Here’s another special report from your favorite worry wart.
No sooner do I bemoan one high-tech invention for dog owners than another comes rolling along, equally worth fretting about.
This one is a 3-inch remotely controlled orange ball, with a high-def camera inside, that you can watch and listen to on your cell phone.
Its makers boast it will “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”
Let’s hope not.
It’s called PlayDate, now in the Indygogoing stage, and like many other contraptions hitting the market, it’s designed to make all the time your dog spends alone more bearable for him, and more entertaining and guilt-free for you.
The problem I have with that, as I’ve stated before, is how it lets dog owners shrug off the responsibility of dog ownership and diminishes the bond between dog and owner.
What I fret about is that the “future of human-pet interactions” could be long-distance, computer-assisted, virtual and heartless — exactly opposite of what dogs need, and exactly opposite of the reasons for having a dog in the first place.
A Manhattan inventor has come up with what the New York Post called “the next big thing for man’s best friend.”
Company co-founder Kevin Li says he got the idea for PlayDate after adopting his Rhodesian ridgeback-Lab mix, Hulk, three years ago.
“Looking at his sad face every time I left for work, I realized he … needed more time with his best friend.”
So Li (and we hope he worked from home at least a little bit) invented a ball for Hulk to play with — one he could control remotely, issue commands through, observe his dog through, and make squeak.
An adjunct computer-science professor at Columbia, Li described the $249 gadget as “Fitbit meets iPhone localization.”
He has already raised more than $200,000 on Indiegogo and has sold out of pre-orders.
With the rechargable ball, a pet owner can watch and listen to their pet, take photos, and record video, all from their iOS or Android device.
A stabilized camera inside provides real-time HD images. And a clear, replaceable outer shell protects the inner workings while allowing the camera — slobber aside — to see out clearly.
There are just three simple steps, its makers say: Download the free app, connect to wi-fi and “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”
Sorry, but talk like that scares me, as do a few other things.
The shell of the ball is made of a strong, chew-resistant polycarbonate, designed to withstand rambunctious play, according to its makers.
I hope that has been well tested, because I’d prefer not to think about what swallowing a little camera and a lithium polymer battery might do to a dog (or cat).
In the world of pet products, many a toy marketed as indestructible has proved otherwise.
Even PlayDate’s makers are saying that part might take some fine tuning:
“As we put PlayDate’s smart ball in front of more dogs and cats, we may discover the need to make aspects of its design more robust; any pet owner will tell you there’s no such thing as an indestructible toy. We have purposefully designed features like the replaceable outer shell with this in mind. Additional design changes may be required as we perform more testing.”
And what, I wonder, will be the effect of communicating with — and issuing orders to — your dog via an orange ball? Seeing an orange ball wandering around the house on its own, and hearing a disembodied voice come from it would, at the very least, be confusing, I’d think.
I’m all for keeping a dog active, engaged and feeling loved when the owner is away. But it’s a mistake to assume that technology can make up for failing to give your dog adequate attention.
And — needless to say — one shouldn’t get a dog in the first place if one is unwilling or unable to give him or her their time.
Face-time, I mean, with no cameras, or wi-fi, or remote controls involved.
Before we usher human-pet interaction “into the future,” it might be wise to question whether we really need to take that trip.
Didn’t we pretty much have it down just fine already — most of us, anyway?
(Photo: from PlayDate’s website)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 3rd, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, attention, babysitter, ball, bond, camera, communication, dog, dogs, dogs and technology, humans, inventions, pet, pet ownership, pets, playdate, products, remote, remote control, responsibility, technology, toy, toys, wi-fi
He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.
It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.
“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’
“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”
We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”
And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.
Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.
At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”
Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.
“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.
Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.
After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.
Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.
“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.
“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”
Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”
“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.
An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.
While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.
Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.
“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…
“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”
Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.
That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.
“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”
If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alabama, animals, bandit, ben raines, canoe, clean, cliff skees, dog, dogs, environment, garbage, guardian, homeless, houseboat, litter, mobile, pets, pollution, reporter, rivers, trash, waterways, wildlife, wolfdog
We report often on dog-related technology here on ohmidog! — both that which is budding and that which has found its way to the marketplace — and a good 90 percent of the time we have nothing positive to say about it.
Including this time.
A drone that walks your dog? No. No. And no.
This is just one man’s experiment, but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.
Here’s the thing about dog-centered technology: It’s usually not centered on dogs at all.
Instead, it is aimed at making the lives of dog owners easier. Generally, it is something that relieves dog owners of responsibility, allowing them to both spend less time with their dog and feel less guilty about it.
Like machines that, on a programmed schedule or through remote operation, can dispense a treat to your dog while you’re away.
Or a machine that will play fetch with your dog while you’re away, or just too tired to go to all that effort.
And all those other contraptions, apps and gizmos that allow you to cut down on face to face time with your dog, thereby eroding the one thing that counts — the bond between the two of you.
Those devices aren’t really making it any easier for you to live your life. Your dog, on the other hand, is.
The video above shows Lucy, a golden retriever from Connecticut, being walked by a drone.
Jeff Myers, the mind behind this video, said he wanted to show it could be done — always a dangerous reason to do something, especially when it’s the sole reason.
Myers lives in New York City, and he borrowed his mother’s dog for the experiment, in which dog is leashed to drone and drone is controlled by an app.
It’s just a concept Myers says.
So too, at one point, was dog cloning. Those concepts — good or bad — have a way of turning into business enterprises once the realization that there could be profits kicks in.
This NPR report about the dog walking drone and other technological developments for dogs, concluded, “The future is here and it’s pretty darn cute.”
Pretty darn cute?
Yeah, right up there with using your car to walk your dog:
Posted by John Woestendiek April 29th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bad, bond, car, control, dog, dog technology, dog walking, dogs, driving, drone, drones, exercise, experiment, leash, pets, remote, responsibility, rope, technology, walk, walker, walking
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.
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 28th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, birds, california, dog, dogs, friends, hummer, hummingbird, inter-species, los angeles, news, pets, report, rescue, rescued, rex, tinkerbelle, video
Dog owners whose pets soil the streets of Madrid could soon find themselves cleaning those streets.
City officials unveiled their “shock plan” this week, saying those who do not clean up after their dogs in the Spanish capital will have to either pay a fines up to $1,700 — or go to work as street cleaners.
Municipal police will test the scheme in the two city districts where un-scooped dog poop seems to be the biggest problem, according to The Guardian.
Madrid and other Spanish cities have been cracking down on scofflaws for years now.
Last year the city of Tarragona announced it would use DNA analysis of dog droppings to track down owners who fail to clean up after them.
El Vendrell, a small town of 36,000 people in northeastern Spain, has tried setting up a canine toilet along one of its main thoroughfares.
And in the town of Brunete a few years ago, volunteers who spotted scofflaws struck up friendly conversations with them, obtaining enough information for city officials to identify them and send them a package marked “Lost Property.” Inside, they would find … you guessed it.
Madrid has launched repeated public awareness campaigns over the years, aimed at getting a handle on the problem, and it has distributed millions of free poop bags.
But, “there is still excrement in the streets, parks and other places,” the city said. Under the new plan, dog owners will have only one way of avoiding the hefty fine — by performing street cleaning duties for a few days.
The number of hours they are required to put in would be based on the size of the fine, the city says.
(Photo: TNT Magazine via The Guardian)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 27th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, campaign, city, cleaners, cleaning, community service, dog, dog poop, dogs, excrement, feces, fines, law, madrid, pets, pick-up, poop, scofflaws, shock plan, spain, street
We’re not recommending you do, and we’re not recommending you don’t. We’re only taking a quick look at the subject because, pure and innocent an act as hugging your dog might seem, it is not without controversy.
Stanley Coren, author of many dog books, stirred up a little of it in his column this month for Psychology Today, citing “new data” that shows getting hugged raises the stress and anxiety levels of dogs, and the possibilities of someone getting bitten.
Some people who have been hugging their dogs for years (and insist their dogs enjoy the affection) found his conclusions laughable, labeled him a party-pooping old fuddy duddy, and said his research techniques were anything but scientific.
We’d agree only with that last part — because Coren’s “new data” was gathered by looking at 250 random photos on the Internet of people hugging dogs.
“I can summarize the data quite simply by saying that the results indicated that the Internet contains many pictures of happy people hugging what appear to be unhappy dogs,” he wrote.
“In all, 81.6% of the photographs researchers scored showed dogs who were giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety. Only 7.6% of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged. The remaining 10.8% of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.
That’s when you can see the white portion of the eyes.
Here’s the problem, though — or one of them, anyway. How does Coren, or anybody else, know that the dogs pictured are stressing out because of the hug. Couldn’t it also be a reaction to WHO is hugging them? Or a reaction to the camera?
The simple fact is some dogs like being hugged, some tolerate it, and others don’t like it at all.
For the latter group, it might be the amount of pressure applied during a hug that they are reacting to — enough to make them feel restrained. It might be that hugs tend to be spontaneous and come out of nowhere.
Then, too, mood could be a factor. Sometimes dogs, and humans, feel like being hugged and sometimes they don’t.
There are just too many variables to make a sweeping conclusion — especially when it’s all based on what photos turn up in your Internet search and your subjective interpretation of those photos.
Hard to read emotions through that many wrinkles, but he seems to be digging it.
We’d agree with the experts who say hugging a dog you don’t know or have just met is not a good idea — and that children should be taught that early on.
But beyond that, we’d be hesitant to put the kibosh on dog hugging altogether, especially when it’s based on Flickr’ed or Facebook’ed photos posted by dog owners wanting to show how much they love their dogs — whether their dogs like it or not.
In this writer’s life, he has been creeped out by some hugs, tolerated others, found some both warm and comforting, and gotten truly enthused by a few.
Probably, some old photos exist of him showing half moon eyes while being squeezed by his big sister.
Does that mean he doesn’t like hugs?
Of course not. He just prefers to make the decision on a case by case basis. Dogs should have that freedom, too.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 26th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: affection, animals, behavior, dog, dogs, emotions, health, hug, hugging, hugging your dog, hugs, internet, interpreting, mood, pets, photographs, photos, psychology today, safety, stanley coren
I have a theory that there are many things dogs would like us to know, and that dogs even give us some hints in hopes of making us see the light, and that we humans, being humans, often just don’t get it.
These videos are a perfect example of what could be one of them:
Dogs left alone in cars — with the windows cracked if they’re lucky — sounding the car horn.
In the one above, posted on YouTube five months ago, an Airedale leans on the car horn for a good long time, while another Airedale waits more patiently in the back seat.
The dog’s owner returned to the car and said the two “love going for rides, but apparently they don’t like waiting,” according to the Pennsylvania woman who shot the video.
Here’s another one, from a few years back. This boxer reportedly sounded the horn for 15 minutes while her owner was in an art gallery in Scotland:
Here’s one more, where a barking dog, encouraged by a stranger to honk the horn, complied.
You can find many others on YouTube. Judging from them, the first response of humans — after grabbing some video footage, of course — is to laugh and label it “hilarious.”
Sure it’s funny. But might it be something more? Along the lines of a wake-up call? Along the lines of, “Hey, stupid, don’t leave us closed up in cars for extended periods of time. How much barking and honking will it take for that to sink into your thick human skull?”
If you’re old enough to remember Lassie, the TV show, you’ll recall how hard the collie — aware of some unfolding disaster — had to work to alert humans to the urgency of the situation. She’d bark, go in circles, run a little ahead and look back, clearly saying “hurry, follow me!”
The humans would watch, but precious time was lost, it always seemed, as they absorbed the signal she was sending.
“Wait, look at Lassie,” they’d say. (Long pause.) “I think … could it be …. is she is trying to tell us something?”
And this even though they’d all been through this same drill with her many times before.
We humans can be a little slow to catch on — even when the signs are staring in our faces … or blaring in our ears.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 25th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, car horns, cars, communication, dog, dogs, honk, honking, horns, humans, lassie, message, parked, parked car, pets, videos