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Tag: news media

Dogs like running, therapy dogs make people feel good, and other “oh duh” studies

In my daily perusal of what in the world is going on with dogs, I am constantly amazed at how many studies are done on things we already know — and how quick news organizations are to pounce on those studies and present them as something new.

Take last week’s Washington Post, which tells us in a headline, “Dogs can get a runner’s high, too.”

Pfffft. Dogs invented the runner’s high. We didn’t need a headline to know, least of all one based on a 2012 study.

The article goes on to tell us that running is healthy for dogs and humans, that running “gives dogs an activity and burns energy,” and, of course, that dogs and humans should check with their vets and doctors before beginning an exercise program.

I don’t know how much of this stating of the painfully obvious that goes on today is because we have run out of new things to say, study and report on; or how much is the result of so-called news websites providing dumbed-down “content,” instead of news.

But it seems like everybody — from scientist to journalist — is in repeat mode. Or maybe I’m just old.

SONY DSCAlso making news last week was the “recent finding” that dogs respond best to high-pitched voices.

This, at least, stems from a new study in which scientists at the University of York have shown that using high-pitched baby-talk voices can help us bond with their dogs.

Of course, the study found basically the same thing as others in recent years, including this one from more than a year ago.

Now any scientist will tell you that’s there is value in these studies that tell us what we already know — whether we already know them from common sense, or because of similar earlier studies that found the same thing. It is always good to confirm things

News organizations, on the other hand, will take the findings of any study, hype them up and present them as the most important breaking news of the day — even if they did the same thing last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

They know, even with Google, our collective memory is short, so they trot out the same old pieces regularly — should you let your dog sleep with you, should you let your dog lick you, why do dogs eat grass? — and they either find experts or studies to legitimize them.

Just last week, with the news that Barbra Streisand has two cloned dogs, the topic of dog cloning became instantly hot, and many a news outlet presented the story in a you’re-not-going-to-believe-this, dogs-are-being-CLONED!!! kind of way.

Having written a book on the very topic seven years ago, I was amused how the news was suddenly a revelation again.

I’m sure scientists somewhere are studying how short our memories and attention spans are becoming, and that I’ll be reading about it soon.

Until then, there will be plenty of other scientific “revelations” to keep me busy, like this one — unearthed by hardworking researchers at the University of British Columbia:

Therapy dogs make people feel good.

acetWell, that’s kind of why they have been popping up everywhere in the past 20 years — to do just that.

And what led to those initial revelations, years ago? Studies.

This new one, published in the journal Stress and Health, shows that exposure to therapy dogs helps boost students’ well-being. Researchers interviewed 246 students before and after cuddle and petting sessions with therapy dogs.

Students felt significantly less stressed and more energized after interacting with the dogs, though the happy feelings weren’t necessarily lasting, InsideHigherEd.com reported.

In other words, the feel-good vibe a dog gives you — like a news report, like a scientific study, like many a book — will soon be forgotten.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

BBC anchor can’t get too excited (at all) about dog surfing contest in California

Remember when you were a kid and your mother asked you to do something, like clean your room or take the trash out … and then she asked you nine more times … and then, while having far more important things to do, you finally, begrudgingly, did it?

You did it with with a bit of surliness, with total disdain for the task and for the person who assigned it, and while heaving lots of sighs.

That apparently is how BBC news anchor Simon McCoy felt about introducing this “news” report about a dog surfing competition in Northern California.

Pausing often, and emitting frequent sighs, McCoy prefaces his remarks by noting August is always a slow news month. Then he barely gets through reading the words, which clearly were written by someone else — someone who thought the event was cute.

McCoy apparently didn’t think that it was cute, or that it was news, and his performance behind the news desk was so lackluster that it has gone viral and made it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The Colbert bit shows the real McCoy, then features a faux BBC newscaster who has introduced one too many animal stories.

The real McCoy ends his narration saying, “That’s a shame, we’ve run out of pictures,” before turning things over to the weatherman.

McCoy’s demeanor suggests he thought presenting such fluff was beneath him, and not where he expected his career, which included covering the war in Iraq and the royal family, to turn.

(Buck up, Simon, there are still wars being waged and there’s a good chance more are ahead, possibly quite soon.)

We all need a little fluff now and then, and what is more delightful than watching dogs surf or, for that matter, watching dogs do anything?

It’s when we get a steady diet of it — and that seems to be the direction the news media continues to head — that it becomes unhealthy.

McCoy’s lackluster reading is being praised as “heroic” by some on Twitter, who maintain he gave the report exactly the enthusiasm it deserved.

Perhaps McCoy, through his demeanor, was providing commentary on the state of the worldwide news media, or simply exhibiting that stereotypical British nose-in-the-air disdain for trivial, silly (generally American) things. Perhaps it was a little of both, or even just a little on-camera shtick.

In any case, we’d suggest — without being too judgmental, too serious, or too fluffy — that he needs a vacation.

And a dog.

COzpDmAW8AA_RXS(Late breaking news: Simon McCoy informs us he will be taking a vacation next week — with his two border terriers.

Surfing is not on the itinerary.

See his full comment below.)

(Photo: Posted by McCoy on Twitter)

Photo bomb: That wasn’t Amelia Earhart, after all; so, doggonit, the mystery lives on

notearhart

Two of the biggest news stories of the week — or at least the two most shouted about by the news media — were new evidence surfacing regarding Trump’s ties to Russia and new evidence surfacing in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Revelations that Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting during the campaign with a Russian who promised some dirt on Hillary Clinton were called a “nothing burger” by Trump supporters. But, as the week progressed, it all started looking pretty meaty.

The other so-called investigative breakthrough — “experts” saying they found a photo that shows Earhart and her navigator in the custody of the Japanese on the Marshall Islands after their crash and disappearance in 1937 — turned out to be a totally meatless whopper.

apearhartBy which we don’t mean a lie — just a tremendously lazy mistake. The photo in question, it turns out, originally appeared in a travel book published two years before Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan even began the journey they wouldn’t return from.

The photo was the basis of an hour-long History Channel special Monday — one that was widely promoted in news programs as a possible solution to an 80-year old mystery.

Instead, the whole theory ended up holding about as much as (sorry, Geraldo) Al Capone’s vault.

It’s all just more proof that, when it comes to truth, when it comes to uncovering things, when it comes to unburying treasures, we’re better off putting our faith in dogs. Dogs aren’t concerned with making money, or getting famous, or one-upping, or getting in the last word, or getting interviewed by Matt Lauer.

We talked about the “Earhart photo” in a post earlier this week, but that post pertained more to another, less publicized effort to get to the bottom of the Earhart mystery, and how it had turned to some “bone sniffing dogs” in an attempt to find Earhart’s bones.

Operating on an alternate theory, and not buying the “photographic evidence,” a Pennsylvania-based group called The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) sent four border collies to a site they have been focusing on — a small coral atoll about 400 miles south of Howland Island.

Four dogs alerted to a spot in the area, and excavation ensued, but no bones were found.

They had hoped to find bones and, through DNA testing, link them to Earhart. Some small glimmers of hope remain. Dirt from the site has been sent to a lab though to see if any traces of human DNA remain in it, and there’s a possibility that human DNA could be found in crabs that scavenged on any bones.

nothing burgerThat quest could turn out to be a “nothing burger,” too, but even so it won’t be as embarrassing as the efforts of Les Kinney, the former treasury agent who came across a photo in the National Archives that he and others were highly convinced depicted Earhart and her navigator in Japanese custody.

That led to History Channel documentary, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” which aired Sunday and concluded that, based on the photo and other evidence, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan ended up in Japanese custody on the Marshall Islands after they survived a crash landing.

The documentary touted the image as “the key to solving one of history’s all-time greatest mysteries.”

Many a news organization billed the photo that way, too, until Wednesday, when they all started backtracking after learning a Tokyo-based blogger unearthed the same photograph in the archives of Japan’s national library. It had appeared in a book — published in 1935.

Kota Yamano, a military history blogger, ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long time frame starting in 1930.

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said, along with its source — a travel book published two years before Earhart began the attempted around the world journey in 1937.

The Internet search took all of 30 minutes, he said.

“I was really happy when I saw it, Yamano said. “I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”

Major news media didn’t do that, either, opting to put more effort into hyping the story than doing a little digging of their own.

So thanks to Koto Yamano for letting us know the “Earhart photo” was a “nothing burger.” (Maybe we should have him figure out this whole Russia and Trump thing.)

According to the website knowyourmeme.com — if we are to believe it — the earliest known usage of the term “nothing burger” was by Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons. She used it in reference to actor Farley Granger, whose acting chops she apparently questioned.

When the actor was released from his contract with Samuel Goldwyn’s studio, MGM, in 1953, she wrote “After all, if it hadn’t been for Sam Goldwyn Farley might very well be a nothing burger.”

The concept — though the term wasn’t used — was pretty much the basis of Wendy’s old “Where’s the beef?” advertising campaign, and the phrase itself has enjoyed a revival this year, thanks mainly to politics, and the presidential campaign, and the Internet, where we don’t seem to agree on anything except what cool-sounding phrase we all want to use, be it “game changer” or “nothing burger.”

If the Amelia Earhart mystery ever is solved, I suspect dogs will be part of that resolution, probably DNA, too — but not emails, not quickie documentary makers trying to sell a story, and definitely not politicians.

(Photos: At top, the photo some investigators said included Earhart, after her plane crashed, as it appeared in Umi no seimeisen : Waga nannyou no sugata, a photo book in Japan’s national library published in 1935; below, the actual Earhart in an Associated Press photo; at bottom, an actual nothing burger)

Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

Feel-good story about homeless man’s reunion with dog took some strange turns

patrick

Getting your Huntsvilles confused is one thing, but one website really screwed the pooch when they published a story about a good Samaritan who helped reunite a homeless man and his dog.

In September, in Huntsville, TEXAS, Wilma Price was driving through a Walmart parking lot when she saw a homeless man holding a sign that said, “Dog in pound. Need help.”

Price, who runs a rescue called Mr. K’s Pet Shelter, stopped to find out his story. She learned the homeless man, named Patrick, had been arrested and jailed for trespassing, and that, because of that, his dog ended up in the animal shelter.

She took Patrick to the shelter, and paid the $120 necessary for him to get his dog — named Franklin — back.

The story was picked up by the website Life with Dogs, CBS News, People.com and many more.

Dozens of other websites reprinted or rewrote it — most of them doing a decent job of passing along the facts.

Then there was the Alabama Observer.

patrick2It reported that the story took place in Huntsville, Alabama, that the dog’s name was Wilbur, that the homeless man’s name was Mark Spencer, and that the good Samaritan’s name was Elizabeth Masterson.

The story had no links to actual news sources, and little attribution.

It wasn’t the only website to get the facts askew, but it was the only one that appeared to be making up entirely new names for everyone involved. At least three other websites published versions of the story with those erroneous names.

One wonders what might be the motivation for substituting illegitimate names into a legitimate story.

Might the exact same story have happened with different people at a Walmart in Huntsville, Alabama? Clearly not. Might the website be trying to cover its rear, legally? Maybe. Might there be something more nefarious going on, such as diverting donations intended for Patrick (whose last name isn’t Spencer) to some guy named Mark Spencer? We hope not. Might a computer program be doing the website’s writing? Highly possible.

Apparently, a bogus Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for Patrick was launched by someone neither Wilma nor Patrick knew, and, using photos from Wilma’s Facebook page, it raised $3,000 before the page was removed from Go Fund Me.

That’s $3,000 Patrick and Franklin didn’t get. Wilma Price, meanwhile, started a campaign for him too, and it has raised more than $15,000 for Patrick on GoFundMe.

Price said Patrick has been helping her organization with rescue efforts since the two met, and her Facebook page documents their adventures together.

Snopes.com looked into the story and couldn’t figure out how or why the Alabama Observer version had new names inserted into it.

There is no contact information on the Alabama Observer’s web site, and no description of who operates it. Snopes reported it appears to accept stories submitted by users, as opposed to having its own reporters or freelancers.

We think there’s a good possibility it’s one of those websites that runs news stories through computer programs that rewrite them (with mixed results, or should I say “stirred outcomes?”).

How else could you explain the opening of this recent Alabama Observer story about clown sightings in Ohio?

“The developing rash of reported dangers including clown-faced villains has law authorization offices crosswise over Ohio and somewhere else attempting to recognize true blue dangers while cautioning deceptions are no giggling matter.”

(Photos courtesy of Wilma Price)

Revenge? Hardly. Karma? Definitely!

The video above is pretty cute, but on top of making us chuckle it’s a pretty good example of what’s wrong with the news media these days.

Well, make that at least three things that are wrong with the news media these days.

First, the news organizations that have featured it on their websites in the last week almost all make you watch 30 seconds to a minute of advertising before seeing the 38-second video.

Second, the video was posted on the Internet more than two years ago, which hardly rates as news — even under today’s definition.

Third, and most annoying, almost every single news site that has picked up the old video (from Jukinmedia.com) characterizes the dog’s actions as “revenge.”

That’s anthropomorphic, and just plain wrong.

Clearly, the little girl is poking the resting dog with her feet. Quite possibly, the dog got annoyed and adjusted his position.

But we highly doubt the dog is exacting “revenge” on the girl. True, we can’t read the mind of a dog, either — much less that of a dog in a video — but the far more likely explanation is that the dog is trying to create a cooler and more comfortable spot to rest in.

Jukinmedia.com, when it published the video, described it as showing a dog getting “revenge” on the girl “by throwing sand in her face” and “making her crawl away in fear.”

Apparently, they didn’t watch enough of it to see the little girl laughing about it all.

But what’s far lazier is how, two years later, mostly-reputable news websites such as The Telegraph, ABC News, AOL and the Orlando Sentinel have all featured the video this month under a “dog gets revenge” headline. Of all the news organizations we found carrying the video, only KOMO in Seattle didn’t characterize the dog’s actions as revenge.

Are we nitpicking, or do readers/viewers deserve something better than old, innacurate, repackaged “news” when the only thing new about it is the length of the ad we have to watch before seeing it?

Are we going to accept that, or should we kick a little sand in their faces?

What happens when you fall in love online

joel

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)