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Woof in Advertising: Friends are waiting

Budweiser’s new public service message encouraging responsible drinking lets a dog make the point:

“Next time you go out, be sure to make a plan to get home safely, because friends are waiting.”

Sure, they could have used a worried spouse, or a cute child, but somehow a dog drives the point home even better. Nobody waits for you like a dog does, and no one seems happier to see you come through the front door.

By using a dog, and making the ad’s ending happy, this public service message avoids becoming heavy-handed, sanctimonious, preachy and blatantly tear-jerking (unlike some of those PSA’s animal welfare organizations produce).

That, and being so on point, are what make it so effective.

In a decade of writing about dogs, and their people, I’ve had many people tell me how their dogs have changed their lives, and made their lives worth living. Some go so far to say their dog helped them move out of a criminal lifestyle or kept them from committing suicide. Dogs give us a reason to live, and a reason to live responsibly.

Dogs make us do the right thing.

Beer does the opposite.

WIAGiven alcohol is a factor in nearly a third of all traffic related deaths, there will be those who see some hypocrisy in a company simultaneously bombarding us with beer ads and telling us to drink responsibly.

Some accused the company of just that last week, when Anheuser-Busch, the official sponsor of the NFL season, issued its statement expressing concern about domestic abuse among NFL players, given alcohol and substance abuse play a role in nearly two out of three domestic violence cases, according to some studies.

“We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season,” Anheuser-Busch said in the statement — not directly threatening to end its $194 million relationship with the NFL, but, between the lines, raising that possibility. “We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and code.”

Both the domestic abuse statement and the responsible drinking PSA came out last week. The latter was posted on YouTube Friday.

Maybe Anheuser-Busch is becoming more socially conscious, or maybe it’s just buffing up its image.

Some may think Anheuser-Busch, both with its domestic violence statement and its responsible drinking PSA, is getting on a high horse it has no right to mount (Clydesdale, maybe?).

“How crazy is this?” Jon Stewart noted last week on The Daily Show. “A company that sells alcohol is the moral touchstone of the NFL.”

That’s one way to look at it:  A beer company shouldn’t try to set our moral compass — and has no right to do so.

One could also say — given the social problems its products tend to spawn and exacerbate —  that a beer company has every duty to take such actions, and produce such ads.

In any event, we’re glad they  made this one, and we hope to see it on television at least as often as we do the Clydesdales.

(Woof in Advertising is an occasional feature on ohmidog! that looks at how dogs are used in advertising. For more Woof in Advertising posts, click here.)

Getting the “F — k” off Felicity

A dog with the “F” word branded into her side isn’t too likely to get adopted — at least not by anyone who would make for a good doggie parent — so a Kentucky shelter took steps to obscure the profanity with cosmetic surgery.

The young female pit bull mix was found tied to a fence in August, and taken in by the Lexington Humane Society, which named her Felicity.

felicityThe four-letter word had been burned into her side, likely with a chemical paste or liquid that penetrated her hide, leaving her branded for life.

Cosmetic surgery was performed last week by a staff veterinarian to try to hide the four-letter word.

Lexington Humane Society officials say they have an adoptive home lined up for Felicity, but wanted to do surgery before releasing her.

Thanks to donations from the public, a $3,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the dog’s abuser or abusers, according to an Associated Press article.

Wouldn’t it be nice — felicitous, even — if there were a stiff mandatory sentence for disfiguring or mutilating dogs, say 15 years in prison, with no possibility of parole.

That might dissuade some from using dogs for graffiti.

If nothing else, it would forestall those who got caught and convicted from entering their likely future careers as serial murderers.

(Photo: Lexington Humane Society)

Please help my sick, dying, fat, abused dog

obiethen

It’s no secret that a sad dog story, properly promoted on social media, can bring in some pretty huge donations — for an animal shelter, a rescue organization, or an individual.

Whether your dog needs life-saving surgery, or even an intense diet regimen, you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to ask the public for help — and you shouldn’t have to be.

But with the rise of social media, and online fundraising tools like GoFundMe, IndieGogo, and all those other I-would-like- some-of-your-money-please websites, there are likely more bucks than ever before being donated directly to individual dogs in need.

With all that unmonitored money pouring in, what ensures that it’s going to the rightful place — namely, helping the dog in question? What ensures any surplus won’t end up going to the dog owner’s kitchen remodel? What’s to guarantee that the sad dog story is even true in the first place?

In a word, nothing.

Just as the Internet has made us all published journalists, photographers and autobiographers, it has given us an easy route to becoming professional fund-raisers.

What gets lost in that transition is knowing who we can trust.

We can only cross our fingers and hope that those engaging in outright fraud get caught, that those soliciting funds to help a dog don’t get too greedy, and that money sent in by good-hearted people seeking to help a dog actually goes to helping a dog.

It’s a fuzzy area — legally and morally. What accounting, if any, does a private citizen raising money to help a dog owe those who contribute?

In Oregon, at least, the answer seems to be some, at least in the view of the state  Attorney General’s Office.

Since January, the office’s charitable activities section has been looking into how Nora Vanatta spent, and is spending, all the money sent in to help Obie — the 77-pound dachshund she adopted and whose weight loss program became a much-followed story.

obienowVanatta, a veterinary technician who lives in Portland, never purported to be affiliated with a nonprofit, but she did seek and accept thousands of dollars from people around the world who were inspired by Obie’s story.

Vanatta initially fostered Obie, after reading about him on the Facebook page of Oregon Dachshund Rescue.

After Obie’s story went viral, the rescue sought to get the dog back, and filed a lawsuit. The case was later settled, and Vanatta was awarded permanent custody. (Obie is down to 22 pounds.)

Meanwhile, money — Vanatta won’t say how much — continued to come in, $15,000 of which Vanatta says was spent on lawyers she hired to fight the custody battle. Some of it went to pay for $80 bags of specialty food Obie required, and a $1,500 skin-reduction surgery.

Since January, Vanatta has been answering questions from the Attorney General’s office, which began looking into the matter after receiving complaints about how she was spending the funds, and is now in the process of working out an agreement with her.

“They wanted everything – copies of every penny in, every penny out,” she told the Oregonian.

The Attorney General’s office won’t identify the source of the complaint, and it says no wrongdoing was found in how Vanatta has spent the funds so far. (Apparently, nobody in that office full of lawyers had any problem with all the money that went to lawyers.)

But the office does disagree with how she plans to spend the rest. (Obie’s PayPal account was closed last year.)

Vanatta says the office objects to her using the money to help individual  dogs with medical needs, which is maybe a little ironic given the money was raised to help an individual dog with medical needs. The Attorney General’s office frowned upon her giving $2,000 to a family she met at the Tualatin veterinary clinic where she works to help them pay for their dog’s back surgery. Instead, the office wants her to give the money away to established nonprofits, and wants to set a deadline.

The case raises lots of interesting questions, and some disturbing ones.

We’re all for the attorney general keeping an eye on such fundraising drives; slightly less for that office dictating what good causes should receive the remainder of the money, and when.

We agree with Vanatta’s reasoning on that: “I strongly believe you do not have to be a nonprofit to do good,” she said.

What bothers us most, though, next  to Obie’s previous owners letting him get so morbidly obese, is how much of the money donated has gone to lawyers — $15,000 on the custody case, another $11,800 for lawyers to represent Vanatta in the attorney general’s investigation.

Obie may be becoming a slimmer dog, thanks in part to donations from the public, but, as always, lawyers — gobbling up the bulk of the donations — just keep getting fatter.

Poop & Pooches: A magazine for dog haters

beleites

It began as a joke, and maybe sorta still is, but there’s now a real magazine in Germany devoted to dog haters.

Started by a frustrated freelance journalist who was bitten by a spitz as child, “Kot & Köter,” which translates to “Poop & Pooches” in English, has just produced its second issue.

It’s 48 pages long and include articles about how excessive and obsessive we humans can get when it comes to our dogs’ deaths, and their wardrobes; three poems devoted to the evils of dog poop; and a piece of fiction about a serial dog murderer.

“There are two types of people in Germany,”the magazine’s founder and editor, Wulf Beleites, tells the Wall Street Journal. “One type loves dogs. Another type doesn’t. These are my readers.”

As Beleites tells it, the idea started as a joke, way back in 1992, when he and three fellow journalists were sitting at a pub trying to think up absurd titles for magazines. As a joke, he trademarked the name “Kot & Köter,” and later a friend who publishes a newsletter of trademarked and copyrighted names available for purchase slipped the title into a listing.

A newspaper reporter spotted the unusual magazine title and published an article about it. After that, Beleites was interviewed on the radio and, in the ensuing 6 years, 18 more times by media outlets who didn’t realize his magazine didn’t exist. Beleites would go on air and talk about the downside of dogs — from barking and biting to smelling and shedding.

For some of the appearances, he was paid. At some of them, he was booed.

kotkoterThis year, Beleites — 67 and struggling to make a living as a freelance journalist — resuscitated the joke, only this time for real.

The new magazine is described as “satirical.” It pokes fun at how dog-crazy many of us become. But it’s a little mean and hateful as well.

The first issue came out in July, after Beleites launched an online fundraising campaign.

Poop & Pooches joins the ranks of at least a dozen magazines for dog lovers in Germany,  including Modern Dog, City Dog, Dog Avenue, Woof and SitzPlatzFuss, (which translates to SitStayHeel).

The first issue featured an article about Hitler and his dog; another looked at “slutty poodles.”

Beleites says he gets a lot of  hate mail, and angry phone calls, and he was chased out of a doggie boutique (by a human) when he stopped by in an effort to get it to sell his publication.

(Top photo: Associated Press)

Hopeless dogs? Think again

There are plenty of rescue groups that likely do as good a job saving, rehabilitating and re-homing stray dogs as Hope For Paws.

But there is probably none better than that Los Angeles-based non-profit at documenting what they do on video.

Above is their latest rescue video — that of a pit bull, since named Bunny,  found abandoned on some government property. Shy, skittish and — even we’d admit — looking a little intimidating, she was lured in with hamburgers and trapped in a crate.

Not until she’s transported to safety and let out of the crate do we get the answer to the question that — in addition to the beautiful camera work — keeps us watching: How is she going to react, close up, with a member of the species that treated her so rudely?

Therein lies the beauty of the Hope For Paws videos, and the beauty of dogs.

Bunny, who apparently experienced little kindness in life — with the exception of one good Samaritan who would drop her off some food while she was living in the wild — doesn’t just give humans a second chance, she becomes an instant, gentle, trusting and tail-wagging friend.

After a few shy sniffs, she was resting her head on the laps of her rescuers.

Bunny is now up for adoption through Sevadog, an Oregon organization that helps dogs find forever homes. Hope For Paws often teams up with other rescues. In Bunny’s case, three were involved, including the group Rescue From the Hart, which notified Hope For Paws about the dog’s situation.

Hope For Paws went to the site, found the dog and got her veterinary care — shooting video the whole time.

The videos, which get millions of views on YouTube, help raise funds for the organization, and melt our hearts in the process. But they also bring attention to the issue of stray and homeless dogs, and remind us that, no matter how rough shape a being might be in, hope and love can conquer all.

The Internet age has seen us all become more adept at touting ourselves — as individuals, as non-profit organizations, as corporations. There are downsides to that. One is how easy it has become to mislead the masses. Another is the danger that we all end up spending 10 percent of our time on a project, and 90 percent of our time touting what we’ve done.

On the other hand, for a non-profit organization, showing the public what it does, in a way that touches the heart, can be a key to survival.

So, all things considered, we hope the Hope For Paws videos keep coming, and we urge you to take at some of the others by clicking the link in this paragraph.

You’ll see some dogs in pretty horrid shape, like this one found living in a landfill, but you’ll also get transported from sad to happy on your way to the final destination — hope.

Creepy: California man accused of killing ex’s dog, and feeding it to her dinner

mugshot

We’re not sure who gave Ryan Eddy Watenpaugh the minor shiner he sports in this mug shot.

But, assuming Watenpaugh really did what he is accused of doing, he deserves much worse, and — once he goes to trial, and if he gets convicted, of course — we hope he gets it.

The Shasta County, California, man is in custody for killing his girlfriend’s dog, then cooking the dog and feeding his girlfriend part of the remains — telling her it was a pork dish initially, then texting her that what she’d really eaten was her dog.

Police in Redding say Watenpaugh’s live-in girlfriend left him after a fight in August, leaving her Pomeranian, Bear, behind.

When she returned, in what appeared to be a reconciliation, Watenpaugh told her the dog had disappeared.

As a show of what appeared good faith, he made her dinner, then informed her — through text messages — that she had eaten her dog.

“It set all of us back when we read the text messages about the incident,” said a police sergeant. “The suspect asked her how Bear tasted … obviously referencing the meal he prepared for her.”

Police are still investigating, but they say a package Watenpaugh left for his ex last week lends credence to the claims he made in his messages. On Tuesday, the victim said Watenpaugh left a bag at her front door — inside of which were the paws of what she believed to be her dog, Action News reported.

Watenpaugh, 34, was arrested Thursday evening, booked into the Shasta County Jail and is being charged with domestic violence, stalking, animal cruelty and imprisonment.

“It’s sad, that if indeed the dog was killed as part of this incident, because dogs are innocent. All they want is affection and love,” Redding Police Sgt. Todd Cogle told NBC News on Friday. “For someone to take advantage of that innocence is obviously sad and depressing.”

Watenpaugh admitted to leaving Bear’s paws in front of his ex-girlfriend’s home, but denied anything to do with the dog’s apparent death, police said.

No other remains of the dog have been found.

World’s tallest dog dies of “old age” — at 5

zeus

Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, is dead.

The Great Dane passed away earlier this month — two months shy of his sixth birthday — from “symptoms of old age,” according to his owner.

Great Danes have shorter life spans than most dogs — most likely the result of breeders intent on making the breed larger yet, and the strain that size puts on their organs — which only makes the death of Zeus doubly sad.

“We’ll really miss him,” said Zeus’ owner, Kevin Doorlag, of Otsego, Michigan.

Doorlag and his wife, Denise say Zeus was a “wonderful dog” — famous both for Guinness World Record-setting size, and for his work as a therapy dog in their hometown.

He stood 44 inches at the shoulder — 7 feet, 4 inches on his hind legs. He claimed the Guinness World Record in 2012, and still held the title in the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The previous World’s Tallest Dog was Giant George, a Tuscon, Arizona, Great Dane. He died at age 7.

Kevin Doorlag said one of the things he will miss most is seeing the joy Zeus brought to others.

The death of Zeus is, first and foremost, a time to remember and celebrate Zeus.

But if it makes us question why, in the name of seeking extremes, we accept purebred breeding practices that lead to ill health and short lives, that’s fine, too. They’re in need of questioning.

What there’s less need for — whether it’s in pursuit of ribbons, world records, or sales — is making fluffy dogs fluffier, long and skinny dogs longer and skinnier, short snouted dogs even more shortly snouted.

We don’t need (sorry, Marmaduke) cartoonish dogs, or dogs that, through breeding them with close relatives, become exaggerated caricatures of their breed.

Healthy dogs will do just fine.

(Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette)

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