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What part of “no” don’t you understand?

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:

“Noooooo!”

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:

Feed me.

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.

What you can count on this holiday season

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‘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)

It’s all about sharing

Here we see a duck and a dog peacefully sharing a meal — at least until the food runs out.

Then the duck gets a little peckish.

The dog, who looks like he might have a little pit bull in him, takes it all in stride before nonchalantly walking off.

We won’t cast judgment, since we’re not sure if the food actually belonged to, or was meant for, the duck or the dog.

There’s no explanation of the video by the person who put it on YouTube — other than “quack, quack, quack.”

Interestingly, the comments that have been made about the video indicate there’s some sort of argument going on between humans, who sometimes have trouble sharing, and get a little peckish, too. Apparently someone thinks the video was “stolen.”

“Please stop stealing other people’s videos,” reads one comment.

It’s not clear — to me, anyway — whether they’re complaining about the video being stolen and put on YouTube, or they think it was “stolen” off of YouTube, for use somewhere else, as we have done, via the embed code that most all YouTube videos have, for the express purpose of sharing.

The comments are of no help in figuring things out — instead they consist of the kind of not-so-witty banter we’ve grown to expect from comments on the Internet (except those left on ohmidog!, of course.)

Whose video is it? Whose food was it?

Dunno.  But I’m happy to share.

“Oh, you are so good:” Virtual dog offers “unconditional love” to elderly

Meet GeriJoy. He’s a virtual dog. He’s a talking dog. He’s even described as “a compassionate” dog.

He was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be an interactive companion for older people with dementia or memory problems, serving to provide what his makers call “continual stimulation.”

We’d be the first to recite all the wondrous things contact with a dog can do for the old, lonely, troubled and institutionalized and, using my own father as an example, we have, repeatedly.

But there’s something about GeriJoy, noble as the idea may be, that I find a little bit patronizing, a little bit insulting, and highly phony. His creation also seems an awfully circuitous and robotic route to take to provide a virtual experience with an animated creature when the real thing is so abundantly available.

Clearly, I’m cynical, or at least wary, when it comes to technology — and perhaps more. It was only yesterday, after all,  that I cruelly bashed soft and fuzzy stuffed animals.

gerijoy-300x170My point, then and now, is that, unlike with sugar, there is no substitute for the real thing when it comes to dogs.

Despite that, techno-wizards keep trying, intent, it seems, on trying to capture a no-shed, no-drool, no bark, no worries version of dog — be it stuffed, virtual, or mechanical — and then convince you that their inanimate, or animated, object will love you unconditionally forever.

The truth is, close as they might come — and cloning probably comes closest — they never will. Ha ha. Take that.

If GeriJoy, the virtual dog, is making some old person happy, even if it’s a delusional kind of happy, we’re all for it. If it’s being used as a substitute for human attention, we’re not. With all the growth in and demands on senior services and facilities for the elderly, there’s a tendency to look for quick and easy shortcuts, when the keys to doing job right are already obvious — caring staff, ample staff, staff with hearts.

And maybe some dogs — real dogs.

What I’d rather see is not a nursing home where dozens of residents are lined up in wheelchairs, stroking animated images on their hand held devices, but one that’s taking advantage of programs — or even creating some — in which dog ownership among residents is encouraged, and assistance with those dogs is provided; ones where dogs live under communal ownership, or short of that, therapy dogs visit regularly; one that’s investing in building a qualified and caring staff, as opposed to investing in devices that substitute for real human, or dog, contact.

Here’s how the GeriJoy website touts the product: “Have an older loved one who is lonely and suffers from dementia or geriatric depression? GeriJoy can help. We provide talking pets that are intelligent, compassionate, and available 24/7 to talk about anything, including photos and updates from family.”

The virtual dog can be displayed on a computer or other Internet-connected device. The virtual dog, the website claims, ”provides all the availability and unconditional love of an adorable pet, combined with the ability to talk with true intelligence and compassion … It’s as if it lives inside a picture frame, so you get the benefits of pet therapy without any smells, allergies, cleaning up, bites, or food and veterinary bills.”

The virtual dog can provide around the clock stimulation, his developers say, and, in the video snippet above, GeriJoy certainly sounds stimulating, or stimulated, almost orgasmically so. “Oh, you’re so good,” GeriJoy coos as an elderly man strokes the image on the screen.

We’re not sure if that’s what GeriJoy told the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Healthy Aging Forum this month when he appeared before it. He’ll also be on exhibit at the AARP Health Innovation@50+ Tech Expo on May 31 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the AARP blog.

To get GeriJoy, one must subscribe, and pay from $99 to $129 a month. The hardware costs up to $349 for the most sophisticated, Internet-connected version.

GeriJoy was co-founded by Victor Wang, a former Canadian Army officer who did research on human-machine interaction for NASA while at MIT. He says he was inspired to develop the virtual dog by his grandmother in Taiwan, who became depressed while she was living alone.

Wang says GeriJoy can even serve as a watchdog. In one case, a user’s human caregiver was being verbally abusive, and GeriJoy “contacted the user’s daughter to let her know about it.”

“Whatever your loved one wants to know, the companion can find out and report back,” the website says. “It can send and receive messages and photos between you and your loved one, also via the Internet. All this is done through the intuitive metaphor of a talking dog. Your loved one doesn’t even need to know what a computer is.”

We don’t care if the day comes when a virtual dog can cook dinner, push a wheelchair, administer medications or help you understand your health insurance.

A real dog is better — even with his shedding and drooling. Real dogs bring one into, and keep one in, the moment. Real dogs can help you keep a grip on reality, as opposed to pulling you into fantasy land. And real dogs offer a true form of love and validation — even if they can’t say, at least with words, “Oh, you are so good.”

Facebook CEO’s new Puli gets his own page

When does a dog relieving himself rate 350 (and counting) Facebook comments?

When it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s dog.

“I just took a dump and made Mark Zuckerberg pick it up. It was glorious,” the Facebook founder’s newly-acquired Puli “writes” on — you guessed it — his very own Facebook page.

The Facebook CEO and his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, recently adopted the puppy, whose name is Beast.

Beast, according to his page, loves  “cuddling, loving, and eating.”

We’re hoping Beast’s future status posts will pertain to more than his bodily functions and what he had for dinner. Then again, why should we hold him to a higher standard than humans on Facebook?

Until he shows us something more, though, our favorite Puli of all time will have to remain The Auditor.

(Photos from Beast’s Facebook page)

Dear Isaac, Please do not ride the dog

We’re not real big on stating the obvious, but there are times it needs to be stated, especially when it comes to children and dogs.

Case in point:  today’s “Dear Abby” column, in which a reader relates how a 9-year-old visitor to his home climbed aboard his Labrador retriever, possibly causing her permanent injuries.

“Isaac,” the visiting child, who apparently had little experience with canines, was playing with Layla, the retriever, when the homeowner heard him say, “Look, I’m riding your dog!”

“I immediately intervened, but I was too late,” the letter writer said. “A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. It’s possible the damage is irreversible.”

The letter writer wasn’t seeking veterinary advice, but wondering how to tell Isaac and his parents about the harm he caused, and keep him from doing it again, without placing “undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy.”

Abby responded to “Heartbroken in New York” this way:

“Children are not mind-readers. If you don’t tell them when they make a mistake, they won’t realize they have made one. Contact Isaac’s parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.”

I — though  nobody asked — would add only two things to that. First, that any guilt Isaac might feel on learning what he had done isn’t exactly “undue.” Second, that when your dog is meeting someone new — especially a child — you should be in the room, watching and, if necessary, teaching. It’s very easy for a dog owner to assume everyone knows how to behave around dogs, but it’s also very wrong.

Riding a dog, no matter how big he or she is, no matter what the Internet might tell you — and the photo above is just  one example of some incredibly irresponsible online “expertise” — should simply never be done. Period.

(Photo: Taken from wikiHow.com’s article on “how to ride a dog”)

(Postscript: The day after this article appeared on ohmidog!, the wikiHow article on “how to ride a dog” was taken down.) 

 

Despite euthanasia, Wall-e’s tail still wagging

Here’s a pretty amazing story out of Sulphur, Oklahoma, about a dog who apparently was euthanized, declared dead and, the next morning, was found scurrying around the trash bin in which he had been dumped.

As a result of his tale of survival, hundreds have expressed interest in adopting Wall-e, as the three-month-old dog is being called.

Wall-e and his littermates were dropped off outside the animal shelter in Sulphur. Because all seemed seriously ill, shelter officials say, they were euthanized. After being pronounced dead by a veterinarian, they were all disposed of in a bin outside the shelter, which was scheduled to be emptied that night.

The next morning, though, Animal Control Officer Scott Prall looked in the bin and saw it still held its contents, including Wall-e, who was alive.

“He was just as healthy as could be,” Prall said.

Amanda Kloski of the Arbuckle Veterinary Clinic, took him in, and word about Wall-e, named after the movie robot, spread on Facebook, leading to hundreds of calls from people interested in adopting him.

The vet clinic said they would review the offers this week and choose a permanent home.

Both the clinic and the animal control officer say Wall-e and the others may not have been put to sleep at all if Murray County had a better animal shelter, according to KWTV.

Techno-whipped? I pity the fool

In our eighth month of bouncing about this expansive and expensive country, Ace and I seemed headed for our most frugal stretch yet – thanks mainly to lucking out and finding some free housing upon our return to Baltimore.

For the first time, in our continuing effort to see America while spending less than what we were while sedentary and housed – about $1,500 for rent, food and utilities – we were looking at a three digit number instead of four.

Now, thanks to my stupidity, and with an assist from Verizon, we’ve blown it, and somebody has some explaining to do.

Before we left on our journey, I canceled my home Internet service (through Verizon) and signed up for wireless mobile broadband (through a different part of Verizon), allowing us to get online no matter where we were for $59 a month – the package they suggested for a heavy user.

It worked pretty great. There were only two or three locations in our 22,000 miles of travels, where service was non-existent or spotty.

I was so pleased, I even eventually sent Verizon the payment they were seeking from me for home Internet service for the month following the date I moved out of my house. It was basically a choice between paying the money I didn’t really owe, being regularly harassed by the credit agency to which they turned the matter over, or spending far too much time on the phone, holding and then some, to try and straighten it out.

All was going smoothly with my wireless mobile broadband — or so I thought until last week, when Verizon informed me that for the past two months I’d gone over monthly limit, and that I owed them more than $400. Read more »

Sailor finds some friends in South Philly

Neighbors in South Philadelphia found a bruised, battered and hungry dog, took him in, and have raised enough money for him to have surgery tomorrow.

Apparently, the 6-month-old shepherd mix, who they’ve named Sailor — given he was a bit of a shipwreck when they found him at 15th and Federal Streets in South Philadelphia — had been abandoned, and hit by a car. Three of his legs were injured and he was barely able to walk, CBS in Philadelphia reported.

When his rescuers brought him home, Sailor was so emaciated some weren’t sure he would make it, but he has gained 10 pounds since then, and he’s scheduled for surgery this week, at a cost of about $5,000.

“A lot of vets told me to put him down right away,” said Clair Sauer. “The surgeons were ready to operate on him yesterday, but I had to tell them ‘I don’t have the money.’” Sailor’s foster family set up a Sailor website to help raise the money. In little more than 24 hours, they reached their goal.

According to the website, the surgery will be performed at CARES in Langhorne, Pa., by Dr. Brentz. Sailor will have his rear femur cut and “put back into place with lots of metal…”

“Recovery will be long and will take patience, but we will be there for him! He will need lots more x-rays to monitor how his bones are healing. And, when he is ready, physical therapy. These will incur more costs, but we will stay optimistic!”

Once Sailor recovers from his surgery, he will be put up for adoption.

Some kind of miracle

Was it an Internet miracle, or a Christmas one? Or does that even matter now that Willis, a Clumber spaniel who went missing just before Christmas last year, is back home?

Willis belonged to Karen Martin, of Portsmouth, Va. Four days before Christmas last year, she went out to her back yard to find him gone. After a year of posting fliers and searching, she’d all but given up hope of finding him.

Little did she know, he was hundreds of miles from home, and had a date with death, metro columnist Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post reported last week.

Picked up by animal control officers in Charles County more than a month ago, Willis had been taken to the Tri County Animal Shelter in Hughesville, Md.  Shelter workers scanned Willis for an identification chip, but, though he had one, it was not detected. Shelter workers put a photograph of the  7-year-old dog on the facility’s “at-risk” list, meaning euthanasia was ahead.

The at-risk list, including a photo of each dog, is e-mailed to animal rescue groups and other dog lovers around the country in hopes that someone might be willing to adopt the animals listed before they are euthanized.

Terry Walker, an office manager for a veterinary hospital in Calvert County, was one of those who received it and recognized the dog pictured as a Clumber spaniel.

After an Internet search, Walker found an organization called Clumber Spaniel Rescue of America, and forwarded the dog’s photograph to the three contacts whose names were listed.

One of them ended up in the spam folder of Sally Day, of Washington Crossing, Pa. — a friend of Willis’ owner, Karen Martin.

She said she was deleting her spam when something told her to open this one.

“A voice said, ‘Open it,’ and the hair stood up on the back of my neck,” Day recalled. “The e-mail was from a stranger, and there was a photograph attached. I instantly thought I recognized the dog. I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s Karen’s boy.’ ”

Martin called her friend Day, then e-mailed her the photo, and Willis is back home now — a bit the worse for wear from his journey of more than 200 miles. He had an injured eye, a respiratory infection and a skin allergy that had resulted in scratching off patches of hair.

Martin, who now lives in Williamsburg, said she expected this Christmas to be a lot more joyful than last year’s.

(Photo: By Jay Paul / from the Washington Post)

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