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Tag: industry

Blake Shelton names his new honky-tonks after classic (but not his own) country song

Not since a fried chicken chain opened under the name Bojangles, has a name been so blatantly borrowed from the music world for personal gain.

Blake Shelton is opening a chain of restaurant/music venues/retail stores later this month under the name Ole Red — a slightly altered spelling of his hit song “Ol’ Red,” which wasn’t really his song either.

I don’t know if Bojangles restaurants pay any form of royalties to Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote and first recorded “Mr. Bojangles,” or, for that matter, if Shelton’s new restaurants give much of a nod (financial or otherwise) to George Jones, who originally recorded “Ol’ Red,” but it makes me wonder.

sheltonmugAre song names fair game? Can anyone appropriate them for their own personal or business use? Can I, without repercussions, or lawsuits, open a business named after a song?

Perhaps a hoagie restaurant called “Yellow Submarine,” a home cleaning service called “Another One Bites the Dust,” or a vitamin and health food dispensary named “Stayin’ Alive?”

It may be legal, but it’s still a little presumptuous.

What Shelton is doing would be the equivalent of David Lee Roth opening a chain of Hooters-like restaurants and calling it California Girls.

Blake Shelton took George Jones’ song — written by James “Bo” Bohan, Don Goodman and Mark Sherrill — and turned it into a hit of his own in 2009.

jonesgraveThe song tells the delightful story of an inmate who enlists a prison bloodhound — whose job was to track down prisoners — to assist in his own escape.

It is narrated by an inmate who is serving a 99-year sentence for a violent act committed when he caught his wife with another man. After gaining a position of trust, though, he is allowed to take the bloodhound, Ol’ Red, for his evening run.

The inmate secretly arranges for a cousin in Tennessee to bring an especially alluring female blue tick hound to the outskirts of the prison and put her in a pen. The inmate, during that evening run, begins regularly dropping Ol’ Red off there for nightly trysts.

Ol’ Red gets so smitten with the blue tick hound that when the inmate makes his own escape, he knows Ol’ Red will be released to chase him down — and he knows Red will head in the opposite direction, straight for his new girlfriend.

The escape is successful, as the final line of the song points out:

“Love got me in there, love got me out.”

(You can hear George Jones’ version — still preferred by many — here.)

Jones died in 2013.

namethedogsI’m sure Shelton had to pay some person or entity to record the song, but I’m not so sure if any deals were involved in naming his two new establishments after the song.

Maybe altering the name — from Ol’ Red to Ole Red — served as a loophole, even if it does lead some people to give it the Spanish pronunciation: Olé.

Shelton opened the first location of his new honky-tonk chain yesterday in in Tishomingo, Okla. A second will open later this month in Nashville.

And today he released a new album, entitled, interestingly enough, “I’ll Name the Dogs.”

I don’t know what that song is about, but once it shows up on the Internet I’ll bring it to you — just in case you, like me, have an interest in dog songs, or if maybe you want to use that name when you open your own hot dog stand.

Oh wait, here it is now:

How nice. Not what I’d call a dog song, though. Shelton sings of how he and the woman he is proposing to will divide household duties once they are married: “You name the kids; I’ll name the dogs.”

This is what country singers do. They sing about their undying love for their woman. Then they sing about breaking up with that woman. Then they sing about their forevermore loyalty to the next woman.

(George Jones has Blake Shelton beat in this category too, having married at least four times, once to Tammy Wynette, who was married five times and who recorded the No. 1 song of 1968, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” She married Jones the next year. It lasted six years.)

When they’re not singing about love realized and love lost, country singers turn to simpler topics, like beer and whiskey, their truck, fishin’ and their dog.

They also sing each other’s songs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when they establish an entire franchise based on somebody else’s song? One could argue that’s going too far. One could say that’s bad manners. One could say, in more countrified terms, “That dog don’t hunt.”

(Photos, At top, Shelton shows off some of the merchandise at his new honky-tonk, USA Today; middle, George Jones’ dog, Bandit, visits his grave, Facebook; bottom, cover of Shelton’s new album)

Amazon knows how to treat its employees — and its employee’s dogs

amazondogs_9725-630x420

If its employees are a company’s most treasured resource — and if what those employees treasure most are their dogs — it makes perfect sense that Amazon is spending millions of dollars on an employee lounge and dog park at its expanding downtown campus.

The tech giant opened part of the dog park yesterday in the shadow of the Spheres, a unique glass structure that will open next year as a “relaxation area” for employees.

The dog park is the second that the dog-friendly company has provided for employees, but this one will also be open to the public as part of a public plaza that serves as the centerpiece of Amazon’s $4 billion downtown campus.

The dog park will be completed this summer with the installation of a turf field adjacent to the park. The Spheres, destined to become another feature of the Seattle skyline — albeit it a low-lying one — will open in 2018.

amazondogs_9377-630x420Inside the glorified greenhouse — consisting of three connected spheres, about five stories high — there will be hundreds of exotic plants, waterfalls, trees (with treehouses), all in a climate that resembles that of Costa Rica’s Central Valley.

Amazon, where employees regularly bring their dogs to work, is renowned as a dog-friendly company.

According to Geekwire.com, more than 2,000 dogs are registered at the company’s headquarters, where most reception desks are stocked with biscuits and some water fountains around campus are set at dog height.

Amazon has a special page on its website — “Meet the dogs of Amazon” — that profiles more than 30 pups.

Eliana Parenti, an instructional designer at Amazon, told Geekwire one of the main reasons she relocated from Miami with her two small dogs to work for the tech company was their dog policy.

“It’s the biggest perk of working here,” said Sebastian Kurin, a lawyer who works with the Amazon Web Services team. Bringing his dog Simba into work everyday was “something I was most excited about when I got a job offer at Amazon.”

Employees say their dogs provide stress relief and help the overall work environment at Amazon.

(Photos: By Taylor Soper / GeekWire.com)

Hercules and the heart of the matter

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As I suspected when the story broke, video of a frightened dog being … let’s say, strongly encouraged, to get into a pool during the filming of a “A Dog’s Purpose” has led to an explosive response from dog lovers on the Internet.

What I didn’t suspect was so many saying we should withhold judgment.

Here’s an example from my own Facebook page — a comment in response to either my ohmidog! post, or a previous comment from a reader who had decided not to see the movie. It urges viewers of the video not to “rush to crucifixion”:

“I also know that there are HOURS of footage to the contrary which this was conveniently edited from, and calculatedly released just prior to the film’s premiere. A PETA plant, I believe. I also personally know several people behind this film. I know how shocked, appalled, stunned, mortified they were. I know they immediately sought answers, spent all of yesterday viewing all TRUE, raw film from this exact scene shoot as well as several prior rehearsals … Closed minds, open mouths, soapboxes, rushing to judgment, social media & MEDIA are DANGEROUS TO GOOD PEOPLE.”

dogspurposePeruse social media and you’ll find, for every 10 people expressing outrage, at least one saying the video was edited (as it clearly was), that there’s a conspiracy afoot (as is likely) and that we shouldn’t have an opinion about what we see on the video until we see it “in context.”

Guess what? I don’t, in this case, need context. Show me hours of footage of Hercules, the German shepherd, being pampered by his handlers and it won’t make a whit of difference.

Even the author of the best-selling book the movie is based on, while admitting mistakes were made, is spinning things as positively as possible.

“…When I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs,” W. Bruce Cameron wrote on his Facebook page. “I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.”

“The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water — I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool,” he added.

Again, it’s the argument that the dog was mostly treated right. That’s good to know, but not the least bit relevant.

The 45 seconds showing the handler nudge, push and lower the dog in the water against his will make it clear he was frightened, resistant and stressed — and that should have been enough to call off the stunt, at the outset.

That eventually they maybe did, for that day, or for that dog, doesn’t change the 45 seconds.

The producer, the director, and one of the stars have all said they found the video disturbing. The American Humane Association agrees, and they’ve placed the representative they assigned to monitor the movie on leave.

And yet the apologists — motivated maybe by their love of the book, or by their hate for PETA, or by their ties to industries that exploit dogs — keep saying it is too early to say anything bad occurred.

That said, what the video shows is only borderline abuse, if it’s abuse at all. Hercules was not physically harmed. In the history of animals in the entertainment industry, far worse things have happened, which is why this IS a story and why vigilance and monitoring are necessary in movie productions involving live animals.

Pursuing criminal charges, or a boycott of the movie (as PETA is calling for), may be over-reactions. I won’t say what the video shows meets the legal definition for animal cruelty.

But stating this is not proper treatment for an animal in a movie? I have no qualms with doing that. And I have no problem pointing out perfectly realistic results could have been achieved with computer graphics.

After Hercules went in and out of the churning water — outboard motors were used to create the effect of river rapids — the video cuts to another scene showing a German shepherd in the water, and going under it, for long enough that someone on the set shouted “cut it” and handlers rushed to his aid.

Some reports suggest that part of the video was taken on a different day, and could have even involved a different dog.

That second part of the video, I’d agree, though it does seem to convey a little bit of alarm on the set, is so short and blurry that it does require some context.

But pointing out flaws in the video, or the questionable motivations of those who provided it to TMZ (probably for a fee), does nothing to excuse the behavior on set — or the movie maker’s bottom line responsibility for it.

Cut through the haze of Internet hubbhub, sparring, intrigue, and guesswork and what we can see in the first part of the video — in or out of context — is enough to remind us that animals in the entertainment industry need to be protected, and that they should never be forced to pursue stunts against their will.

That, I suggest, should be step one in sorting through this episode — seeing the underlying concern, not obfuscating it — whether you were a party to it, or just watching from the outside.

Step two? The movie’s makers need to accept responsibility, and none seem to have gotten anywhere close to doing that.

Instead, they almost all seem to be saying “I was disturbed by video. I didn’t see it when it happened. I wasn’t there. Mistakes were made. I would have stopped it. Why was the video just now leaked?”

Movie fans, dog lovers, and most of all Hercules, deserve something better than that.

(Photo: Amblin Entertainment)

Recipients say agency’s diabetic alert dogs aren’t performing as promised

Three North Texas families say the diabetic alert dogs they received from a Virginia-based nonprofit aren’t alerting them to anything, and have turned out to be nothing more than expensive house pets.

The three families are among 30 that have filed complaints against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, according to NBC 5 in Dallas.

Each of the three paid up to $20,000 for what they were told were specialized service dogs trained to alert them to spikes and drops in blood sugar and help them manage Type 1 diabetes.

Mindy Guidry said the dog she received to help her daughter manage her diabetes has failed to detect any blood sugar spirals. On top of that, the dog is afraid to go out in public.

“I cannot take her out in public at all. Even in our own household she’s scared,” Guidry said.

Krista Middleton told NBC 5 that her dog doesn’t alert her when her blood sugar is dropping dangerously low.

“And then I’m passing out. I’m going into comas. My kids are finding me in seizures,” said Middleton. “It gets to the point where, as a mom, I wanted to make sure my kids weren’t the ones to find me convulsing.”

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers says it offers a one- to two-year training program with initial in-home sessions of up to five days, long-distance training and education and up to seven more multi-day visits.

Middleton and Guidry both failed to complete the training program, a spokeswoman for the agency said, and both still owe the agency money.

Middleton said when she informed the non-profit her dog wasn’t working, she got no response.

But Warren Retrievers spokeswoman Jennifer Bulotti told NBC 5 when a dog isn’t working “instant intervention and training is provided.”

Dan Warren, founder and president of the nonprofit, was convicted of passing forged documents in 2008, before he started his service dog agency. While working at a car dealership, he had someone prepare phony tax returns to help customers get loans for cars, NBC 5 reported. He was sentenced to five years’ probation

Tax records from 2012 list his salary from the service dog agency as $157,411.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has received 30 complaints against Warren Retrievers, but declined to discuss the details of any of them.

Providers of service dogs operate relatively free of government regulation or required standards, and some think it’s time for that to change.

“This is an industry that’s fraught with fraud,” said Brent Brooks, president of The Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance (DADA). “It angers me to have to say it but you have to be skeptical.”

PetSmart and Petco to pull China-made jerky treats off their shelves — finally

Chinesjerky

After thousands of reported illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths, PetSmart and Petco have announced they will stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.

What took the retailers so long to reach the decision, and why it will take them seven to ten months more to purge store shelves of such items, remain questions worth asking.

So too is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating the treats for years — without determining what about them is making dogs sick — can’t tell us much more than “CAUTION,” with an exclamation point.

PetSmart said it will pull from the shelves all of the China-made treat it sells by March 2015.

Petco said it will accomplish that by the end of this year.

Both retailers have about 1,300 stores nationwide.

The two national pet retailers’ decisions came after seven years of complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about jerky treats from China making pets sick, or worse.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement.

A PetSmart spokesperson, meanwhile, told USA Today it has been working toward this goal “for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers.”

Taking questionable Chinese-made treats off the shelves strikes us as a pretty simple task, as opposed to “a goal to work toward.” You just pick them up and put them in the garbage. And while “hearing customer concerns” is commendable, it shouldn’t take three or four years for them to sink in.

The move comes as sales of Chinese made jerky treats diminish, amid increasing public concerns about them.

Five years ago, 90% of the pet industry’s jerky treats were made in China, said Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco. Currently, about 50% of the jerky treats sold by Petco are from China.

Since 2007, the FDA says it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses, and 1,000 dog deaths, possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. The FDA, while issuing warnings, says it has yet to establish any direct link between the pet illnesses and the China-made treats.

Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky, but others included duck, sweet potato and chicken, according to the FDA.

Pop goes the dog treat

No longer do those of us who like to watch our dogs catch treats in mid-air have to go to all the effort of tossing them.

New from Purina, Beggin’ Party Poppers have hit the market — bacon and cheese-flavored treats that come in a canister with a lid that resembles a pig face.

Push in the pig’s nose, place a treat inside and, in a matter of seconds, the treat will be popped into the air for your dog to catch.

Sure, it may be easier to just toss the treat yourself, not to mention more of a bonding experience with your dog. But why bother with that when, for $18.97, you can let the canister launch a dog treat skyward for you?

poppersThat’s the price listed for the product — treats and canister — on Amazon. A refill bag of treats, meanwhile — and we hope this is a mistake — is listed at $26.86 on Amazon. Other online sources have the refills in the $6-7 range. You can learn more at www.pighead.com.

It seems, at first glance, an over-priced little gimmick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it evolve, perhaps into an app that allows you to shoot your dog a treat while sitting in your workplace cubicle, or a self-loading version that shoots out a treat every hour for dogs left home alone.

Imagine that. Your dog, if he’s anything like mine, would spend 59 minutes of each hour staring at the machine, one minute of each chasing, catching and eating the treat. Dogs would begin to worship the treat machine even more than they do us. They’d sleep next to the treat machine. They’d bark at anyone who threatened the treat machine. They’d follow the treat machine — once a moving version, like those robo-vacuum cleaners, was perfected — everywhere it went.

And we’d have nothing to do but lay alone in our cold beds and look at our arms, grown flabby after we stopped tossing treats ourselves.

Yes, we’re stretching to make a point, but, propelled by technology, the pet industry does seem to be going in that direction — coming out with products that make it easier than ever for us to pamper our dogs while ignoring them.

Purina’s treat-launching pig is a harmless novelty, kind of fun, and it still requires a human’s involvement to work.

But with automatic feeders already a reality, automatic treat dispensers can’t be too far behind. Once automatic ball tossers and automatic ear scratchers hit the market, we dog-owning humans could find ourselves out of a job.

It’s nice for our dogs to stay occupied, but we shouldn’t turn too much of that job over to machines and robots.

That will only make our dogs, and us, more robot-like.

100 slain sled dogs to be exhumed this week

With spring’s thaw, forensic experts will begin exhumation this week of a mass grave in British Coumbia as part of an investigation into the slaughter of 100 sled dogs last year.

Details of the killings last April surfaced in January after sled dog tour operator Robert Fawcett filed a disability claim saying he suffered post-traumatic stress from shooting and slitting the throats of about 100 dogs, under orders from his bosses.

The dogs were dumped — some still alive — in a mass grave north of Whistler.

The British Columbia SPCA announced Sunday it would begin a week-long investigation aimed at finding out whether the dogs were killed inhumanely, said Marcie Moriarty, the society’s animal cruelty investigation manager.

“The scope of this investigation is unprecedented in North America,” Moriarty told The Province. “We owe it to those 100 dogs buried in that grave to ensure that this kind of tragic incident never happens again in B.C.”

Exhuming the dogs wasn’t possible until now because of frozen ground.

Eight forensic experts will take part, including veterinarians, archaeologists and anthropologists from across North America,  many of whom have volunteered their time for the effort, Moriarty said.

After the mass killing was reported, a provincial task force was formed  to review the incident, leading to recommendations for tougher animal cruelty penalties and new regulations that required the sled dog tour industry to establish humane euthanization policies.

Moriarty said all the dogs would be given a respectful and humane burial after the investigation.