As is now known by fans of Irving the talking dog — and I’m not one of them, at least when it comes to the talking part – the Boston terrier didn’t make it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent.”
Still, in terms of the exposure alone, it was a win for ventriloquist Todd Oliver, whose Branson, Missouri-based act has become more popular than ever.
Branson features three dogs in his performances, all equipped with flapping contraptions attached to their lower jaws. He controls the devices remotely, making the dog’s mouth move in time with the words he supplies, via ventriloquism.
In other words, Oliver uses his dogs for dummies.
No, I don’t think Oliver’s act should be banned. I don’t think we need to get PETA on the phone. I don’t think the appendages attached to the dogs for the act are hurting the dogs, or even bothering them to any great extent.
I am merely saying that it’s another example of us putting words in dogs’ mouths, of our humanization of them — solely for our own amusement.
I don’t like that Pedigree’s DentaStix ad campaign, featuring dogs with human dentures, either — for the same reason. In addition to the TV ads, the campaign allowed us to, with help from our computers, put not just human dentures, but the words of our choice, into dog mouths.
I’m not one of those to unnecessarily sound the anthropomorphization alarm — mainly because it’s too hard a word to say — but I do believe we should enjoy dogs as dogs, and not try to transform them into us.
Oliver seems like a nice guy who does a lot for dogs and animals, and as far as what he does to them for the act, it’s probably not abusive and even somewhat cute, at least for the first few minutes.
He says on his website that the device was developed with a veterinarian.
“Todd is just a true animal lover. He often assists local shelters and rescues dogs from unfit environments,” the website says. ”Everything in Todd’s act is 100% safe and registered with the USDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.”
I know that, again, I will be criticized for being overly sensitive, but in my opinion we’ve already tinkered with dogs too much — by shaping them, over the centuries, into breeds whose looks please us; by using them in lab experiments and, in recent years, cloning them; by dressing them up, teaching them to dance, and all the other things we do for our own amusement.
They’re pretty amusing and animated just as they are, without our help. Our attempts to make them more amusing, I think, are often both dopey and disrespectful. But who’s going to listen to me?
If only I could get a dog to say it.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 4th, 2012 under videos.
Tags: act, america's got talent, amusement, animals, anthropomorphization, dentures, dog, dogs, dogshaming, dummies, dummy, entertainment, funny dogs, humanization, humans, irving, irving the talking dog, mouth, pedigree, pets, talking dogs, tinkering, todd oliver, ventriloquism
In the virtual world, you can, with a few well-placed clicks, pick your house, your car, your clothes, your physique, hair style and persona.
You can go out for a night on the town, in the setting of your choice, looking for love, or a fight, or any of thousands of other adventures — all of which are under your control.
Or you can spend a quiet evening at virtual home with your virtual pet — like a Panda-chow, or a tiger-husky, whose behavior, traits, appearance and even species combination are all changeable at your whim.
The video above is a preview for Sims 3 Pets, hitting the market today.
At the risk of sounding like an old man (one can’t criticize video games or apps without sounding like an old man), at the risk of being told by countless commenters that it’s only a game (yes, I realize that), I find it bothersome (and I don’t just mean that annoying narration).
In a way, I find what Sims 3 Pets does with dogs and cats nearly as troubling as that dogfighting app that led to so much controversy.
It’s a reflection of the same wrongheaded (in my view) mindset that we can do whatever we want to with dogs as long as it (A) entertains us, (B) makes money, (C) makes our lives easier, or (D) is done in the name of science.
It’s that mindset that leads to dogs as fashion accessories, dogs being abandoned when fads change, cruel laboratory experiments, greyhound racing, dogfighting, puppy mills, over breeding and, yes, cloning.
It’s thinking that dogs and all animals exist to serve our whims — however fleeting, selfish or bizarre those whims may be.
“Lighten up dude, it’s just a video game,” you might say. “It’s just a fantasy.”
And you’d have a point.
But (A) experimenting with and exploiting dogs doesn’t just happen in video games; and (B) Sims is not really the target of my tirade, for the game is just the latest rendition of a recurring theme in our society.
Of course, if it weren’t for man’s self-serving tinkering, we wouldn’t have dogs at all. It was man that shaped the wolf into all the diverse shapes and sizes we have now — and I’m not for doing away with any of them.
But somewhere — at least in real life, if not in video games — all the tinkering needs to stop.
We don’t need tiger-retrievers, or panda-chows — whether it’s the result of creative hair-styling and dye jobs, or inter-species experiments, or cell manipulation.
We don’t need robot dogs, or gladiator dogs, or fluorescent dogs, or dogs so inbred that they are unhealthy caricatures of themselves, or dogs created in a laboratory from the harvested cells of a deceased pet.
We don’t need to reinvent the dog, redesign the dog, ressurect the dog or even fine tune the dog. It’s fine as it is, and much of man’s meddling — whether it’s to make dogs more predictable, produce look-alike, act-alike cookie cutter versions of them, or invent new versions that are low-drool or non-allergenic — is an insult to that.
It’s even more of an arrogant pursuit when you stop and consider that the species that probably needs the most work is us. Maybe it’s our inability to control what happens among our fellow humans that makes us so prone to inflicting control over dogs, nature, or whatever else we can.
Here is something I said before, somewhere: If there is even a remote chance of controlling something, humans wanted to control it, preferably remotely.
In Sims 3 Pets, players can create and control over a hundred different kinds of cats and dogs, and can breed and share them with friends providing endless possibilities to create “new and exciting” breeds.
One can customize the pet’s coat, shape, pattern, color; the size of its ears, tail, snout, eyes, and more. You can also choose their behavior pattern, traits and control their bodily functions.
Dogs can even get jobs and make money.
And most creepy of all, pets can be shaped via virtual interspecies breeding, resulting in skunk-cats and panda-chows.
(If you think mixing species, fluorescent dogs and cloning are too far fetched to ever happen, I’d refer you to my book, DOG, INC.: the Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend. They all already have.
It would be too much to ask, given that pesky First Amendment and all, that gamemakers refrain from virtual interspecies breeding.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow limit all forms of novelty dogs — and other bad human concepts like war — to the confines of computerized games?
Unfortunately, that seems out of our control.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, breeding, breeds, cloned, cloning, control, creating, design, designer, dog, dog inc., dogfighting, dogs, domain, experiments, fluorescent, game, greyhound racing, interspecies, laboratory, manipulation, mindset, nature, novelty, over breeding, panda-chow, pets, robot, SIMS, SIMS Pets, SIMS Pets 3, simulation, tiger-husky, tinkering, video game, virtual, whims