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High tech device promises to tell a dog’s mood — by monitoring the wag of the tail

Yes, ohmidog! pokes cruel fun at “new technology” from time to time, but only when “new technology” deserves it — as is the case with this tail wagging monitor a group hopes to bring to the market.

Some Cornell University graduates have launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the manufacturing of DogStar TailTalk, which they describe as a translator of dog emotions.

The device consists of a lightweight sensor that wraps around your dog’s tail, monitoring the speed and direction of the tail’s movement with an internal accelerometer and a gyroscope.

Coupled with a phone app, the developers say, it will tell you when your dog is happy, and when his or her tail wag may be a sign of stress.

wagThere’s some hard science behind it — but not much.

Scientific studies conducted in Italy have concluded that the prominent direction of a dog’s tail wag is an indicator of whether he’s happy or feeling anxiety, aggression or fear.

Wagging more to the right is said to be an indication of positive feelings.

The developers of the device say the direction of the wag isn’t always discernable to the naked eye: “Tail wagging is asymmetric and includes complex emotional signals that the human eye cannot recognize.”

We’re not so sure about that, just as we’re not so sure that a dog owner, seeing their dog’s tail wagging upon meeting, say, another dog, will have time to fire up the app to determine whether the meeting is going to go well.

Like a lot of canine-oriented technology — from treat poppers to automatic ball throwers to spy cams – this little gizmo takes over a task and/or responsibility that we should be doing ourselves, thereby growing closer and better knowing our dog, as opposed to distancing ourselves from our dog and giving them the features of robots.

As the goofy video above shows, the device may have some value when used remotely, such as learning the dog really doesn’t like the dog walker at all, but that — again — is something a dog owner should be able to ascertain beforehand without gyroscopes or apps.

The design team says it consulted on the project with “professors from the famous College of Veterinary Medicine in Cornell University.”

We think we smell a class project resurfacing for the marketplace. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Current plans call for the TailTalk app to work with iOS or Android phones, and to include features like the “Happiness Overview” function, which tracks a dog’s emotional status over the course of a day, a week, or a month. The monitoring device will be waterproof and “chew-resistant.” We can only hope that dogs, annoyed by having a tail attachment, don’t inadvertently chew through something other than the device.

So far, the campaign has raised about a third of its $100,000 funding goal.

If all goes according to plan, the TailTalk device will be ready to hit the market in about a year, and we suspect that — just as there are those who are willing to fund it — there will be those willing to buy it.

Because while the dog may sometimes wag his tail, and the tail may sometimes wag the dog, technology seems destined to almost always wag us.

That “Southern hospitality” isn’t a myth — not even during a flood


A Columbia family worked together to rescue an 87-year old man and his dog after he got trapped in his car by rising floodwaters while passing through South Carolina.

Then the family fed him, gave him a shot of bourbon, called a doctor to look him over and invited him to stay the night.

Southern hospitality, it seems, is alive and well — even during a deluge.

George Osterhues, who lives in Canada, was on his way to Florida with his dog Tilli. He got off Interstate 77 because of the flooding, then got lost near a flood prone lake north of Columbia.

osterhues2The Hall family, who lived nearby, was going door to door to check on neighbors when they saw a hand waving from a car almost halfway underwater.

Inside, they could see a man and a dog.

Julie Hall, a Chester County prosecutor, called 911, but the family quickly decided rescuers probably had their hands full during the flooding.

Together, they decided to take action.

At first her husband, Tom Hall tried to reach the man in a canoe but the current was too rapid. Instead, he used ropes tied to trees to hold onto as he made his way to the car.

When he reached the car, the man told him he was “ready to die.”

osterhuesHall deemed that unacceptable.

“No way was that man going to die out there,” he told the Charlotte Observer.

Tom Hall gave the man a life jacket and pulled him and his Yorkshire terrier out the window, and the whole family, including sons Brice, Graham and Logan, helped to tug Osterhues and the dog to dry ground.

Then the family took him to their home for some warm tea, a shot of bourbon and a hot meal.

Julie Hall’s father, a doctor, came over to check on Osterhues, who stayed over Sunday night.

Osterhues, it turned out, is German-born, and a survivor of bombings and Nazi terror during World War II.

He and Tilla got a rental car for the rest of the trip to Florida.

What happens when you fall in love online


It wasn’t the first time someone has fallen in love online.

It wasn’t the first time someone dropped everything to travel across the country to meet and claim the object of his affection.

But it may be the first time that someone has been able to get members of the public to help finance such a trip.

That’s probably because the girl of Joel Carpenter’s dreams was a dog — a husky-shepherd-collie mix named Sadie that he spotted on Petfinder and was so smitten with that he bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis to adopt her, knowing full well he didn’t have the money to get back home to Maine.

“For whatever reason, Sadie just struck me,” the 23-year-old told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt like I need to fly out to rescue her; at the core, there was just this intense feeling that I was doing the right thing.”

“You could say I’m winging it a little bit,” he added in an interview conducted while he and the dog were stuck in Michigan. “I was just kind of following my heart.”

Joel Carpenter flew from his home in Portland, Maine to Minneapolis on Sept. 22 and adopted Sadie from a local shelter.

While there, what little money he had — what with taxi fares, motels and adoption fees — ran out.

It could be Carpenter is just young and brash and a poor planner, but, more likely, he saw the whole thing as an adventure.

He knew he might have to rely on ride-sharing and couch-surfing on the trip home — and things started out well enough when he got a ride from Minnesota to Grand Rapids in a kindly gentleman’s RV.

There, he found a couple that invited Sadie and him to stay in their home. But when he ran into trouble finding another ride he decided to call a local news station to see if they could help “spread the word that I needed a ride back to Maine.”

Here we have to question whether Carpenter was so gullible as to think a news station would gladly broadcast his ride needs, or so savvy as to know he was sitting in the middle of a pretty good story.

After the news report, Carpenter’s phone started ringing.

“News papers and News stations all curious about my story. What was most encouraging was the positive support for me and Sadie. Many people became invested in our adventure, and wanted to help out any way they could. Many people have told me we should try Go Fund Me … So here we are!” Carpenter wrote on the Gofundme page he established.

Between it and a Facebook page started by his girlfriend, donations and offers of help poured in — food, toys, motel rooms and, finally enough money to buy an airplane ticket.

On Wednesday Joel and Sadie hitched a ride from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where another good Samaritan bought Carpenter and Sadie a hotel room for the night. On Thursday, he and Sadie flew home.

The saga of Carpenter and Sadie raises more than a few questions — including just how loose a screening process that shelter must have had to hand a dog over to someone who lived 1,500 miles away, with no money, and no clear way home. Was that irresponsible, or did they just fall for the romanticism of it all?

I kind of did, and I’m a cynical sort. But then again I uprooted my dog from his stable home to spend a year on the road, traveling across America in a car but on a shoestring, including doing a little couch-surfing and a little relying on the kindness of strangers.

Is the saga of Carpenter and Sadie proof that love conquers all? Is it the epitome of irresponsibility? An excellent adventure? Or is it just the kind of thing dog-crazy people do?

I ‘d love to hear your opinions on all this (and unlike most websites that ask you for that I really mean it) because — other than being happy they are safely back home — I’m not sure what exactly mine is.

(Photo of Joel and Sadie from WZZM)

Woman insists taping dog’s mouth shut was joke


A Salisbury, N.C., woman insists it was just a joke when she posted a photo of her dog with her snout taped shut, but she has been charged with animal cruelty all the same.

Kimberly Ann Howell, 25, posted the photo above on Facebook, along with these words:

“I warned her. I told her I was going to teach her not to bite the baby again, even play biting. LOL. She so pidiful (sic). I can’t even make her keep it on for five minutes. LOL. She jumped up on me and was like but please mamma.”

howellAmid some critical comments, Howell took the post down, but not before someone — concerned either about the dog or the infant — tipped off county officials, who referred the matter to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Salisbury Post reported.

A detective questioned Howell, who insisted the dog, a young mixed breed named Leah, managed to quickly get the duct tape off her face. She also insisted the dog was not harmed.

The detective examined the dog and found her to be in good health with no other signs of abuse or neglect.

Howell, however, was charged with animal cruelty, jailed, and later released on $3,000 bond on the cruelty charge and failure to appear for outstanding traffic charges.

Leah was left in the custody of the family after the detective consulted with animal control officials about the case. Howell was told that a follow-up visit might take place to ensure the dog was being treated properly,

Since her initial post, Howell has responded repeatedly to the barrage of criticism she has been receiving online.

“Wow ok maybe I should of said I was joking when posting that,” she wrote on Facebook. “But honestly though people would know better anyone who spend (sic) a week at my house would see how spoiled and loved my dog is. Anyways guess I really didn’t think through but anyone who knows me knows when I got Leah she [was] skin and bones how (sic) that animal abusee (sic).”

(Photo of Leah from Facebook, photo of Howell from Rowan County Sheriff’s Office)

A refreshing alternative to toilet bowl water

Gotta hand it to Max.

The German shepherd has come up with a far healthier alternative to toilet bowl water.

His owners posted this video on YouTube a couple of weeks ago.

We can only hope that they are as vigilant at keeping his water bowl full as they are at posting on social media.

In any event, Max shows himself to be one smart dog, who has learned not only where to find cool, freshly filtered water, but knows his left from right well enough to avoid being bombarded with ice cubes.

23 dogs seized from home outside of Charlotte in dog fighting investigation


More than 20 dogs believed to be part of a dog-fighting operation were seized yesterday by police in Huntersville, N.C., as part of a joint investigation with the ASPCA.

“We’re not going to put up with that in Huntersville,” Police Chief Cleveland Spruill said.

Officers have questioned residents of the home on Statesville Road, but have yet to file any charges.

In addition to seizing 23 dogs, a treadmill and other items commonly used to train fighting dogs were also taken as evidence.

ASPCA Director of Investigations, Kathryn Destreza, said that 16 adult dogs and seven puppies were tethered to heavy chains and removed from filthy conditions.

“That’s how they live their life,” she said. “If they’re not fighting or being conditioned to fight they live their life on the end of a chain.”

According to an ASPCA news release, “Some were thin and exhibited scars, bite marks, broken teeth and other injuries commonly associated with dog fighting … Dog fighting paraphernalia was discovered, including conditioning and training devices, indoor and outdoor fighting pits, and medication common to treating wounds associated with dog fighting.”

dogfightingHuntersville police said that after receiving tips, they obtained a search warrant for the property.

It was executed with assistance from ASPCA investigators and Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s animal control department.

Police Chief Spruill said the puppies will likely be able to be adopted, but that will have to be decided by a judge.

“The ASPCA’s goal is always to rehab as many animals we can from any criminal situation,” the ASPCA’s Destreza said.

Where the dogs were being taken was not divulged.

Destreza said numerous dogs chained in a back yard is often an indication that dog fighting might be taking place.

A woman who described herself as the dog owner’s aunt told WBTV in Charlotte that the dogs were being raised to be sold. She denied that they were involved in dog fighting.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact Lt. Andrew Dempski at 704-464-5400.

(Photos: ASPCA)

French animal rights group wrestles puppy away from a homeless man in Paris

A French animal rights group is being criticized after a video surfaced of its president and at least two cohorts taking a puppy away from a homeless man in Paris.

The French newspaper La Voix du Nord identified the man in the video who took the dog as Cause Animale Nord president Anthony Blanchard.

He and another activist from the Lille-based group can be seen wrestling the man and taking his dog away.

parisThe homeless man can be seen chasing after them, trying to to get the yelping dog back. Blanchard hands the dog off to what appears to be a third accomplice, who runs away with it.

More than 225,000 people have signed a petition to launch an investigation into the group’s action and have the dog returned to its owner.

Blanchard wrote in a post on Cause Animale Nord’s Facebook page that the dog was not being properly cared for and that it had been drugged by the man to stay calm.

He said there were signs the dog was being mistreated, including dilated pupils and abnormal crying, though in the video the only crying the dog does is after it is seized by Blanchard.

Blanchard says the snippet of video unfairly paints the group in a negative light.

We’d say he managed to do that all by himself.

(Photo of the seized dog from Cause Animale Nord’s Facebook page)