Can we go ahead and bury the robot dog, once and for all?
It was an inane idea from the get go — thinking that Americans or people from any other reasonable country would want a pet with batteries.
The robot dog is the antithesis of dog — a soul-less collection of moving metal parts that, while it may obey your every command; while it may not pee, poop, drool or shed; while it might even make you laugh; isn’t ever going to lead to any sort of real bond.
I suspect the same is true as well of those who came up with and developed the idea.
A robot dog is to dog what a light bulb is to the sun.
Turn it on, turn it off. You might be seeing a harsh and glaring light, but you are not seeing “the” light. Only dogs can provide that.
It’s not surprising that robot dogs are burning out.
It is surprising that an Australian researcher recently suggested that robotic dogs could begin replacing real dogs as pets in the world’s largest cities in as little as 35 years.
Jean-Loup Rault, writing in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, says burgeoning populations in big cities won’t leave much room for man’s best friend in the future — and he predicts that living, breathing dogs will disappear as digital technologies “revolutionize” the human-animal relationship.
Rault is wrong, and here’s why.
True, robots are on the rise. We will increasingly rely on them, or something close, to wash our dishes, vacuum our floors and do all those other tasks that take up time we could spend online, or, better yet, actually living life.
But we will never really connect with them — not even sex robots.
Anyone who does, probably should see a psychiatrist or, if they only want to pretend someone is listening to them, a robot psychiatrist.
Even in a world increasingly falling in love with material things, and increasingly falling in love with technology, and increasingly finding its social life on the Internet, the rise and fall of the robot dog shows us that — even when we can predict and control something’s every move, and put it in the closet when we tire of it — a mechanical canine just can’t compete with the real thing.
Dogs — though technology has messed with them (always with bad results) — are the antidote, I think, to technological overload. They are the cure. They keep life real. They lead to real bonds, real emotions, happiness and pain.
Overall, they soothe us, while technology often does the opposite.
Anyone who thinks a robot dog is going to lower their blood pressure, as dogs do, provide eye contact that stirs the soul, or be comforting to play with or pet is caught up in self-delusion.
What is hoped for by companies that make such devices, or provide us with Internet-based fantasies, or come up with ideas like pet rocks and the Tamagotchie, is that we all find self-delusion a happier place to be, and stay there, and spend our money there.
Production ended eight years ago, and the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year.
Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, and by 2006 had only sold 150,000 “units.” according to the New York Times.
Given it was not providing much profit, the company decided to put Aibo down.
Despite that, and the failure of many of the robotic/digital pets that preceded and followed it, Jean-Loup Rault, on the faculty at the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne, suspects they have a future.
“Pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population. Digital technologies have quickly revolutionized human communication and social relationships,” he says.
“We are possibly witnessing the dawn of a new era, the digital revolution with likely effects on pet ownership, similar to the industrial revolution which replaced animal power for petrol and electrical engines.”
He points to the popularity, or at least former popularity, of devices like the Tamagotchie, and Paro, a robotic baby seal used by medical professionals, and Aibo, which never really became popular at all. He points to games and apps that allow people to keep fake farm animals. He points to the movie, “Her,” in which a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system.
“Robots can without doubt trigger human emotions,” he concludes, perhaps a little too quickly.
“The pace of artificial pet development, and underlying research, remains in its infancy with much to be discovered,” he notes. “At present, artificial pets can be described as mediocre substitutes for live counterparts. Yet, quick technological progress is to be expected …”
He concludes with a quote from Nikola Tesla: “Let the future tell the truth.”
I, for one, am not willing to do that. I don’t trust the future one bit, or those who are trying to take us there too quickly — and at the expense of what is pure and real and true.
Much more than the future, I put my trust, and faith, in dog. Real dog.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 22nd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aibo, animals, bond, delusion, digital, dog, dog-human, dogs, emotions, future, internet, Jean-Loup Rault, ownership, pet, pets, reality, relationships, robot, robotics, social, society, sony, technology, truth, virtual
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 15th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruetly, animals, arrested, bear, california, charged, cooks, dog, dogs, eaten, ex girlfriend, feeds, girlfriend, humans, killed, messages, paws, pets, pomeranian, redding, relationships, ryan eddy watenpaugh, ryan watenpaugh, serves, shasta county, text
They’ve been playmates and cuddle-buddies for several months now, so when Ruuxa, a cheetah cub, underwent surgery last week at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a puppy named Raina was there for him.
Raina, Rhodesian ridgeback, stood guard while the cheetah recovered from an operation, and licked and nuzzled him once he woke up, zoo officials say.
The two were paired up shortly after Ruuxa, seven weeks old at the time, arrived at the zoo. Born alone, instead of in a litter, he was rejected by his mother, as zoo officials say is often the case with single-birth cheetahs.
Figuring he needed a companion, staff teamed him up with Raina as part of the zoo’s animal ambassador program.
They are both about four months old now, and have become close friends.
Last week, KPBS reports, Ruuxa underwent surgery to correct a growth abnormality causing a bowing of his limbs.
Raina, according to animal training manager Susie Ekard, grew distressed. She waited outside the operating room during the surgery at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. When Ruuxa, still sedated, was in recovery, Raina was allowed to stand guard.
“She appeared very concerned about Ruuxa when she saw he was sleeping and she couldn’t wake him,” Ekard said.
Once Ruuxa woke up, Raina licked and nuzzled him and layed down beside him, Ekard said.
Under the amabassador program, Safari Park officials pair cheetahs with domestic dogs, with the idea that they will be companions for life. according to a zoo blog. The dogs help the wild animals feel more relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings and to be less fearful of people.
Here’s a video of the two not long after they were first paired up:
(Photo: San Diego Zoo Safari Park)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, cheetah, cheetah and dog, cheetah and puppy, cub, dog, dogs, friends, operation, pets, raina, relationships, rhodesian ridgeback, ruuxa, ruuxa and raina, safari park, san diego, surgery, video, zoo
We can’t tell whether this dining dog appreciates the musical accompaniment this cockatiel is providing.
On the one hand, the dog doesn’t gobble up the bird, snarl or bark at it, or make the slightest effort to make it go away.
On the other hand, the dog — in what’s uncommon behavior for most members of the species — does leave before finishing the meal.
We could spend hours trying to interpret things, or fretting about the potential dangers of this situation — and you can be sure, on the Internet, many are doing just that.
Instead, we’re just going to enjoy it.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 7th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, bird, bird and dog, cockatiel, dog, dog and cockatiel, eating, eating dog, interspecies, pets, relationships, species, video
For some reason, Pigalina was rejected by her mother, but she’s found a substitute in a member of another species — Levi, a four-year-old pit bull.
The piglet, three-weeks-old when this video was made, lives at PIGS Animal Sanctuary in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Levi, a rescued dog, was living there when she arrived — and obviously is used to being crawled upon by piglets.
The sanctuary, founded in 1992, specializes in the care of potbellied pigs and farm pigs, and it shelters other farm animals and pets as well. About 400 animals — pigs, dogs, cats, horses and goats among them — are living there.
You can learn more about out what’s going on at PIGS Animal Sanctuary by visiting its Facebook page.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 4th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal sanctuaries, animals, dog, dogs, haven, inter-species, interspecies, levi, pets, pig, pig and dog, pigalina, pigalina and levi, piglet and dog, piglet and pit bull, pigs, pigs animal sanctuary, pit bulls, pitbulls, potbellied pigs, relationships, rescue, rescued, sanctuary, shelter, sheperdstown, unlikely friends, video, west virginia
We humans, with our vastly superior intellects, and being the far more evolved and civilized species, don’t need no stinkin’ animals to show us how to live life.
You’d think not — especially with Christmas approaching. Between all the peace, good will and fellowship the season supposedly brings, and all the attention, with his death, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of kindness and forgiveness, we shouldn’t be needing, right now, any furry creatures reminding us bigger-brained, two-legged types how to get along with each other.
Yet, in the past month, they seem to keep doing so — almost as if they think the message has failed to get through.
First, it’s a goose and a dog partnering up in the UK. Then it’s an elk and a dog becoming backyard playmates in Washington state. Both pairs were shown at play, raising the question, at least in some heads, if animals of different sizes and species — like elephants and dogs, or cats and crows – can get along with each other, why can’t we?
Now comes this latest pair, a fox and a dog in Norway who met in the woods last summer and became fast friends.
Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out for a walk with his four-year-old German shepherd, Tinni, when they encountered an abandoned baby fox. Since then the fox, which Berge named Sniffer, has regularly met up with them on their trips through the woods, and Berge has been taking pictures of the get-togethers.
Now he’s working on a book about the unlikely friendship with writer Berit Helberg, who told TODAY.com that the fox was probably an orphan whose mother had died, and was probably seeking food, help and company.
“Not many people are privileged to see and enjoy a friendship like this, but Torgeir Berge has both seen them in action and gotten the opportunity to catch this in images that don’t need words,” Helberg wrote in post. They hope the story will raise awareness for animal rights and the conditions that some animals are forced live in as a result of the fur trade, Helberg said.
Yes, animals of different species far more often kill and eat each other to survive. And these unlikely interspecies friendships, seemingly choreographed from the grave (or wherever he is) of Walt Disney, are the exception. It’s not like animals got together and said ”Let’s rethink this whole survival of the fittest thing, and live together in harmony, eating wild berries.”
It was from animals, after all, that we most likely learned that mindset — that the world belongs to the fittest, richest or whoever roars the loudest.
Heartwarming as these unlikely friendship stories are, they’re not messages being sent to humans by animals.
But, particularly at Christmas, they are messages worth receiving, and learning from.
(Photos by Torgeir Berge, via Today.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, book, cat and crow, christmas, dog, dog and elephant, dog and elk, dog and fox, dog and goose, elephant, elk, fox, fox and dog, friends, goose, humans, interspecies, kindness, love, man, mandela, norway, pets, photographer, photography, relationships, society, torgeir berge, unlikely friendships, wildlife
When it comes to animals, there are those softies among us who see nearly everything they do – especially dogs — as magical and motivated by love.
Then there are those – generally not ohmidog! readers — who see dogs as unfeeling beasts concerned only with their next meal and their own comfort.
When a dog does something that seems kind, noble or otherwise amazing, members of that first group will “ooh” and “ah,” while members of the second will say “so what?” Anything a dog does, in their view, is explainable solely by instincts, training and will to survive. That way dogs snuggle with you at night? They are just trying to keep warm. Those goo goo eyes adoringly staring at you? They’re just trying to manipulate you into providing a treat.
For sure, the first group may often read too much into the motivations behind a dog’s behavior. But, just as surely, the second group sometimes isn’t reading en0ugh.
I, being author of a blog on the amazing things dogs do, am clearly a member of the first group. But, also being a realist and even more of a cynic, I can sometimes – just sometimes – see the second group’s point. As soon as I watched this video, for instance — once my “awwwwwwww” came to the final “w” — I started wondering about the motivations of the lion and dachshund, and, realistically, who was getting exactly what out of this relationship.
Bonedigger, the lion, and Milo, the dachshund, live together at Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla. Milo was among a litter of puppies living a the park when Bonedigger, who suffers from a bone disease, arrived as 4-week-old cub. The pups and lion eat together every day.
After the meal, Milo licks Bonedigger’s teeth clean.
I’d venture Milo is not exhibiting love — or at least not love alone — when he sticks his head into the mouth of a lion. I’d submit, too, that Bonedigger’s dental hygiene is not Milo’s top concern. (Then again, you never know.)
More likely, Milo is after a few final morsels, and Bonedigger, for his part, cooperates because he appreciates the attention, or the gum massage, or having a wiener dog who serves as his own personal flossing aide.
Park president Joe Schreibvogel says the dogs and lion have eaten together since they were youngsters. They also cuddle with each other, and sometimes even mimic each other. It’s as if, species differences aside, they’ve become a pack.
“The dogs thought it was just a big puppy and have loved each other since,” Schreibvogel, who goes by the name “Joe Exotic,” told Today. The video of the lion and the dog has brought some needed attention to the Oklahoma zoo, which suffered about $18,000 in damage during the recent tornadoes. A spokesperson for the zoo says they’ve taken in about 100 homeless animals — domestic and exotic — since then.
But back to Milo and Bonedigger, and the question at hand.
Who’s getting what from this unlikely inter-species relationship, and who is benefitting most – the tooth-sucking canine, or the massive feline, who, rather than roaring at the little dog, says “ahhh” (or is it awwwww?) and lets him have at it?
My guess, is it’s a third species, one whose members sometimes over-analyze, and sometimes under-analyze, but still haven’t loss the ability to be amazed; one whose members – just as Bonedigger seems to appreciate a good tooth-licking — like to have their hearts warmed now and then.
Judging from the half million views this video has gotten in the past month, I’d say it ’s us.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amazing, animals, behavior, bonedigger, dachshund, dachshunds, dog, dogs, emotions, exotic, exotic animal park, garold wayne, human, humans, inter-species, interspecies, joe exotic, joe Schreibvogel, lion, lions, love, loyalty, milo, motivation, oklahoma, pets, relationships, symbiotic, trust, unlikely, video, view, zoo