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Tag: tv

And now we bring you … DogTV

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

As of this week, we can add one more item to the growing list of once uniquely human things that we have, with mostly good intentions, bestowed/inflicted upon dogs.

Dogs now have their own television station.

DogTV, which debuted yesterday, features short clips of canines romping and playing. It airs 24 hours a day, and is designed to keep your dog company, providing him with relaxation and stimulation when no one is home. It costs $4.99 a month and is available on DirecTV.

Now they, too, can be couch potatoes — just like us.

Maybe that’s what we want — for our dogs to be human. Maybe we just assume, given their willingness to please, that if we like something, they’re going to love it, when in fact the reason they love it is because we’re doing it. Maybe we just like free, or $4.99 a month, babysitting.

Whatever the case, we keep passing on or making available to them our curious and not entirely healthy habits, quirks, trendy “must haves” and addictions — be they pharmaceuticals, beauty contests, bling, funny haircuts, halloween costumes, spa services, day care, neuroses, high tech health care no one can afford, or gourmet food.

We seem to  keep trying — consciously or not – to make dogs more like us, when the actual truth of the matter (and the secret of life) is that we should be more like them.

(Maybe, if we watch DogTV, we can learn how.)

dogremoteOn human TV Wednesday night, NBC ran this feature on DogTV, introduced by Brian Williams, who closely resembles a Bassett hound, and reported by Kevin Tibbles, who dutifully includes about every canine-related pun there is.

As Tibbles notes, pets are a $55 billion industry in America, and the nation’s 78 million dogs could make for a lot of viewers. That, even though dogs don’t have disposable income, could prove lucrative.

DogTV bills itself as ”the perfect babysitter for dogs who have to stay home alone.”

Therein lies the problem.

Dogs don’t want electronic babysitters. Dogs want to be out in the real dirt, bug, critter and scent-filled world. We do, too, though often we don’t realize it, mainly because we get so caught up in and numbed by TV, video games, Facebook and the like.

I do often leave my TV on for my dog Ace when I leave the house, even though he’s never shown a great deal of interest in it. His ears will perk up when he hears a dog whining or barking on television, and he’ll watch for maybe 10 seconds or so before moving on to more important things, like sleep.

I, on the other hand, who grew up being babysat by TV, will stay up past bedtime and sit riveted for 60 minutes watching a “Law & Order” episode I previously viewed less than a month ago.

Who, I ask you, is the superior being?

“For those of us who suffer the guilt of leaving a dog alone for hours each day, the prospect of forking out five bucks a month to allay our dogs’ separation anxiety might sound attractive. It’s certainly cheaper than hiring a daily dog walker,” Ryan Vogt writes in Slate.  ”There’s only one problem: It won’t work. ”

Vogt goes on to explain that dogs “see the world at a faster frame rate than humans do …  Humans’ flicker fusion rate is about 50-60 Hz, meaning we see the world in 50 to 60 images per second. For dogs, that rate is closer to 70-80 Hz… To them, it looks like a slideshow powered by a dim strobe light.”

I don’t begin to understand that (probably because I’ve watched too much TV), but the article goes on to quote some experts, including Alexandra Horowitz. She explains that, in addition to the “frame rate” differences, the fact that no smells come out of the television keeps dogs from getting too interested. “Dogs are not primarily visual … and what interests them is typically smell first, sight second.”

In other words, they know it’s not real.

I don’t have a problem with DogTV existing — just with the possibility it could be overused by busy dog owners. There are better ways to keep you dog occupied during the day, even when you’re not home. And too much TV – be it forensic drama, cooking shows, or even just watching dogs romp — can’t be good for anyone, two or four-legged.

What we fail to realize as we continue to work the wild out of dogs, continue to make them more human, is that dogs don’t need vicarious thrills.

That’s just us.

“No comment” would have sufficed: TV reporter bitten while seeking interview


A woman who didn’t want to tell a TV news team “how she felt” about her daughter being shot threw a rock at them, shook a baseball bat at them, and then sent her dogs after reporter Abbey Niezgoda of ABC 6 News in Rhode Island.

The crew was on assignment in Providence, seeking to interview the mother of a teenage girl who was shot at a graduation party over the weekend.

Instead of politely declining to speak on-camera, Melissa Lawrence hurled a rock at ABC6 photographer Marc Jackson, then went inside for a baseball bat. Seconds later, she told her dogs to attack.

As Lawrence shouted commands, the dogs chased Niezgoda into a backyard a few houses away.

Niezgoda was a treated for a bite on her forearm.

Melissa Lawrence was charged with two counts of felony assault with a dangerous weapon.

Lawrence’s daughter, who was shot in the lower back, has since been released from the hospital.

Donations pour in for Barbara and Bowser

The Oklahoma tornado victim whose missing dog emerged from the rubble in the middle of a TV news interview may get another prayer answered.

Barbara Garcia’s Scottish terrier, Bowser, was spotted under a pile debris by the news team interviewing her after she lost her home in Moore.

“Well, I thought that God had just answered one prayer, to let me be OK,” Garcia said after freeing her dog. “But he answered both of them.”

Now, those touched by the scene, which went viral on the Internet, have donated enough money to make a new home a possibility.

A fund set up to help her get back on her feet and under a new roof was approaching $40,000 as of Monday night, just $10,000 short of its $50,000 goal.

“We’re still looking for a corporate sponsor who will match funds donated, so we can make the dream of building a new home for Barbara and Bowser a reality. Not only did Barbara lose her home, her daughter did as well,” said Erin DeRuggiero who’s spearheading the fund drive.

According to CBS News, the clip of Bowser emerging from the rubble has been viewed more than 3 million times.

“All of the other things … you know, one by one they can be replaced. A lot of it wasn’t even important, but I couldn’t replace him,” Garcia said in an interview.

Garcia didn’t have homeowner’s insurance.

“I was really just compelled, personally, to do something,” said DeRuggiero. In the first five days of the fundraiser, more than $35,000 was raised.

“Before the CBS piece aired, I didn’t know Barbara Garcia personally, but was incredibly moved by her story and of her reunion with her sweet dog,” DeRuggiero wrote on the Gofundme page. “… My goal is to ease her recovery, raise enough money to help her start to rebuild or relocate her life, and above all else, to show her that ‘life in the big city’ also means helping one another, even from 1500 miles away.”

Garcia says she’s overwhelmed by the support: “I didn’t know I was that important. Really, truly, I didn’t. I just thank everybody,” Garcia said in a follow-up interview with CBS News.

The “Build Barbara Garcia a Home” fundraising page can be found here.

Beloved BBC dog Mabel passes away

After 14 years on the world’s longest running children program, Mabel, a border collie mix, has died.

Seen by millions of children on “Blue Peter,” Mabel was the BBC program’s first rescue dog.

“She was dearly loved and that’s a credit to her quirky character. She’ll be sorely missed by the presenters and viewers alike,” said Helen Skelton, one of the program’s co-hosts.

Mabel, who retired last year, was the second-longest serving dog on the show. Another, named Petra, appeared on the show for 15 years.

Her death came barely a month after the death of her canine co-star Lucy, according to the Daily Mail.

Mabel was originally featured on the program in 1996 when then presenter Katy Hill met her while making a film about the RSPCA. She joined the show a month later. Her name came from the letters MAB1 which were written on her RSPCA kennel.

Mabel, who was thought to be 16, was notable for her different colored eyes – one brown, one blue – and a folded-over ear. She starred alongside 14 different presenters in hundreds of studio shows.

After retirement, she lived with a former member of the show’s production team

The BBC show’s presenters announced the news about the border collie to viewers last night.

Expressway dog Ike is thriving a year later

A year ago he was a hapless stray, dodging traffic on Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway.

Ike, as he was dubbed after his rescue, is no longer living life in the fast lane, but instead enjoying all the comforts of a new home, the Chicago Tribune reports. He’s even had some face time with the governor, Pat Quinn.

“He’s very, very happy and very healthy,” said Steve Zorn, who owns Precious Pets Almost Home, which handled Ike’s adoption.

A year ago, those who viewed video of the black and brown pit bull dodging morning traffic — for two days in a row, as TV helicopters tracked him — wondered if he’d make it out alive.

A Broadview police officer finally snagged him when Ike exited the expressway. When no one claimed him, he was put up for adoption and now lives in the north suburbs, where his best friend is the family cat.

“They cuddle up and sleep together,” Zorn said.

Ike has his own Facebook page, which features this photo and more.

(Photo: Ike and the governor, by Steve Zorn, of Precious Pets Almost Home)

Coming out of the (walk-in) closet

There’s something I need to tell you, and I hope it doesn’t lower your opinion of me. On top of coffee and cigarettes, I now sport a third addiction: HGTV.

About three weeks into my stay in the mansion basement, I realized I had access to more than just the handful of channels I was getting on my small TV – that simply by reprogramming the remote I could get more than 100. Three weeks after that new horizon opened up, there is only on channel number I have memorized, the one for HGTV. (It’s 69 on my dial.)

When I’m eating lunch, when there’s a lull in my day, when I need to step away from the keyboard and let my carpal tunnels reopen, I tune in Home and Garden Television and watch designers upgrade homeowner’s kitchens, or install a media-filled “man cave” in the basement, or turn a bedroom — from blah to ahhhh, from drab to fab – into a serene and spa-like paradise.

At the end, the homeowners get to see the transformation and say “ohmigod” a lot.

In other HGTV programming, shows follow people — young couples usually — as they search for a new home altogether, viewing three homes and then making their choice.

The part of it I like, when it comes to the design shows, is watching a project from conception to fruition, with, of course, the final touch of colorful accessories that really make the whole thing “pop.” It appeals to the Virgo, or something, in me. With the househunting shows, I like guessing which house the couple will pick (I get it right every single time), and predicting how long the marriage is going to last.

(When you can’t agree — or at least rationally discuss – something as simple as hardwood floors versus Mexican tile, your union’s days are numbered.)

Each episode of “Househunters” ends with a visit, a few months later, to the couple in their new home, into which they have comfortably settled and fixed those things they found most intolerable — whether it be wallpaper that is “too busy” or the devastating lack (it’s a cruel, cruel world) of granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Then – and this explains a lot of why I’m hooked – as soon as one episode ends, another begins, with no commercial break … “Tom and Nancy have outgrown their modest home in Modesto, and, with another baby on the way, need someplace larger, with a large master bedroom, an en-suite bathroom and a fenced yard for their dachschund, Scooter.”

That’s all it takes. Based on that simple plot introduction — and my need to see the tidy outcome – I’m in for another 30 minutes.

Why every station doesn’t do the no-commercials-between-episodes thing – it’s sort of the TV viewer equivalent of chain smoking — is beyond me.

I think another part of the HGTV addiction – in addition to having crushes on at least two of the designers (Howyadoin’, Genevieve?) — is that the urge to nest is growing stronger in me, after nearly a year traveling the country with my dog, living out of suitcases and staying in too many Motel 6′s.

I don’t know if urge to nest is making me watch HGTV, or if HGTV is adding to my urge to nest, but I definitely have an increasing desire to have a box of my own, put my stuff in it, make it functional and decorate it with some colorful accessories that really make it pop.

There is a third factor, I think, to the addiction. Watching HGTV makes me mad, and we, for some reason, like to watch people who make us mad  — hence the success of shows like Survivor, and The Apprentice, and all those “real” housewives with artificial parts, not to mention sensitive bachelors willing to probe the souls of multiple women in search of their true lifemate.

On “Househunters,” there can be a perfectly cute and loveable young couple — the kind I could be friends with — that I instantly start hating the moment one of them turns up their nose at a laminate wood floor, or a stove and refrigerator that are, gasp, white. They seem convinced they can’t find true happiness without granite countertops.

The wealthier and pickier they are, the more I hate them, and want to send them to go work for the Peace Corps for a couple of years.

I find myself getting infuriated even more by “Househunters International” where homebuyers, usually seeking a second home, say, in the south of France, are forced to confront the bitter reality that there is only one walk-in closet, or that the ocean view from the Mexican villa they are looking at is slightly blocked by a palm tree.

Part of it, I’m sure, is jealousy — the fact that my financial situation for the moment precludes stainless steel appliances, the fact that a commodities broker, whatever the heck that is, can afford a $2.3 million second home while I can barely afford a commode.

Then again, maybe these people aren’t so greedy, and this is just another stereotype that HGTV, by taking things out of context, is reinforcing — that of the spoiled rotten gimme generation.

For sure, HGTV reinforces gender stereotypes. With every househunting couple, the woman demands walk-in closets and, generally, jokes about maybe giving her husband a little space in it. Just as the female needs closet space, the male needs a man cave, where he can watch sports on a large flat screen TV, play video games, have the boys over for poker and otherwise avoid the wife, who’s probably out buying shoes anyway.

Just once I’d like to see a man who wants a space to work on his scrapbooking, or a woman who’s interested in a barbecue pit.

My final objection to HGTV — though, of course, I don’t object enough to change the channel — is grammatical in nature.

It’s the use of the term “price point.”

I don’t know if HGTV invented this term, or if it’s something real estate agents came up with to make their jobs seem multi-faceted and complex, as opposed to something a monkey could do. For centuries, the word “price” worked just fine. Now, we have “price point,” as in ”You’re not going to find anything else like this at this price point.” Or, “granite countertops are rare at this price point.”

I don’t think just cutting back on HGTV will work for me. I think the only solution is clean and total break (sorry, Genevieve) — a moratorium on HGTV. Like onion dip and coffee, it seems I can’t be happy with just a little of it. Instead, it makes me — much like the stainless-steel-appliance-seeking homebuyers — want more: More episodes, more closet space, more upscale home furnishings, and of course more colorful accessories that will really make things pop.

When dogs descend on Mayberry

Ace’s herniated disc — steadily improving, it seems — has slowed our wandering ways, leading us to limit out travels for at least another week. So far, during our stay in North Carolina, we’ve mostly stuck around the mansion grounds, taking it easy.

But that doesn’t mean we still can’t go to Mayberry, one way or another.

There are those who will tell you there is no real Mayberry in North Carolina. They’re the same ones who will tell you there is no Santa. In truth, in North Carolina, Mayberry is never more than 30 minutes away from wherever you are. You just head down that country road, away from the city, past the suburbs, and stop in the first town big enough to have gas pumps and a barber shop. If you’re greeted with a smile, and it appears genuine, you’re in Mayberry.

Of all the smallish towns in North Carolina, Mount Airy is the one that makes the most of its link to Mayberry, and — it being just up the road — we’ll be going there once Ace is up for it.

For now though, we get there via the couch, with a remote control as our steering wheel. Usually, if you keep flipping, you can find it and, for 30 minutes, go back to a time and place where gigabytes didn’t exist, the pace was slow, things were black and white, and life had just the right amount of complications — enough to keep it interesting, but not so many as to overwhelm your hard drive.

That’s what I liked about Mayberry: Every problem could, in less than 30 minutes, be resolved with some calm and unrushed reasoning — even what to do with a pesky pack of stray dogs.

PART ONE: In which Otis gets his breakfast and Opie finds a dog …

PART TWO: In which Barney takes the dogs — 11 of them now — to a happy place …

PART THREE: In which the strays save the day …

Attacking dogs weren’t pit bulls, after all

 

After its news reports blamed two pit bulls for the mauling Saturday of a 7-year-old girl, ABC2 News in Baltimore took steps to correct the error.

But take a look at the news report (above) and see if you agree with me – that they only compounded it in this story touted as “the real truth about dangerous dogs.”

Rather than clear the name of pit bulls, they besmirch that of American bulldogs, lumping them in with pit bulls and saying they share the same “aggressive” traits and legendary jaw power – or “muscles of mastication” as one vet calls it.

“They have muscles of mastication. They have muscles in their jaws that are so strong they have 500 pounds of pressure. They can snap a broom just like that,” Dr. Kim Hammond, of Falls Road Animal Hospital, says in the report. “They’re a predator if you’re lower on the food chain and they’re good at their job, and they’re going to win.”

Those remarks – inaccurate and irresponsible as they might be in reference to pit bulls or American bulldogs – were apparently being made about pit bulls, which he also compared to “a loaded gun.”

My guess is that ABC2 sent a reporter out to do the knee-jerk, misconception-spreading, how dangerous-pit-bulls-are story, then learned it was two American bulldogs that were actually involved in the attack on Amanda Mitchell, who remains hospitalized with severe facial injuries.

For the sake of expediency, it appears, the report portrays pit bulls and Ameridcan bulldogs as peas in a pod, which wouldn’t be so bad if the pod wasn’t 99 percent wrongful stereotype and 1 percent fact.

Mitchell was playing outside when the dogs escaped from a neighbor’s yard in Dundalk Saturday. Both dogs were later seized by Baltimore County Animal Control and, with the consent of their owner, euthanized.

On Monday, the Baltimore County Health Department issued a correction – identifying the dogs involved as American bulldogs – and, after more than a few complaints from vigilant Internet commenters, ABC2 corrected the story, pointing out that police had provided the misinformation.

In all fairness, the breed of the dogs was also misreported by other media outlets, including the Baltimore Sun.

Even though most news outlets have corrected their reports, the misinformation remains – not just in the public consciousness, but on Google, where search result summaries of news reports since corrected still describe the dogs as pit bulls.

Tragic as it is, the story goes a long way in helping to understand how pit bulls have gotten, and continue to get, a bad rap – based largely on police mistakenly identifying dogs, “experts” who may not know what they’re talking about and the news media’s dutiful reporting of such misinformation.

What gets lost amid all the assumptions and jumping to conclusions is this: Any breed or type of dog has members who can turn violent or aggressive – be it pit bull, bulldog or Chihuahua.

You can’t beat these prices, folks!

Overwhelmed with cats, the Winnipeg Humane Society put together this hilarious appeal — a spoof of the kind of tacky, hyperbolic, low-budget ad anyone who watches late night TV is familiar with.

The shelter found a willing narrator in Andy Hill, the son of Nick Hill, whose was famed for his local furniture store ads in the 1980s, reports Yahoo’s Daily Brew. Nick Hill, who died in 2003, appeared in the ads for Kern-Hill Furniture wearing a 10-gallon hat urging customers to “C’mon Down!”

“Looks like someone left the kitty machine on overnight, and now we have a cat-astrophe on our hands,” Andy Hill says in the ad for a “Kitty Midnight Madness” sale. 

Hill touts “Girl cats! Boy cats! Used-to-be boy cats! … Calico cats, Siamese cats, short-hair cats, long-hair cats, no-hair cats, bad-hair cats, spotted cats, striped cats, black cats and white cats.” He even suggests a “lazy cat to cover up that hole in the couch,” and promises “if we can’t find you a cat you love, we’ll give you a (bleepin’) dog!”

“You can’t beat these prices folks, so c’mon down.”

Techno-whipped? I pity the fool

In our eighth month of bouncing about this expansive and expensive country, Ace and I seemed headed for our most frugal stretch yet – thanks mainly to lucking out and finding some free housing upon our return to Baltimore.

For the first time, in our continuing effort to see America while spending less than what we were while sedentary and housed – about $1,500 for rent, food and utilities – we were looking at a three digit number instead of four.

Now, thanks to my stupidity, and with an assist from Verizon, we’ve blown it, and somebody has some explaining to do.

Before we left on our journey, I canceled my home Internet service (through Verizon) and signed up for wireless mobile broadband (through a different part of Verizon), allowing us to get online no matter where we were for $59 a month – the package they suggested for a heavy user.

It worked pretty great. There were only two or three locations in our 22,000 miles of travels, where service was non-existent or spotty.

I was so pleased, I even eventually sent Verizon the payment they were seeking from me for home Internet service for the month following the date I moved out of my house. It was basically a choice between paying the money I didn’t really owe, being regularly harassed by the credit agency to which they turned the matter over, or spending far too much time on the phone, holding and then some, to try and straighten it out.

All was going smoothly with my wireless mobile broadband — or so I thought until last week, when Verizon informed me that for the past two months I’d gone over monthly limit, and that I owed them more than $400. Read more »