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Tag: videos

Are there too many dogs on the Internet?

image001Depictions of dogs, as any one who has ever read the wall of a prehistoric cave knows, date back to well before ancient times.

Pharaohs commissioned artworks of their favorite pets. Portrayals of hunting and images of medieval banquets often featured dogs in the background or foreground. In the Victorian-era, aristocrats hired painters to make portraits of themselves and their pooches.

As the 20th Century dawned, as humans came to live ever closer to the species, artists seized upon the idea of depicting dogs dressed in human attire and doing human things, bringing us such classes artworks as the inimitable (but often imitated) work, Dogs Playing Poker.

Well before photography went digital, before somebody flicked that World Wide Web switch on, dog depictions were being shared — if not as instantly, often, ridiculously and (often) demaningly as they are today on the Internet, and social media in particular.

Even in my earliest days in journalism, back in the 1970’s, I remember some newspapers had a pet writer — someone who penned a pet column, usually weekly. He or she was commonly an older person who performed mostly clerical duties, maybe a secretary for some top editor, who, due to his or her love for dogs, had volunteered for the task, likely at no increase in pay.

He or she would probably feature a dog in need of adoption every week, or write about pet care and training, or simply ask readers to submit photos of their pets for publication — an opportunity many readers seized, sending actual photos through actual mail.

One of the differences between then and now — a time when many a website is telling you how much they would like to see photos of your dog — is that the old clerk/pet writer’s request for photos was more than likely at least partly sincere.

pokerThose folks who want to see your dog’s photo now? Almost always, they are after something else. You can trust them about as much as the bulldog sneaking an ace to his friend in that painting to the left there.

Pet food websites, pet toy websites, even (we hate to admit it) pet news websites will commonly beg you for a photo of your pooch — not because anyone actually wants to see it, but because they want to get you on their email lists, get you “registered,” introduce you to their products and enlist your loyalty.

They want, more than anything, your money, and like many other businesses that want your money, they will gladly deceive you and try to capitalize on your love for/pride in your pet:

“We’d love to see a photo of your dog!”

Yeah, right.

I’m not here today to say that there are too many dogs on the Internet — even if never before in the history of man have we been so saturated with dog photos and images. The more the merrier, I say.

But I would argue there is too much dog exploitation and too much dog ridicule on the Internet, much of it carried out via those “adorable” photos of your “fur baby” — sometimes by profit-making concerns, sometimes by dog owners themselves.

Compare and contrast, if you will, our old, likely unpaid, pet columnist with someone like Matt Nelson, who is making a six figure annual salary by posting photos sent in by readers, along with a comment and a numerical rating (based on the dog, not the photo) at @dog_rates.

He is not taking any photos. He is not buying any photos. He’s really not doing much work at all, other than accumulating followers. He is merely sharing other people’s photos on Twitter — and managing to make a handsome living from it.

Nelson — profiled by Money magazine recently — dropped out of college once he saw how popular his dog photo sharing Twitter page had become:

There, WeRateDogs’ operations are relatively simple. Nelson estimates he runs 95 percent of things from his iPhone (which, yes, he confirms, does require a massive data plan to handle all the dog photos). He has two remote employees: Ricci, who culls submissions down to about 20 each day, and Tyler Macke, who manages the WeRateDogs online store. His dad, an executive director of a law firm, advises him on finances.

Nelson says he brings in “a low five figures” every month. At minimum, that puts him over $100,000 a year.

Thanks, Money magazine, for doing the math for us.

While Nelson may not be doing much original or creative work, at least his pursuit is mostly cute and kind and well meaning.

20151016_181413-e1522168748576Other dog photo sharing websites are more distasteful to me — dogshaming.com, in particular.

It features photos of dogs who have misbehaved, along with hand-made signs — all submitted by readers.

But perhaps most troubling of all are the photos and videos that individuals post to their Facebook page showing their dogs doing distinctly human things.

Alexandra Horowitz, the author and researcher who has spent her career seriously studying and trying to understand dogs — despite what seems to be society’s preference to see them as dress-up dolls, movie characters with human voices, or (apologies to those who use the term) “fur babies” — made note of the phenomena in last week’s New York Times Opinion section.

In it, she asked the question:

“Why can’t I stand to look at one more photo of a ‘funny dog?'”

She continued, “In a typical image, the dog is posed in a distinctly person-like way, as if on the phone, seated at a table or wearing headphones and dressed up in human attire — glasses, a dog-size suit and tie, even pantyhose.”

” … These dogs are but furry emoji: stand ins for emotions and sentiment. Each representation diminishes this complex, impressive creature to an object of our most banal imagination,” Horowitz wrote. “Such treatment may not be mortifying to the dog, perhaps … but it is degrading to the species.”

Only the most extreme examples of making our dogs look ridiculous receive any sort of backlash — primarily from people who see the pet as being abused. Like this one on Twitter. Go to the link and read all the comments and you almost think, maybe people are coming to their senses.

It bugs me that society is this way — that it took a species, molded it to its liking, and continually foists its own likeness and peculiarities upon it. It bugs me what people will put their dog through to achieve a Facebook post or Halloween costume that makes their friends laugh. It bothers me that some people are getting rich off it.

It’s like we were blessed with an original Mona Lisa, and 85 percent of us want to draw a mustache on it slap it on their own personal billboard.

Somebody needs to grow up, and it’s not the dogs.

(Photos: At top, The Feast of Dives, about 1510–20, Master of James IV of Scotland, the J. Paul Getty Museum); lower, one of the many reproductions of Dogs Playing Poker, by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, other photos via Twitter)

Dogs herding sheep, as seen from above

Counting imaginary sheep has never worked as a sleep aid for me, but maybe that’s because I always visualized them at ground level.

A bird’s-eye view (or drone’s-camera, in this case) is something entirely different, and quite fantastic. It may not be sleep-inducing, but it is definitely soothing and mesmerizing.

This footage of dogs herding sheep in New Zealand, captured by a camera-equipped drone, is from Tim Whitaker, a filmmaker and aerial photographer in New Zealand. It was taken at a farm in Rangitikei.

As for the choreography, we can thank dog for that.

As the dogs direct them, the massive herd of sheep wash over the green hills like a wave, spreading and narrowing as they make their way to the destination.

Beautiful as this footage is, it raises the unfortunate question: If you’ve got the drones, do you need the dogs?

(The answer — at least until drones start cuddling and looking up at us with big soulful eyes — is yes.)

That’s not to say drones can’t herd dogs. Paul Brennan of Carlow, Ireland, employed a drone nicknamed “Shep” a couple of years ago to herd sheep from one field to another, capturing the process as Shep saw it from the air.

Unlike the video at the top of this post, it’s not nearly as peaceful and soul-enriching — but maybe that’s just the fast-motion pace and the Benny Hill music.

Bethenny Frankel makes and posts video as her dog goes into seizures

Bethenny Frankel’s need for attention reached new heights over the weekend when she made and posted a video of her dog having a seizure, instead of trying to do anything about it.

The video shows the dog convulsing during what she described as a 45-minute seizure.

During most of the original video Frankel cried and shrieked: “Help me, what do we do? Help us … I don’t know what to do … Someone help me I don’t know what to do…”

“Do I take her to a vet? … What do I do?” she asked, wiping tears off her face. “My daughter’s watching this and we have to do something. The vet is 40 minutes away … I’m in a bad place.”

frankelThe reality TV star posted some additional videos after that, explaining that she felt there was no place to turn — except to her 1.5 million Instagram followers.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare everybody, but my daughter and I have been watching the dog have seizures for 45 minutes … The hospital is so far I don’t think we can make it.

“Anyone wondering why I’m doing this on social can fuck off, because all my friends are asleep … I’m freaking out. Why is this happening. I don’t think I can take this.”

Frankel shared the series of videos Saturday.

Later, she took her 17-year-old dog, Cookie, to a vet, where she died over the weekend.

Frankel issued a tweet about the death Monday: “My @cookiedabooboo is gone. Bless her furry heart.”

Frankel has appeared on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” “The Real Housewives of New York City,” “Skating with the Stars,” and was the subject of the reality television series “Bethenny Ever After.” Her talk show, “Bethenny,” premiered in 2013 and was canceled in 2014. She also has written several books, and launched her own line of “Skinny Girl” meals. In 2009, she posed nude for a PETA billboard.

Clearly, she’s someone who loves being in the limelight, and is not above shining it on herself through social media.

This time, it was a pretty unflattering light she portrayed herself in — and it was downright revolting in the view of those who are left to wonder why her hysterics, and the self-made video, took precedence over her dog’s well-being.

Former racing greyhounds to find adoptive homes after Texas blood bank shuts down

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That Texas operation that held retired racing greyhounds in captivity to regularly harvest and sell their blood is shutting down.

PETA exposed neglectful conditions at the blood farm this fall and has been campaigning hard for its closure — going so far as to put up billboards, engage in protests and even buy a share of stock in the company it sold blood to.

The Pet Blood Bank, located northwest of Austin, is one of several commercial blood banks in the United States with an in-house “colony” of dogs used to supply blood for veterinary treatments, according to the Washington Post blog Animalia.

An attorney for the blood bank said in a statement Thursday that the closing was a “business decision” made because the PETA campaign had “caused our long-standing customer relationships to be terminated.”

The National Greyhound Association and other dog-racing advocacy organizations said they were working with regional greyhound adoption groups and the Pet Blood Bank to place all of the 150 greyhounds now housed there up for adoption.

“We’re confident that every greyhound at the blood bank will be on its way to a loving new home within the next few days,” said Jim Gartland, the association’s executive director.”

Last month, PETA obtained photos and videos from a former company employee showing dogs confined in squalid quarters and, in some cases, left to suffer from painful injuries and dental disease.

The blood bank’s owner, Shane Altizer, denied the allegations.

PETA aimed its campaign primarily at Patterson Veterinary, the Minnesota-based company that the blood bank was a provider for. It held protests at the company headquarters and the home of the CEO of its parent group. It bought billboards, and one share of stock in Patterson Companies “to put pressure on the billion-dollar enterprise.”

Operations like the Pet Blood Bank sell their products to veterinary clinics or supply companies, and greyhounds — because members of the breed often have a universal blood type — are commonly used as donors.

The banks are not regulated by the federal government, and California is the only state that regulates them.

In a statement on Thursday, President Ingrid Newkirk said PETA would “work hard to get regulations passed to ensure all blood for emergency transfusions comes from real donors and not from imprisoned, miserable dogs.”

(Photo: PETA)

A horrible dog story you may want to avoid

camfacebook

If you’re the type of person who shields yourself from accounts of dogs being treated with extreme cruelty, go away right now and come back tomorrow.

If you’re the type of person whose blood literally boils when you read about animal abuse — and you’d prefer your blood not to boil — go away right now.

Because what’s now clear happened last week to a veteran’s PTSD dog in North Carolina, at the hands of that veteran, isn’t easily stomached — even if we spare you the videos posted on Facebook.

Horrendous as it is, we are sharing it here — in honor of that dog’s memory, in the interest of justice for that dog, and because sometimes, futile as the effort might be, it’s important to at least try to understand the un-understandable.

An ex-soldier who told Facebook friends she had found a new home for her PTSD dog, Cam, actually took the dog into the woods around Fayetteville, where she and her boyfriend shot him multiple times, execution style.

They made a video of it, complete with giggles, which can now be found on Facebook.

“They can be heard on the tape laughing and giggling as the dog was being killed,” Cumberland County District Attorney Clark Reaves said at the couple’s first court appearance on Tuesday.

rollinshengMarinna Rollins, who is 23, and Jarren Heng, who is 25, have each been charged with cruelty to animals and conspiracy, according to the The Fayetteville Observer.

The dog had been adopted two years earlier by Rollins’ husband shortly after the couple separated. Rollins’ husband called the pit bull mix Huey, and described him as a great and loving dog who once chased burglars away from his home.

When Rollins’ husband learned he was being assigned to South Korea, he said Rollins cried and begged him to let her keep Huey, and he agreed.

rollinsWhile he was in South Korea, Marinna Rollins changed Huey’s name to Camboui, or Cam for short. She also had him certified as an emotional support animal for post-traumatic stress disorder — a diagnosis she had received.

Rollins had joined the Army in February of 2014 and served as a multimedia illustrator before medically retiring from the Army in January of 2017.

Heng had been part of a unit that serves the Army Special Operations Command.

It was just this month that Rollins began posting on Facebook in an attempt to find Cam a new home. She told a friend that caring for him was too expensive.

On April 17, she posted that she had a great last day with Cam and that he was going to a new home.

“Sad he has to go, but he will be much happier where he is heading off to,” Rollins wrote on Facebook.

Heng replied to Rollins’ Facebook post with a smiley-face emoji and the words, “He’s going to have such a great new life.”

Much of what happened after that was captured in photos and videos taken by Rollins and Heng.

hengCourt documents reveal that Heng and Rollins took Cam to an unknown wooded area. Both wore their Army camouflage pants and boots. Heng is pictured shirtless and Rollins wore a pink polka-dotted bra. They sipped Coca Colas and joked as they tied the dog to a tree.

Rollins shot Cam in the head, and then several more times, before Heng asked for a turn and handed her the camera.

“Let me hit him once,” Heng said.

According to court documents, they took photographs of the execution and at least three videos.

Rollins then dragged Cam’s dead body around before shoving him in a shallow grave.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, in the course of the investigation, found the videos, photos and text messages between the two discussing the shooting.

Although it’s not clear how they got there, the photos and videos ended up on a Justice for Cam Facebook page, described as “a page set up in the memory of an Emotional Support Animal that was brutally murdered by his owner and her boyfriend.”

Bail was initially set at $5,000 for Heng and at $10,000 for Rollins, but prosecutors later had it increased to $25,000 each “due to aggravating factors and the cruel nature of the case.”

“We will work diligently to seek justice in this case,” Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said. “What we do know about the case is disturbing.”

(Photos from the Justice for Cam Facebook page)

It’s all good, American Humane CEO says

Suddenly, it seems, that video of a dog being coerced into a pool during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose” is not so “disturbing” at all.

When the video was first leaked, by TMZ, even the makers of the movie — all avoiding any responsibility for what might have happened — all said at least some aspects of it appeared disturbing.

But in the week leading up to the film’s release, the reassurances that nothing bad happened have poured out — from the author of the popular book of the same name, from the star of the movie, Dennis Quaid, from its producer, even from Ellen Degeneres.

And now even the CEO of the non-profit organization that is supposedly “investigating” the incident(s) seems to be saying — before the investigation is even concluded — that nothing inappropriate happened.

Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association — the agency that monitors the safety of animals in movie productions — said in a piece written for Variety that the leaked video was “misleading” and “edited” and reflects no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

“The beautiful story opens at the box office this weekend mired in controversy stemming from the release of an edited video manipulated in an effort to mischaracterize the behind-the-scenes treatment of the film’s four-legged stars,” she wrote.

The film’s official release date is today.

The viral video has provoked a call for a boycott of the movie by PETA, and some conflicting feelings even among dog lovers — both those who insist the German shepherd, named Hercules, is being mistreated, and those who say the edited video is not to be trusted.

The video shows the dog being nudged and coerced to get into a churning pool of water. He had performed the stunt gladly in rehearsals, but the location of where he was entering the pool had been changed on the day of filming.

He clearly resists getting in, and struggles to get out during the first 45 seconds of the video. Another piece of video was edited onto that, showing the dog, on a different day, swimming in the pool before going underwater, at which point someone yells “cut it” and the dog is helped out of the pool.

To restate our take on all this: That second snippet of video is too short, out of context and blurry to draw any conclusions from. The first 45 seconds, in our view, shows a dog being pushed more than a dog performing a stunt in a movie should be pushed. The stunt was called off that day, but not soon enough.

Is that a crime? No. Should it result in the movie being boycotted? We vote no, but that’s up to you. Should there be repercussions — say a warning, or a fine? Probably, but the agency that would impose that appears to have already made up its mind.

Should the makers of the movie, somewhere along the line, admit to an iota of responsibility for what was a small mistake on the set of the movie they were making? Should they make some amends, maybe offering a percentage of opening week receipts to dog-related charities (likely not PETA)?

Well, that would be classy — a whole lot classier than circling the wagons, denying responsibility, and launching a public relations effort to rescue, not a dog, but their movie.

Yesterday, Dennis Quaid defended the movie on The Today Show, and then did the same on Ellen.

Meanwhile, in her piece for Variety, Ganzert acknowledged that the dog “appeared to show signs of resistance” to getting in the water. The rest of the piece is a defense of the movie, a diatribe against PETA and more questioning of why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was taken.

But what about those 45 seconds?

“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) swiftly called for a boycott of the film, and has since continued to exploit — and further sensationalize — the controversy as an opportunity to argue that the animal actors who enchant and educate audiences don’t belong on the Silver Screen,” Ganzert continued.

But what about those 45 seconds?

“A full spectrum of rigorous safety measures was in place to protect the dog throughout this particular scene,” she added. “In addition to one of American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives, five individuals –including scuba divers and animal handlers — were present on the set at the time to ensure the safety of the dog.”

But what about those 45 seconds?

Here is what I would like to hear from the AHA — were the methods used trying to get Hercules in the water during those 45 seconds acceptable to them? Was the level of stress the dog was allowed to reach acceptable? Should a dog be allowed to get stressed at all during the filming of a movie stunt?

AHA suspended the monitor it had assigned to the film pending the results of the “third-party” investigation it says has been launched.

But with the publication of his Variety article, it’s pretty clear what Ganzert and the AHA want that “ongoing” investigation to find.

Dog’s can’t talk. Dogs don’t have a union. If the American Humane Association has appointed itself as their guardian in Hollywood — and is soliciting our donations to carry out that mission — we’d like to think it is objective, vigilant and doesn’t give a hot damn about the profit margins of movie makers.

In that respect, Ganzert’s article, on the eve of the movie’s release, is not too reassuring.

As for the movie’s makers, we’d like to think that your production treated dogs in a manner as sweet as your movie’s message and that, if you didn’t, even in small way that has been blown out of proportion, you are at least a little bit sorry it.

A 2017 resolution on those silly dog videos

Have you resolved to spend less time watching funny dog videos in the New Year?

Or more?

This one, for instance, will take up 45 seconds to watch, and you’ll never get that time back. On the other hand, it’ll probably make you smile.

We’d suggest devoting the amount of time to watching silly dog videos that seems right to you.

If you’re in need of saving some time, we’d suggest not reading the text that accompanies silly dog videos, because they most often just describe what you’ve just watched, in a very wordy manner, throwing in lots of description but no facts you haven’t already discerned from watching the video you just watched.

Here’s an example from the Daily Mail, one of many media outlets that scour the internet for pet videos they think have viral potential, and then put together — based on no other facts — some words to fill space. (If that weren’t repetitious enough, they generally post numerous stills, taken from the video they just showed you.)

So as you watch this dachshund joyfully consume the bright yellow banana he holds between his paws while lying on his back, keep all that in mind.

And know we resolve — firmly, as with all our resolutions — to never fall victim to that practice.