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Tag: movies

Don, the talking dog who started it all

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In this era of talking dogs — from the animated creatures in Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” to those so easily found “conversing” on the Internet — it might behoove us to remember the first “real” one, the star of a vaudeville act known as Don the Talking Dog.

And since not too many of us were around in 1912 to recall that, we’re fortunate that Smithsonian Magazine writer Greg Daugherty revisited that era and that dog for the magazine recently.

Don the Talking Dog, a setter or pointer from Germany, made his debut in the U.S. in 1912 — during the golden age of vaudeville, the less salty cousin of burlesque, which was traditionally peppered with acts featuring animals doing human things.

There, for a few quarters, you could see rats riding cats around racetracks, dancing elephants, boxing kangaroos, juggling sea lions and monkeys displaying an array of talents.

smithsonianillustrationDon the Talking Dog — proclaimed “the canine phenomenon of the century” — took things a step further. He, or so his name implied, talked.

Only in German, of course. But with a heavy population of German immigrants at the time in New York City, he became a major hit.

He had already garnered attention in Europe by then, with a vocabulary that reached eight words.

His first word was haben (“have” in English), followed by his own name, the word kuchen (cake or biscuit), ja and nein, ruhe (rest) and hunger (which is the same in both languages).

Generally, he didn’t speak in sentences, just one word at a time, and only when prompted by his trainer.

Don arrived in the U.S. in 1912 at the invitation of the vaudeville impresario William Hammerstein.

“Don will sail on the Kronprinz Wilhelm next Wednesday,” the New York Times noted. “A special cabin has been engaged in order to insure his safety.”

When Don’s ship docked, he was greeted by reporters, though they were disappointed not to get any good quotes.

Don stayed in the U.S for the next two years, making appearances in New York and around the country, once performing on the same bill as escape artist Harry Houdini. He then toured the country, performing in Boston, San Francisco, and other cities.

His act consisted of answering a series of questions served up by his regular straight man and interpreter, a vaudeville veteran known as Loney Haskell. Haskell became so attached to Don, according to news reports at that, “that in one-night stands he slept in the dog’s kennel.”

The journal Science, party poopers even back then, didn’t quite buy his act: “The speech of Don is … to be regarded properly as the production of sounds which produce illusions in the hearer.”

screen_shot_2018-04-20_at_45805_pmDespite his dubious skills and limited vocabulary, Don became a pioneering celebrity endorser, for Milk-Bone dog biscuits.

After two years in the U.S., Don retired and returned to his homeland. Haskell once calculated that their stage performances paid Don $92 per word, the equivalent of about $2,300 a word today. He died at home, near Dresden, Germany, in late 1915.

Smithsonian reported, “His last words, if any, seem to have gone unrecorded.”

Other “talking” dogs would follow, including Rolf, a German-born terrier who supposedly communicated by a form of Morse code, and was able to add and subtract, and Queen, who was described as “positively the only dog in the world that speaks the English language.”

Fast forward 100 years and we still have folks making those claims — dog owners, scientists, and entrepreneurs, each group with probably a few hucksters among them, who claim to be on the verge of a device that translates dog to human.

Take them as you would the dogs speaking in this compilation (none of whom can say compilation, by the way) — with a grain of salt.

(Illustrations: Smithsonian Magazine)

Theater to offer dogs a screening of new Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco is having a bring-your-dog screening of Wes Anderson’s new movie, “Isle of Dogs.”

Why? Well for one reason, publicity just like this. For another, they think dog owners will be willing to buy their dogs a ticket, which will allow them to double sales.

The 4 p.m. (Pacific Time) screening will be March 19, Indie Wire reported Tuesday.

According to the theater, “This is a BYOD event! Dogs are invited and will be in attendance at this screening. Dogs and owners will each need to have a ticket to attend. You do not need to have/bring a dog to attend. Owners are responsible for their dog’s behavior. Overly aggressive or uncontrollable dogs will be asked to leave.”

The movie will open in select theaters March 23.

“Isle of Dogs” features the voices of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Scarlett Johnasson, Yoko Ono, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Frances McDormand.

The stop action movie is set 20 years in the future in a Japanese city, where canine overpopulation and an outbreak of dog flu has led the local government to banish dogs to an island filled with trash.

A 12-year-old boy hijacks a plane and flies to the island in search of his dog, Spots, beginning a quest in which he is assisted by five other exiled dogs (all of whom speak, of course).

In “Isle of Dogs,” canines in a Japanese city are banished to an island of trash

Director Wes Anderson has been secretive about the plot of his new animated movie, “Isle of Dogs,” but judging from a trailer released last week it will be trademark Anderson — bleakly beautiful, deceptively sentimental, more than a little haunting, and unconventional, with a capital UN.

It is set, 20 years from now, in a Japanese city, where canine overpopulation and an outbreak of dog flu has led the local government to banish dogs to an island filled with trash.

A 12-year-old boy hijacks a plane and flies to the island in search of his dog, Spots, and so begins an epic quest (is there any other kind these days?) in which he is assisted by five other exiled dogs (all of whom speak, of course).

“We’ll find him,” one of the dogs reassure the boy. “Wherever he is. If he’s alive. We’ll find your dog.”

It remains to be seen how family friendly the film will be, and whether it, like many other Anderson films, will have dogs dying off as the plot unwinds.

The movie is Anderson’s first feature since 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Its cast of voice actors includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Courtney B. Vance, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson and Yoko Ono.

The film is scheduled to hit theaters in March, 2018.

“A Dog’s Purpose” cancels premiere after video shows dog mistreated

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Universal Pictures has canceled a premiere and press junket scheduled for “A Dog’s Purpose” amid a growing furor over a video that shows one of its canine stars being mistreated during filming.

Distributor Universal and production company Amblin Entertainment announced late Thursday that the premiere and a Monday press day were being scrapped. The movie’s opening remains scheduled for Jan. 27.

“Because Amblin’s review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket,” a joint release stated. “Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”

Meanwhile, PETA has called for a boycott of the movie, actor Josh Gad has asked for an explanation, and the the American Humane Association has launched an independent investigation into why its safety representative overlooked an apparent case of cruelty during the movie’s filming.

For a scene in the movie, based on the popular book of the same name, a frightened German shepherd was forced into a churning pool of water and, at one point, sunk beneath the surface.

The video, shot in 2015, was released by TMZ — the week before the film’s opening — after the program received it from undisclosed sources.

“American Humane has reviewed the video and we are disturbed and concerned by the footage,” the AHA told PEOPLE in a statement. “When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped.”

harmedThe AHA monitors the safety of animals used in the entertainment industry and bestows the “No animals were harmed” label on the finished products — as it did in this case.

The AHA has suspended the safety representative who worked on the film, and has asked an outside party to conduct an investigation into the slip-up, said Mark Stubis, a spokesman for the organization.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement calling on dog lovers to boycott the film “in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props.”

“Sadly, such abuse appears to be the norm, not the exception, in the entertainment industry,” PETA said.

PETA reported on its website that the company that supplied the dogs in the film, Birds & Animals Unlimited, has a problematic record. PETA said it has filed previous complaints about the company with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

gadOne of the movie’s stars, Josh Gad, who provides the voice of the dog in the movie and never appeared on set, said the video left him “shaken.”

“I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film … I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.

“As a proud dog owner and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation,” he added.

In a joint statement, production company Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures assured that Hercules, the dog in the video, was unharmed and is “happy and healthy.”

They said the movie’s crew “followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals,” but added they are looking into the situation.

Director Lasse Hallström, a three-time Oscar nominee, said he didn’t witness the scene recorded on video — even though TMZ initially reported he was on the set the day the scene was shot in Canada in 2015.

“I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”

harrison

The movie, based on the best selling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, tells the story of a golden retriever passing away, being reincarnated as a German shepherd, corgi and then a St. Bernard. In his last incarnation he is reunited with his original owner.

The one-minute video clip shows the shepherd being coaxed, then shoved into the pool. Later it shows the dog sinking under the water, at which point someone yells “cut it,” and trainers rush to the dog’s aid.

That the video was leaked the week before the much-publicized movie’s release, as opposed to shortly after it was recorded, indicates someone was waiting until it reached peak market value.

TMZ hasn’t said whether they purchased the video, or how much they paid for it.

A dog’s purpose? It’s not this

A German shepherd was forced against his will into a churning pool of water and disappeared underneath it during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose.”

Footage leaked to TMZ shows the German shepherd resisting efforts by a trainer to get him into a pool of water.

Once in the pool — whether it was by choice or force — the dog can be seen sinking under the water, which was being churned by eight outboard motors.

An alarmed voice yells “cut” and the dog is pulled out of the pool.

The footage — depending on how dog lovers react and how viral it goes — is likely to damage how well the movie fares at the box office after its release this month.

At the very least, it may earn its makers reputations as hypocrites, given the film’s dog-loving, feel-good message.

As of yesterday, there had been no reaction to the video from major animal welfare organizations, including the American Humane Association, which monitors productions and bestows the “No animals were harmed …” tag on the finished product.

The movie is based on the 2010 novel, “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, currently No. 1 on USA Today’s best-selling books list.

In the film, a dog’s story is told from the perspective of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of life through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

The German shepherd was one of at least five dogs used in the film, TMZ reported. The movie’s director, Lasse Hallstrom, was present during filming of the scene, TMZ said.

In the scene, a police dog rescues a young girl who has fallen into a rushing river.

The footage at the pool was shot outside of Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015.

It shows a handler pushing an obviously frightened German shepherd into the churning pool of water. The dog manages to claw his way out. Later, the dog is seen back in the pool and, at one point, going under.

After a few seconds, someone yells, “Cut it!” and handlers rush to help the dog.

Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures say they have seen the video and are investigating.

“Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video,” they said in a joint statement.

The movie debuts on Jan. 27. It stars Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton.

According to USA Today, the book “A Dog’s Purpose” has sold 2.5 million copies. It is the first publication about a dog to top the chart since “Marley & Me,” which was also adapted into a film, in 2006.

A Dog’s Purpose: Book comes back as movie

If you can’t handle the dog dying in a movie, you might want to avoid A Dog’s Purpose.

Because one does, repeatedly. Then again, he comes back, repeatedly.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose is the story of one canine soul who, when his time is up, passes into a new canine body, bonding with new owners and learning, along with them, what life is all about.

If you don’t look too closely at the premise (that dogs upon dying are reincarnated as other dogs), if you can handle watching more than one dog leave this earthly existence, and if you have the Kleenex handy, you might enjoy it.

It is told from the dog’s perspective, with Josh Gad providing the voice of Bailey, who goes through several bodies and owners before ending up — or so it seems — back with the child (all grown up now and looking a lot like Dennis Quaid) that he started out with.

Small world, huh?

(Speaking of coming back, the film features Peggy Lipton, who nearly 50 years ago, became my first true TV love as Julie on “The Mod Squad.” That program also featured Clarence Williams III as Linc, which isn’t relevant to this story, but I wanted to link to Linc. OK? Solid.)

Directed by Lasse Hallström, A Dog’s Purpose is scheduled for release in January of 2017.

You might not love “The Dog Lover”

What if, in the interest of fair play, ads for movies were required to present an equal number of negative snippets to go along with all the positive ones they highlight?

It would go something like this:

“Stilted … clunky … manipulative” … The Hollywood Reporter

“Heavy handed… spottier than a kennel full of caged Dalmatians” …The Los Angeles Times

“Wow, why was this made and for whom and what the hell?” … RogerEbert.com

All of those disparaging comments — and very few superlatives — have been directed at the new movie “The Dog Lover.”

It’s a tricky little movie that starts out appearing as if it is going to be an expose of the unsavory practices of dog breeders.

What it actually is is a defense of breeders, financed by Forrest Lucas, oil tycoon and founder of Protect the Harvest — a pro-hunter organization and a staunch opponent of animal protection groups.

In other words, it is pretty close to propaganda — or maybe out and out propaganda — and, judging from the reviews, it’s not particularly artistic or creative propaganda.

Lucas is president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. He campaigned against Missouri’s Proposition B, which was aimed at preventing cruelty to dogs in puppy mills.

And he makes no bones about what he thinks of some animal protection groups.

Lucas says he produced the movie to discourage people from supporting and donating to large animal rights organizations.

“They’re collecting money in the name of dog welfare, but there’s no welfare about them at all. They’re out there to make money,” Lucas said.

That, remember, comes from the CEO of a big oil company. (And if you can’t trust big oil companies, who can you trust?)

Of the movie, Lucas said, “I guarantee you everyone will have a tear. But they’ll walk out of here feeling good, saying ‘I get it now.'”

In the movie, idealistic college student Sara Gold (played by Allison Paige), becomes an undercover operative of the United Animal Protection Society, a fictional PETA-like organization.

Her assignment is to work undercover at a rural dog breeding operation run by the Holloway family, consisting of the handsome but gruff father Daniel (James Remar); true blue wife Liz (Lea Thompson); and hunky son Will (Jayson Blair), who, of course, becomes Sara’s romantic interest.

Sara starts off suspicious of the operation. What, for instance, is going on in that locked shed she’s not allowed to enter?

With her cell phone camera, she begins documenting what’s transpiring at the breeding operation — including the killing of a vicious dog that wandered onto the property and threatened Holloway’s daughter.

When Sara’s video footage of that event is passed on to the animal welfare agency, they manipulate it, and broadcast it, and all hell breaks loose.

The operation is shut down, charges are filed, and a trial is held — but as it all unfolds Sara realizes the family is doing nothing wrong; that they are gentle, and loving and treat their animals well.

The ruthless ones, it turns out, are those with the animal welfare agency, who will go to any means to achieve their goal.

Sara, as a result, finds herself turning against the overzealous animal protection group she works for and trying to prove the family’s innocence.

At the movie’s premier in downtown Springfield, Missouri — a state long considered a haven for puppy mills — there were some protesters, according to KSPR.

Of particular concern was the fact that, as part of the movie’s publicity campaign, an Australian shepherd puppy was being auctioned.

“The fact that we’re auctioning off this puppy, there’s nothing bad about that at all,” Lucas said. “So if that’s the best they can find, then we’re in pretty good shape.”

Clearly, he hasn’t read the reviews.