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How much is that balloon dog at the auction? Would you believe $55 million?

orange dog

Chances are you could find an unemployed party clown who would make you a balloon dog for a pretty reasonable price, if not for free.

Or you could buy this one — for $35 million or so.

Artist Jeff Koons has made five “Balloon Dog” sculptures over the years, but this one — his first — will be auctioned off by Christie’s in November. “Balloon Dog (Orange)” has an estimated price tag between $35 million and $55 million.

And if you think that’s too hefty a price to pay for a 12-foot, stainless steel sculpture of a balloon dog, consider this: Koons, while he conceives his works, often doesn’t do the actual hands-on work himself, relying instead on a team of assistants.

Koons set a personal record last year when his sculpture, “Tulips” sold for $33.7 million at Sotheby’s.

“Balloon Dog (Orange)” is being sold on behalf of the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. Proceeds from the sale will be used to help fund future activities of the foundation, according to ABC News.

It is one of five metallic dog pieces produced by Koons. The other dogs are yellow, blue, magenta and red and are owned by wealthy businessmen who, we’d guess, probably don’t have time for real dogs.

On its website, Christies calls the work ”one of the most recognizable images in today’s canon of art history…

“This monumental work, with its flawless reflective surface and glorious color, is the most beloved of all contemporary sculptures. Its spectacular form has been celebrated around the world, having graced the rooftop of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venice’s Grand Canal, and Versailles Palace outside Paris. It has become an icon of Popular vernacular, adored by the public and collectors for its unabashed celebration of childhood, hope and innocence.”

If a symbol of unabashed innocence isn’t worth $55 million, what is?

(Photo: Christies.com)

Court affirms that piercing cats is cruelty

Piercing kittens is cruel, a panel of Pennsylvania judges has affirmed.

Three judges of the Superior Court upheld a conviction for animal cruelty of a dog groomer who had offered “gothic” kittens for sale on eBay.

An investigation into the pierced kittens began in 2008 when a citizen saw the animals being offered for $100 each on eBay, inquired about them and reported it to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County, according to the Times Leader in Wilkes Barre.

A citizen tipped off PETA, as well, which conducted an investigation of its own and passed on information to the SPCA.

Accompanied by state police, SPCA officials visited Pawside Parlor, located at the home of Holly Crawford in Sweet Valley, Pa. They removed three kittens and a cat. While at the home, police also found a dog with pierced ears.

A jury found Crawford guilty of animal cruelty, and last year she was sentenced to six months of home detention and electronic monitoring, followed by probation.

In her appeal, Crawford argued that Pennsylvania’s cruelty statutes were too vague, and pointed out that many accepted veterinary procedures like declawing cats and cutting a dog’s vocal cords could fall under the same category she was being prosecuted under.

The law forbids “acts that maim, mutilate, torture or disfigure the animal.”

This week, the Superior Court panel upheld the lower court’s findings, the New York Times reported.

In a 19-page opinion, Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote that “metal protruded from the kittens’ small bodies, pierced through their ears and necks, and at least one of these kittens also had an elastic band tied around its tail, an attempt at docking …”

Crawford, who was described in the opinion as being “enthusiastic about piercing,” had admitted to piercing the kittens without anesthetic.

“Appellant’s claims center on her premise that a person of normal intelligence would not know whether piercing a kitten’s ears or banding its tail is maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring an animal.” Judge Elliott wrote.  “We disagree.”

Michael Vick’s former house sits empty

I’m not sure why I wanted to visit 1915 Moonlight Road – maybe for the same reason people visit Nazi death camps, Ground Zero and other scenes of slaughter.

Maybe it’s in part to pay respects to those who died and suffered, in part to remind ourselves of how evil man can be – that whole business about keeping history fresh enough in our minds that we don’t allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated.

Maybe (last maybe, I promise) that’s also why you still find Michael Vick stories on ohmidog! and elsewhere – not so much because we want to keep punishing a man who has paid what the courts decided was his debt, but because we think the public, and public officials, need to keep it fresh in their heads, and do all in their power to wipe out the ongoing scourge of dogfighting.

Our travels having taken us to Virginia — and having recently finished reading “The Lost Dogs,” the new book by Jim Gorant that recounts the horrors that took place at Vick’s country estate and the redemption of the dogs that survived them  — a trip to 1915 Moonlight Road seemed, while morbid, somehow in order.

So Ace and I headed from Norfolk up Highway 10 through Virginia’s tidelands, past the meatpacking plant in Smithfield, and turned left down the narrow road, where homes are few, far apart and – unlike the one Vick had built — mostly modest.

It’s a two-story, 4,600-square-foot, white brick home, with five bedrooms, four and a half baths and master bedroom suites on the first and second floor. It has several outbuildings, a pool and a basketball court; and the real estate listings — which make no mention of the former owner — note that there’s a kennel, too.

Yes, Michael Vick’s former house is available, and has been ever since Vick sold it before heading off for his prison sentence.

The private individual who bought it then has it listed at $595,000 – a price that is $152,000 under its assessed value. In other words, it’s a bargain – if you don’t mind the fact that it’s haunted. How could it not be – after what the 51 dogs seized from Bad Newz Kennels had gone through, not to mention the eight more murdered dogs that were dug up behind the home and removed as part of the investigation?

The house, which has sat empty for nearly three years, has more recently — amid the sluggish real estate market — been offered for rent as well. The price is $2,500 a month.

There was no open house on the day we dropped by — no one around at all. Taking heed of a sign on the gate that warned “Keep Out, Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted Even the U.S. Army,” Ace and I kept to the perimeter of the property, across the street from a small white Baptist church.

Usually, when Ace gets out of the car he commences to sniffing and excitedly exploring for minutes on end. But here he behaved differently. He walked up to white metal gate, sat down and stayed perfectly still, staring inside for what had to be three full minutes.

I won’t read anything into that.

Vick bought the 15-acre property in 2001 – for the purpose of setting up a dogfighting operation. For two years, only a trailer occupied it. In 2003, he had the custom built house constructed, though he never lived in it full time.

A Long and Foster agent told me yesterday that the house’s prolonged period on the market is probably more a result of the housing slump than its shameful legacy — my words, not her’s. She said there is a prospective renter, but that a deal has yet to be finalized.

Not too many who have looked at it have been driven away upon learning its history, but then again, that history is not on the property sheet.

While there was an animal welfare group that sought to raise funds, buy the property and turn it into a sanctuary for animals, the agent said that plan was apparently dropped. The group thought that it would be a triumph of sorts to turn Michael Vick’s old house into a place that helped dogs.

But it’s hard to get over an awful past — whether you’re a dog, a person or a house. While Vick’s dogs have shown it can be done, and while Vick insists he has reformed, his former house remains in limbo.

As for Ace, he eventually came out of his trance, sniffed around the shrubs in front of the house and did his business.

I won’t read anything into that, either.

Law would ban pet store sales of dogs and cats

windowHow much is that puppy in the window?

He might not even be in the window, in another month, if the West Hollywood City Council approves a proposal that makes it illegal to sell a dog or a cat in a pet store.

The  council unanimously approved the ordinance earlier this month. If officially passed tonight, as expected, the law would go into effect on March 19th, KTLA reports.

The ordinance is aimed at eliminating the demand for commercially bred dogs and cats and reduce inhumane conditions in the breeding industryt. It will include exemptions for those shops that can show they are selling humanely bred, reared or sheltered animals.

According to the city, existing pet stores will be given time “to adjust” to the new law.

“This ordinance represents an important step toward ridding our nation of the cruelty of puppy mills and other commercial assembly-line animal breeders,” Councilman Jeffrey Prang said. “The ordinance not only contributes to the fight against animal cruelty it also recognizes the enormous cost of pet overpopulation in our society, both fiscal and humanitarian impacts. I urge those seeking pet companionship to consider adoption from municipal shelters and other nonprofit rescue agencies.”

The city of West Hollywood has traditionally been ahead of the curve when it comes to animal welfare. It made headlines in 2003 when it banned cat declawing.

The new ordinance is backed by the Companion Animal Protection Society, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States.

Wondering where the Greenies went?

If you’re not noticing Greenies on your store shelves these days, that’s because their maker, Nutro Products, Inc., has restricted those selling them to veterinary hospitals and pet specialty retailers.

In a press release issued last week, Nutro announced the change applies to Greenies canine and feline dental chews, Pill Pockets and Smart Biscuits.

“…We believe that pet medical professionals at veterinary hospitals and well-trained, knowledgeable staff at pet specialty stores are best equipped to answer pet owners’ questions about our products, and to make the right recommendation, said Carolyn Hanigan, Vice President of Marketing, Nutro Products, Inc.

Read more »

Obama poster artist does one for the dogs

 Shepard Fairey, the Los-Angeles street artist whose Obama poster became an instant icon — and got him sued — has turned his skills to dogs, creating a mutt version of the red, white and blue poster to help support the cause of pet adoptions.

Four hundred limited edition prints are being offered online today by adoptapet.com, a non-profit pet organization, similar to petfinder.com, that helps shelters, humane societies and rescue group advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free.

Sales of the prints, signed and numbered by Fairey, are being sold at $200 each, with proceeds going to ”help animals in shelters and rescue groups to get seen and adopted,” the organization said.

To try and get one, or download your own smaller version, click here.

The poster is based on a photo by Clay Myers, professional animal welfare photographer, and Fairey used it with his permission.

For the Obama poster, he apparently neglected that step and, as a result, is being sued by the Associated Press for copyright infringement. The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation.

Also today, an exhibit of Fairey’s work, entitled Supply and Demand, is opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

Purr-fectly revolting: Meet robo cat

Robotic dogs, thankfully, have mostly gone by the wayside — or so at least was the case with the Sony Aibo — but robotic cats, it turns out, have multiple lives.

Sega Toys has just introduced its newest model — “Yume-Neko Venus,” or “Dream Cat Venus,” a ginger and white robo-cat that is expected to go on sale in July.

Venus can stand up and sit down and is equipped with touch sensors that make it close its eyes and purr when you pet it, move its legs if you rub its belly and get a little hissy if you yank on its tail. Ignored, it will emit an occasional meow, but soon go into sleep mode.

I couldn’t find any video of the newest model of robo-cat, but here’s some of its predecessor, Sega’s Dream Cat Smile.