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Are we animal lovers just too gullible?

bennett

I would no more stereotype animal lovers than I would pit bulls, and yet I have to ask the question:

Are we an overly gullible lot, more likely to be taken advantage of by greedy and unsavory types?

As a rule, yes. As scammers and schemers have realized, our overflowing empathy and eagerness to help an animal in need often overrule our powers of deductive reasoning, leading us to whip out the checkbook and contribute to some pretty suspicious “causes.”

We are going to use the Grieving Rottweiler as our example here — not to say that the owner of that dog (who is asking dog lovers to help him buy a house so he can rescue more dogs) is a scammer or a schemer, but only because his fundraising drive, as explained by him, is so full of conflicting information, question marks and red flags.

We raised questions about it earlier this week, after Brett Bennett of Seattle posted a video of his Rottweiler, Brutus, appearing to mourn the death of his fellow Rottweiler, Hank. His YouTube post links to an indiegogo page aimed at raising money to buy “a house in the country.”

“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks. Instead, he urges people to give Hank’s death some meaning, and honor the dog’s legacy, by making cash contributions so he can buy a house and some acreage in the country.

The viral video of “Brutus grieving” was nearing 4 million views yesterday.

Between the summary he posted there, his indiegogo page, his Rottweiler rescue website, and what he has posted on his Facebook page (which disappeared the day before yesterday), one has to wonder about what a tangled web he has woven — lie-wise — since he first started trying to raise money through his dogs. (Not to mention how a man who describes himself as homeless can be so active on the Internet.)

That Facebook page included photos of Rottweilers fighting, him recounting a plan to sell his Rottweilers to drug dealers, background information on the dogs that vastly differs from what he has stated elsewhere and this warning to a commenter who questioned his motivations:

“F— off, you tweaker white trash c—.”

Bennett raised over $6000 in January to help him and his dogs find a rental property. Then, a week after Hank died, he started another fundraiser to raise an additional $100,000 to help him purchase a home.

As it turns out, one woman has been raising questions about him for a while — Anne Fromm, who, in an attempt to spread the word about his activities, started this “Social Media Scammer” Facebook page.

It points out some of the many discrepancies in the online accounts Bennett has provided, including in the story of Hank’s death.

“Ask WHY he never took the dog to the vet if it was dying, instead videotaped it, for the tearjerker points and the funds that poured in. Is the dog even dead? Or will he show up miraculously in a few more months when Brett needs more money?”

Fromm points out that Bennett has said the dogs are twins, from the same litter. Yet he has also said one was 2 and one was 4 when he took them in.

Bennett said he awoke to find Hank dead, but he also says, in another account, that he held him in his arms when he was dying.

Mainstream media outlets have carried the video of the “grieving Rottweiler,” and helped catapult it to viral-ness, but none apparently had the time to look into its veracity.

As of yesterday, as far as I could see, only this blogBuzzfeed and Seattle Dog Spot had questioned Bennett’s accounts and actions.

Seattle Dog Spot reported that records from VCA Animal Hospital show Bennett took Hank to be cremated on January 22, but the video of Hank’s death was uploaded on January 20. “What did he do with the body of a 150-pound Rottweiler for 2 days?” the blog asks.

That form also showed an address for the homeless man.

Seattle Dog Spot also reported a text message exchange in which Bennett told someone who was questioning how he spent donated money, “They gave me money and I am using the money to pay off my legal matters and for my everyday bills. I can pretend to spend it on whatever these gullable (sic) people will believe.”

Those are just a few of the disconcerting conflicts in Bennett’s story, all of which anyone with enough time could have found on the Internet.

But, dog lovers being trusting and good-hearted sorts, few did.

Dog lovers tend to believe, and they tend to react, and they tend to want to save, if not the world, at least its dogs — all admirable traits.

Schemers and their schemes, in addition to taking money from them, stand to also take away something even more important — their faith.

Do we need something that protects those so committed to protecting, say a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Lovers?

No, but dog lovers do, unfortunately, need at least a tiny grain of cynicism within, enough to consider the possibility that what on the surface appears to be a worthy cause might not be.

When it comes to fund-raising drives being conducted by individuals, and all we know about those individual comes from what they’ve posted online, we need to exercise due diligence — or at least a little diligence — to separate those who are pretending to care about dogs from those who are seeking only our dollars.

(Photo: Bennett, Hank and Brutus, as pictured on the Rottweiler Twins Animal Rescue website)

Three lowly cowards rob blind man after knocking out his guide dog

Three men in Hartford knocked a blind man’s guide dog unconscious before robbing him of his wallet.

Francis Shannon, of Sigourney Street in Hartford, was walking his guide dog, Lady, near his home around midnight Aug. 2 when three men attacked and robbed him, according to NBC Connecticut.

“They hit the dog, knocked her out. I thought she was dead,” Shannon said. “She’s my everything. I can’t go anywhere without her,” Shannon said.

Shannon suffered minor injuries, and delayed in reporting the robbery to police because the attackers threatened to hurt him if he did.

They said, ‘If you call the cops, we’ll kill you,’” Shannon explained. “And they took my money – which I had my rent money, cards my ID – everything was in my wallet.”

He said he didn’t leave his house for days after the attack, but finally decided to call police.

Police say Shannon identified the voices of the attackers as those of three young men he has heard hanging out at a neighborhood grocery store.

Police are seeking the public’s help in finding the assailants. Anyone with information about the robbery and assault is urged to call Hartford police Sgt. O’Brien at 860-757-4089.

Betrayed while deployed: Soldier’s ex sells his dog on Craigslist



A soldier whose ex sold his dog while he was deployed in Afghanistan may be getting his Shiba Inu back.

Robert Gabbert, 23, left his 3-year-old dog, Baxter, with his former girlfriend when he was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

She posted an ad on Craigslist and sold the dog he had placed in her care, Gabbert says.

Once Gabbert, based in Fort Carson, Colo., discovered that, he posted this note on Craigslist:

“I am currently deployed and my ex sold my dog. I just found out and I am trying to find the people (person) who bought him. I will pay anything to get him back … I do not have my phone with me. You can email me. The phone number is my mom’s she is helping me locate him. If you have any information PLEASE give us a call or an email.”

The note went viral on social media, and Gabbert’s family was able to locate the dog, which had been bought by a military family. When Gabbert’s mother contacted the new owners, they were reluctant to give up Baxter.

“They keep saying they have children that are attached,” Gabbert’s mother, Karen Fraley, told KOAA. “Well my child is attached to the dog. Just because he is older doesn’t mean he is not my child.”

Supporters set up a Facebook page supporting Gabbert’s cause.

“We are not going to stop until we have the dog in our hands,” said Nancy Wallace, a member of the support group. Wallace said they have raised $1,400 to pay to the new owners. This week, she reported that there is an agreement in the works for the new owner to return Baxter to Gabbert.

The Colorado Shiba Inu Rescue, a nonprofit organization, has offered to find a new puppy for Baxter’s current owners.

“There are plenty of adoptable Shiba Inus out there,” said a representative at the organization. “We are more than willing to find the family a new dog and they can adopt a puppy that needs a home.”

Pop goes the dog treat

No longer do those of us who like to watch our dogs catch treats in mid-air have to go to all the effort of tossing them.

New from Purina, Beggin’ Party Poppers have hit the market — bacon and cheese-flavored treats that come in a canister with a lid that resembles a pig face.

Push in the pig’s nose, place a treat inside and, in a matter of seconds, the treat will be popped into the air for your dog to catch.

Sure, it may be easier to just toss the treat yourself, not to mention more of a bonding experience with your dog. But why bother with that when, for $18.97, you can let the canister launch a dog treat skyward for you?

poppersThat’s the price listed for the product — treats and canister — on Amazon. A refill bag of treats, meanwhile — and we hope this is a mistake — is listed at $26.86 on Amazon. Other online sources have the refills in the $6-7 range. You can learn more at www.pighead.com.

It seems, at first glance, an over-priced little gimmick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it evolve, perhaps into an app that allows you to shoot your dog a treat while sitting in your workplace cubicle, or a self-loading version that shoots out a treat every hour for dogs left home alone.

Imagine that. Your dog, if he’s anything like mine, would spend 59 minutes of each hour staring at the machine, one minute of each chasing, catching and eating the treat. Dogs would begin to worship the treat machine even more than they do us. They’d sleep next to the treat machine. They’d bark at anyone who threatened the treat machine. They’d follow the treat machine — once a moving version, like those robo-vacuum cleaners, was perfected — everywhere it went.

And we’d have nothing to do but lay alone in our cold beds and look at our arms, grown flabby after we stopped tossing treats ourselves.

Yes, we’re stretching to make a point, but, propelled by technology, the pet industry does seem to be going in that direction — coming out with products that make it easier than ever for us to pamper our dogs while ignoring them.

Purina’s treat-launching pig is a harmless novelty, kind of fun, and it still requires a human’s involvement to work.

But with automatic feeders already a reality, automatic treat dispensers can’t be too far behind. Once automatic ball tossers and automatic ear scratchers hit the market, we dog-owning humans could find ourselves out of a job.

It’s nice for our dogs to stay occupied, but we shouldn’t turn too much of that job over to machines and robots.

That will only make our dogs, and us, more robot-like.

Fire claims lives at Kentucky animal shelter

shelterfire

The Knox-Whitley County Animal Shelter in Kentucky is looking for a new home after a Friday night fire destroyed the facility, killing at least one dog and most of its cats.

A volunteer with the shelter told WBIR on Sunday that 34 of 37 cats passed away.

One dog was killed by smoke inhalation and one is still unaccounted for. Twenty-three other dogs made it out safely before the roof of the shelter collapsed.

sassyThe dog who died was the shelter’s mascot, Sassy.

 ”[Sassy] greeted everyone who would come in. She would go to nursing homes. She would go to all of the events. She was the ambassador for the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter,” a spokesperson said.

A sheriff’s deputy and firefighters  attempted to rescue as many animals as possible, unlocking kennel gates to free the dogs at the shelter, located in the town of Woodbine, south of Corbin. Only a few cats, kept in an interior room of the shelter, had been rescued when the shelter’s roof started to collapse, according to WKYT

The displaced animals have been taken in by community members.

The shelter is looking into borrowing or leasing a building for 3-6 months to house new dogs and cats. Anyone with information on a possible building is asked to contact Chuck Ledford at 606-627-9477.

More information can be found on the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter Facebook page.

An IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign has also been set up.

(Photo of fire scene from WKYT; photo of Sassy courtesy of Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter)

Dear Isaac, Please do not ride the dog

We’re not real big on stating the obvious, but there are times it needs to be stated, especially when it comes to children and dogs.

Case in point:  today’s “Dear Abby” column, in which a reader relates how a 9-year-old visitor to his home climbed aboard his Labrador retriever, possibly causing her permanent injuries.

“Isaac,” the visiting child, who apparently had little experience with canines, was playing with Layla, the retriever, when the homeowner heard him say, “Look, I’m riding your dog!”

“I immediately intervened, but I was too late,” the letter writer said. “A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. It’s possible the damage is irreversible.”

The letter writer wasn’t seeking veterinary advice, but wondering how to tell Isaac and his parents about the harm he caused, and keep him from doing it again, without placing “undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy.”

Abby responded to “Heartbroken in New York” this way:

“Children are not mind-readers. If you don’t tell them when they make a mistake, they won’t realize they have made one. Contact Isaac’s parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.”

I — though  nobody asked — would add only two things to that. First, that any guilt Isaac might feel on learning what he had done isn’t exactly “undue.” Second, that when your dog is meeting someone new — especially a child — you should be in the room, watching and, if necessary, teaching. It’s very easy for a dog owner to assume everyone knows how to behave around dogs, but it’s also very wrong.

Riding a dog, no matter how big he or she is, no matter what the Internet might tell you — and the photo above is just  one example of some incredibly irresponsible online “expertise” — should simply never be done. Period.

(Photo: Taken from wikiHow.com’s article on “how to ride a dog”)

(Postscript: The day after this article appeared on ohmidog!, the wikiHow article on “how to ride a dog” was taken down.) 

 

NC college starts pet-friendly dorm

Lees-McRae College, located in the mountains of North Carolina, has designated its first pet-friendly dormitory, allowing students who live there to bring along their dogs, cats, birds, fish, ferrets, and hamsters.

With the opening of the Spring 2011 semester, Bentley Residence Hall went co-species. 

“I am so excited that Lees-McRae College has joined the ranks of pet friendly colleges and universities.  We love our pets and we recognize that students who are pet owners are generally responsible and caring individuals,” said Barry M. Buxton, president of the Presbyterian college. “We want to encourage pet adoption and awareness that all of God’s creatures are sacred.”

Students living in Bentley Hall are now allowed to bring their pets from home to school with them to live in their rooms. Under the new policy, qualifying students can have fish, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, birds, ferrets, cats and dogs under 40 pounds. (We’d argue dogs over 40 pounds are sacred, too.)

Previously, students were only allowed to have fish in residence hall rooms.

Under the new pet friendly policy, faculty and staff are also encouraged to bring their pets to campus.

“It is great to be able to have my two dogs for companionship while I am studying and doing homework in my room,” said student Lauren Lampley, owner of Shih Tzus Heidi and Buckley. “This responsibility also forces me to manage my time well enough to take care of them and make sure I make time to spend with them.”

The approved pets for the inaugural pet friendly program include a Boston Terrier, a small Labrador retriever, two Shih Tzus, a pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, a miniature dachshund, a Maine coon mix, a Siamese mix, a leopard gecko, a Dutch rabbit, two ferrets and two birds.

The new policy represents the latest in a trend toward colleges welcoming pets, noted Joshua Fried, director of Petside.com: “We know how much the companionship of a pet can benefit a college student, particularly in the form of stress-relief and as a remedy for homesickness.”

“Now I have two alarms,” one student joked. “When I ignore my alarm clock, my dog licks my face and my nose until I get up. She really cares about my education.”

Lees-McRae College, a four-year, co-educational liberal arts college, is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina in the town of Banner Elk.

(Photo courtesy of Lees-McCrae College)