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Tag: news

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)

Let Bob Dylan be Bob Dylan

Why is everybody doggin’ Bob Dylan?

So what if he didn’t visibly display excitement, didn’t jump up and down and wag his tail, upon learning he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

So what if he’s not exactly yapping and scratching at the door to attend the upcoming Stockholm awards ceremony to receive the prize from King Carl VI Gustaf.

It really seems to bother people — respected journalists, less respected journalists, and lowly drama-seeking bloggers — that Dylan has not reacted like a “Price is Right” contestant who just won the showcase round.

To those people — those who demand effervescence from a man who, until he puts pen to paper, chooses to holds most things inside — we say, first off, don’t expect everybody’s personality to be the same as your’s.

Let Bob Dylan be Bob Dylan. And respect, as well, the privacy he seems to treasure.

dylananddogAfter the prizes were announced by the Swedish Academy, Dylan had no public reaction for weeks, which, for some reason, became news. He reportedly “refused to pick up the phone” to speak to representatives of the Nobel committee.

How does anyone know he was refusing to pick up the phone? Why is it assumed he was being petulant?

Perhaps he was not home, or was otherwise occupied, or was under the impression he can live his life at the pace he chooses, talking to who he chooses when he chooses.

How dare he? How dare he not give the news media what it was looking for?

Well, he never really has. He has always been more of a wandering, independent stray than a mindless lap dog.

For all those who were fretting over his lack of a reaction, The Telegraph reported Friday that yes, he hopes to attend the ceremony, and yes, winning the prize was “amazing, incredible … Whoever dreams about something like that?”

So much for the theory that he was going to pull a Jean-Paul Sartre, the novelist who famously declined the award in 1964.

He has said he will be there “if he can,” but many find that unacceptable as well and have deemed his behavior “impolite and arrogant.”

Maybe. Or maybe not all of us are wired for public displays of enthusiasm.

I have been accused of lacking enthusiasm, because I’m generally quiet. For my part, it was a matter of realizing if I am constantly flapping my jaws, my brain can’t process the things it needs to — be it writing a story, solving some mystery of life, or locating the items on the grocery list.

I’m just one of those people who mostly celebrates without fireworks, and on the inside. I would never be chosen to compete in The Price is Right. I’m more likely to bare my soul, if I bare it at all, to a dog.

dylananddog1Maybe Bob is that way, too. Maybe, at home, he has the curtains drawn and is running around the house high-fiving his dogs.

Interviewers, the smart ones, have found dogs to be the one topic that can get Bob Dylan going.

In any event, I’d guess the dogs in his life — and he has had many — have served to help him be a loner without being lonely. I’d guess he tells them more than he tells most friends, and definitely more than he tells the news media.

One of his first poems, written when he was 16 and in summer camp, was about a dog (Little Buddy) who died a tragic death.

bob1He once credited “a dog lying on the floor” (his name was Hamlet) with helping create the relaxed ambience in which he and The Band put together “The Basement Tapes,” while living outside Woodstock in the summer of 1967.

In addition to the song featured atop this post, “If Dogs Run Free” (which he turned into a children’s book in 2013), Dylan refers to dogs in at least 30 of his songs, according to an article in Bark a while back.

“They seem to inhabit his world, his thoughts, and, ultimately, they come to life in his music,” the article notes. “…Dylan uses dogs as a messenger for mood, as set for the stage. You can picture them wandering down dirt roads, or collapsed on creaky porches. They’re dustbowl dogs and prowling alley dogs, dogs with no collars, dogs with no homes.

“It’s a hungry, lonesome quality about them that he touches upon, a sense of being, all at once, tired and restless. They speak to the human condition that surrounds them, suggesting what really doesn’t need to be said.”

Bob Dylan has always been very good at saying what needs to be said, and even better at not saying what doesn’t need to be said.

So whether he shows up to claim his Nobel Prize, whether his speech consists of “thank you” or he jumps up and down and says “ohmigod! ohmigod!” — those are questions we will just have to keep asking in the months ahead. Or not.

The answer, my friend, is … well, you know.

Numbers of dogs in the workplace is rising

ginger

Thanks to the millennials, the percentage of American workplaces allowing dogs is increasing — up to 8 percent, from 5 percent five years ago.

NPR reported on the phenomena yesterday, citing examples of how employers — in an attempt to lure new employees by providing them with a low-cost benefit — are opening their doors to dogs.

Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) are expected to make up half the work force by 2020, and they are expected to surpass baby boomers as the largest pet-owning generation around that same time.

Millennials tend to look at their pets “as practice families or substitute families and seem to be more verbal in their wants and needs for their pet and for making sure their pet is well tended and well cared for,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, told CNBC, which reported on the increasing numbers of dogs in the workplace last fall.

“Employers are starting to realize that having a millennial bring … a pet to work, you wind up getting a more focused employee, you get someone more comfortable at the office and a person willing to work longer hours,” Vetere added.

Some companies, CNBC reported, go to greater lengths than others to make those dogs feel welcome, offering play areas, free pet training, pet walkers, pet health insurance, offsite pet sitters and grooming services.

More than 2,000 dogs are brought in by employees regularly to Amazon’s main campus in Seattle, where about 25,000 employees work. The company provides doggy treats at all of its reception desks and each of the nearly 30 buildings on the campus has spaces for pet exercise.

replacementsxThe NPR report focused on Replacements, that dog-friendly North Carolina china warehouse we told you about back in April.

It has about 400 employees, and about 30 animals who come to work with them regularly.

“… The interesting thing is that we have never had a pet break anything here,” said public relations manager Lisa Conklin. “We’ve had people, myself included, who have broken a number of these delicate pieces. But we have never to our knowledge had a pet break anything.”

Conklin says the pets-at-work policy costs the company nothing, and staff often say it’s their favorite perk.

On top of boosting morale and productivity, as studies have shown it does, it lets workers feel they are achieving a work-life balance — something a lot of baby boomers I know weren’t the best at.

Having a successful dogs-in-the-workplace program requires some planning, and some patience, and some resourcefulness, say those who have instituted them.

The NPR story cited the case of Buchanan Public Relations, a company located outside Philadelphia, where Lacey, a Rottweiler mix, was regularly being terrorized by Romeo, a toy poodle with “a bit of a Napoleon complex.”

Company owner Anne Buchanan — instead of reneging on the pets-at-work policy — hired a dog trainer who managed to restore workplace harmony.

(Photos: At top, Ginger, an English bulldog, at work with owner, Will Pisnieski, at Authentic Entertainment in Burbank, Calif., by Grant Hindsley / AP; bottom photo, Charlie rides along with employee Kim Headen at Replacements, by Peter Taylor / AP)

Dog rescues hummingbird? All it takes is faith, trust and a little pixie dust

Ed Gernon never suspected the German shepherd mix he adopted last year would be featured in one of those inter-species friendship videos.

Rex left the shelter with a reputation. He “fought other dogs and killed cats,” Gernon said. “He was dangerous. He was an animal that had learned to live on the streets and to survive on his own hunting ability, I guess.”

So Gernon was surprised when, a month after he took Rex home, the dog paused when he came across what Gernon thought was a dead hummingbird.

“He suddenly stopped and he would not move,” Gernon CBS Los Angeles. “I mean it’s tiny and it’s dead as far as I’m concerned. It’s covered in ants. It’s got no feathers.”

Given his dog’s seeming concern for the bird, Gernon checked it more closely, saw it was still alive, took it home, cleaned it up, and it has been living inside his home ever since.

And it even drinks out of Rex’s water bowl.

hummingbirdGernon describes it as living “with Tinkerbell,” even the the bird now goes by the name Hummer.

Gernon initially had to hand feed the bird a special formula every 15 minutes.

“You find yourself doing stuff you never thought in a million years you would do,” he said.

“It was this little creature. This fragile creature that the whole world wanted to kill and he was trying to protect her so I thought I’d go the distance,” Gernon said.

“I rescue this dog. He rescues the bird. The bird rescues all of us in a weird sense and it’s just a miracle,” Gernon said.

After living with the bird for a year, Gernon says it’s probably time for her to be free, and he’s started leaving the doors and windows of his home open, in case Hummer wants to go back out in the world.

So far, she hasn’t.

More than 500 dogs and cats find homes during massive N.C. adoption event

sanford

In less than two days, the ASPCA found new homes for more than 500 dogs and cats seized from an unlicensed North Carolina shelter less than two months ago.

Potential adopters arrived early and in large numbers Friday morning, with a line stretching around the warehouse in Sanford that served as a temporary shelter for the dogs.

Just hours into Saturday, the planned third day of the event was canceled because all the animals had been adopted.

The dogs and cats were among more than 600 seized in January by Hoke County deputies and the ASPCA from The Haven – Friends for Life, an unlicensed no-kill shelter located in Raeford, N.C.

Since then, the animals have been held at the temporary facility for evaluation and veterinary care.

Adoption fees were waived during the event, and each animal was micro-chipped and spayed or neutered.

By Friday evening, more than half of the animals were adopted, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

Just a few hours into Saturday, all the dogs had been adopted, and the event closed early when the final cat was adopted Saturday afternoon.

Lynn and Carl Draus arrived Friday morning with a photo they had taken of a dog off their TV screen during a news report about the event.

Wandering through the rows of cages, they managed to find her.

“I feel in love with her just from the picture,” Lynn Draus told WRAL. “I didn’t know she was a puppy, but I just had a feeling that was the one I was going to get. So, we came here, and we were asking everybody where she’s at, and we found her.”

“The ASPCA is pleased to report that after an overwhelming successful two-day adoption event in Sanford, all 524 available cats and dogs were adopted into safe and loving homes,” the organization reported in a news release.

“The remaining cats and dogs who were not made available for adoption, as well as the 68 farm animals, will be placed with the ASPCA’s network of animal welfare agencies across the country to be made available for adoption.” the release said.

ASPCA officials have called the seizures from The Haven the largest companion-animal raid they’ve conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

Authorities charged husband and wife Stephen and Linden Spear with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, stemming from an animal medication not authorized on the property.

The Haven failed state inspections for more than a decade but was never shut down.

(Photo by Shannon Millard / Fayetteville Observer)

An app that’s not apt to be very useful

Only in these mega-awesome modern times could a product that really doesn’t work well at all become a big hit.

And only in the Internet age could how badly it works be a selling point.

Fetch! is an app that lets you upload a photo of your dog and learn what breed it is, or, judging from my try, what breed it’s not.

It was released yesterday just in time for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, according to promotional material. (Last I checked, competitors at Westminster were pretty sure what breeds their dogs were.)

triaddoggames 093

Not a Rhodesian Ridgeback

The app analyzes a photo and makes a guess as to breed — using its artificial intelligence and tons of data stored in clouds.

It’s just one of the latest products to hit the market offering to guess everything from your age to your state of mind to the significance of your mustache — all via the power of object recognition, a key facet of artificial intelligence.

It comes as a Web app or download for devices running Apple’s iOS, and you can also get an idea of what it’s all about at the website what-dog.net.

I generally avoid apps (I’m app-rehensive?) so I went to the website to give it a test. I fed it three different photos of Ace, and it identified him as a Rhodesian Ridgeback each time. (He’s not.)

Next I uploaded a photo of myself and was told I was a “Chihuahua … quick witted, loving, wary of strangers and other dogs.”

(Strangers and dogs are actually the two things I’m NOT wary of.)

Microsoft is using the device’s lack of reliability as a selling point, as if to say,  “Well no, it’s not really accurate at all, but isn’t it fun?”

Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

As in the series of ads from Time Warner that make light of the sheer hell the company — once, they’d have us believe — put customers through.

As in the direction the news media has been going in ever since it realized there was an Internet.

As in all those overused hooks designed to get us to click a link on the Internet – such as awesome, epic, jaw-dropping, life-changing, pee-your-pants-funny, you’re not going to believe what happened next.

With Fetch, in my case, not too much happened next.

But its developers say they expect it to wow the masses.

“There was an interest in creating a framework that would allow you to take a domain – in our case, dogs – and recognize numerous classes, such as breeds. We were interested in enabling an app to allow you to make object recognition extraordinary, fun and surprising,” said Mitch Goldberg, one of the Fetch  developers

“If you want to take photos of dogs, it will tell you what dog breed it is, if it’s one of our supported breeds. If I choose to take a photograph of a flower, it’ll say, ‘No dogs found! Hmmm… This looks more like…flower?’ But if you take a picture of a person, it’ll kick into its hidden fun mode. And in a playful way, it’ll communicate to you not only what type of dog it thinks you are, but also why.”

Follow all that? When the app works, it’s an amazing example of artificial intelligence. When it doesn’t, don’t worry, it’s in playful, fun mode.

I sometimes wonder if artificial intelligence is gaining on us, or if we’re just getting more stupid.

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?