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Tag: love

Which motivates more — food or praise?

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A study at Emory University suggests that dogs aren’t strictly the food-obsessed beasts they’ve traditionally been seen as — and that many, maybe even most, prefer attention and praise over a chewy treat.

While only 13 dogs participated in the study, there were only two of them who — judging from their neural reactions — showed a distinct preference for food over praise.

The study, published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, is one of the first to combine brain-imaging data with behavioral experiments to explore what kind of rewards canines prefer.

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory and lead author of the research.

“Out of the 13 dogs that completed the study, we found that most of them either preferred praise from their owners over food, or they appeared to like both equally. Only two of the dogs were real chowhounds, showing a strong preference for the food.”

Berns heads the Dog Project in Emory’s Department of Psychology. It was the first to train dogs to voluntarily enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and remain motionless during scanning, without restraint or sedation.

Their previous research using the technique identified the ventral caudate region of the canine brain as a reward center and showed that region responds more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

Phys.org reports that, in the new study, researchers trained the dogs to associate three different objects with different outcomes. A pink toy truck signaled a food reward; a blue toy knight signaled verbal praise from the owner; and a hairbrush signaled no reward, to serve as a control.

The dogs then were tested on the three objects while in an fMRI machine. Each dog underwent 32 trials for each of the three objects as their neural activity was recorded.

Four of the dogs showed a particularly strong activation for the stimulus that signaled praise from their owners. Nine of the dogs showed similar neural activation for both the praise stimulus and the food stimulus. And two of the dogs consistently showed more activation when shown the stimulus for food.

Berns says the findings run counter to the old view that dogs “just want food and their owners are simply the means to get it … Another, more current, view of their behavior is that dogs value human contact in and of itself.”

In another part of the study, dogs were put into a Y-shaped maze in which one path led to a bowl of food and the other path to the dog’s owner.

The dogs were repeatedly released into the room and allowed to choose one of the paths.

While most dogs alternated between the food and their owner, dogs who showed a greater response to praise in the first part of experiment chose to go to their owners 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Berns said the study “shows the importance of social reward and praise to dogs. It may be analogous to how we humans feel when someone praises us.”

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(Photos: At top, Kady, a Lab-retriever mix in the study who preferred praise from her owner to food; at bottom, Ozzie, a shorthaired terrier mix who chose food over his owner’s praise / Emory University)

Definitive proof that America’s already great

Given America’s continuing decline, and all the threats posed by outsiders who want to creep into our country — and likely into our homes — you just can’t be too careful nowadays.

To make America great again, it’s a good idea to have — at least until that wall gets built and we all live in gated communities — a home security system.

If not for one of those, this young offender — and we can only guess from his name that he is French — might never have been identified.

His name is Josh Breaux.

And he was stealing hugs.

Josh, who looks to be no older than 10, was regularly violating the sanctity of a woman’s home in Pierre Part, Louisiana — brazenly entering her garage, hugging her dog Dutchess and making a speedy getaway.

In this surveillance video, he accomplishes his entire mission in about 15 seconds.

Proving that love can be spread as quickly as hate.

Homeowner Hollie Mallet — far more touched by the display than she was alarmed — shared the video on her Facebook page in hopes of learning the boy’s identity.

She wanted to let him know he was welcome to hang around a little longer.

“Every now and then when he rides his bike he will quickly come and love on my dog or play fetch real quick, but always leaves quick like he doesn’t know if he should be here!” Mallet wrote. “I’d like to tell him he’s welcome to stay and play, she loves the attention!”

Through the post, Mallet learned of Josh’s identity, and she has been conversing with his mother, Ginger Breaux.

joshSince then, Josh has been dropping by the Mallet home every day.

“He’s taken a few pics with Dutchess, played fetch, laid in the yard with her in the shade, runs around the yard with her or just a quick stop to pet her and say hi,” Breaux told The Dodo.

“Josh talks about your dog all the time!” Breaux wrote in a comment to Mallet. “Every time we pass he looks to see if she was sitting where he could see her. Just didn’t know he was doing things like this.”

“Hope this sweet little boy Josh continues to come play and love up on Dutchess!” Mallet responded. “A dog is a friend for life!”

Josh, of course, already knows that.

His dog Bella, who the family had since Josh was 2, passed away last year.

“Things have been busy and Josh is active with after school activities so we have not jumped back into taking on the responsibility of starting all over again with a new pup quite yet,” his mother wrote.

“It will happen though.”

I’m sure it will. In a country where love trumps hate, it just has to.

(Photo: Courtesy of Ginger Breaux)

Love a terrier, get a scholarship

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Five incoming students at Hiram College in Ohio will be receiving $1,000 scholarships, and all they have to do is prove how much they love terriers.

Through the end of this month, the private liberal arts college will be accepting applications for the “Terrier Scholarships,” which must include a photo or 15-second video that depicts a student’s love for terriers.

“Be creative!” the application advises. “Show us how your terrier is part of your family, a loyal friend or a fast learner. Show us why you love terriers!”

hiramterrierslogoThe terrier, you may have figured out by now, is the school mascot. But school officials say the type of dog also embodies “many of the qualities we love to see in Hiram College students,” including being playful, curious and loyal.

The terrier has been the school mascot since 1928.

Before that the school, founded in 1850 as the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute by members of the Disciples of Christ Church, used the nickname “Farmers,” and later, “Mudhens,” for its sports teams.

In 1928, the nickname “Terriers” was adopted after coach Herb Matthews, speaking at a sports banquet, described Hiram athletics as “a little bull terrier that holds on until the end … No name would seem more appropriate to me than just the Terriers.”

While the school’s mascot is a bull terrier, any breed of terrier is acceptable in the scholarship contest.

hiramterriers2(To the college’s credit, its mascot role is filled by a student in a costume, as opposed to a live animal.)

The college says scholarship submissions should show “what makes terriers special: how they are a part of the family, a best friend, a fast-learner — and more.”

“The Terrier Scholarship is our way of paying tribute to our long-time mascot, the bull terrier, and rewarding prospective students for their creativity and drive to become a Hiram student,” said Vice President of Enrollment Lindajean Heller Western. “We know how special our Terrier is, and now we want to see what makes other terriers great!”

A panel of Hiram media and photography specialists will choose the winners based on the creativity and originality of photo and video submissions. Scholarship recipients will be notified in February 2016.

What happens when you fall in love online

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It wasn’t the first time someone has fallen in love online.

It wasn’t the first time someone dropped everything to travel across the country to meet and claim the object of his affection.

But it may be the first time that someone has been able to get members of the public to help finance such a trip.

That’s probably because the girl of Joel Carpenter’s dreams was a dog — a husky-shepherd-collie mix named Sadie that he spotted on Petfinder and was so smitten with that he bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis to adopt her, knowing full well he didn’t have the money to get back home to Maine.

“For whatever reason, Sadie just struck me,” the 23-year-old told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt like I need to fly out to rescue her; at the core, there was just this intense feeling that I was doing the right thing.”

“You could say I’m winging it a little bit,” he added in an interview conducted while he and the dog were stuck in Michigan. “I was just kind of following my heart.”

Joel Carpenter flew from his home in Portland, Maine to Minneapolis on Sept. 22 and adopted Sadie from a local shelter.

While there, what little money he had — what with taxi fares, motels and adoption fees — ran out.

It could be Carpenter is just young and brash and a poor planner, but, more likely, he saw the whole thing as an adventure.

He knew he might have to rely on ride-sharing and couch-surfing on the trip home — and things started out well enough when he got a ride from Minnesota to Grand Rapids in a kindly gentleman’s RV.

There, he found a couple that invited Sadie and him to stay in their home. But when he ran into trouble finding another ride he decided to call a local news station to see if they could help “spread the word that I needed a ride back to Maine.”

Here we have to question whether Carpenter was so gullible as to think a news station would gladly broadcast his ride needs, or so savvy as to know he was sitting in the middle of a pretty good story.

After the news report, Carpenter’s phone started ringing.

“News papers and News stations all curious about my story. What was most encouraging was the positive support for me and Sadie. Many people became invested in our adventure, and wanted to help out any way they could. Many people have told me we should try Go Fund Me … So here we are!” Carpenter wrote on the Gofundme page he established.

Between it and a Facebook page started by his girlfriend, donations and offers of help poured in — food, toys, motel rooms and, finally enough money to buy an airplane ticket.

On Wednesday Joel and Sadie hitched a ride from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where another good Samaritan bought Carpenter and Sadie a hotel room for the night. On Thursday, he and Sadie flew home.

The saga of Carpenter and Sadie raises more than a few questions — including just how loose a screening process that shelter must have had to hand a dog over to someone who lived 1,500 miles away, with no money, and no clear way home. Was that irresponsible, or did they just fall for the romanticism of it all?

I kind of did, and I’m a cynical sort. But then again I uprooted my dog from his stable home to spend a year on the road, traveling across America in a car but on a shoestring, including doing a little couch-surfing and a little relying on the kindness of strangers.

Is the saga of Carpenter and Sadie proof that love conquers all? Is it the epitome of irresponsibility? An excellent adventure? Or is it just the kind of thing dog-crazy people do?

I ‘d love to hear your opinions on all this (and unlike most websites that ask you for that I really mean it) because — other than being happy they are safely back home — I’m not sure what exactly mine is.

(Photo of Joel and Sadie from WZZM)

A word about those T-shirts, and other ads

RescueLove_navyAmong many “old school” and unprofitable practices here at ohmidog! is my tendency to treat advertisers like well-trained, perhaps overly-trained, dogs — insisting they stay in their place and don’t dare venture into our editorial columns.

I will let my big old dog in bed with me, and I gladly do so every single night. But when it comes to advertisers, don’t even think about it.

So what’s this T-shirt doing here — in the space that I, way too ethical for my own good, so haughtily reserve for news matter?

For one thing, it’s kind of cool.

For another, with these T-shirts being the biggest ad ever to appear on our pages, I thought it would be a good time to explain this website’s approach to advertising.

(It is not one I recommend to anyone seeking to make money through their website.)

Basically, this middle section of the website is for news, and despite many requests from advertisers to link to their services and products here, I just don’t do it, because it strikes me as sleazy and deceptive.

The rightside column, with all those logos, is for non-profit animal welfare and animal rescue groups, and serves to link the public to their websites. There is no fee for that.

The leftside column, the one clearly marked “advertisements” is for, you guessed it, advertisements.

When ohmidog! started, seven years ago, the hope was that advertising would cover the costs, and maybe even lead to a profit.

That almost worked when we were headquartered in, and focused on, Baltimore.

Then we went and hit the road and ended up living in North Carolina. A few of those local Baltimore ads remain, but I no longer charge those advertisers — partly out of gratitude for helping us get off the ground, partly because fewer Baltimore eyes will see their ads.

Today, most of our ads, including the t-shirt ad at the top, are what are called affiliate ads.

The advertisers pay nothing for them, but if a reader clicks on one of them, and ends up buying something during that visit, the company sends a percentage of their profits my way — generally pennies on the dollar.

So far, those pennies haven’t amounted to much. And as business models go, ohmidog! — even when I wanted it to make money — has always been a prime example of how not to run a website.

We’ve always been all about the content (though I prefer the word “stories), and, while I don’t promise much else, we always will be — without any ads popping up on you, without any links misdirecting you.

What I started out doing for fun and profit, is pretty much becoming just about the fun.

In the months ahead, I’ll qualify for — and plan to start receiving — early social security. So I can only make so much money before having to turn over all the rest to the government.

So, if you must buy a T-shirt, go ahead and click on it, or any of the others now featured in our banner ad.

Just don’t buy too many.

(Photo: The I Love Dogs Site / Sunfrog.com)

Another unlikely friendship: A dog and a fox

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We humans, with our vastly superior intellects, and being the far more evolved and civilized species, don’t need no stinkin’ animals to show us how to live life.

Do we?

You’d think not — especially with Christmas approaching. Between all the peace, good will and fellowship the season supposedly brings, and all the attention, with his death, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of kindness and forgiveness, we shouldn’t be needing, right now, any furry creatures reminding us bigger-brained, two-legged types how to get along with each other.

Yet, in the past month, they seem to keep doing so — almost as if they think the message has failed to get through.

First, it’s a goose and a dog partnering up in the UK. Then it’s an elk and a dog becoming backyard playmates in Washington state. Both pairs were shown at play, raising the question, at least in some heads, if animals of different sizes and species — like elephants and dogs, or cats and crows — can get along with each other, why can’t we?

Now comes this latest pair, a fox and a dog in Norway who met in the woods last summer and became fast friends.

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Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out for a walk with his four-year-old German shepherd, Tinni, when they encountered an abandoned baby fox. Since then the fox, which Berge named Sniffer, has regularly met up with them on their trips through the woods, and Berge has been taking pictures of the get-togethers.

Now he’s working on a book about the unlikely friendship with writer Berit Helberg, who told TODAY.com that the fox was probably an orphan whose mother had died, and was probably seeking food, help and company.

“Not many people are privileged to see and enjoy a friendship like this, but Torgeir Berge has both seen them in action and gotten the opportunity to catch this in images that don’t need words,” Helberg wrote in post. They hope the story will raise awareness for animal rights and the conditions that some animals are forced live in as a result of the fur trade, Helberg said.

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Yes, animals of different species far more often kill and eat each other to survive. And these unlikely interspecies friendships, seemingly choreographed from the grave (or wherever he is) of Walt Disney, are the exception. It’s not like animals got together and said “Let’s rethink this whole survival of the fittest thing, and live together in harmony, eating wild berries.”

It was from animals, after all, that we most likely learned that mindset — that the world belongs to the fittest, richest or whoever roars the loudest.

Heartwarming as these unlikely friendship stories are, they’re not messages being sent to humans by animals.

But, particularly at Christmas, they are messages worth receiving, and learning from.

(Photos by Torgeir Berge, via Today.com)

Geraldine and Rex: A goose-dog love story

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When a German shepherd mix named Rex arrived at Puriton Horse and Animal Rescue  in the UK, he wanted nothing to do with anyone. He’d been found tethered in a junkyard eight years ago, and had been kicked out of at least one shelter since then after biting a staff member.

Geraldine the goose wasn’t exactly the picture of warmth, either, when she arrived at the same shelter three months ago, surrendered by owners who could no longer cope with her.

Individually, in their lives up to that point, the dog and the goose were given labels like vicious, mean and nasty. Neither seemed particularly thrilled with humans, members of their own species, or those belonging to others.

But when the two cranky creatures were given a chance to hang out together, something magical happened.

rexandgeraldine2The snarly 11-year-old dog and the domineering goose are now best of friends. Staff at the sanctuary believe they’ve brought out the softer side in each other, The Daily Express reports.

“Normally any bird that crossed his path would have been eaten by now. He’s that kind of dog …” said Sheila Brislin, who runs the sanctuary near Bridgwater, Somerset.

Brislin said there was some chasing and squawking when they were first introduced, but Geraldine “stood up for herself and that was that. They just fell for each other.”

“I’ve been doing rescue work since 1997 and seen all kinds of strange animal behavior, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” she added.

Brislin said Rex was rescued from his previous shelter, where he was going to be put down after a biting incident. The dog seemed to immediately mellow once he was introduced to Geraldine.

Now they take walks together, and sleep together in Rex’s bed every night.

“It’s so comical to see them because they love each other to bits,” Brislin said. “She just runs around alongside him all day long and whenever we take him for a walk in the woods she has to come too … They are very affectionate and he’s always licking her head and kissing her.”

(Photos: SWNS via The Daily Express)