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Tag: italy

It’s safe to say Walter likes the sea

Not every yellow Lab loves the water.

But those that do tend to do so with that kind of all-out, make-the-most-of-the-moment glee that dogs so often display (and we humans could learn from).

This video — made with a Go Pro camera strapped to his back — shows Walter barreling own a path to the Ionian Sea in Sicily, from the moment he is unleashed until he takes his plunge, narrowly missing taking a few humans in with him.

I try to refrain from ascribing emotions to dogs — not because I don’t think they have any, but because we mere humans never really know what’s in their heads and hearts.

In this case, though, I think it’s safe to say Walter likes the sea.

It’s also safe to say people like watching Walter’s mad dash: It garnered nearly 3 million views in its first three days on YouTube.

Today is my birthday, and here’s my birthday resolution: Be more like Walter.

Who put a noose around my dog’s neck?

acelookalike

A friend recently emailed me this poster she came across online — because the dog with the noose around his neck is the spitting image of my dog, Ace.

Or is it Ace?

For a while, I thought it was my dog, and wondered whether someone had copied one of the many photos of him that have appeared on ohmidog! and elsewhere, and then photoshopped a noose around his neck.

It reminded me of a photo I took of him in Montana about seven years ago, but that was noose-less, and  in the middle of a snowstorm (hence the downward cast face). I guess snowflakes can be removed as easily as nooses can be added, though.

I have no problem with the message on the poster, even with its misplaced comma: “Abandoning a dog, means killing it.” 

That is, usually, the case.

snow 030xAnd I have no objection to Ace’s image being used for a good cause.

But, if it is my dog, and my picture, someone should have checked with me first before looping a noose around his neck — even if it was done only through photo manipulation.

Is it Ace? I’m not sure. (That’s him to the left.)

The dog in the poster looks like him, with his big head, little ears, and high-rise legs. And that seemingly contemplative pose is one Ace strikes frequently.

Then again, the dog in the photo might be just a little grayer around the muzzle than he is.

To try to get to the bottom of it, I turned to tineye.com a reverse image search engine that allows you to play detective on the Internet by uploading a photo and getting a list of websites on which it has appeared.

It, after searching 5.283 billion images in an amazing 0.001 seconds — which is harder than I will ever work — found six results.

Three of them were in English, and two were this French version:

frenchacelookalike

Another one was in Italian, and it was the one that had been on the web the longest.

I clicked on that link and it took me to an Italian government webpage, listing public service campaigns the government had sponsored over the years.

The Ace lookalike appeared in a 2011 campaign aimed at informing the public that abandoning dogs is illegal, and that abandoned dogs usually die.

acelookalikeitaly

The slogan,”Chi abbandona un cane lo condanna,” means roughly that one who abandons a dog is condemning that dog to death.

The campaign made use of billboards and TV and radio spots, with most of the publicity coming at peak times of holiday travel. As a computer-translated version of the web page explained:

“It was decided to carry out the campaign at this time in view of the fact that the problem of stray dogs is sharpened so evident during the summer, when they touch the peaks of dropouts due to the difficulty of managing the presence of the animal in a recreation area.”

I’m sure it makes more sense in the original Italian.

What did come across clearly were the potential punishments for dog abandonment — a year in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 Euros.

(Not a bad idea for this country to try, given recent instances like that doofus in Denver, or that revolting case in Parker County, Texas.)

If that is Ace helping make the Italian public more aware of the problem, I’m proud to have him serve in that capacity. If it’s not, I can only assume it’s another Rottweiler-Chow-Akita-pitbull mix).

With Ace being a mix of four breeds (according to DNA tests) it’s not as common as it is with purebreds to come across nearly exact replicas of him. But I have seen a few doppelgangers.

One thing I found while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on commercial dog cloning, was that – rather than spending $100,000 to have your dog replicated in a laboratory in South Korea — you can generally find a lookalike in a shelter, if not in your hometown, probably not too far away.

I’m guessing Ace is not the poster boy in this case, and I’m assuming that Italy used an Italian dog for its public service announcement.

As for the Ace photo it reminds me of, it’s on my other computer — the one that’s not working right now — so I can’t call it up and compare. And the post I may have used it in apparently tunneled its way out of the Internet (which is the only way of escaping). 

If anyone in Italy knows about the dog in the photo — assuming an English to Italian computer-translation of this account makes any sense at all (and I bet it doesn’t) — get in touch with me at ohmidog@triad.rr.com.

Grazie.

Tell-tail signs: How to read your dog’s wag

wag

I’ve got to admit I’ve never paid much attention to which way Ace’s tail is wagging — mostly to the right, or mostly to the left.

More often, it just seems to go back and forth, one side to the other, which is kind of the definition of wag.

But researchers in Italy, who first reported that the prominent direction of the wag signifies whether a dog is experiencing positive or negative feelings, now say other dogs are aware of this subtle distinction, and apparently have been for some time, indicating they — dogs — are much more on top of things than researchers.

Researchers at the University of Trento, in a new study, had dogs watch videos of other dogs wagging their tails. They found, according to a study reported in the journal Current Biology, that dogs watching another dog whose tail is wagging left  showed signs of anxiety, including a higher heart rate. When watching a tail wag right, they remained calm.

When watching “Two Broke Girls” the dogs asked if they might please leave the room. (Not really.)

Returning to seriousness, the Italian researchers first reported in 2007 that dogs convey a wide array of emotions through the tail wag — not just happiness. A wag to the left indicates negative emotions; a wag to the right indicates positive ones. The directions are as seen when standing behind a dog.

In the earlier study, 30 dogs were placed, one at a time, in a large box surrounded with black plastic to prevent any visual stimulus (except maybe to dogs who find black plastic stimulating). The dogs were then shown a stimulus for 60 seconds  — a dominant Belgian Malinois, a cat in a cage, their owners, and a strange human, by which we only mean one they hadn’t met.

A system for measuring the tail movements of each dog was established — far too complex to go into here. Suffice to say, as the scientists put it:

wagchart“Tail wagging scores associated with the different stimuli were analyzed from video-recordings. Positions of the tail were scored every 10 seconds by superimposition on the computer screen of a cursor on the long axis of the body: the maximum extents of the particular tail wag occurring at each 10 second interval was recorded. Using single frames from video recording two angles were identified with respect to the maximum excursion of the tail to the right and to the left side of the dog’s body. Tail wagging angles were obtained with reference to the axes formed by the midline of the dog’s pelvis – the segment extending lengthwise through the dog’s hips, drawn from the largest points as seen from above and the axes perpendicular to it.”

When faced with their owner, dogs exhibited a “striking right-sided bias in the amplitudes of tail wagging.”  Less robust right-sided wags were observed also when the dogs were shown unfamiliar humans. When faced with a cat, dogs showed very reduced tail wagging, but still a slight bias favoring the right side. Seeing a dominant unfamiliar dog led the dogs in the study to wag more to the left.

The first study reported: “How far asymmetric tail-wagging responses are associated with postural asymmetry in preparation to the stimuli is difficult to say.” (You can say that again)  “It is likely that control of the flexure of the vertebral column is the same for the tail as well as the rest of the column, but the method we used for scoring tail-wagging responses and the panels flanking the body of the animal in the test-cage minimized any effect of asymmetric posture associated with spine bending.”

I’ve got to wonder which way the dogs’ tails wagged — or if they tucked them between their legs — when they were listening to the scientists talk.

The researchers stop short of saying wagging tails are a mode of communication between dogs.

“This is something that could be explained in quite a mechanistic way,” said Giorgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist and an author of both studies. “It’s simply a byproduct of the asymmetry of the brain.” Dogs, he explains, have asymmetrically organized brains, like humans (or at least most of them): ”The emotions are associated presumably with activation of either the right or left side of brain,” he said. “Left-brain activation produces a wag to the right, and vice versa.”

But it would seem to me that if one dog is moving his tail, and another is drawing conclusions from that motion, as the scientists say is the case, that’s communication — perhaps even a clearer form thereof than that to which the scientists are prone.

(Photo: Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bari)

And wait until you try his tabby-oca pudding

Italy’s state-run RAI TV has suspended popular cooking show host Beppe Bigazzi for touting cat stew as a Tuscan delicacy.

The suspension is for an unspecified amount of time,” the Associated Press reports.

Bigazzi, 77, who hosts a popular morning program that offers food tips and recipes, said he had enjoyed cat stew many times. When that startled his female co-host,  Elisa Isoardi, Bigazzi defended his culinary tastes, noting Italians eat rabbit, chicken and pigeons. Horse meat also is sold in Italian shops.

“Cat, soaked for three days in the running water of a stream comes out with its meat white, and I assure you I have eaten it many times,” he said on the program. “Now there will be letters from nature lovers. Why don’t they defend rabbits?”

His critics included Health Ministry Undersecretary Francesca Martini, who said Italian law protects pets from mistreatment and that Bignazzi’s comments contradict the growing public sensibility toward animals in Italy.

Italy says “ciao” to its dangerous dog list

Unlike a lot of American cities, and the U.S. Army, the country of Italy is wising up when it comes to labeling dogs as “dangerous.”

A new law goes into effect in Italy next month that does away with the country’s list of “dangerous” breeds and insteads holds owners responsible for their pets’ behavior — whatever breed it is.

Under the old law, owners of pit bulls, Rottweilers, mastiffs, bull dogs and 13 other breeds, were required to keep them muzzled in public places, and failure to respect the law could result in the animal being put down.

The new law works on the theory that any dog could be potentially high-risk and holds the owners or caretakers responsible for controlling a pet’s behavior.

“This is a historic day because we have established for the first time the responsibility of the owner or the person who is momentarily in charge of the animal,” Health Undersecretary Francesca Martini said earlier this month.

“The measures adopted in the previous laws had no scientific foundation. Dangerous breeds do not exist. With this law we have overcome the black list, which was just a fig leaf (over the larger problem), and we have increased the level of guarantees for citizens,” she said.

The new law requires vets to be responsible for compiling a register of individual dogs who they believe may be potentially high risk. Owners of those dogs will be required to keep them muzzled in public.

The law also requires dog owners to keep their pets on a leash at all times in urban areas, pick up their dog’s mess, and to carry a muzzle with them in case of need.

It also forbids training dogs to be aggressive using sticks and protective body gear, doping, surgery that is not for health purposes and dangerous cross-breeding.

European ban on dog fur takes effect

(Warning: This video contains graphic and disturbing images)

A total ban on dog and cat fur goes into effect tomorrow across Europe.

The ban, endorsed by European Union governments in 2007, prohibits trading in dog and cat fur in the 27 EU countries from the start of 2009. (Five countries have already unilaterally banned the trade – Italy, Denmark, France, Belgium and Greece.)

“The ban comes just in time as I understand there is something of a revival in fur in the fashion world,” said Struan Stevenson, who campaigned for the ban for nine years. “The onus is now on retailers and others to ensure that such demand doesn’t encourage unscrupulous fur dealers to search for ways to break the law.”

Stevenson said the ban would save the lives of millions of animals slaughtered every year in Asia – mostly in China – to serve a European market. But he warned it was now up to importers and retailers to stay vigilant against a “vile” trade in which cats and dogs are rounded up and often skinned alive.

Humane Society International first exposed the trade nearly a decade ago, revealing evidence of a thriving cat and dog fur market in many European countries including France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.

The proposed ban was supported by Heather Mills and her former husband Sir Paul McCartney. Mills collected more than 250,000 signatures in an on-line petition on her web page demanding an EU ban. More celebrity support came from Dennis Erdman, the director of television show “Sex And The City,” who persuaded Hollywood celebrities to write to the European Commission supporting a ban.

The ban follows similar legislation in America and Australia. China continues trading cat and dog fur.