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Tag: mutts

White God: It’s not the nerds getting revenge in this haunting Hungarian film

In terms of its story line, White God isn’t too different from any other movie in which the bullied rise up and get even with the bullies.

What makes it different — and makes it shine — is that in this case the bullied are abused and mistreated dogs, a species that already knows (perhaps better and more instinctively than us) that there is strength in numbers.

Perhaps the most talked about scene in the much talked about Hungarian film — winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Prize Un Certain Regard Award and an official selection of Sundance Film Festival — is when a pack of 250 dogs, all mutts, stampede through the streets.

And what makes that scene even more impressive is that it was achieved not through computer graphics, but with dogs.

Director Kornel Mundruczo first issued a casting call for 100 dogs for the scene, then decided bigger would be better. More than 200 dogs ended up being involved, many of them from local animal shelters.

The scene serves as the movie’s climax, and it was a first of its kind achievement for the dog trainers involved.

Under the leadership of Hungarian dog trainer Árpád Halász, a team of humans was able to train the dogs to stampede in a pack in what was, in reality, a massive rush for treats.

One of the dog trainers involved, Teresa Ann Miller — daughter of a trainer who worked on films like Beethoven and Cujo — was interviewed about the movie on NPR this week.

Miller helped cast and train the two dogs who shared the role of Hagen.

The movie’s story begins when a young girl is forced to give up her dog, Hagen, because it is of mixed-breed heritage. Her father, unwilling to pay the fee required to keep a mutt, abandons Hagen in the streets.

Young Lili tries to find him, and Hagen tries to find her, but eventually he joins forces with, and becomes the leader of, hundreds of other abandoned, abused and mistreated dogs living in the streets.

As a pack, they rise up to seek revenge for the indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of humans.

(If the film has one fault, it’s the notion that dogs would seek revenge. They’re better than that.)

Miller told NPR that director Mundruczó wanted the stampede scene to look as real as possible — a goal complicated by the fact that no one has ever seen hundreds of domestic dogs running as a pack.

It was first rehearsed with 100 dogs running together.

Trainer Halász watched and then said, “What about 150?” Miller recounted. “And 150 looked so good that he says, What about 200? And each time Árpád learned, as he acquired the dogs and introduced other dogs into the pack, that it was possible.”

It took four months to prepare for the scene, she added.

“And that was amazing to see; that was fascinating. I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never seen such a large pack of dogs run together. And, quite honestly, I don’t think we’d ever do it here (in the U.S.) just for the time that it takes. It’s so much easier just to CGI it, but the director didn’t want that effect at all.”

Shelter mutts show their artistic side

It’s not every day that a group of shelter dogs has its own art exhibit.

This one opens Sunday in São Paulo and it’s aimed at raising awareness about the plight of Brazil’s stray dogs.

Shelter dogs from Procure1Amigo were used to create the 18 artworks by shaking off the paint (edible and non-toxic) that was poured on them.

The paintings go on sale when the exhibit opens Sunday at São Paulo’s Perestroika. Photos of the dogs shaking their way through the creative process, channeling their inner Jackson Pollock, will also be for sale.

And the artists will be available for adoption.

It’s part of campaign called “Canismo,” an artistic movement supporting the adoption of shelter animals.

canismo

“The shake of the paint reveals a remarkable exercise of freedom, where each drop of ink bears the stain of prejudice,” reads a statement on the Canismo website.

“The combination of different colors in the paintings shows the mixture of breeds, as random and as beautiful as each mongrel dog.”

The brightly colored paints were made using corn starch and food coloring.

(Photo: Courtesy of Canismo)

A neighborhood reunites with a former stray

rusty

If you’re going to be a stray dog, you might want to be one in Oak Brook, Ill.

It’s one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs — the kind of place with well-manicured lawns to pee on, porches and gazebos offering some shade, and handouts from humans that might include pork tenderloin, or steak.

At least that was Rusty’s experience.

For four years, Rusty roamed the Forest Glen neighborhood of Oak Brook, keeping a certain distance from its residents, but happily accepting their offers of food.

“I would leave pieces of steak and pork tenderloin at the end of the driveway,” said one Forest Glen resident.

“We thought we were the only people taking care of him,” said another, who fed him steak and bacon.

Harry Peters, president of the Forest Glen Homeowners Association, said Rusty, a chow-sheltie mix, eventually developed some discriminating tastes: “I put a hot dog out there once — I’ll never forget it — and he lifted his leg and peed on it. My neighbor was giving him steak.”

Despite all the handouts, Rusty kept his distance. He’d play with neighborhood dogs, but avoided getting too close to humans. When residents walked their dogs, Rusty would follow behind — again at a distance.

While residents were enjoying his presence, and fattening him up, many of them worried about how he was able to survive the harsh winters, and able to avoid becoming a victim of street traffic.

For four years, any attempts to catch him were in vain, up until 2010 when he was captured in a back yard and turned over to the Hinsdale Humane Society.

There he was treated for a heartworm infestation, and thousands of dollars were donated to help pay for his care. Attempts were made to make him more sociable with humans, so that he could be adopted out to one of the many expressing interest in doing so.

But Rusty, who maintained a preference for living outside, never reached that point, shelter officials told the Chicago Tribune.

Instead he was sent to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, where he’d have room to roam.

Before taking him to Utah, Jennifer Vlazny, operations manager for the humane society, brought Rusty back to the neighborhood he once roamed for one last visit. Residents petted him and photographed him, and some cried when he left.

After some time at Best Friends, Rusty was adopted by a Kanab resident, Kristine Kowal, a retired school nurse who once lived in the Chicago area.

Kowal made a Facebook page and posted regular updates on it about Rusty, by then renamed Rusty Redd.

Peters, the neighborhood association president, visited Rusty and Kowal in January, while on a business trip to Las Vegas. He mentioned to Kowal then that, if she was to ever come to Chicago for a visit, he’d arrange a gathering so residents could have a reunion with the dog.

That happened this past weekend.

Kowal drove Rusty 1,800 miles from Utah for the reunion.

“I just thought it was something that I needed to do — to take him back, and kind of make it a full circle,” Kowal said.

Residents gathered Sunday in a gazebo in the Forest Glen subdivision, where they were able to pet him, many for the first time.

Vlazny, the Tribune reported, was amazed at his transformation from feral dog to pet.

Rusty seemed to remember the old neighborhood, and residents — even some who had since moved out of state — came to the reunion to see an old friend.

“The closest Rusty would ever get to me was 40 feet,” said Frank Manas, feeding the dog a chunk of mozzarella cheese. His family had moved from Forest Glen to Wisconsin, but returned Sunday to see Rusty.

“We said, if Rusty can come all the way from Utah, we can come from Eau Claire,” said Julie Manas, his wife.

“Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh — I’m petting him!” said Julie Gleason, who used to feed Rusty when he visited the nearby office park where she works.

“It’s a real-life fairy tale.”

(Photo: Julie Gleason weeps as she pets Rusty; by Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

Does pinpointing breeds speed up adoption?

lily

In hopes that potential adopters will find a “Chiratoodle” or a “golden Chinscher” more appealing than a plain old mutt or “Chihuahua mix,” an animal shelter in California has begun DNA testing some of its dogs to determine their breeds and market them under more exotic names.

The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, says initial results show the DNA tested dogs are getting adopted twice as fast.

Not too surprising in a world that prefers labels over mysteries — at least when it comes to what we bring into our homes.

DNA testing is not widely practiced by America’s animal shelters, mainly because of its expense. As a result, most people who adopt a dog from a shelter leave with a mystery mutt, or one whose heritage has been guessed at by shelter staff.

My dog Ace, for instance, when he was adopted nearly 10 years ago, was listed as a “hound mix” on his shelter paperwork, referred to as a “shepherd mix” by shelter staff and listed on Petfinder.com as a “Labrador mix.”

When DNA tests came on the market in 2007, I purchased one, swabbed his cheek and learned he was Rottweiler and Chow. In the next few years, as the tests became capable of identifying more than the original 38 breeds, I tested him two more times. The second test determined he was Rottweiler, Chow and Akita. The third test showed him to be all of those, and a little bit pit bull.

The tests allowed me to answer the question I was asked at least once a day: “What kind of dog is that?” It wasn’t so much that I had to know. All three tests were done mostly as research, for the purpose of writing about them. And once I learned the breeds he was made up of, I kind of missed the mystery.

I don’t think the information is all that vital, but I can understand how a purchaser, or adopter, of a dog might like to know what’s in his or her mix.

In California, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA conducted the tests in an attempt to increase the adoptions of Chihuahua mixes, which make up nearly a quarter the dogs in its shelter.

The campaign, conducted under the slogan “Who’s Your Daddy?” is aimed at “finding great homes for dogs at risk of being overlooked,” said Scott Delucchi, the shelter’s senior vice president.

“People love mutts. Still, we’re betting shelter dogs with DNA results included, for free, will be quite fetching,” he says in a commercial for the campaign.

The shelter picks up the cost of the $50 tests, which they say can help owners identify what breed-specific traits the dogs might exhibit. The tests also allow the shelter to have some fun coming up with clever breed names — like “Chorgi” (Chiuahua-corgi), “golden Chinscher”  (golden retriever-miniature pinscher-Chihuahua) and “Chiratoodle” (Chihuahua-rat terrier-poodle).

In February, the shelter conducted tests that determined the breed make up of 11 small dogs. All found homes within two weeks — twice as fast as any 11 untested small, brown dogs in the previous months, according to an Associated Press story.

Twelve more dogs have been tested since then and once they are all placed in homes the shelter plans to test 24 more.

Chihuahuas have replaced pit bulls as the most prevalent breed in the shelter, largely due to the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies, and the breed’s popularity among celebrities.

While some visitors to the shelter are seeking Chihuahuas, others are looking for mutts — small dogs who, thanks to another breed being in the mix, might have a less nervous dispositions.

While shelter officials have proclaimed the new program a success, they note that it’s going to take more than a gimmick to reduce the “alarming” number of Chihuahua mixes coming in.

“Another part is making spay-neuter low-cost or free to the community,” Delucchi said. The shelter also exports some of its smaller dogs to shelters in Florida, New York and other states where they are in shorter supply.

(Photo: Lynn and Tony Mazzola, with Lily, their newly adopted  ”Chorkie;” by Eric Risberg / AP)

Another Ace doppelganger surfaces

SONY DSC

From time to time, about once every couple of years, I hear from a reader who thinks their dog looks just like mine.

That’s my dog Ace above — one of a kind, I like to think, but a mix of four breeds according to repeated DNA testing conducted after I adopted him from a Baltimore animal shelter nearly 10 years ago.

And, no, one of them isn’t German shepherd, though that is the most common guess.

The guessing is one of the joys of mutt ownership, along with the fact that — unlike with, say, Golden retrievers — running into an exact replica of your dog is something you tend to get excited about.

bobby1So, naturally, when May Tayar in Florida stumbled across Ace on the Internet, and saw how much he resembled his mystery mutt, he got pretty excited.

Tayar, who lives in Florida, had assumed his dog Bobby (left), adopted from an animal shelter in Miami, was a German shepherd mix. After reading about Ace’s heritage, now he’s not so sure.

“Bobby looks exactly like Ace,” Max wrote me earlier this month in an email, with three Bobby photos attached.

“We always wondered what mix of breeds he is,” Tayar said of Bobby. “He sometimes looks like a German shepherd, but when he’s standing next to a real one he looks nothing like him. Also Bobby’s tail is clipped so we don’t know what his tail would have looked like.”

Whether Bobby’s tail would have curled up into a question mark, like Ace’s does when he’s in a good mood (we thank the Akita for that), will never be known.

While Bobby doesn’t have Ace’s tail, he has something Ace doesn’t have — pointy ears, or at least sometimes pointy ears. Not until I got to the third photo were they shown in the full upright position, suggesting to me that Bobby, unlike Ace, may have some shepherd in him.

bobby2

After reading about Ace’s origins on ohmidog!, Max is now convinced Bobby, like Ace, is a Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull mix. (Despite the bad reputation those breeds have, I generally share that information with everyone — except maybe landlords and insurers — because he shows how undeserved those reputations are.)

“We’ve been thinking about Ace a lot,” wrote Max, who owns Assara, a laser hair removal business in Manhattan. “… Every time Bobby’s ears go down and he gets a certain look on his face we call him Ace to see if he reacts.”

laikaNo sooner did I write the above then I came across, online, another Ace lookalike — really more of a Bobby lookalike, but with even bigger ears.

I was checking out the blog Puppy Leaks (I think you’d like it) when I saw a photo of Laika. That’s her to the left.

I went to the Puppy Leaks Facebook page, and sent a message to the blog’s author, Jen Gabbard, asking her if she knew what breeds were in Laika, and if it would be OK if I included Laika in this post as well, promising to poke only the gentlest fun at her highly impressive ears.

Laika, according to DNA tests Gabbard had conducted, is a mix of German shepherd, Rottweiler and pit bull.

Of course, what breeds are in a dog doesn’t define a dog — nor does the size of its ears.

It’s all relative. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and maybe even more so in the eye of the owner. Though some have pointed out they think Ace’s floppy ears are disproportionately small for his body, I’ve always seen them as just perfect.

I’m sure Max sees Bobby, and Jen sees Laika, the same way.

And the funny thing is, we’re all right.

(Photos: At top, Ace, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; second and third photos, Bobby, courtesy of Max Tayar; at bottom, Laika, courtesy of Jen Gabbard / Puppy Leaks)

Mutt shot for copulating with purebred

shotYou can’t blame Raider.

Maybe you can blame his owner — for not getting his front door fixed, and for not getting Raider fixed — but the 4-year-old Labrador mix was only doing what intact dogs tend to do, when the neighbor dog goes into heat.

The mutt went out the unlatched front door, and over to the home of a neighbor, who authorities say shot Raider twice when he caught him copulating with his prized purebred.

The neighbor, Randall Schexnayder, 51, of Metairie, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

Raider is expected to recover from gunshot wounds to the muzzle and neck, according to his owner, Jim Hanley, 43. The dog disappeared last Wednesday, returning a few hours later covered in blood. Initially, Hanley thought Raider had been hit by a car, the Times-Picayune reported.

He took the dog to a vet, who told him Raider had been shot.

Hanley told the sheriff’s office who he suspected. A couple of neighbors had complained about Raider getting loose, and one had warned Hanley that he would take action if he ever caught Raider mounting his purebred dog.

When deputies called on that neighbor — Schexnayder —  he admitted shooting the dog. He told the deputies he chased the dog off once, but when the dog returned, and attempted to mount his pet — whose breed wasn’t identified — he shot Raider twice with a .22-caliber pistol.

Schexnayder turned the gun and Raider’s collar over to authorities and was briefly jailed before being released on bond, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

Hanley, while not denying his dog accosted his neighbor’s purebred, said that doesn’t justify his dog getting shot.

“I understand that (a strange dog mating with a prize female) would be upsetting, but it would never cross my mind to pull out a firearm,” he said. “I think my first move would have been calling animal control. I mean, my Lord.”

Raider is named after the Archbishop Rummel High School Raiders.

One-eyed dog charms crowd at Crufts

A purebred flat-coated retriever won best in show, but it was a one-eyed mutt named Dudley, and his dazzling performance in an agility contest, that won over the crowd at Crufts — the pretentious, I mean presitigious, UK dog show that concluded this past weekend.

Dudley, a six-year-old Lhasa apso-pug mix who lost his eye as a pup, and later was given up by his owners,  won an official Crufts rosette for his performance in the agility ring, beating out other rescued dogs in the competition, according to the Southern Daily Echo.

While we’ve been known to poke fun at purebred dog shows, it’s good to see them — on both sides of the pond — opening things up to mixed breeds, like Dudley. And, if  the crowd reaction to him is any sign, it’s something they should do a lot more of.

“He was definitely the crowd’s favorite and got a huge cheer as he ran round,” Dudley’s owner, Lara Alford, from Southampton, said. “Over the last few days he has had so many admirers – he’s probably been one of the most photographed dogs at Crufts this year.”

Dudley had his right eye removed as a puppy because of an infection. At 14 months, his owners surrendered him at an animal adoption shelter.

Alford, shortly after adopting him, noticed his speed and maneuverability and began training him in agility. As they run the courses, she always stays on his left side, so he can see her.

At Crufts, the training paid off.  “It was one of the fastest rounds Dudley’s ever done,” she said.

More than 21,000 dogs vied for honors at Crufts, which opened Thursday. In the best-in-show competition, Jet, a flat-coated retriever, beat out a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a German shepherd, a boxer, a wire fox terrier, a standard poodle and a bichon frise.

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