There are two main reasons I’m against humanizing our pets.
One, it’s messing with nature — dogs (ideal beasts, in my view) should stay dogs.
Two, portraying them as humans, giving them human attributes, or using them as our puppets, implies our species is superior, and worth imitating. Oftentimes, from what I’ve seen of it, it’s not. We’re are way too far from perfect to appoint ourselves role models for the animal kingdom.
I get slightly peeved when I see technology being used to make dogs more human — especially when, because we deem it cute and entertaining, we put our words in their mouths.
So, immensely popular as it is, I’m less than smitten with My Talking Pet, an app that allows us to take a photo of our cat or dog, record an audio message, and get a video of our pet — animated so that mouth, nose and eyebrows move as the pet appears to talk.
From the samples I’ve seen, the words we put in the mouths of dogs are only further proof that we’re not the intellectually superior species we think we are.
“People are obsessed with it,” said Iain Baird, who developed the app with his former school buddy, Peter Worth. “I think it’s really struck a chord with how close people are with their pets.”
The concept, he told Fortune.com, came while he and some friends were in a London pub talking about a YouTube video featuring a “talking dog” that had gone viral. They decided to come up with an app that would make it easy for any pet owner make their dog “talk,” and it hit the iTunes market in early 2013.
It wasn’t until after the app was featured on the “Ellen” show that it really took off.
Last October, Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, stars of the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls,” praised the app while on the show. In the weeks that followed it became the most downloaded paid app in the Apple iTunes store.
Worth and Baird say their company, WOBA Media, began thinking even bigger after that — including offering a “devil mode,” which adds glowing red eyes to the pet, and “angel mode,” in which the pet appears under a halo.
Taken alone, “My Talking Pet” is just a little harmless fun — as is dressing the dog up for Halloween, treating the dog like a spoiled grandchild, or calling them “fur babies”.
The dangers come when our seeing them as humans sabotages our attempts at training, when we start assigning dogs human emotions they don’t have, and holding them to human expectations.
We should be close to our pets. We should see them as family members — only canine ones. To manipulate them, to turn them into something else (humans, or angels, or devils), to put words into their mouths, all takes away from appreciating them for what they are.
Just something to keep in mind as technology marches on — often making bigger inroads than we originally anticipated.
How long will it be, for example, before cutting edge, 21st Century technology, like that used in “My Talking Pet” is turned around on us, and the app takes on a mind of its own, and our pets are giving us their unsolicited opinions on the best brand of dog food, cereal or car to buy?
That could never happen, could it?
Posted by John Woestendiek September 4th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2 broke girls, animal, animals, animation, apps, behavior, dog, dogs, ellen, humanize, humanizing, internet, itunes, my talking pet, pets, species, superior, talking, talking dog videos, talking dogs, technology, words
Did a Google “street view” car hit and kill a small dog on a road in Chile?
Some media outlets are suggesting just that, based on evidence that comes from … Google.
Whether the Internet giant was fingered by its own technology isn’t certain, but a look at what the street view car recorded while traveling down the 2800 block of Meza Bell indicates that the lively little dog ran that ran in front of the car was, after the car had passed, apparently lifeless.
Street view cars, driven by independent contractors, travel down public streets recording a 360 degree view of the surroundings for use on Google Maps.
The images show the dog trotting in front of the oncoming car, and laying motionless in its wake.
Most media accounts, like this one on BusinessInsider.com, imply the vehicle did not stop.
Google says it is investigating the images to “understand and inform what happened” and ensure that they have proper guidelines in place to protect people and animals.
Last year, questions arose over whether a street view car had struck and killed a donkey in Botswana. Google said a review of the images proved that didn’t happen.
(Images from Google Maps)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 22nd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, car, dog, dogs, google, google maps, hits, internet, kills, mapping, maps, pets, street, street view, street view car, view
It would be easy to blame the disappearance of Fluffy on Craigslist. Too easy.
Fluffy’s owner deserves some of the blame — for leaving her four-year-old shih tzu-Maltese mix with a woman who responded to her Craigslist ad for a pet sitter, without ever visiting the home her dog was going to be staying in.
But the real culprit, police in Florida say, is the woman they are now looking for — the one who identified herself as Keyana Morales when she responded to the pet owner’s ad, and who was hired after meeting with Fluffy and her owner a couple of times in a local park.
Fluffy’s owner hired Morales to care for Fluffy while she and her family were on vacation out of the country. When she returned from vacation, Fluffy — and Morales — were nowhere to be found.
Her phone calls and emails went unanswered, and the address the pet sitter gave her turned out to be a vacant house, Local10 reports.
Police in Boynton Beach say Morales’ name was phony as well. They are now seeking the woman they believe absconded with the dog after posing as a pet sitter – Shamari Patrick, 23.
Police say Patrick lives out of her car, a burgundy Grand Marquis. (Anyone with information about Patrick or Fluffy is asked to call police at 561-742-6135 or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 800-458-TIPS.)
Police say they believe stealing Fluffy was Patrick’s intent from the start, which, unless she was paid up front, doesn’t make much sense, and doesn’t explain why Patrick, as Morales, stayed in touch with the pet owner during her trip, and emailed her photos of Fluffy.
We don’t know if police are jumping to conclusions, but Fluffy’s owner sure did before leaving on vacation in July when she decided to hire a pet sitter without exercising hardly any of the diligence that was due.
Maybe that’s why she’s seeking not to be identified by name. News reports refer to her as Fluffy’s owner, or “the victim.” Perhaps she’s a little embarassed about having done so little homework before entrusting her dog to a stranger.
Craigslist, and the Internet, make everything seem so quick and easy that we no longer see them as what they truly are — crapshoots, unreliable and dangerous, in large part because they make us think answers and solutions are just a click away.
Craigslist, and all the rest of the Internet, should be seen as a starting point, from which to move on to further research. Otherwise they can lead to endings that, as could be the case for Fluffy, are not at all happy.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, craigslist, dog, dog sitter, dogs, find, florida, fluffy, health, hired, internet, maltese, pet sitter, pets, safety, shamari patrick, shih-teese, shih-tzu, stolen, theft, vacation
Here’s a video that has been posted and reposted to YouTube in recent days, showing a shiba inu (or is it a golden retriever?) in Thailand (or is it Taiwan?) trying to save (or bury?) a fish out of water.
Yes, we humans are at it again. We all think we know — despite the lack of any factual foundation, despite living on the opposite side of the planet, despite being of another species, despite our inability to get straight what few facts there are — what this dog is doing, and why he’s doing it.
How do we know? Because we’re humans, dammit.
On its surface, through human eyes, it seems a most touching scene — as if the dog, by splashing water on the lifeless fish, and nudging it with his nose, is trying to revive it. (All this, we’d note, as humans stand by idly, giggling and taking video.)
And maybe that’s exactly what he’s doing.
But we do not know that.
We don’t know that, and yet, in our vanity, we are willing to express our interpretation as indisputable fact — whether we are the original observer, a watcher of the video, or a blogger in search of hits.
“This Dog Trying To Save A Fish Will Make You Say Aww” reports BuzzFeed
“Kindest Dog Ever Tries to Save Fishes by Splashing them with Water!” says the Inquisitr.
I’ve bemoaned this phenomenon before, and will bemoan it again — because it’s a little presumptious, and a little vain, to proclaim we know what’s motivating the behavior of animals. And it’s a little disingenuous of us to to let ourselves be moved to tears based on a rash, and possibly erroneous, interpetration.
It’s as if we don’t want to let facts or reason get in the way of our “awwwws,” or when something is going viral.
The video, and snippets thereof, have been posted on YouTube by dozens, all it seems in the last couple of days.
One of those post reads, “In the city of Phetchaburi in Thailand, a dog discovered the fish out of the water and unconscious on the pavement. It will try not to let them die by spraying water with its snout. Besides the fish are few puddles. The dog will then sprinkle the fish, as if he wished they would not die. Touching!”
The original poster of the video, or at least someone claiming to be such, explained on LiveLeak “Hello we took this video on a short trip to asia. The dog here … hangs out at the docks (and) is trying to keep the fish alive. He understands they need water to live and it made me a little sad inside.”
(A short trip to Asia? Could they be less specific?)
Others who have posted the video say it happened in Taiwan. Some describe the dog as a golden retriever; others suspect it’s a shiba inu, but they all agree the dog is engaged in a valiant rescue effort.
Some of those commenting on YouTube are pointing out that may not be the case:
“Sorry to burst your bubble but.. the Dog isn’t trying to save the fish. He think’s he is burying it. He’s using the water to bury it but doesn’t realize that water is not dirt, and hence he cannot successfully do the job properly. Canines are not intellectual enough to know that a fish needs water to breathe or survive.”
Others — caught up in the “awwww” of it all — refuse to accept that theory, or even consider it: “He is trying to save the fish,” asserts one. “He’s nudging it with his nose at 0:39. He’s trying to get the fish to move again and doesn’t understand why it won’t.”
There’s nothing wrong with speculation — as long as we admit it’s speculation, and don’t get too carried away by it.
Here’s mine. Assuming this dog is a regular at the wharf, maybe he discovered one day that he could revive dying fish by splashing them with water, and maybe he remembers that. Maybe he is trying to get them to move again. Maybe that’s because death saddens him, or maybe it’s because they’re more fun to play with when they’re flopping around.
Most of us are taught — in school, and in training for careers — to avoid using the word “maybe,” as it could maybe make us appear uncertain and plagued by self-doubt, the sort of person who would flip flop.
Not to splash water in your face, but I think, just maybe, that’s a mistake.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, awwww, buzzfeed, certainty, docks, dog, dog and fish, dog trying to save fish, dogs, emotions, fish, fish and dog, humans, internet, interpretations, maybe, pets, reality, rescue, revive, save, speculation, taiwan, thailand, truth, video, viral, websites
Lately, it seems, hardly a month goes by without either some viral video or paper-writing scientist suggesting that — contrary to what scientists and the media think we think — dogs feel emotions much like our own, or at least a doggy version of them.
If it’s not a video, like the one above – which is being described in the news media as a dog not just feeling remorse, but atoning for his misdeed — it’s a new scientific paper proclaiming, yes, dogs do feel … you name it … joy, fear, anger, guilt, pride, compassion, love, shame.
(If you didn’t already think dogs feel joy, you may not be the world’s most perceptive person.)
(Some, apparently, get so overwhelmed by it that they pass out.)
This month’s emotion? Jealousy.
Dr. Christine Harris, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego — after a study involving dogs, their owners, stuffed animals, jack-o’-lantern and children’s books – concluded that dogs showed a “primordial” form of jealousy, meaning, I guess, not as evolved, twisted, complex, nasty and, sometimes, fatal as the human form.
According to an article in the New York Times, the dog version of jealousy is “not as complex as the human emotion, but similar in that there is a social triangle and the dog is trying to make sure it, not the rival, receives the attention.”
In the study, as it’s described in a a PLoS One paper co-written by Harris, researchers compared the reactions of dogs when their owners petted and talked to a jack-o’-lantern, read a children’s book aloud, and petted and talked to a stuffed toy dog that barked and whined.
The dogs paid little attention to the jack-o’-lantern or the book. But when dog owners petted and talked to the stuffed dog, their dogs reacted, coming over, pushing their noses into the owner or stuffed dog, sometimes barking, and sniffing the rear end of the stuffed dog.
I’m not sure that’s proof of jealousy — it could just be proof that dogs are smart enough to investigate when humans are trying to dupe them. On top of that, most dogs have experience playing with stuffed toys, as opposed to plastic pumpkins and children’s books. So it’s not too astonishing they would have a more excited reaction to them.
In that way, the findings of this study aren’t really too surprising, or revealing, but they are indicative, I think, of a trend — in the scientific community, in the news media, and among normal members of society — of seeing dogs more and more as humans.
The “dogs feel jealousy” study, for example — flimsy as its findings sound — was picked up by most major news organizations.
“Study: Jealousy Is So Universal Even Dogs Feel It,” reported the New York Times.
“Study: Dogs Can Feel Jealous, Too,” said a CNN headline.
At least NPR phrased their headline as a question: “Does Your Dog Feel Jealous, Or Is That A Purely Human Flaw?”
These days, the news media doesn’t need a legitimate study to draw sweeping conclusions; a viral video will do.
The headlines all presume to know what the beagle is feeling, and some go so far as to explain the goal of his behavior as well: “I’m Sorry! Charlie the guilty dog showers crying baby with gifts to apologize for stealing her toy,” reads the headline in The Daily Mail.
My problem is not with attributing emotions to dogs. I believe they have most of the ones we do, or at least most of the desirable ones. I believe they have other magical gifts and skills we haven’t even begun to figure out. I believe studying what’s going on in their heads is a good thing — at least when it’s done by dog experts. I can even handle a little anthropomorphization; given we’re humans we tend to interpret things in human terms.
What bothers me, for starters, is presenting such findings as new, when dog owners have known most of them all along. Sometimes, it’s as if scientists and the news media are saying, oh wait, we’ve discovered dogs are not unfeeling blobs of fur, after all. Well, duh.
The problem I have is not so much ascribing emotions to dogs as it is the vanity of assuming emotions are something only humans feel.
And feel free as well, video posters, to share your dog’s interesting and seemingly human-like behavior, and to offer any theories you might have.
But let’s not leap to wild conclusions, based on how things look through our human eyes. Let’s not forget that dogs have had emotions all along. Let’s not assume they are “catching up” with us in terms of their emotions and behaviors. Maybe they’ve been ahead of us all along.
And let’s not be so surprised — given the centuries man has been choreographing their evolution, and the half century or so they’ve been mostly living inside with us — that they’re picking up some of our habits, good and bad.
While we’re at it, let’s let dogs remain, at least in part, dogs.
Let’s keep in mind, during all this, what we can learn from them. Are dogs lagging behind us, in terms of developing a sense of jealousy, or are they exhibiting a purer form of what we homo sapiens have taken to ridiculous extremes?
And let’s at least keep our minds open to the possibility that, when it comes to what dog and man can learn from each other, we may not always be the teachers, or the role models, in that equation.
(Photos: Ace in Monterey, California, at home on the couch, and with a panhandler in Portland, Maine; by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 30th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, anthropomorphization, cognition, dog, dogs, emotions, feelings, guilt, internet, jealousy, media, news, pets, pop culture, remorse, science, society, studies, study, trend, videos, viral, what dogs feel
You know how frustrated you get when you have to tell your dog something over and over again?
Come here. Come HERE. Listen to me. Get over here right now. Don’t make me say it again. COME HERE!
In this video, the shoe is sort of on the other paw.
John Ventresco, of New Hampshire, is trying to persuade his 11-month-old husky, Blaze, to get into her crate.
Not only does Blaze physically (but peacefully) resist, refusing to budge, but she says what sounds like “no” — 30 times by my count, at least 10 of those quite clearly:
Posted on YouTube just two weeks ago, the video is approaching 5 million views, meaning a lot of people are getting a chuckle, and learning how not to train a dog, and debating whether Ventresco — as gentle and good-humored as his urging is — is going to get bitten one of these days, and, if so, will he have deserved it.
Eventually one of them will have the other properly trained, I’m just not sure if it will be Ventresco or Blaze. Right now, it appears to be a draw.
The bigger question it raises, to me, anyway, is whether the day will come when dogs really do talk. I predict it will — that they will someday talk, on their own, without the aid of implants, headsets, devices that monitor their brain waves and apps that translate what they’re thinking into words.
Several projects are underway that do just that — because we humans want to know what’s going on in their heads, and we want to know now, and somebody somewhere thinks it might make some money.
We’ll take advantage of technology to bring that about and get it on the market as soon as possible, rather than wait a few hundred or thousand more years when, I’d venture, dogs will have evolved to the point that they’re talking on their own anyway.
It’s only natural for that to happen, with them living so closely to us, observing us around the clock, and watching too much TV. They will continue to pick up our skills – learning to operate a remote control, warming up some chicken nuggets, uttering words, then entire phrases.
Mark my words. By the year 2525 (and that’s just a wild guess), dogs will be saying “yes” and “no,” and more:
I want to go outside for a while.
But wait, there’s more. Details at 11. Ohmigod, they killed Kenny. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night.
Put me in that damn crate again and, I swear, I’m going to call my attorney.
They may never have as sophisticated a vocabulary as us, may never be as erudite, snotty, self-promoting and adept at making barbed comments as us. But the day will come that they use words.
The question is not whether dogs will someday learn to talk. It’s whether, when they do, we’ll listen.
We already stink at that — in terms of listening to our fellow humans, and in terms of hearing what our dogs are silently saying. We’re so dependent on words we don’t hone our wordless communication skills, even though that mode is often more honest and meaningful.
My fear is that, through continued domicile-sharing with humans, dogs are going to learn to talk, but also – like Blaze, like Ventresco — not to listen.
It all brings to mind some lyrics from a song that has nothing to do with dogs — Don McLean’s “Vincent.” When you think about it, the misunderstood artist and modern day dog have much in common. We wonder what they’re trying to say, fail to see their brilliance, and don’t appreciate them fully until they’re gone.
Instead, often, we taunt, ridicule and shame them.
How much shorter might Van Gogh’s career have been, how many appendages might he have lopped off, were he around in the Internet age, reading nasty comments from people about his paintings?
How much quicker might the civil rights movement have progressed if people had shut up and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., the first time?
Are we getting any better at listening, or quicker to turn a deaf ear?
As the song “Vincent” says:
They would not listen, they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will…
Let’s give it a listen.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 20th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, apps, artist, behavior, biology, blaze, civility, cognition, comments, communication, crate, devices, dog talk, dog training, dogs, don mclean, evolution, headsets, humans, husky, impatience, implants, internet, kennel, listen, listening, martin luther king, martin luther king jr, misunderstood, mlk, mlk day, no!, noooo, persuasion, pets, refusal, repetition, resistance, siberian husky, skills, starry starry night, stubborness, talking, talking dogs, technology, thoughts, training, translation, van gogh, video, vincent, viral, vocabulary, vocalizing, what part of no don't you understand, words, youtube
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a computer was working, not even a mouse
The connections were tight, all plugged in with care
But even after rebooting, my desktop was bare
There was no way to email, no access to data
No Facebook on which I could update my status
Without any Internet, there was no way to Tweet
And that Obamacare deadline would be tough to meet
There was no YouTube, no Google, no Huffington Post
No Instagram, or Tumblr. I missed Amazon most
For last-minute gifts, there was no online shopping
That meant going outside to do some store hopping
The traffic was awful, but lucky old me
I found what I needed at Target for cheap
It was with things looking up and with nothing to fear
That I handed my credit card to the smiling cashier
Back home I felt something quite close to bliss
My computers were working, my shopping finished
But my website I learned was nowhere to be found
The server had crashed, I realized with a frown
I had a poem in my head, some good cheer to spread
But ohmidog!, on the web, was for all intents dead
I started shouting un-Christmas like phrases:
Dagnabbit, gosh darnit, fiddlesticks, what the blazes?
Far be it from me to say there is no St. Nick
I don’t think his magic is all just a trick
What I believe in much less is the Internet
For something to count on, your dog’s your best bet
(ohmidog! wishes all its readers the happiest of holidays, and apologizes for recent server-related downtime.)
(Image: From the Etsy website of artist Todd Young)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 24th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 'twas the night before christmas, animals, christmas, computers, dogs, greetings, holidays, internet, obama care, ohmidog!, pets, poetry, seasons, servers, shopping, target, technology, web, websites