature to an object of our most banal imagination,” Horowitz wrote. “Such treatment may not be mortifying to the dog, perhaps … but it is degrading to the species.”

Only the most extreme examples of making our dogs look ridiculous receive any sort of backlash — primarily from people who see the pet as being abused. Like this one on Twitter. Go to the link and read all the comments and you almost think, maybe people are coming to their senses.

It bugs me that society is this way — that it took a species, molded it to its liking, and continually foists its own likeness and peculiarities upon it. It bugs me what people will put their dog through to achieve a Facebook post or Halloween costume that makes their friends laugh. It bothers me that some people are getting rich off it.

It’s like we were blessed with an original Mona Lisa, and 85 percent of us want to draw a mustache on it slap it on their own personal billboard.

Somebody needs to grow up, and it’s not the dogs.

(Photos: At top, The Feast of Dives, about 1510–20, Master of James IV of Scotland, the J. Paul Getty Museum); lower, one of the many reproductions of Dogs Playing Poker, by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, other photos via Twitter)

Gift idea: Your dog’s face on your own socks

PUPSOCKS-WHITE-3With a scant 10 days left until Christmas, we present item No. 3 on our abbreviated list of gifts only a dog lover could love.

Pupsocks are socks for your feet (not your dog’s) that are emblazoned with a photo of your dog.

They are being offered, at $30 a pair, by an Atlanta company that says a portion of their profits (unspecified) goes to helping animals.

“Our products help you share love for your pet, and behind the scenes we spread that love with others! As such, every pair sold feeds a dog or cat in need. In only six months, we’ve been able to support thousands of meals.”

The company, according to its website, supports Ahimsa House which is dedicated to helping the human and animal victims of domestic violence in Georgia, and the Humane Society of the United States.

To order the socks, you can go to the website, upload a photo of your dog, or cat, or human, and specify the size and color you want.

As with our previous wacky dog-related gifts — those pit bull leggings and matching dog and human pajamas — this is in no way a recommendation for the product; rather it’s an idea flung out there for your cautious perusal.

The company will also put your dog’s photo on a tie.

Of course, there are few things you can’t get your dog’s picture on these days. From coffee mugs to blankets, from tote bags to Christmas tree ornaments, you can find a company to pepper almost any wearable or usable item with your dog’s image.

I had Ace’s photo put on a sweatshirt and a blanket, both of which were gifts to my father, and both of which I got back after my father’s death.

I break out the blanket regularly, and I still wear the Ace sweatshirt — sent to me by the nursing home my dad spent his last days in, complete with his name marked on to the collar.

Socks are about the last thing, clothing-wise, I would think of putting my dog’s photo on.

But rest assured there are plenty of entrepreneurs out there who will keep coming up with ways to make a buck off of our love for dogs, and particularly our love for our own dog.

And more often than not, we will lap it up.

Here are a few more websites that offer to put your pet’s photo on stuff:

Print Your Pet

Personalization Mall

Snapfish

Vista Print

(Photos: From the Pupsocks website)

Holiday gift idea: Pit bull leggings

pitbulllegsDon’t worry, we’re not becoming one of those news outlets that is dropping news to turn to schilling products for fun and profit.

But, given the ongoing need for gift ideas this time of year, we may present in the days ahead a few items that are especially weird, wacky or wonderful.

We felt matching dog and human pajamas qualified. And so do these pitbull leggings.

What pit bull-owning female would not want these — perhaps with a pair of the matching high top shoes?

Clothing and accessories featuring more than 50 other breeds are also available from the TC Shop.

According to the website, the limited edition leggings are official Dean Russo designs made of a polyester and lycra mixture. They are, the website says, “super chill.”

Now we can’t attest to that, and we have a policy of not recommending any product, or advertising anything, or accepting “sponsored posts” — so take note, all you business people flooding the ohmidog! emailbox.

We can only say this product looks cool, which, the Internet has taught us, doesn’t always mean is cool, or is of high quality, or even that it will arrive on your doorstep.

(Photo: The TC Shop)

Earliest images of dogs show them leashed

leashesleashes1

This is just so wrong.

It seems man’s earliest depictions of dogs — or at least what is being described as such — show them ON LEASHES!

I’m not saying scientists are wrong in their estimate that images carved into a sandstone cliff in Saudi Arabia are up to 8,000 years old (though they might be) — only that it would be a shame that society’s first depictions of dogs show them restrained and under human control.

leash signI’d prefer man’s historic first images of dog to be a roaming dog, a wild and feral dog, a freely frolicking dog, even a going-through-the-garbage dog — as opposed to an image that resembles our modern day leash law signs.

(Yes, I know I’m being naive — and that tying a rope around a wolf’s neck was probably, at some point, a necessity in their domestication. But part of me would like to picture that process as being accomplished with a bowl of food and a pat on the head.)

Science magazine reports the engravings depict hunters, armed with bows, accompanied by 13 dogs, two of them with lines running from their necks to the man’s waist:

“Those lines are probably leashes, suggesting that humans mastered the art of training and controlling dogs thousands of years earlier than previously thought.”

The engravings were found on a sandstone cliff in the Arabian Desert, and are estimated to date back more than 8,000 years.

Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany — in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage — has spent the last three years helping catalog the more than 1,400 rock art panels containing nearly 7,000 animals and humans at Shuwaymis and Jubbah.

The dogs depicted are medium-sized, with pricked up ears, short snouts, and curled tails — similar to today’s Canaan dog, a largely feral breed that roams the deserts of the Middle East

The researchers couldn’t directly date the images, and some caution the engravings may not be as old as they seem. To confirm the chronology, scientists will need to link the images to a well-dated archaeological site in the region.

Even if the art is more recent, the engravings are still believe the oldest depictions of leashes on record.

Until now, the earliest evidence for such restraints comes from a wall painting in Egypt dated to about 5500 years ago, says Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Perri was co-author of a report the team published last week in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

The Arabian hunters may have used leashes to keep valuable scent dogs close and protected or to train new dogs, she said. Leashing dogs to the hunter’s waist may have freed his hands for bow and arrow.

But Paul Tacon, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia, says the lines in the engravings could be symbolic: “It could just be a depiction of a bond,” he said.

Dog’s ear cyst resembles Donald Trump

trumpear

I’ve written before about that distinctively human tendency to see images in inanimate objects — everything from Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich to a dog in a piece of wood.

My theory on that whole phenomenon is that we see, with only the slightest hint or suggestion, what our subconscious wants us to see, such as Abraham Lincoln in a chicken nugget; or what it fears seeing, such as Satan in a storm cloud.

But Donald Trump in a dog’s ear? I won’t attempt to explain that.

BBC reported that Jade Robinson, 25, of Jarrow, Tyneside, was photographing her beagle’s infected ear when a friend spotted the 45th president’s face in the dog’s cyst.

chiefThe dog’s name? Chief.

Robinson said she was taking the picture to pass along to her vet. Chief would have to be sedated for the vet to properly examine the ear — and she was short of the funds necessary to do that.

Amazingly enough, her photo going viral led her to launch a crowdfunding campaign, which has already raised 80 percent of its £450 goal.

Hail to the chief!

On the justgiving.com website, Robinson warns that goal amount will likely increase depending on what treatments the vet prescribes — up to and including removing the president from Chief’s ear.

Robinson said she has always made it a point to keep Chief’s ears clean, but beagles are notorious for picking up dirt, which, as we all know, can lead to infections.

“If you know anything about beagles you know how intelligent, active and curious they are and Chief certainly lives up to that – he’s full of mischief.

“As he has the very distinctive long ears, they spend a lot of time scraping the ground sniffing for lovely smells; unfortunately this leads to his ears picking up a lot of dirt.”

Robinson said she never saw Trump when she was taking the photo.

“…It was my eagle-eyed friend who pointed it out.”

Readers: Please note how I, despite my political leanings, presented that whole story without implying the current president is in any way a cyst in need of removal. Nor did I comment on how awful it would be to have Donald Trump constantly in one’s ear — mainly because, between his tweets and the news media, we already know that.

And now we bring you … DogTV

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

As of this week, we can add one more item to the growing list of once uniquely human things that we have, with mostly good intentions, bestowed/inflicted upon dogs.

Dogs now have their own television station.

DogTV, which debuted yesterday, features short clips of canines romping and playing. It airs 24 hours a day, and is designed to keep your dog company, providing him with relaxation and stimulation when no one is home. It costs $4.99 a month and is available on DirecTV.

Now they, too, can be couch potatoes — just like us.

Maybe that’s what we want — for our dogs to be human. Maybe we just assume, given their willingness to please, that if we like something, they’re going to love it, when in fact the reason they love it is because we’re doing it. Maybe we just like free, or $4.99 a month, babysitting.

Whatever the case, we keep passing on or making available to them our curious and not entirely healthy habits, quirks, trendy “must haves” and addictions — be they pharmaceuticals, beauty contests, bling, funny haircuts, halloween costumes, spa services, day care, neuroses, high tech health care no one can afford, or gourmet food.

We seem to  keep trying — consciously or not — to make dogs more like us, when the actual truth of the matter (and the secret of life) is that we should be more like them.

(Maybe, if we watch DogTV, we can learn how.)

dogremoteOn human TV Wednesday night, NBC ran this feature on DogTV, introduced by Brian Williams, who closely resembles a Bassett hound, and reported by Kevin Tibbles, who dutifully includes about every canine-related pun there is.

As Tibbles notes, pets are a $55 billion industry in America, and the nation’s 78 million dogs could make for a lot of viewers. That, even though dogs don’t have disposable income, could prove lucrative.

DogTV bills itself as “the perfect babysitter for dogs who have to stay home alone.”

Therein lies the problem.

Dogs don’t want electronic babysitters. Dogs want to be out in the real dirt, bug, critter and scent-filled world. We do, too, though often we don’t realize it, mainly because we get so caught up in and numbed by TV, video games, Facebook and the like.

I do often leave my TV on for my dog Ace when I leave the house, even though he’s never shown a great deal of interest in it. His ears will perk up when he hears a dog whining or barking on television, and he’ll watch for maybe 10 seconds or so before moving on to more important things, like sleep.

I, on the other hand, who grew up being babysat by TV, will stay up past bedtime and sit riveted for 60 minutes watching a “Law & Order” episode I previously viewed less than a month ago.

Who, I ask you, is the superior being?

“For those of us who suffer the guilt of leaving a dog alone for hours each day, the prospect of forking out five bucks a month to allay our dogs’ separation anxiety might sound attractive. It’s certainly cheaper than hiring a daily dog walker,” Ryan Vogt writes in Slate.  “There’s only one problem: It won’t work. ”

Vogt goes on to explain that dogs “see the world at a faster frame rate than humans do …  Humans’ flicker fusion rate is about 50-60 Hz, meaning we see the world in 50 to 60 images per second. For dogs, that rate is closer to 70-80 Hz… To them, it looks like a slideshow powered by a dim strobe light.”

I don’t begin to understand that (probably because I’ve watched too much TV), but the article goes on to quote some experts, including Alexandra Horowitz. She explains that, in addition to the “frame rate” differences, the fact that no smells come out of the television keeps dogs from getting too interested. “Dogs are not primarily visual … and what interests them is typically smell first, sight second.”

In other words, they know it’s not real.

I don’t have a problem with DogTV existing — just with the possibility it could be overused by busy dog owners. There are better ways to keep you dog occupied during the day, even when you’re not home. And too much TV — be it forensic drama, cooking shows, or even just watching dogs romp — can’t be good for anyone, two or four-legged.

What we fail to realize as we continue to work the wild out of dogs, continue to make them more human, is that dogs don’t need vicarious thrills.

That’s just us.