Here we have proof, on video, that a Google-owned company is abusing dogs.
Robot dogs, that is.
Boston Dynamics, a company Google purchased two years ago, designs robots for the U.S. military and others. Here, in its own video, it’s showing off “Spot,” a robot dog that can traverse all sorts of terrains and withstand being kicked by employees without toppling over.
My first question is: Why, given it’s a heartless metal gizmo, does it still bother me to watch Spot get kicked? Why, given the kicks are part of testing the machine’s balance, is my first response to seeing an employee kick Spot, “What an asshole?”
Likely it’s because the machine, with its four legs, ever so slightly resembles, and is being called, a dog.
Likely too, it’s because seeing the machine take a violent blow brings to mind how dogs are often mistreated in our society — and how our response to that falls so far short of what we invest in machines that can be used for spying and warfare.
My gut reaction is illogical, and perhaps I shouldn’t be droning on about it. Perhaps it’s silly to get even mildly worked up over robot abuse.
But considering how robots may someday be in as many homes as dogs — and how often I already want to kick my computer — robot abuse may someday become an issue. Maybe, as we did with dogs, we will first create them then abuse them.
As a society, rather than spending all our money on creating new monsters, we should be spending more on looking at those that already exist inside us, and lead us to exhibit violence and so many other undesirable behaviors.
Boston Dynamics released the latest video this week, showing the electrically powered and “hydraulically actuated” robot dog climbing stairs, jogging alongside a human and generally exhibiting its agility. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs. See Spot run.
Watching it — even knowing full well it was a heartless machine — I found myself assigning canine traits to robots (canidaepomorphization?) “Look out. Don’t get so close to the road,” I said to myself. “There should be a fence for those robot dogs.”
What if one was to get run over, say by one of those Google mapping vehicles?
Google Car Hits Google Dog, the headline might say, assuming the story ever got out.
The disclaimer at the end of the video did little to put me at ease: “No robots,” it says, “were harmed in the making of this video.”
This man was having a pretty good chuckle as he took video of his dog slipping and sliding on the ice at Brooklyn’s McGolrick Park
Mere seconds later, he took a dive himself.
We love it when karma works quickly.
In the dog owner’s defense, he apparently cared about his dog enough to equip him with booties. He chuckled again after he took his own fall.
And he had enough humility to post himself getting his comeuppance (or in this case, comedownance) on YouTube.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 11th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, dog, dogs, falling, falls, funny, ice, karma, mcgolrick park, new york, owner, pets, slide, slip, video, walker
I eschew anthropomorphism. I eat meat. I am neither touchy nor feely. Yet even I, a (mostly) cynical and unemotional sort, couldn’t help feeling some emotions rise up in me when watching this video of a Rottweiler seemingly grieving the death of his litter mate.
It was posted on YouTube last month, by a Seattle man who says he awoke to find one of his Rottweilers dead, and the other resting his head atop the deceased dog, refusing to move.
“Clearly you can see in his eyes, he is crying for his brother who had passed as his world around him just crumbled. We both grieve and cry for our brother … This is proof that animals DO have emotions and feel pain just like we do,” Brett Bennett wrote in the YouTube post.
I, being a cynic, question some of that, particularly the crying — I’m not sure dogs shed actual tears of emotion. But I do believe dogs have emotions, and can feel sadness.
What I question much more than whether Brutus is truly grieving, though, is how Bennett is using the video to get online donations to buy himself a house in the country.
On the post, he provides a link to an Indiegogo page he created, seeking donations he says will be used to provide housing for himself (he says he’s homeless) and his dogs (he says he has four).
In fairness, he began the campaign before Hank died in late January, initially seeking enough money for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent required to rent a home.
Since reaching that goal, and since the death of Hank, he has apparently set his sights higher:
Under the headline “Help Grieving Rottweiler Buy a New Home ,” he explains, ”before Hank passed, we had started a fundraiser to help us into a nice warm home and off the streets … We have succeeded in our goal, but have been approached by animal lovers from around the world to reach for the stars and to ask for donations to not rent, but to own a home.
“As everyone knows, it is very hard to rent a place with a Rottweiler or with several rescue animals. It would give us the option to rescue as many animals in need or as possible. Our mission goal, our dream, is to buy a house out in the country, on some acreage, with the ability to freely rescue and foster as many animals that we can…”
I applaud his stated intentions — to rescue more animals — and I have no problem with people who are experiencing hard times seeking the public’s help, or with the public providing it.
But even assuming Bennett and his plea are all on the up and up, it still strikes me as a rather bold request. Asking for help to pay for a life-saving veterinary procedure is one thing; asking us to help buy a house in the country for him and his dogs is quite another. And recording and broadcasting the heartstring-tugging reaction of Brutus to the death of Hank may be laying it on so thick as to border, in my opinion, on exploitation.
(Then again, the same could be said of those ultra-sad ads some animal welfare organizations use in their quests to raise funds.)
“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks, “Please share our story.”
So I’m kind of doing that, with obvious reservations.
Being cynical, I’m a little wary of pleas by dog owners appealing to the public for financial help via crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo. There’s really no way to know — short of playing detective yourself – which ones are legit, and which ones are scams.
With his video of Brutus going viral — more than 2.5 million views as of last weekend — and with it bringing in advertising revenue as well, I suspect Bennett is on his way to amassing a decent down payment, and he’s definitely showing some initiative.
But as with another dog-related story I’ve covered at length, pet cloning, there’s something distasteful about turning people’s tears and grief into big bucks.
Bennett says on his Facebook page for the dogs that he suspects Hank died of a broken heart.
“I’m so sorry you guys … I wasn’t strong enough and had a breakdown in front of the dogs. Hank was right by my side with his Therapy Dog service and grieved with me as I was so upset. He looked so sad. I noticed Hank never came out of his grievance and stopped eating. He was still drinking and nibbling on food so I thought he was okay. A week later Brutus and I awoke to his peaceful body next to us as he passed in the night in his sleep.”
He says the video was shot “about 30 minutes after we woke up and were missing our baby. I normally don’t video record my real life catastrophes or share but decided I needed to send a message to the world and show how much pain my dog was in as he loved his Twin so much.”
Bennett says Brutus is weeping on the video. And, in it, you can hear Bennett sobbing himself. I’m not suggesting any of it is fake. I’m no expert on human emotions, or animal emotions. Is there really any difference between the two? I don’t know, but my hunch is, based on how the video is so blatantly being used to raise money, that it’s the reaction of Brutus that may be more sincere.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, anthropomorphism, campaign, crowdfunding, crying, dog, dogs, emotions, fundraising, grief, grieving, grieving dog video, hel, house, indiegogo, internet, mourning, pets, plea, rottweiler, seattle, video, viral, youtube
The CEO who was drummed out of his job after video surfaced of him mistreating a dog on an elevator has been charged with causing an animal distress.
Desmond Hague, who lost his job last year after the video went public, was head of Centerplate, the food service giant that contracts with stadiums across the country.
He was charged Friday with two civil violations of causing an animal distress. The charges were filed in Provincial Court in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the incident took place — inside a luxury downtown high rise on July 27, 2014.
He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 24, according to U-T San Diego.
Conviction of the charges can carry fines up to $75,000 and two years imprisonment, but it’s considered unlikely that Hague will see any jail time.
The video showed Hague kicking the dog — a one-year-old Doberman pinscher — and jerking her off the ground by her leash.
Around the world, the widely shared video sparked anger among dog lovers and calls for the CEO to be immediately fired.
Hague, who had been walking the dog, named Sade, for a friend, issued a public apology. Centerplate, after its board initially stood behind Hague, placed him on probation and ordered him to take anger management classes, donate $100,000 to a nonprofit to assist abused animals and perform 1,000 hours of community service.
When all of that did little to quell the continuing public outrage, the company forced Hague to resign.
Sade was taken into protective custody, and has since been returned to her owner, said Lorie Chortyk of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Canada.
Hague is not permitted to see Sade under terms of the dog’s release back to her owner, Chortyk said.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 26th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, animals, arenas, british columbia, canada, centerplate, ceo, charged, cruelty, desmond hague, distress, dog, dogs, elevator, fired, food, pets, sade, service, sports, stadiums, surveillance, vancouver, video
We won’t be so anthropomorphic as to insist what you’re watching above is a “tender moment” between two species.
(But we will — privately — feel all warm inside and silently go “awwwwwwww.”)
This seal flopped his way up to a yellow Labrador on a beach in southwestern France and seemingly embraced him — as much as one with flippers can embrace.
The dog, meanwhile, took it all in stride.
The video was shot at Le Cap Ferret and uploaded earlier this month by YouTube user Elise Frebourg.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 22nd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, beach, dog, dog and seal, dog and seal video, dogs, embrace, france, friends, hug, interspecies, labrador, pets, retriever, seal, seal and dog, seal and dog video, seals, species, unlikely friends, video, yellow lab
Three dogs took over ball boy duties at a tennis tournament in New Zealand last week, running down loose balls during a practice match between Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The exhibition match was part of the ASB Classic, the WTA Tour event in Auckland,m according to Yahoo Sports.
Bowing to the superior fetching abilities of dogs, the tournament employed a rescued Bull Mastiff named Oscar, a Border Collie named Ted and a Jack Russell/Norfolk Terrier/Miniature Schnauzer mix named Super Teddy, winner of last year’s New Zealand Clever Canine Competition.
The dogs reportedly were up to the task, sitting silently at the net during points, then taking to the court to capture loose balls — and likely more than a few hearts.
We doubt this is the wave of the future, and suspect ball boys need not worry about losing their jobs to canines, but for one reason only — soggy balls.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 12th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, asb classic, ball boys, dog, dogs, fetching, pets, retreiving, Svetlana Kuznetsova, tennis, tennis balls, venus williams, video, wta
Ten million viewers have listened to the astute ramblings of these “sad dogs” since they were posted on YouTube a year and a half ago by someone calling himself Ze Frank.
“Sad Dog Diary” is the sequel to Sad Cat Diary, and while it’s laden with poop and pee references, it offers some hilarious insights into how dogs might see the world — were they as logical and unexcitable as the moderator who provides their voice.