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Your attention, please …

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Look at you! Look at you! You are the cutest little reader I’ve ever seen. Yes you are. Yes you are! You’re just the sweetest reader ever. What a good reader! And, yes, you’re a genius, too. So very smart. Just a good good good pretty genius reader. Yes. Yes!

Talk to a baby like that (and most people do) and you’re going to get a reaction, studies show. You’re going to hold their attention, stimulate their brain, and (put most unscientifically) make them feel warm and bubbly inside.

Talk to a dog like that — especially if it’s a puppy and you have a higher-pitched, female type voice — and you’re going to achieve the same, a new study suggests. They’ll be more responsive and more likely to retain what (though it’s mostly gibberish) you’re saying.

Talk to your website readers like that, and they’re likely to think you’ve gone off the deep end, that you’re either stalking or patronizing them, and report you to the Internet police.

But you wouldn’t do that. Would you, pretty reader? Noooo. ‘Cuz you’re a good reader. Yes! You’re such a sweetie pie. Yes! Yes!

SONY DSCDogs, at least younger ones, find being talked to in a slow, sing-song, high-pitched, “baby-talk” type voice exciting, and react better to it, a new study says.

The findings show that the voice pitch and patterns of humans may help dogs learn words, as is believed to be the case with human babies.

To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, recorded the voices of 30 women.

The women were asked to read the scripted phrases as they would to dogs, and as they would to humans. For the dog-directed readings, researchers provided them with photos of dogs to help them get in the mood.

Each woman read the following words: “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!”

The women read the words as they would to a puppy, as they would to an older dog, and as they would to a human.

The recordings were then played to dogs — 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a New York City animal shelter.

Nine of the 10 puppies reacted strongly to the pupy-directed recordings, barking and running toward the loudspeaker and even going into a play stance.

The pups were less interested when the women were using the lower pitched, less playful voices they would use while talking to other humans.

The older dogs, possibly having heard their fill of baby talk, didn’t react at all — likely because they’d become more attuned to their master’s voice and less to those of strangers.

The study’s findings were presented this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Why we talk to babies this ultra-animated, affirmation-filled way — both our own and those we’re just meeting — is instinctual. Why we talk to dogs, especially puppies, like this, is a result of their big-eyed, baby-like appearance that brings out similar instincts in us.

SONY DSCIn either case, it’s all related to our instinct for nurturing, and our desire to communicate with a non-verbal, or not-yet-verbal, being.

In the study, the women’s exaggerated, high-pitched speech served far better to get the attention of the dogs, said Mathevon, who believes this way of talking may help dogs learn words.

I couldn’t find an explanation of why only women’s voices — 30 of them aged 18 to 55 — were used in the study, but I’d guess it’s because women are generally better at, and less embarrassed, at using baby talk in public.

Most of my dogs have favored women. Ace always preferred females, and my dog new dog, Jinjja, is much more comfortable around them too. If he hears a female voice in the distance he pulls toward it, if he hears a male one, he stops or retreats.

A lot of it I think is simply a matter of pitch. A higher pitch is less threatening.

Likely, with Jinjja, it also has to do with how he was raised. Probably, men ran the Korean dog farm he was rescued from, and during and after that rescue it was probably mostly women who were kind to him.

The same is probably true of many a shelter or rescue dog. Given women make up the bulk of the staff and volunteers at animal rescue and shelter operations, those dogs often tend to associate a female voice with food, warmth and safety.

Possibly, dogs have figured out females are the kinder and more nurturing gender (though that might be a little sexist to say). Or it could be women’s voices, in general, sound more like squeaky toys (though that might be a little sexist to say).

But you’re not going to hold that against me. Nooooooo. You’re too nice to do that, aren’t you? Aren’t you? You’re such a good reader. Yes, you are.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Will Bear come in from the wild?

After at least five years as a stray, avoiding human contact, surviving in a vacant field and regularly outsmarting animal control officers, a Texas dog named Bear may finally be heading for a home.

And good thing, because construction is expected to begin soon on the field he has called home, which is slated to become a housing development.

Bear is something of a legend in Hutto, a town of about 15,000 people, northeast of Austin. He’s a dog owned by no one, though many residents appreciate him from afar.

But in the past few years, one woman has gotten closer to him than most. Irma Mendoza and her son started bringing him food a couple of years ago, and also built him a dog house on the land.

Now, she is working to find him a home.

“It all started a couple of years ago when my mom found Bear by the block where we live,” said Alfonso Salinas, Irma’s son. ” …After that she just started to feed him and try to take care of him,” he told Fox 7 in Austin

Every day Irma comes to the field to give Bear food. She also gives him his annual medications.

“This dog is pretty much a family member,” Salinas said.

Bear has been seen roaming the neighborhood since 2010. Some think he was left behind when his owners moved.

Over the years, others in the community have pitched in to make sure Bear is taken care of.

“He is a survivor that’s for sure. He’s smart, he stays out of the way, stays out of the street, avoids people, and everybody has grown fond of him,” said Richard Rodriguez, who lives in the neighborhood. “He’s got his own Facebook page so that speaks something to how people like him.”

bearHutto Animal Control officer Wayne Cunningham — one of many who have tried to capture Bear — says Irma is the first person to get close to the dog.

“No one can get close to him but Irma so we haven’t been able to catch him. He’s gotten wise to our dog traps, he recognizes the animal control truck so he’s very leery about new people,” Cunningham said.

Mendoza is now working with Cunningham to help find Bear a permanent place to stay — with a friend who has spent years helping her care for him.

“He deserves to be in a loving home,” said Niroshini Glass. “He would be so spoiled. He would get anything and everything he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted it. He would be very, very spoiled.”

All this hinges on Bear’s cooperation, of course, but with the progress that Irma has made, the willingness of Glass to provide a home, and the field destined to soon become a construction zone, the time appears ripe to take Bear out of the wild.

Once he is caught, he will be taken to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter to be evaluated before adoption.

A GoFundMe campaign has started to raise money to help pay Bear’s vet costs, and ongoing care.

Actress Anna Faris hit with “fine” after her Chihuahua is found starving on the street

farisdogA Los Angeles animal shelter has slapped actress Anna Faris with a $5,000 penalty fee for breaking the terms of an animal adoption contract she signed four years ago.

Laurel Kinder, the head of Kinder4Rescue, says the emaciated Chihuahua was found Friday wandering the streets of North Hollywood.

When a vet checked the dog for a microchip, Faris’ name came up as the owner, as well as information about where Pete had been adopted from.

The rescue organization was contacted, took custody of the dog, and will seek to find him a new home.

Kinder told TMZ that in signing the contract for the adoption of Pete Faris agreed to pay the fine if she ever parted with the dog without informing them.

Faris, in a statement to People magazine, said she gave the dog to another family when her son was born.

“Five years ago I adopted an adorable Chihuahua named Pete, from the Kinder4Rescue Animal Rescue. Unfortunately when our son was born, we discovered that he was allergic to Pete, so I found what I thought was a loving and responsible family to care for him.

faris“My agreement with the animal rescue required me to contact them first before allowing another family to take Pete in. I failed to do this, and for that I am deeply sorry. I now understand the dangers of giving animals away for free.”

“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that Pete has been found and is back in the hands of Kinder4Rescue. I feared that he had been lost forever and, although he is malnourished and in need of care, it seems he is going to make a full recovery. For this, I am so deeply thankful…”

Faris is the Baltimore-born star of the CBS series “Mom,” whose numerous film credits include “Scary Movie” and its sequels, “House Bunny,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”

The North Hollywood shelter said it had been unable to reach Faris and her husband, actor Chris Pratt, since the dog was found Friday.

Five years ago, Pratt was widely criticized on social media for getting rid of the couple’s cat.

Before putting the cat up for adoption, he announced on Twitter that he and his wife wanted to “start a family” and “absolutely cannot have an animal that shits all over the house.”

(Photos: TMZ)

Leon lives! Turkey finds sanctuary

Maybe it was some kind of turkey sixth sense that led Leon to leave wherever he was and hit the streets of Ventura County, California, when November rolled around.

Because we all know — and possibly turkeys do too — what day is coming up.

Leon was found wandering the streets earlier this month and taken to the local animal shelter. A Stockton-based rescue, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, pulled him from there, wanting to make sure he didn’t end up on someone’s Thanksgiving dinner table.

Sanctuary manager Christine Morrissey said it quickly became apparent that Leon expected something more than a turkey’s life. He loves to be picked up and carried, petted and kissed, and have his belly rubbed.

leon2“He just took to people immediately,” she told THV11.

Morrissey said she doesn’t know if Leon escaped from a farm where he was being raised for slaughter, or if he was someone’s pet.

But, she noted, “He certainly is the age of a turkey that would be slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Turkeys have more complex emotions than most people think, she said, but Leon seems one of a kind.

“For an animal to immediately trust us and want companionship, that is, definitely I would say, an unusual trait,” she said.

Morrissey is working on teaching him some tricks, trying to figure out how to get a leash or harness on him, and even contemplating whether he has the potential to become a therapy turkey.

Likely, he will end up alongside some cranberries on Thanksgiving — but not as an entree. They seem to be his favorite treat.

(Photo from Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary Facebook page)

Feel-good story about homeless man’s reunion with dog took some strange turns

patrick

Getting your Huntsvilles confused is one thing, but one website really screwed the pooch when they published a story about a good Samaritan who helped reunite a homeless man and his dog.

In September, in Huntsville, TEXAS, Wilma Price was driving through a Walmart parking lot when she saw a homeless man holding a sign that said, “Dog in pound. Need help.”

Price, who runs a rescue called Mr. K’s Pet Shelter, stopped to find out his story. She learned the homeless man, named Patrick, had been arrested and jailed for trespassing, and that, because of that, his dog ended up in the animal shelter.

She took Patrick to the shelter, and paid the $120 necessary for him to get his dog — named Franklin — back.

The story was picked up by the website Life with Dogs, CBS News, People.com and many more.

Dozens of other websites reprinted or rewrote it — most of them doing a decent job of passing along the facts.

Then there was the Alabama Observer.

patrick2It reported that the story took place in Huntsville, Alabama, that the dog’s name was Wilbur, that the homeless man’s name was Mark Spencer, and that the good Samaritan’s name was Elizabeth Masterson.

The story had no links to actual news sources, and little attribution.

It wasn’t the only website to get the facts askew, but it was the only one that appeared to be making up entirely new names for everyone involved. At least three other websites published versions of the story with those erroneous names.

One wonders what might be the motivation for substituting illegitimate names into a legitimate story.

Might the exact same story have happened with different people at a Walmart in Huntsville, Alabama? Clearly not. Might the website be trying to cover its rear, legally? Maybe. Might there be something more nefarious going on, such as diverting donations intended for Patrick (whose last name isn’t Spencer) to some guy named Mark Spencer? We hope not. Might a computer program be doing the website’s writing? Highly possible.

Apparently, a bogus Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for Patrick was launched by someone neither Wilma nor Patrick knew, and, using photos from Wilma’s Facebook page, it raised $3,000 before the page was removed from Go Fund Me.

That’s $3,000 Patrick and Franklin didn’t get. Wilma Price, meanwhile, started a campaign for him too, and it has raised more than $15,000 for Patrick on GoFundMe.

Price said Patrick has been helping her organization with rescue efforts since the two met, and her Facebook page documents their adventures together.

Snopes.com looked into the story and couldn’t figure out how or why the Alabama Observer version had new names inserted into it.

There is no contact information on the Alabama Observer’s web site, and no description of who operates it. Snopes reported it appears to accept stories submitted by users, as opposed to having its own reporters or freelancers.

We think there’s a good possibility it’s one of those websites that runs news stories through computer programs that rewrite them (with mixed results, or should I say “stirred outcomes?”).

How else could you explain the opening of this recent Alabama Observer story about clown sightings in Ohio?

“The developing rash of reported dangers including clown-faced villains has law authorization offices crosswise over Ohio and somewhere else attempting to recognize true blue dangers while cautioning deceptions are no giggling matter.”

(Photos courtesy of Wilma Price)

Pregnant bitch boards train in Moscow, gives birth to nine

Moscow’s stray dogs, as we’ve previously reported, make good use of the city subway system — and authorities and residents generally tolerate it.

But this week when a stray, apparently seeking a warm place to deliver her litter, boarded a train to give birth during rush hour, they were even more cooperative.

Passengers got off the train and put up with hour-long delays so the train the dog was on could be sent to a depot for a more private birthing experience.

As you can see in the video above, a number of people volunteered to help.

At the depot, under the supervision of metro workers and a vet they called in to supervise, she gave birth to nine pups — and the metro administration has started a campaign to find homes for all of them, Sputnik News reported.

trainThe dog boarded a metro train on the Koltsevaya line, as stray dogs do daily in Moscow, but after her condition was noted, metro workers were notified and the train was declared out of service.

After the births, they were all taken to a shelter.

Dogs boarding trains and taking seats is a fairly common sight in Moscow, where strays are plentiful and steps to shelter and find them homes are not.

In fact, the stray dogs of Moscow are a true social phenomenon. Some of them commute from the suburbs by train because it is easier to get handouts from humans in the city.

Foraging dogs have long been part of Moscow’s landscape, but they stayed mostly in the city’s industrial zones and lived a semi-feral existence. They mainly relied on discarded food and kept their distance from humans. But with old factories being transformed into shopping centers and apartments, strays have learned humans have the food and the inner city is the place to beg.

It’s sort of a small scale reenactment, with a twist, of the whole domestication of the species — dogs turned feral returning once again for a human handout and, in the process, learning big city ways.

The strays have learned to cross the street with pedestrians. Some believe that, even though the color difference is not noticeable to dogs, they’ve learned to understand the walking man signal.

As a country, though it has made strides, Russia doesn’t exactly have a shining reputation when it comes to an animal welfare. Remember Sochi?

But, as a people — even though they are often depicted as cold and hard-hearted — they have some compassion for dogs.

Maybe that’s genetic, maybe it comes from knowing how cold cold can get, maybe, in the case of Moscow, it intensifies when you’re sharing an urban area — the streets, the sidewalks, the train, your lunch — with them.

How MadLyn lost her dog (but not her faith) at Salvation Mountain

When singer-songwriter MadLyn filmed her latest music video she chose Salvation Mountain as the setting — a location that’s near the top of my list when it comes to American places of quirky and unnatural beauty.

And she brought her dog, Lucy, along to serve as the video’s co-star.

Salvation Mountain, built of trash, straw, adobe and and thousands of gallons of vibrantly colored paint, was one man’s tribute to his faith in God, and even though I’m not religious, I was fortunate enough to drop by and meet him twice (the mountain’s creator, not The Creator) when he was alive.

Once, for a magazine story, and once during my Travels with Ace, I spent some time with Leonard Knight — an admittedly reclusive and obsessive sort who let nothing stop him in his quest to fashion a mountain where there was none. Knight died in 2014 at age 82.

Salvation Mountain pops up like a colorful hallucination in the otherwise bleak, almost lunar, desert terrain around Niland, California.

MadLyn went there in July with her director/father and a cinematographer to film a video for her song “Will You Take Me Home” and she did all the things that people do in music videos — prance, skip, sing, twirl, look pensive, wear multiple outfits and toss her curly locks about.

madlynslucyAnd snuggle with Lucy, who is featured throughout the video.

In one scene, MadLyn was to stand in front of the mountain and hold her little dog as a camera-equipped drone zoomed in on them and passed overhead.

Lucy didn’t like that. She jumped out of MadLyn’s arms and took off.

Lucy had gone all day with no leash (she was playing the role of a stray), but when the drone approached for a close-up she “starts freaking out and jumps out of my arms and runs out into the desert,” MadLyn recounted.

As the sun went down, MadLyn, her father and the cinematographer searched for hours, on foot and by car, enlisting the help of Slab City’s other denizens, but Lucy could not be found and was not responding to their calls.

Because the cinematographer needed to get back to his family, they drove back to Los Angeles, a three and a half hour trip.

The next day, a Saturday, MadLyn called animal shelters located near Niland, printed up flyers, checked with the company Lucy’s microchip is registered with and sent out pleas on Facebook.

Then she and her father headed back to Niland to search some more for Lucy.

Sadly, and a bit ironicallly, what had happened in real life was exactly the opposite of what director Fred Fuster had in mind for the video.

While the song’s lyrics seemingly pertain to man-woman love, Fuster (being a father) envisioned a different, more innocent, interpretation of his daughter’s song.

“As director I insisted on having that story line — where this woman who has a hard time finding love meets this dog at Salvation Mountain and I guess falls in love,” he said.

But instead of finding a dog, Madlyn, in real life, lost one.

madlynsFuster’s daughter began performing at age 3. She lost her mother to breast cancer at 13, and after that began to immerse herself completely in songwriting and pop music.

She later took her mother’s name, Madlyn, to honor her.

She has been active in raising money to fight breast cancer. Last year, she released the song, “I Call Her Mom,” with 100 percent of all digital sales going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

No strangers to loss and dealing with dark times, Fuster and his daughter pulled into Salvation Mountain after nightfall to look for Lucy and seek out people who might have seen her.

They went a gathering spot in Slab City called The Range, where an open mic night was being held, and showed Lucy’s picture around.

One man told Fuster that it was unlikely a small dog like Lucy — given all the hawks and coyotes in the area — was still alive after 24 hours.

That’s when Fuster sat down and began to pray.

When he opened his eyes and looked down, there was Lucy.

After a tearful reunion, Fuster and MadLyn put Lucy in the car and gave her some water. The 18-pound dog drank 24 ounces, MadLyn says.

MadLyn, as you can see in the video at the end of this post, clearly considers what happened a miracle.

“Lucy was missing in the desert of Salvation Mountain for 24 hours completely by herself, and through the grace of God alone, she came back,” she wrote in an email to ohmidog!

She says the video is “dedicated to all shelter and foster animals looking for a loving home.”

I have a feeling Leonard Knight would like this story.

I know I do.