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
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
When dog bites man, the old saying goes, that’s not news.
When dog bites mayor, that’s news.
And when the mayor is a cat, that’s even bigger news, right?
Stubbs, honorary mayor of lovely Talkeetna, Alaska, for the past 15 years, was badly injured over the weekend by one of the small town’s many wandering dogs.
Stubbs is in bad shape, with a punctured lung, a fractured sternum and a 5-inch gash on his side, CNN reports.
Doctors took out a chest tube Tuesday, and Stubbs was breathing on his own for the first time since the attack.
Stubbs was found years ago in a box full of kittens left in front of Nagley’s General Store. The manager of the store, Lauri Stec, decided to keep him, and named him Stubbs because he had no tail.
Soon afterward, he ran as a write-in candidate for the position of mayor. Talkeetna being a historical district, the position is mostly an honorary one .
Even though dogs outnumber the 800 people in Talkeetna, and often can be seen running loose, the town’s canines always seemed to respect Stubbs, locals say.
But on Saturday night Stubbs was walking around town when an unleashed dog ran across the street and bit him.
“Right now is a crucial time cause he’s heavily sedated on pain meds. He’s in a lot of pain,” Stec said.
The dog, described only as a big one, is still at large.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, animals, bites, bitten, candidate, cat, cat mayor, dog, dog bites mayor, honorary, mauled, mayor, news, pets, stubbs, talkeetna, unleashed, write-in
John Simpson, who is living at a hospice and who doctors say has only days to live, saw his dog last Saturday, when a neighbor caring for the Chihuahua brought him by for a visit.
His hopes for one more visit were dashed when, the next day, Mr. Cutie escaped by digging a hole under a fence.
“I really think he was looking for John,” neighbor Ann Marie Gemmel told MyFoxTampaBay.com.
Simpson, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012, said in an interview after Mr. Cutie went missing that the dog was his “spark of life,” and what he was living for.
“When you’re growing up you’re asked, ‘If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?’ Back in those days, I used to say, ‘As many wishes as I could wish for.’ Now my only wish would be for my dog to come home,” he said.
On Friday, Mr. Cutie was found by Missy Figueroa, who didn’t know Simpson. She took photos of the dog and posted them on the website FidoFinder.com.
A Fox 13 viewer who had seen the TV news report on Simpson’s missing dog saw the post and called the TV station, which passed the information along to Figueroa.
Unsure whether it was Simpson’s dog, Figueroa brought the Chihuahua to the hospice.
The reaction of dog and owner upon their reunion confirmed it was Mr. Cutie she had found.
“Seeing this person that I don’t even know, you know, so excited to see his dog, it just makes me happy that I actually got to be here for that and just make him happy,” Figueroa said.
Said Simpson, “I’m about to cry …”
Posted by jwoestendiek June 11th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, chihuahua, death, dog, dogs, dying, dying wish, fido finder, fidofinder, found, fox, fox 13, hospice, john simpson, last, lost, missy figueroa, mister cutie, mr cutie, news, pancreatic cancer, pets, stranger, tampa bay, veteran, vietnam, wish
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