Didja hear the one about the blonde Fox News anchorwoman who took her golden retriever to get an IQ test?
While that has all the ingredients for a pretty good joke, it’s actually the basis of a pretty informative news report, in which Fox 8′s Katie Nordeen brought her dog Louie to Duke University scientist Brian Hare to find out just exactly what type of dog genius he — Louie, not Dr. Hare — is.
Hare, co-author of “The Genius of Dogs,” is the founder of Dognition, a research firm that puts dogs through a series of science-based games designed to assess their personality type — information that Hare says can help dog owners better understand their dogs.
Users of the service (it costs $39) don’t get to bring their dog to Hare, as Nordeen did, but get a “toolkit” and instructions on how to conduct the experiments in their own homes.
The experiments measure five dimensions: cunning, empathy, communication, reasoning and memory, and by virtue of the results, dogs are judged to be one of nine types – Ace, Maverick, Charmer, Socialite, Protodog, Renaissance Dog, Expert, Stargazer, or Einstein.
Customers, after submitting their test results, receive a full report explaining their dog’s type, and how the conclusion was reached.
Louie, for example, was found to be a socialite. (You can read Dognition’s full report on Louie here.)
“… Gracefully interacting and communicating with others requires talent. In Louie’s case, she takes this talent to a whole new level – it is definitely her genius. Although Louie is not as adept at independent problem-solving skills as other dogs, don’t jump to any conclusions about her intelligence. Louie relies on a very specific strategy – using you and other humans in her pack to get what she wants.”
(Yes, they got Louie’s sex wrong in the report, but they are personality experts, not gender experts.)
Cutsomers also have the option of becoming members of Dognition (for an additional $60 for a year, or $5 a month), entitling them to receive tailored training tips and activities and get a discount for testing additional dogs.
Hare says Dognition, established last year, is proving popular, with thousands of users from around the world.
“Everybody wants to understand what’s going on inside of a dog’s head. It has not been hard to get people excited about this.”
After visiting Dognition’s lab in Durham for the FOX8 report, Nordeen continued conducting the experiments at home over the next two weeks. Once submitting her findings, the results were delivered, by email, almost instantly.
Hare says the purpose of Dognition is to enrich people’s relationships with their dogs, but it, like his book, is also aimed at showing the public how truly brilliant dogs are.
“Dogs were thought to be totally unremarkable. There were really no interesting things they could do relative to say dolphins or bonobos, so people were focusing on these other animals,” he said. “But at our feet, literally, were geniuses that had been undiscovered … What makes dogs such geniuses is that, relative to other species, they’re really skilled, really flexible, in understanding what it is we want and what we’re trying to tell them.”
The Dognition tests, in their at-home version, may not be the hardest of science, and their results may not be irrefutable. But given the firm’s stated goals, given the not entirely exorbitant price tag, and given that they’re fun and result in people spending more time with their dogs, I think they have a place in the spectrum of doggie evaluation services.
If people are willing to pay more than $100 to determine what breeds are in their dogs, through DNA testing, $39 doesn’t seem like too much to pay to assess that dog’s personality — and may even provide more telling clues into what makes them tick.
I haven’t run my dog Ace through the online Dognition drill yet, in part because I think his genius is too vast to be measured and could forever skew Dognition’s data base, in part because I already know he’s a charmer, with shades of socialite and Einstein. But Nordeen’s report answered a lot of questions I had about the service, and one of these days, I’ll give it a try.
We’ll close with some bloopers, courtesy of Fox 8, that occured while Nordeen and Louie were taping a promo for the piece — none of which, I’m sure, had anything to do with them being blond:
Posted by jwoestendiek November 11th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, blondes, bloopers, brian hare, Charmer, cognition, communication, cunning, dog personality, dognition, dogs, duke, duke university, Einstein, empathy, experiments, expert, fox 8, fox news, games, genius, iq, katie nordeen, louie, Maverick, media, memory, news, personality, pets, Protodog, reasoning, Renaissance Dog, Socialite, Stargazer, tests, the genius of dogs
If there are two things that melt the average American’s heart, they are dogs and returning soldiers.
Put them together — as in a soldier coming home and reuniting with his or her dog — and you have a slam dunk in terms of public appeal, as the plethora of real videos of that on YouTube, and the number of views they’ve received, attest.
This one, despite what many viewers think, isn’t real, but a staged presentation aimed at selling Iams dog food.
“Rocky the dog didn’t know why Dawn was gone for so long,” the commercial tells us. “But when she showed up in military camoflouge, he was there ready to greet her with the biggest welcome home. So, to keep Rocky strong and healthy, Dawn chooses Iams dog food.”
The ad features a magnificent Irish Wolfhound (whose real name is Monster) and his real owner, named Andrea. But it’s not capturing a real reunion. (Search YouTube for “dog” and “soldier” and “reunion” and you can find plenty of those.)
Before airing it on television, Procter & Gamble unveiled the ad, and others in its “Keep Love Strong” series, on Facebook, to let viewers share, like and comment on them.
The campaign, which started airing late last year, was created by the New York firm of Saatchi & Saatchi and showcases “the important role premium nutrition like Iams plays in keeping a dog or cat’s body as strong as their love.”
“At Iams, we trust our fans and value their opinions a great deal, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to participate in choosing our next commercial,” Iams brand general manager Ondrea Francy said in a press release about the ”Keep Love Strong” campaign. “…One of the most exciting things about our new campaign is that it was all inspired by real stories of unconditional love.”
Despite all that trust they have for us, Procter & Gamble didn’t go out of its way to point out that the commercial was made with actors, as opposed to depicting a real returning vet reuniting with their pet, leaving the issue subject to debate among online commenters.
Reading through the comments about the ad on YouTube, most seem to be from those smitten by the dog, and many are from viewers pointing out the ad made them cry.
One commenter insists he looked it up and determined that it was made with a real video of a dog and returning soldier. (Here’s some proof it wasn’t.)
Mostly, the ad is praised, but some question whether it’s using the military to sell dog food: “You’re doing a disservice to service members like my husband who wear the uniform PROUDLY,” said one.
Maybe, but the fact of the matter is that patriotism – like dogs, catchy tunes, scantily clad models and talking babies — can be a powerful sales tool, and not too much is out of bounds these days when it comes to advertising, including shamelessly blatant heartstring tugging.
That doesn’t mean (this being a free country, where we can speak our minds and buy the dog food of our choice) that we can’t criticize or pick nits.
Some commenters point out that the generic camouflage uniform worn by the “soldier” doesn’t pass muster.
“This is not real. She has no rank or anything on her uniform. No flag, no unit patch and her hair (is) completely wrong! This is probably a really well trained dog but she is not a real soldier … And she’s wearing Air Force boots with an army uniform! This would never fly in the military.”
A couple of commenters make the point that a dog as tall as an Irish Wolfhound should not be eating out of a bowl on the floor, but from a raised feeder: “You’d think the DOG FOOD company would know that…”
A handful of viewers seemed concerned, instead, that the dog and returning soldier are getting a little too intimate.
That was also the viewpoint of a post on the blog, Why I Hate Dogs, whose author says the ad “veers into the bestiality zone…”
“It shows a woman dressed in military fatigues, apparently just back from deployment somewhere. She is seen inside the house gushing over her huge Irish wolfhound (Russian wolfhound?), and walks outside, where she proceeds to lie flat on her back on the driveway, while the dog lowers itself on top of her, its legs splayed. The genital areas match up. Yes, it looks like this man-sized dog is having sex with her.”
How do you spell “Geesh?” (Is it two “E’s” or three — as in “geeesh” — and if so, might those naugbhty vowels be having an illicit threesome?)
As for me, it’s not the canine-human genital proximity that’s of concern, or the fact that the soldier’s uniform does or does not meet specs.
It’s that people don’t know whether the reunion video is real or staged. Some commenters, with whom I’d disagree, wrote that, as long as we are touched by it, that doesn’t matter.
Maybe I just need new glasses, but the line between truth and fiction seems to be getting awfully blurry these days. It doesn’t serve us well. And it would seem to me that it wouldn’t serve the dog food company well, either. If we don’t know whether the company is showing us a real event, or a staged generic re-creation, might we also wonder about how true the advertisement’s claims are, and how nutritious their product really is?
What is clear is this: Advertisers, while they may have a hard time finding unconditional love, are quick to seize upon the theme — especially if it might sell some dog food.
(“Woof in Advertising” is an occasional ohmidog! feature that looks at how dogs are used to sell stuff.)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 8th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: advertisement, advertising, air force, animals, army, commercial, commercials, dawn, dog food, dogs in advertising, iams, irish wolfhound, marines, marketing, media, navy, pets, procter & gamble, returning, reunion, reunions, rocky, saatchi & saatchi, soldier, television, unspoken, veteran, welcome home, woof in advertising
Folklore, as is often the case, has it wrong.
Pep apparently was guilty of nothing more than chewing up sofa cushions, and, once it was decided he lacked the proper decorum to live at the governor’s mansion, he was sent to the prison in Philadelphia by Gov. Gifford Pinchot.
That was done not so much as punishment, but to provide him a home and see if he could aid in the rehabilitation of inmates, according to the governor’s papers.
Apparently a newspaper reporter came up with the tall tale of the dog sentenced to prison for cat murder, and a mugshot taken of Pep at the prison supplied some credence to the story.
Despite attempts to set the record straight, the myth lingers to this day.
According to EasternState.org, a non-profit group that now runs a haunted house at the abandoned prison, Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog” was admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924.
“Prison folklore tells us that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to life without parole for killing his wife’s cherished cat,” the website says, adding that prison records, including Pep being assigned his own inmate number (C-2559), support the story.
It notes that the governor had a different version of what happened — namely that he sent Pep to Eastern to act as a mascot for the prisoners. The governor, it says, was a friend of the warden, Herbert “Hard-Boiled” Smith.
A more thorough account of how Pep landed in prison can be found on the website Suite101.com.
Pep, that story explains, was a gift to Gov. Pinchot during his first gubernatorial term (1923–1927), from the nephew of his wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot. The nephew bred Labrador retrievers. But the gift turned out to be a destructive one. Pep developed a habit of chewing on the cushions of the front porch sofa.
“… Pinchot decided that Pep had to go, but for the sake of family harmony he did not want to end the dog’s life,” the Suite101 account says. “Fortunately, an official trip gave him the idea for a convenient way of getting the dog out of his home. On a visit to Maine, Pinchot had seen dogs that were used as therapy to help inmates. So when the governor got back to Pennsylvania he decided to give the troublesome Pep to Eastern State Penitentiary as a pet.”
At the time, some inmates kept pigeons and mice as pets, but not dogs. The only dogs at the prison were guard dogs, there to ensure prisoners stayed inside and in line.
But the inmates quickly developed a fondness for Pep, and apparently vice versa. Pep lived among the inmates at Eastern State for about a decade until he was transferred to newly constructed state prison called Graterford.
Two years after he was sent to Eastern, in 1926, Cornelia Bryce-Pinchot issued a statement to the New York Times in an attempt to clear Pep’s name.
Governor Pinchot’s son also maintained that there was no murder involved.
“A newspaper reporter with a sense of humor and disregard for the truth wrote that Pep had been sentenced to prison for life for killing Mrs. Pinchot’s favorite cat,” the Suite 101 article says.
The son said his father got “absolutely thousands of letters” about Pep and this sentence, according to papers at Grey Towers National Historic Site, Governor Pinchot’s home in Milford. The made-up account, along with the mugshot, was frequently reprinted in tabloids at the time.
As some have noted, Pep — innocent as he might have been — looks pretty guilty in the mugshot.
But then again, don’t we all?
(Image: Artist rendering of Pep, based on an archival photo / Easternstate.org)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 1st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, black, cat, dog, dogs, eastern state penitentiary, folklore, gifford pinchot, governor, haunted house, inmates, killed, lab, labrador retriever, legend, mascot, media, murder, myth, news, pennsylvania, pep, pets, philadelphia, prisoner, prisons, reporter, sentenced, therapy dogs
A woman who didn’t want to tell a TV news team “how she felt” about her daughter being shot threw a rock at them, shook a baseball bat at them, and then sent her dogs after reporter Abbey Niezgoda of ABC 6 News in Rhode Island.
The crew was on assignment in Providence, seeking to interview the mother of a teenage girl who was shot at a graduation party over the weekend.
Instead of politely declining to speak on-camera, Melissa Lawrence hurled a rock at ABC6 photographer Marc Jackson, then went inside for a baseball bat. Seconds later, she told her dogs to attack.
As Lawrence shouted commands, the dogs chased Niezgoda into a backyard a few houses away.
Niezgoda was a treated for a bite on her forearm.
Melissa Lawrence was charged with two counts of felony assault with a dangerous weapon.
Lawrence’s daughter, who was shot in the lower back, has since been released from the hospital.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 7th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abbey niezgoda, animals, bite, bitten, chase, crew, dogs, interview, media, mother, news, pets, providence, reporter, rhode island, shooting, team, teenager, television, tv, victim
In the old days, when a newspaper columnist started writing about his dog, it meant — at least in the eyes of your more crusty and jaundiced types — he or she had run out of things to write about.
Of course, it (usually) wasn’t true then. And it’s even less true now.
Newspapers, as they did with the Internet, have belatedly realized that dog stories are important, that dog stories draw readers, and that dog stories are actually human stories, in disguise. They’ve finally begun to catch on to dog’s new place on the social ladder, and the wonders within them, and the serious issues surrounding them, and that they are far more than just cute.
None of which probably mattered to Steve Lopez when he decided last week to tell the story of his family’s new rescue … rescue-me-again … rescue-me-one-more time … dog.
Who is also pretty cute.
Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, decided with his wife that their daughter, at age 9, was ready for a dog. Their search took them to Tailwaggers, a pet store in Hollywood, where adoption fairs are hosted by Dogs Without Borders. Though dogless for many years, Lopez knew rescuing a mutt — as opposed to purchasing a purebred — was the preferred route these days.
Canine ownership has gotten a lot more complicated than it was when he was a kid, noted Lopez, who definitely has a crusty side.
“First of all, unless you want a rescue dog, you face the withering judgment of do-gooders who have devoted their lives to saving pups from the boneyard,” he wrote. “…I live in Silver Lake, not far from a sprawling dog park. And if an abandoned infant were spotted on the curb of that busy corner, across the street from a dog with a thorn in its paw, I guarantee you dozens of people with porkpie hats and tattooed peace signs would rush to the aid of the dog instead of the child.”
At the adoption fair, his family became enchanted with a 3-year-old Corgi mixed named Hannah, who was described as “a very timid, shy and fearful little girl ” in need of “a home where she can blossom!”
(As Lopez, author of “The Soloist” and other books, may have noticed, those involved in the world of rescuing and rehoming dogs tend to use a lot of exclamation points!)
They then began the adoption process, which, he noted, required many forms: “As I recall, applying for a mortgage wasn’t quite as involved. And many of the agencies insist on a home inspection, as well as a donation fee of up to $450.”
They took Hannah home for a trial period, as a foster. There, unlike at the fair, she refused to walk on a leash.
To get her to go to the bathroom, Lopez says he carried the dog, who they renamed Ginger, to the bottom of the driveway. Given she didn’t move when he put her down, and to build some trust, he said, Lopez unhooked the leash.
Ginger took off.
Lopez ran to his car and began the search.
“My daughter had waited five years for this pup, and I’d lost her in five minutes.”
His wife called the adoption agency to report the escape and got a scolding for letting the dog off her leash. “I must admit, they had told us rescue dogs can be runners, and that we shouldn’t let them off the leash,” Lopez wrote. “On the other hand, if you’re going to call yourself Dogs Without Borders … what message are you sending?”
They searched all day, put up fliers, and posted Ginger on Craigslist as a missing dog. The next day, they found her on a neighbor’s patio and took her home.
The next day, a Monday, Lopez returned from work to learn Ginger had jerked away while being walked and disappeared again, this time dragging her leash. Reasoning that maybe Ginger didn’t want to be there, he and his wife agreed that — once they found her again — they might want to return her.
“Maybe she’d been abused, but it seemed unlikely she’d ever be the warm and cuddly family pet we wanted our daughter to have.”
On Tuesday morning, Lopez was awaked by a scratching sound on the front door. When he opened it, Ginger walked in, her leash still attached. That sight, it seems, cut right through the columnist’s crusty parts.
“We’re keeping this dog,” he said.
I’d be willing to bet they do, and that someday — when there’s nothing else to write about, or even when there is — we’ll be reading about her again.
(Photo of Ginger by Steve Lopez / Los Angeles Times)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 7th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, best friend, column, columnist, corgi, dog, dogs, dogs without borders, family, ginger, hannah, home, leash, los angeles, los angeles times, media, mix, news, newspapers, pets, rescue, runaway, soloist, steve lopez, tailwaggers