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Tag: orders

Should a cookie-cutter neighborhood be restricted to cookie-cutter dogs?

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The developer of a neighborhood of modern, look-alike, cookie-cutter homes in Lexington, Ky., apparently wants to also define the breeds of dogs that can live there — or at least stipulate what breeds cannot.

That’s not all that rare nowadays, but the company managing McConnell’s Trace is casting a pretty broad net when it calls for banning 11 breeds of dog it deems “dangerous.”

If you read this website, you already know who I think the dangerous ones are in this scenario.

It’s not the German Shepherds, or the Rottweilers, or the mastiffs, or the Doberman Pinschers, or the pit bulls, or the huskies, or the malamutes, or the chows, or the Great Danes, or the St. Bernards or the Akitas.

It’s the developers, property management companies, and/or homeowner’s associationsthat decide breed bans are necessary to maintain peace, sanctity and low insurance premiums — and then go about enforcing their ill-informed rules with dictatorial zeal.

They are the far bigger threat so society.

In a nation so concerned about everybody’s Constitutional rights, and protecting individual liberties, it’s amazing how much power such groups can exert over how we live, and that they get away with it.

Sometimes it is done by the developers who, rather than just build houses, want to impose a set of rules on the community that will last through perpetuity. They do this by establishing “deed restrictions,” stipulating what a homeowner can and cannot do on the property.

Sometimes it’s property management companies that, while collecting a monthly free from homeowners, also issue edicts. Seeing liability insurance premiums rise, for example, they might decide to ban a breed, or two, or 11, of dog. The latest correspondence I received from mine informed homeowners that any alterations to the way grounds crews have laid down pine needles around their houses (it’s a southern thing) “will not be tolerated.”

Sometimes it’s the homeowner’s association, which generally means its board of directors.

All can tend to become little fiefdoms, dispensing rule after rule, threat after threat, warning after warning. When pressed for answers, when asked for reasons, they get vague about who is responsible for what, and pass the buck.

In the Lexington situation, homeowners in McConnell’s Trace were sent letters by the neighborhood developer detailing a reported change in an existing dog restriction, which previously referred only to unspecified “aggressive breeds.”

At least that’s what Josh McCurn, president of the area’s neighborhood association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Developer Dennis Anderson said Monday that Anderson Communities has been prohibiting the 11 dog breeds since 2006. Deed restrictions signed since then have included the prohibited list of breeds, he said.

“We want a mother and her child to feel safe when walking to the mailbox or hiking on the Town Branch Trail,” Anderson said in an email. “We want McConnell’s Trace to be the safest place to raise a family.”

Anderson sent the Herald-Leader a copy of deed restrictions dated in 2006 that lists the 11 restricted breeds.

The letter sent out last week to homeowners, however, stated “restrictions are now amended to include a complete list of prohibited breeds.”

Some homeowners said they never were provided a copy of deed restrictions when they moved in. One said, though he bought his home just over a year ago, he received the 2001 list of deed restrictions.

So it’s entirely possible, given how these places operate, that the developer’s attorney was the only one who actually had a copy of these restrictions he says have been in place for more than 10 years.

The letter said homeowners who already have a dog that belongs to one of the listed breeds can keep their dog.

“Please note, however, that all future pets must meet the breed requirements.”

Residents in the neighborhood organized an emergency meeting for 6:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the restrictions. It will be held at Masterson Station Park shelter #3 and will be open to the public.

Given the meeting is being held outside the neighborhood, I’m assuming dogs of all breeds are welcome.

You’re the cutest little human I ever did see

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Earlier this week, I asked — only semi-whimsically — if the day might come when dogs start speaking, actually speaking.

I wondered what dogs might say, and whether, once dogs became verbal, we humans would actually listen, as opposed to just giggling and taking video and posting it on YouTube.

It would probably be far in the future when that happens — and only assuming we humans can keep the planet together that long.

But it’s not too early to start thinking about it, at least semi-whimsically, including the very real possibility that — given dogs tend to reflect us more and more as time goes by — they could end up talking to us as we’ve been talking to them all these years.

And wouldn’t that be awful?

These, as I see it, are the two worst-case scenarios:

One, they will be bossy-assed nags, telling us, far more often than necessary, what to do: “No!” “Stop that!” “Leave it!” Hush!” “Get down!” “Sit!”  “Stay!”

Two, they will be sappy, high-pitched baby talkers: “You’re such a cute human. Yes, you are! You’re the cutest little mushy face human in the world, with your mushy-mush-mush little face. It’s the mushiest little face I ever did see. Yes it is! You’re a good little human. Aren’t you? Yes! Yee-ess! Yes you are!”

Those, while annoying extremes, are highly common approaches when it comes to how we humans speak to our dogs.

Some of us are order-dispensing dictators who only talk to our dogs when issuing commands.

Some of us are babblers, spewing a non-stop stream of syrupy praise and meaningless drivel.

A lot of us are both, myself included, especially in the privacy of my home. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from saying things like “Who’s the handsomest dog in the land?  Who’s a big boy? Who’s a genius? Ace is. Yes, Acey is.”

Sometimes, I realize several days have gone by when the only words I’ve voiced to Ace are orders, at which point I lapse into baby talk to make up for it.

He is probably convinced I am passive-aggressive, if not bi-polar.

horowitzThere are, thankfully, some in-betweens when it comes to talking to one’s dog, and one of our favorite dog writers — by which we mean a human who writes about dogs — took a look at some of those variations in an essay posted recently on TheDodo.com, a website that looks at how we can better understand animals and improve our relationships with them.

Alexandra Horowitz is the author of “Inside of a Dog” and runs the the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, Columbia University. She has spent 15 years studying what dogs might be trying to say to us, but recently she did some cursory research into what we say to them.

“… (O)ver the last months I have been doing some top-secret quasi-science. That is, I’ve been gathering data in my neighborhood in New York City by eavesdropping on the things people say to their dogs. Humans are a species which anthropomorphizes dogs to incredible degrees (as can be attested to by anyone who has seen a pug forced to dress like Winston Churchill). Sure, we know they aren’t really small, furry people (well, most of us seem to know this), but great numbers of people would willingly attest to their dogs being “their children” — or at least claim to think of them as members of their family. But do we really treat them like little people? I figured that some clue to that would come in how we speak to them.”

Horowitz  did some eavesdropping on people out with their dogs in public, making notes of the one-sided conversations she overheard at parks and on sidewalks.

“And, oh, there were many utterances: on every walk I’ve taken in the last months, on a commute, to the store, or out with my own pups, I encountered people with dogs. Some pass silently, but many are in apparent constant dialogue with the pup at the end of the leash. What the dog-talk I’ve gathered shows is not how much we talk to dogs, nor the percentage of people who do so talk, but the kinds of things we say to dogs.”

She wrote that, based on what she heard, how we talk to dogs falls into five categories:

1. The “Almost Realistic,” or talking to a dog as if he mostly understands what you are saying (with grown-up words, but not words so big he needs a dictionary),  as in “Do you want another treat?” (The question that never needs asking.)

2. “Momentarily Confusing Dog With A 2-Year-Old Kid,” as in “Who wants a treatie-weetie? Who does? Who? Who?” (For some reason, no matter how old dogs get, many of us keep talking to them this way, probably because it makes their tails wag.)

3. “Assuming Extravagant Powers Of Understanding:” This is another one I engage in simply because you never know how much they might be taking in: “C’mon Ace, we’re going to stop at the drug store, visit grandma, and go to the park. The duration of the last stop might be limited, because Doppler radar says a storm might be approaching the area.

4. “Totally Inexplicable:” The example Horowitz cites is “Be a man.” (That’s a phrase that bugs me almost as much as “man up” and, worse yet, “grow a pair.” I think a man is the last thing a dog should want to be, and for man to tell a dog to “grow a pair” is just too full of irony to even comment on. I have no problem, however, with “Grow a pear,” and consider it to be legitimate advice.)

5. “Ongoing (One-way) Conversation:” These are those non-stop talkers who conduct a monologue as they walk through the park with their dogs, as in, “Let’s go down the hill and see if your friend Max is there. It would be nice to see Max, wouldn’t it? Remember the time you and Max went swimming? What fun you had. Speaking of fun, do you want to play some tug of war when we get back home? Oh look, there’s Max!”

As Horowitz notes, all of us dog-talkers, and especially that last group, are really talking to ourselves, providing an ongoing narrative of what we are doing and what’s going on in our heads. We are thinking out loud, and our dogs are the victims/beneficiaries of that.

“We talk to dogs not as if they are people, but as if they are the invisible person inside of our own heads. Our remarks to them are our thoughts, articulated… Many of our thoughts while we walk our dogs are not so profound, but they are a running commentary on our days, which serves to lend meaning to ordinary activities …”

(Sounds kind of like Facebook, doesn’t it?)

As with that earlier post that got me started talking about dog talking, this one reminds me of a song, too. I used it in a video I made for a photo exhibit about Baltimore dogs a few years back. The song is called “Talkin’ to the Dog.”

(Top photo and video by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; photo of Horowitz by Vegar Abelsnes)

Microsoft makes good on dog’s Xbox damage

oscarOscar, the dog who purchased 5,000 Microsoft points while chewing on his owner’s Xbox 360 controller, has been given an official Microsoft membership, and his owner will receive a refund.

Microsoft, proving even a software giant has a soft side when it comes to dogs — or at least knows a good public relations opportunity when it sees one — will be refunding the points, setting Oscar up with his own gamertag and Xbox live subscription, and sending his owner Greg Strope a new controller and some extra points.

The move makes Oscar the service’s first canine member.

A Lab mix, Oscar went after the remote control while his owner slept, somehow managing to turn on the console and purchase 5,000 Microsoft Points for the account of Strope, who had stored his credit card number in the remote.

Strope became aware of the $62.50 transaction whn he received an email confirmation of the purchase from Microsoft.

Yesterday, in an email to ohmidog!, a spokesman for Microsoft said the company is refunding Strope his LIVE points “and providing extra for good measure.

“Plus he will get an extra controller and a LIVE subscription for his dog, Oscar.  We also created a gamertag for Oscar so that he doesn’t feel left out anymore.”

Dog on Xbox, spends $62 while owner sleeps

Greg Strope claims his dog Oscar, in the process of chewing his Xbox remote control, purchased $62.50 worth of Microsoft Xbox points while he, his roommate and girlfriend were asleep.

Oscar managed to purchased 5,000 Xbox points, thanks in part to the fact that Strope had programmed his credit card information into the remote control of the computer game system.

Nevertheless, Oscar, a Lab-hound mix, turned on the console and, by gnawing the remote, purchased the points, Strope insists.

“I realized it when I checked my phone to see what time it was (I had to be at work soon) and saw the e-mail from Microsoft confirming the purchase for $62.50,” he told Kotaku via email. “At that point it was a little after 5 a.m … not something you want to wake up to.”

Oscar has a history of gnawing, Strope said, having chewed up pillows, boxes, flip flops, socks, slippers, underwear, candles, toiler paper, bottles, work IDs and the living room blinds.

“Now, I can’t call Microsoft and say ‘My dog chewed my controller,'” Strope said. ” That excuse never worked in school for homework, what makes me think that a multi-billion dollar corporation is going to believe it?”

Seals on La Jolla beach are safe for now

San Diego won’t be releasing the hounds — or recordings thereof — just yet.

 U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes this week reaffirmed his temporary restraining order preventing harassment or dispersal of the seal colony at Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Under orders from another judge, in Superior Court, San Diego announced on May 22 a plant to use the amplified sounds of barking dogs to scare away the seals, and one council member has suggested using actual dogs.

The beach was designated in 1931 as a beach for human swimmers, but it’s now home to about 200 harbor seals, whose waste is causing health concerns.

City officials have said the barking strategy would cost at least $689,000 a year.

Last week, the Superior Court judge said he believed the federal restraining order had expired, so the city must move ahead with its plan. The federal judge gave no indication of when he might lift the restraining order, and is also scheduling another hearing.

Semper Fido

Add the Marines to the list of military branches banning “dangerous” dog breeds from some of their bases — most recently Camp Lejuene in North Carolina.

Nearly a year after a 3-year-old boy was killed by a visiting pit bull at Camp Lejeune, the base has changed its pet policy to ban full or mixed breeds of pit bull or Rottweiler, wolf hybrids, “any dog of any breed with traits of aggression as determined by the base veterinarian,” and any dog with a record of vicious behavior, according to a base spokesman.

A Pentagon memo issued earlier this year bans pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and chows from living on Army bases. The Air Force also has enacted a breed-selective policy and the Navy is expected to do the same.

The change at Camp Lejeune follows the death of Julian Slack last May, according to a letter written by Camp Lejeune’s commanding officer Col. Rich Flatau.  At the time of the attack, no specific breeds of dogs were forbidden on base, though animals deemed vicious were not allowed to stay, according to the Jacksonville Daily News.

In a letter distributed to family housing residents, Flatau said the breed choices chosen for the ban were based on “a significant body of empirical evidence indicating they are apt to violent behavior, often unpredictable and have the capability to inflict severe harm or death.”

(Clearly, the Marines would never tolerate that kind of behavior.)

Camp Pendleton in California limits the number of dogs or cats residents can have, though no particular breeds of dogs are banned. Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia, bans “potentially dangerous dogs such as full or mixed breeds of pit bulls (Stafford Bull Terrier, America Staffordshire Terrier and other similar breeds).”

The revised order also will apply to dogs brought aboard the base by visitors, Flatau wrote in his letter.

(Photo: Petoftheday.com)