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Tag: saint bernard

Is Fox News biased (against big dogs)?

Of all the adoptable pet segments we’ve seen on local TV news, this one — featuring a large dog named Titus — might be our favorite.

Right off the bat, we’d say a dog who has been labeled as one who “needs to live alone” — code for not getting along with other dogs — probably shouldn’t appear on a live TV adoption segment with other dogs.

In the video above, Titus appears on the Fox morning show Good Day New York with animal activist Cornelia Guest and two other dogs — “little treasures,” as she calls them, named Arabella and Nonny.

An 8-year-old Saint Bernard, Titus “wants to be the only dog, he doesn’t want to be with other brothers and sisters,” Guest — a vegan, socialite, caterer and animal activist — explains, while holding the two smaller dogs, just a few feet away, in her arms.

Titus, though neither the show hosts nor Guest seem to notice, is sitting like a statue, entirely focused on the two small dogs as the hosts ask Guest what he likes to eat.

It’s right about then that Titus begins advancing in the direction of the smaller dogs — and Guest’s face, just for a moment, takes on the horrified look of someone who is about to be dinner.

Being a Saint Bernard, Titus is not to be swayed, and even though Guest tries to spin out of his way, he still manages to get in a good sniff of one of her little treasures, which is probably all he wanted in the first place.

After that, he’s tugged out of camera range by a stage hand, and remains out of view for the rest of the segment, in which Guest goes on to tout the other dogs — as well as the vegan chocolate chip cookies her company makes.

All this leads us to ask, did Titus get the respect he deserved when he appeared on Good Day New York? It seemed every remark the hosts made about him was based on big dog stereotypes. It seems he was rudely led off camera for merely wanting to satisfy his sniffer.

Might Fox News, in addition to all the others it so closely holds, have a bias against big dogs?

Compare and contrast the first video with how respectfully Titus was treated, and how calmly he behaved, in an earlier adoptable dog segment on New York’s CBS2. He was quiet and reserved — even though there, too, he was paired with another dog.

We won’t go so far as to suggest there is a different, more dog eat dog, more hate and fear mongering vibe in the Fox News studios, and that maybe Titus was picking up on that. (Woops, I think we just did.)

We’ll just say that this proves dogs, unlike Fox News folk, are unpredictable.

Perhaps I’m biased, and perhaps it’s mean to add this, but I definitely detect a higher degree of on-air air-headedness among the Fox hosts than their CBS counterparts.

I base this on their comments, such as:

She: “I hope Titus doesn’t take a bite of your … whiteus.”

He: “I’ve got a new name for him, Cujo.”

He: “This is a great big dog. I think it’s one of those St. Bernards that usually … they have whiskey and they find those stranded mountain hikers.”

He: “Oh, is he not supposed to go near that dog? He’s not biting them is he?”

All that said, and while admitting to our anti-Fox News bias, we think any network, station or news outlet that uses valuable time/space to showcase adoptable dogs can’t be all bad.

Titus is available for adoption at the Humane Society of New York, as are those little treasures, Nonny and Arabella.

Swiss resort bans selfies with Saint Bernards

posing

The Swiss mountain resort of Zermatt has banned Saint Bernards from being used in photo sessions with tourists.

The town’s council came to the decision after complaints by an animal protection organization that the dogs being used by two local businesses were being kept tied up without access to food and water and forced to carry children on their backs.

Posing with the dogs with the snow-cappped Matterhorn in the background has long been popular with tourists — even though St. Bernards are no longer commonly used in rescue operations. Nowadays, Alsatians are more often used to find lost skiers and avalanche survivors.

Still, Saint Bernards — with or without the whiskey barrel around their necks — remain a symbol of Swiss mountain heritage, and getting a photo with them is a must-have souvenir for many a tourist.

Swissinfo reports that at least two entrepreneurs are making a living supplying Saint Bernards for photo ops for tourists.

The Swiss Animal Protection Agency, which recently published a report on the dogs’ mistreatment, welcomed the decision ending the practice.

By banning the practice, Zermatt shows that “it loves these animals, and it will put an end to the contemptible and dangerous shows these dogs were made part of by being used as tourist props,” the organization said in a statement.

In March, the agency filed a legal complaint against the Saint Bernard owners, claiming that the dogs’ living and working conditions were abusive.

Concerns had been raised over the dogs being forced to pose for hours on end without moving and sometimes having to carry children on their backs. The dogs were also tied up for hours, not taken for walks and often went without food or water for long periods, the report stated.

Zermatt Mayor Christophe Buergin said the two local firms providing the service were in talks with tour operators to come up with alternative offerings for visitors to the Matterhorn, such as posing for photos with a person in a Saint Bernard costume, or posing with an alphorn, a traditional herdsman’s instrument.

The mayor says the practice of offering photos with Saint Bernards would be phased out by next winter, allowing the companies to honor existing contracts.

(Photo: Keystone, via Swissinfo.ch)

Woof in Advertising: Utterly unskippable

You know, probably all too well, those intrusive and uninvited advertisements that often precede viewing the videos you want to view on the Internet.

They are known as “pre-roll ads,” and I always do my best to make them disappear — both in terms of the videos I put on ohmidog!, and in terms of my own home viewing. I skip them the millisecond YouTube permits me to.

This one though, I’ve watched ten times, in its entirety.

The first five seconds of the Geico ad shows an all-too-typical family enjoying an all-too-typical spaghetti dinner, with the wife bragging about saving money on her insurance bill before the ad seems to culminate, at the five-second mark, in what at first appears to be an all-too-typical freeze frame.

That, as the family remains frozen — or at least tries to — is where the Saint Bernard comes in.

wia

He eats spaghetti off the dad’s fork, climbs atop the table and clears the daughter’s plate, passes over the salad and spills a glass of milk as he proceeds to the the son’s plate, devouring its contents. Then he plunges his snout  into the serving dish mom is holding.

The ad doesn’t really make me want to find out if 15 seconds can save me 15 percent on my insurance bill, but it’s brilliant — and further proof that dogs have a way of holding our attention, especially dogs behaving badly.

The ad was filmed in Los Angeles last month, and the dog, whose real name is Bolt, is a Saint Bernard mix.

If you find it impossible to skip, that was exactly the goal — to keep people riveted, even though it’s a form of advertising most of us detest.

“We call these unskippable,” Joe Alexander, chief creative officer at The Martin Agency, told USA Today. The agency has created three other mock freeze-frame Geico spots.

“Our goal is to bring attention to Geico in a space that is often hated,” he said.

(You can find more of our “Woof  in Advertising” posts — about how marketers use dogs in advertising — here.)

Roadside Encounters: Charlie

Name: Charlie

Breed: Saint Bernard

Age: 4

Encountered: At a rest area in western Montana, just a couple of miles before the Idaho state line.

Backstory: Charlie, a female with a sweet disposition, was headed back home to Seattle from a road trip to Wisconsin. She lumbered out of the car to meet Ace, but Ace was more interested in the treats her owner — a former Baltimore resident — had in her pocket. Ace and Charlie stared at each other, sniffed, and munched some more treats together before doing their business and climbing back into their respective cars and rolling through Idaho.

St. Bernard: The imperishable parish

If you don’t think dogs are being hurt by the BP oil spill, perhaps you need a lesson in the trickle down – or, in this case, ooze down – theory of disaster economics.

And there may be no better place to learn it than St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, a community that was struggling to survive to begin with, left underwater by Hurricane Katrina and, with more than half of its families owing their incomes to fishing, is now feeling the rippling ramifications of the oil spill.

They evacuated during the hurricane, came back and have been rebuilding ever since. Now, the oil rig explosion and subsequent contamination of the gulf means a loss of work and more sacrificing.

Right down to the family dog.

This one statistic pretty much sums it up: The St. Bernard Parish animal shelter took in 60 dogs in May 2009; this May it saw 288 come in, many of them surrendered by owners who, having at least temporarily lost their livelihoods to the oil spill, said they could no longer afford to provide care for their dogs.

That sad-eyed girl above, named Abby, arrived at the shelter a week ago, surrendered by a family that subsisted on harvesting seafood from the gulf – only a few pockets of which are still open to shrimping, crabbing, and oyster harvesting.

While some fisherman have turned to working on the cleanup, “they’re not making nowhere near what they were making before,” said Shannon Asevedo, a St. Bernard Parish animal control officer.

Another occupant of the shelter, Sasha, was owned by a BP employee who turned her over to his mother-in-law because he was being called upon to travel so much. When Sasha had ten pups last month, it was more than she could handle. Now all 11 are at the shelter, where the BP employee’s ex-wife works as a volunteer – partly so she can see her former dog. Due to financial and legal problems, she’s unable to care for Sasha as well.

“Our intakes have probably doubled if not tripled since the oil spill,” Asevedo said. “They may not all be related to it. Most people just say they can’t afford to take care of them anymore. It’s a shame. More are here because their parents can’t take care of them. At the same time, adoption rates are down, too. So where do they go?”

St. Bernard Parish Animal Services Director Beth Brewster says the shelter attempts to place all dogs in adoptive homes, ships some to rescue groups and tries to put down only those deemed aggressive.

Interestingly, the shelter sees a large number of large dogs and pit bulls. Families returning to rebuild after Katrina often bought large dogs and left them at their homes at night to protect against the theft of construction materials.

Brewster, in the job for two years now, said the parish’s previous shelter, with a capacity of 26 dogs, “was a dump.” The parish opened its new facility this January, with financial help from the Humane Society of the United States and FEMA.

The old shelter had reopened shortly after Katrina, but went nearly two years without electricity or running water. It strung together hoses to bring in water, and used extension cords to supply electricity. It, unlike the new facility, had no air conditioning, which took a toll on dogs and humans alike.

The shelter was so shoddy that the shelter bought an old school bus and would load it with adoptable dogs, parking in front of the Home Depot and trying to find them homes.

Now they have a gleaming new shelter, and a new air-conditioned mobile unit. But they also have more dogs than even their new and expanded capacity can handle, with more and more dogs being surrendered for economic reasons.

“This is not a wealthy community to begin with,” Brewster said. “Most of these people grew up on the water and more than half make their living on it.”

Recognizing the parish’s problems, the Humane Society of the United States has sent a shipment of dog food to the area, to be distributed to pet owners facing hardships associated with the gulf oil spill. The food is also being distributed in Plaquemines Parish.

“The Humane Society of the United States was saddened to hear that animals inland from the shoreline are also suffering from this disaster,” said Julia Breaux, the organization’s Louisiana director.

St. Bernard Parish, as you’ve probably guessed, is not named after the dog breed, but after the actual saint — Saint Bernard, who devoted himself to the conversion of the people of the Alps and is known as the patron saint of mountaineering.

But the determined people of the parish may have more in common with the dog breed, which is named after St. Bernard’s Pass in the Alps (which is named after the Saint). The dogs were brought to a famous hospice there in the 1600s, where they developed their reputation for mountain rescues and where, it is said, rugged and adverse conditions honed their strong instinct for survival.

Why dogs are better than men — in song

norahjones-album

I have no statistics, just a hunch: Dogs — in addition to all the other places they’re appearing more often (books, TV and movies to name three) — are turning up more regularly on album covers.

The latest I’m aware of is the Saint Bernard who graces the cover of Norah Jones’ new album, ”The Fall.”

The dog on the cover isn’t her’s — just one of several model dogs that the photographer planned to use in a group shot.

“She wanted to use a bunch of dogs because she likes working with animals. I thought it sounded fun,” Jones said in an interview with Hulu’s blog “We ended up just loving the Saint Bernard so much that we got some shots with just him. He was so beautiful.”

Jones is a dog lover, doting in particular on her rescued poodle Ralph.

“My dogological clock started to tick. So I got a dog … I’m madly in love with him,” the songstress told NPR’s Morning Edition. “I like to say that he’s a scruffy, manly poodle, because you say poodle and people start rolling their eyes… ”

Ralph also served as the inspiration for the closing track of the album, “Man of the Hour,” whose lyrics recite the many advantages living with a dog has over living with a man.

Here’s her recent performance of the song on ”Good Morning America.”

Searching for Saint Bernard’s mystery owner

stbernard1Police in Massachussetts are hoping a Saint Bernard might help them solve the mystery of his owner’s disappearance.

Police are searching for an elderly man who walked the Saint Bernard every morning near Accord Pond, a reservoir that supplies water to several South Shore communities.

The dog showed up alone Wednesday at a Chili’s restaurant, where a manager called police.

Last week, police let the dog loose in the woods near the pond, hoping he would lead them to a house, according to a Boston Globe article. But he just wandered around the area. On Wednesday, divers searched Accord Pond for nearly four hours, but did not find anything.

Since then, Leslie Badger, an animal control officer in Hingam, Mass., has been taking the dog around town, in hopes somebody might recognize him and be able to provide some clues to his owner’s identity.

Many people in the area saw the man walking the dog early in the morning on streets near the pond. But authorities haven’t found any one who knows his name and address.

Police are considering the possibility that the man abandoned the dog. Authorities say the dog is visibly upset, and that many have called offering to adopt him.