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The dog, the fish, and our need to go “awww”

Here’s a video that has been posted and reposted to YouTube in recent days, showing a shiba inu (or is it a golden retriever?) in Thailand (or is it Taiwan?) trying to save (or bury?) a fish out of water.

Yes, we humans are at it again. We all think we know — despite the lack of any factual foundation, despite living on the opposite side of the planet, despite being of another species, despite our inability to get straight what few facts there are — what this dog is doing, and why he’s doing it.

How do we know? Because we’re humans, dammit.

On its surface, through human eyes, it seems a most touching scene — as if the dog, by splashing water on the lifeless fish, and nudging it with his nose, is trying to revive it. (All this, we’d note, as humans stand by idly, giggling and taking video.)

And maybe that’s exactly what he’s doing.

But we do not know that.

We don’t know that, and yet, in our vanity, we are willing to express our interpretation as indisputable fact — whether we are the original observer, a watcher of the video, or a blogger in search of hits.

“This Dog Trying To Save A Fish Will Make You Say Aww” reports BuzzFeed

“Kindest Dog Ever Tries to Save Fishes by Splashing them with Water!” says the Inquisitr.

I’ve bemoaned this phenomenon before, and will bemoan it again — because it’s a little presumptious, and a little vain, to proclaim we know what’s motivating the behavior of animals. And it’s a little disingenuous of us to to let ourselves be moved to tears based on a rash, and possibly erroneous, interpetration.

It’s as if we don’t want to let facts or reason get in the way of our “awwwws,” or when something is going viral.

The video, and snippets thereof, have been posted on YouTube by dozens, all it seems in the last couple of days.

One of those post reads, “In the city of Phetchaburi in Thailand, a dog discovered the fish out of the water and unconscious on the pavement. It will try not to let them die by spraying water with its snout. Besides the fish are few puddles. The dog will then sprinkle the fish, as if he wished they would not die. Touching!”

The original poster of the video, or at least someone claiming to be such, explained on LiveLeak “Hello we took this video on a short trip to asia. The dog here … hangs out at the docks (and) is trying to keep the fish alive. He understands they need water to live and it made me a little sad inside.”

(A short trip to Asia? Could they be less specific?)

Others who have posted the video say it happened in Taiwan. Some describe the dog as a golden retriever; others suspect it’s a shiba inu, but they all agree the dog is engaged in a valiant rescue effort.

Some of those commenting on YouTube are pointing out that may not be the case:

“Sorry to burst your bubble but.. the Dog isn’t trying to save the fish. He think’s he is burying it. He’s using the water to bury it but doesn’t realize that water is not dirt, and hence he cannot successfully do the job properly. Canines are not intellectual enough to know that a fish needs water to breathe or survive.”

Others — caught up in the “awwww” of it all — refuse to accept that theory, or even consider it: “He is trying to save the fish,” asserts one. “He’s nudging it with his nose at 0:39. He’s trying to get the fish to move again and doesn’t understand why it won’t.”

There’s nothing wrong with speculation — as long as we admit it’s speculation, and don’t get too carried away by it.

Here’s mine. Assuming this dog is a regular at the wharf, maybe he discovered one day that he could revive dying fish by splashing them with water, and maybe he remembers that. Maybe he is trying to get them to move again. Maybe that’s because death saddens him, or maybe it’s because they’re more fun to play with when they’re flopping around.

Most of us are taught — in school, and in training for careers — to avoid using the word “maybe,” as it could maybe make us appear uncertain and plagued by self-doubt, the sort of person who would flip flop.

Not to splash water in your face, but I think, just maybe, that’s a mistake.

Olbermann on the strays of Sochi

Here, better than any ski jumper, snowboarder, or twizzling ice skater, Keith Olbermann nails it.

His take on the stray dogs being captured and killed at the Olympics in Sochi –  at the same time that pampered pooches are on parade at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York —  provides some contrast, some context, and shows lots of conviction.

Who is really the biological trash, he asks — the dogs being exterminated, or the exterminators?

Police chief rescues boy’s dog from icy lake

The police chief of Kingston, N.H., jumped into an icy lake to save a boy’s dog — a Chihuahua-dachschund mix named Chloe.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Jason Bragg was standing on the edge of the lake watching as Chloe fell through the ice, then struggled unsuccessfully to pull herself out of the water, according to the Union-Leader in Manchester.

That’s when Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. arrived, jumped in the water and began smashing the inch-thick ice to work his way 30 feet from shore to the yelping dog.

“It was obvious that the dog needed to be rescued,” he later told the newspaper. “The dog kept slipping and going into the water even deeper and my fear was that it was going to drown.”

Briggs brought Chloe back to the beach, where she was wrapped in a blanket and rushed to Plaistow-Kingston Animal Medical Center. Chloe was treated for hypothermia and reunited with the family Tuesday afternoon.

Chloe had escaped from the deck of her home and wandered onto the ice. Jason and his mother were able to find her, but when they called her back, she fell through the ice. The boy’s mother, who called 911, said it was fortunate the chief arrived quickly.

“I appreciate it so much. He basically saved her life,” she said. “The vet said that if she had been in there any longer, she wouldn’t have been so lucky.”

(Photo by DAVID LANE / Union-Leader)

Dolphins credited with saving Doberman

Dolphins are being credited with saving a Doberman who had run away from his home on Marco Island and ended up in a Florida canal.

The dog’s owner said a neighbor fished the 11-year-old dog, named Turbo, out of the canal after being alerted by dolphins. It’s not totally clear in this this NBC2 story just how they did that, but we’ll assume it was by splashing about – as opposed to making dolphin distress calls or sending a text message.

According to the dog’s owner, Cindy Burnett, the neighbor jumped in the water after calling 9-1-1 and pulled Turbo out. By the time he was rescued, Turbo had been missing for 15 hours, she said.

Two owners die trying to save their dogs

In Houston and Philadelphia, sad stories emerged at the end of the last week of humans who, while trying to save the lives of their dogs, lost their own.

In Philadelphia, a woman was struck and killed Friday night as she ran onto a set of railroad tracks to save her dog from an oncoming commuter train, police said.

The woman, who police described as in her 40s and from out-of-state, was standing on the platform of the Bryn Mawr station about 6 p.m. when her dog got loose and bounded onto the rails, according to Lower Merion Township police.

The woman was waiting for a train when her dog got loose. She chased the black Chihuahua onto the tracks as an eastbound SEPTAtrain pulled into the station. She was killed instantly, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The dog was recovered without injuries and taken to an animal hospital.

In the Houston arrea, Harris County sheriff’s Deputy Eddie Wotipka drowned late Thursday as he attempted to rescue one of his dogs from a canal near his home in Baytown.

The 51-year-old officer had pulled up to his home in his patrol unit and was told by neighbors his dogs were running loose near an industrial canal.

Wotipka saw his English bulldog go into the canal and plunged in after her. He resurfaced once then went under again. Wotipka’s body was recovered the next morning about 150 feet from where he entered the canal, the Houston Chronicle reported. The dog also died.

Wotipka joined the department in 1993 and was known as a lover of dogs. While in his patrol cruiser a week ago, he slammed on his brakes to avoid a stray dog in the middle of the road, then ended up bringing the dog, who he named Skidmark, home.

The police officers’ union is planning a fundraiser for the Wotipka family on July 31.

Man killed trying to save dog from train

A 60-year-old California man was killed while trying to keep his dog from being hit by a train.

Christopher Gray, of San Pablo, was walking his dog in Pinole Wednesday morning when he saw an Amtrak train coming down the tracks, near Pinole shores Park.

Contra Costa County Coroner’s investigators believe Gray was standing on the other set of tracks trying to hold his dog back from the oncoming train when a second Amtrak train came from behind and struck him.

The impact from the second train launched Gray into the path of the oncoming train, and he was run over, a deputy coroner said. His dog was also killed, CBS5 reported.

Gray was the second person this year to be killed by an Amtrak train in nearly the same spot.

Florida man dies saving dog on highway

A Florida man was hit by a bus and killed when he tried to save a dog that wandered onto the highway.

John Christopher Morgan, 22, of Lakeland, was buying  beer at a Plant City convenience store Friday night when he saw a stray dog run onto State Road 60, according to the Tampa Tribune.

According to his friend, Jason Braden, Morgan ran to save the dog and was hit by a bus. The Florida Highway Patrol said the driver of the bus has not been charged.

Morgan moved to Florida from New Jersey about a year ago to take care of his aunt, said Braden. About two weeks ago, both men lost their jobs when the Florida Police and Trooper’s Association went out of business, Braden said.

Braden said Morgan’s remains, will be cremated and sent to New Mexico, where his father lives.

Braden described his friend as “an easy-going guy who would give the shirt off his back to anyone. He was the most caring person I had ever known. If he didn’t have it, he would get it. He would always put others before himself. That is why he is where he is now.”