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Tag: reactions

When drones deliver will dogs get to growling? Amazon wants to know

drone

Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.

This is a real story. Honest.

It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.

(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)

Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.

Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.

Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.

If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.

According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.

It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?

410I1FkDAkLNor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.

Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.

There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.

But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.

Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.

(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)

A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.

So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.

Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.

Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.

More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.

That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?

The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.

I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.

(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)

Is there some common ground, after all?

Pedigree, the dog food company, found one thing Clinton and Trump supporters can agree on.

As a social experiment, Pedigree sent a woman to Clinton and Trump rallies, where she pretended she had found a lost dog.

She wore a Trump T-shirt to the Clinton rally, and a Clinton T-shirt to the Trump rally, and walked up to supporters of the opposing candidate asking if they knew anything about the golden retriever she told them she had just found it running loose in the area.

Die-hard supporters of Clinton and Trump (and is there any other kind?) avoided any snide comments and vitriol, treated her with civility, bonded with the “lost dog” and offered their assistance.

At the end of each visit, the “owner” of the dog rushed up on cue and reunited with the dog to the pleasure of the crowds.

It shouldn’t take a lost dog to remind us of our humanity. But, hey, whatever works.

The new video is a part of Pedigree’s “Feed the Good” campaign

“The message in ‘A Vote for Good’ is true to the core of the campaign that dogs bring out the good in all of us despite our differences,” said Craig Neely, Vice President of Marketing at Mars Petcare. “We only hope that we can play a small role in reminding people that we have more in common than we might expect.”

The nose knows but the ears tell

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Many of us may be most familiar with infrared thermography from its least valuable (I’d argue) use — ghost hunting.

It serves many far more sophisticated purposes, though, than providing fodder for those shaky-camera paranormal TV shows — from assessing medical conditions to military reconnaissance, from finding missing children to sensing mood changes in humans.

And, no big surprise, dogs.

In the latest post on Dog Spies, her blog on Scientific American, Julie Hecht recounted a recent study at the Animal Behavior, Cognition and Welfare Research Group at the University of Lincoln in the UK.

Researchers found, through infrared thermography, that the ear temperature of dogs decreased (turning blue on the camera) when they were isolated, and warmed backed up (turning red) when they reunited with people.

It’s similar to findings in studies of human stress levels — except in humans it’s the nose, instead of the ears, that is the most common giveaway.

As Hecht explained, infrared thermography picks up changes in surface temperature. When frightened, stressed or placed in unfamiliar surroundings, blood rushes away from your extremities, in dogs and humans. They get cooler as your core gets warmer and ready to react to whatever threat may be ahead.

The tip of a scared person’s nose gets cooler in such situations, just as rat paws and tails have been shown to do in experiments. In rabbits and sheep, the ears are the most obvious indicator.

Stefanie Riemer and colleagues placed dogs for brief periods in an isolated and novel environment. As the researchers expected, thermographic images of the dogs in isolation showed their ear temperature increasing, then rising when they were reunited with people.

The study appears in the current issue of Physiology & Behavior.

Six dogs were included in the study, and several were found to be unsuitable for study because their fur was too dense to get a good reading.

It seems like a technology that could be put to good use when it comes to studying dogs, and in learning more about those with behavioral issues and what triggers them.

That seems to me a better pursuit than chasing ghosts who aren’t really bothering anybody. Non-invasive, physically, as it is, even infrared photography has the potential for being cruel.

In a study in Italy two years ago, 20 bank tellers who had been robbed at gunpoint were shown a series of faces — happy, neutral, angry, etc. On the fifth face, the researchers exposed them to a loud and unexpected blast, and recorded, thermographically, how the blood left the noses and face.

Half of the tellers had already been diagnosed with PTSD.

Whether the researchers ended up giving PTSD to the other half is not addressed in the study.

(Photo: S. Riemer / Physiology & Behavior)

Alabama town bans pit bulls after sheriff shoots what he thinks might have been one

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Citywide pit bull bans are often knee jerk reactions — maybe even more so when a county sheriff”s knees are involved.

One week after Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale was approached in his yard by four dogs “acting aggressive and looking like pit bull breeds” — and fired a shotgun at them, grazing one — the Alabama city of Clay passed a “vicious dog” ordinance banning pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

sheriffhaleThe sheriff, according to a spokesman, fired a warning shot into the ground, then another round of “bird shot” in the direction of the dogs, leading them to turn away. Animal control arrived to round up the dogs, and their owner was charged with letting them run at large. The dog hit by Hale’s shot survived, AL.com reported.

That incident prompted the city council in Clay, with a speed seldom seen in government affairs, to pass an ordinance banning pit bulls and other “vicious” or “dangerous” dogs. 

The ordinance bans new pit bulls and mixes that include pit bull. Such dogs already kept in the city limits are grandfathered in but must be registered with the city in the next 60 days. The ordinance requires they be kept indoors and mandates owners post a prominently displayed “beware of dog” sign. Owners are also required to have $50,000 in liability insurance. Violations can be punished with a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

Having sought little public input before passing the law on June 3, the city council has gotten some since, AL.com reports.

A standing room only crowd filled Monday night’s meeting of the Clay City Council, with most citizens arguing the breed is not “inherently dangerous” and criticizing the law for unfairly penalizing responsible owners. Many, including a representative from the Birmingham Humane Society, urged the council to consider a non-breed specific dangerous dog law instead.

One speaker continued to voice his concerns after his turn to speak was over. When told he was interrupting, he continued his comments, leading Mayor Charles Webster — perhaps deeming him to be inherently dangerous — to ban him from the room.

“You are turning us all into criminals,” the man, identified as Mark Lawson, said as a deputy led him outside.

City Attorney Alan Summers said he would try to have a new or modified ordinance for the council to consider at its next meeting on July 1.

(Top photo by Jeremy Gray / AL.com)

Wonderfully mysterious? That’s my dog

In my current nomadic phase, as in my previously still life, Ace — my “Big Ass Dog” — draws a variety of responses from humans. There are those who experience love at first sight, those who cross to the other side of the street to avoid him, and, most of all, those who want to solve the ongoing mystery … What Kind of Dog is That?

It’s a question we answered years ago, and have been answering daily since.

Putting the curiosity factor aside, Ace provokes some pretty visceral reactions — my past two motel stops being a good example of that.

At the Motel 6 in Biloxi, the staff couldn’t get enough of him. Everytime we passed through the office, Ace stood and put his front paws on the counter, got petted and praised and generally adored. They bestowed him with a nickname, the notorious B.A.D. (for Big Ass Dog) and begged us to come back and visit again.

At a Motel 6 on the outskirts of New Orleans — from which we departed yesterday — the staff, while friendly and accepting, didn’t want him anywhere near them.

“That things a horse,” a desk clerk said, asking me to hang around while she called a fellow employee to come see him. “She’s a real dog lover,” she said.

When that employee came around the corner, she shrieked and then ran behind the counter. As it turned out, she was afraid of dogs, and we’d been roped into a practical joke.

Sometimes I wonder what Ace makes of it all — if he wonders why some humans have an irrepressible desire to meet and pet him while others can’t get away fast enough? He can sense, I think, which are which. Rarely will he approach a human who isn’t urging him to, unless that human has, say, an open bag of Fritos. Those he bonds with, meanwhile, will get leaned on and, likely, have their foot sat on, as if to say, “I like you. Stay a while.”

Ace seems to be getting used to motel rooms. He stayed at the Motel 6 while I went to St. Bernard Parish for interviews, then took advantage of time without dog to stop for something other than fast food — a Chinese buffet around the corner from the motel. I’d avoided it the first day because its name was R P Buffet, and I thought maybe an “I” between the “R” and “P” had fallen out during a hurricane, and who wants to eat at the RIP Buffet?

It had a dazzling array of food, though, and I loaded my plate repeatedly before leaving with my fortune cookie. I decided Ace, being room-bound, deserved both the cookie and the fortune.

As it turned out, it was a fitting one.

(To go back to Day One of “Dog’s Country” and read all the entries, click here.)

Peanut-sniffing dogs help the severely allergic

To drugs, explosives, fleeing criminals, oncoming seizures and even cancer, add peanuts to the list of what dogs are saving lives by sniffing out.

About a dozen dogs in the country have been trained to detect the presence of peanuts, and protect their owners from serious allergic reactions.

One of them, Rock’O, a Portugese water dog, is safeguarding a Colorado girl named Riley Mers, 8, whose allergy to peanuts is so severe that contact with them could send her body into shock within minutes.

“It might look to you like it’s a kid playing with a dog,” Riley’s mother, Sherry, told ABC News. “To me, that’s a dog that’s saving my daughter’s life while they’re playing.”

“Training a peanut allergy dog to sniff out peanuts is much like training a dog to do narcotics or bomb sniffing,” said Tina Rivero, head trainer of Angel Service Dogs in Monument. “It’s just a different scent that they are hitting on. Instead of the marijuana or the cocaine or the bomb, they are actually finding the peanut.”

Having Rock’O along — even at school — means Riley no longer has to wear gloves, or ask classmates if they had peanut butter for lunch.

Upon detecting peanuts Rock’O sits in his “alert” position — a stance he’s been trained to make to let Riley know that he’s found something she should avoid.

“I can actually go to the mall. I can actually go to bowling alleys,” Riley said said. “I’m wanting to go to college, and I’m going to be able to.”