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Tag: videos

Is Fox News biased (against big dogs)?

Of all the adoptable pet segments we’ve seen on local TV news, this one — featuring a large dog named Titus — might be our favorite.

Right off the bat, we’d say a dog who has been labeled as one who “needs to live alone” — code for not getting along with other dogs — probably shouldn’t appear on a live TV adoption segment with other dogs.

In the video above, Titus appears on the Fox morning show Good Day New York with animal activist Cornelia Guest and two other dogs — “little treasures,” as she calls them, named Arabella and Nonny.

An 8-year-old Saint Bernard, Titus “wants to be the only dog, he doesn’t want to be with other brothers and sisters,” Guest — a vegan, socialite, caterer and animal activist — explains, while holding the two smaller dogs, just a few feet away, in her arms.

Titus, though neither the show hosts nor Guest seem to notice, is sitting like a statue, entirely focused on the two small dogs as the hosts ask Guest what he likes to eat.

It’s right about then that Titus begins advancing in the direction of the smaller dogs — and Guest’s face, just for a moment, takes on the horrified look of someone who is about to be dinner.

Being a Saint Bernard, Titus is not to be swayed, and even though Guest tries to spin out of his way, he still manages to get in a good sniff of one of her little treasures, which is probably all he wanted in the first place.

After that, he’s tugged out of camera range by a stage hand, and remains out of view for the rest of the segment, in which Guest goes on to tout the other dogs — as well as the vegan chocolate chip cookies her company makes.

All this leads us to ask, did Titus get the respect he deserved when he appeared on Good Day New York? It seemed every remark the hosts made about him was based on big dog stereotypes. It seems he was rudely led off camera for merely wanting to satisfy his sniffer.

Might Fox News, in addition to all the others it so closely holds, have a bias against big dogs?

Compare and contrast the first video with how respectfully Titus was treated, and how calmly he behaved, in an earlier adoptable dog segment on New York’s CBS2. He was quiet and reserved — even though there, too, he was paired with another dog.

We won’t go so far as to suggest there is a different, more dog eat dog, more hate and fear mongering vibe in the Fox News studios, and that maybe Titus was picking up on that. (Woops, I think we just did.)

We’ll just say that this proves dogs, unlike Fox News folk, are unpredictable.

Perhaps I’m biased, and perhaps it’s mean to add this, but I definitely detect a higher degree of on-air air-headedness among the Fox hosts than their CBS counterparts.

I base this on their comments, such as:

She: “I hope Titus doesn’t take a bite of your … whiteus.”

He: “I’ve got a new name for him, Cujo.”

He: “This is a great big dog. I think it’s one of those St. Bernards that usually … they have whiskey and they find those stranded mountain hikers.”

He: “Oh, is he not supposed to go near that dog? He’s not biting them is he?”

All that said, and while admitting to our anti-Fox News bias, we think any network, station or news outlet that uses valuable time/space to showcase adoptable dogs can’t be all bad.

Titus is available for adoption at the Humane Society of New York, as are those little treasures, Nonny and Arabella.

Mothers doing what mothers do

So he ain’t no Willie Mays

He isn’t exactly adept at catching airborne snacks in his mouth. Does that mean Fritz the Golden retriever should be made a laughingstock?

Probably not, but welcome to the Internet age, in which dogs (and humans) are more likely to become famous not for doing something right, but for doing something wrong — and the more “epic” the fail the better.

This video was posted on YouTube last week, and since has been reposted on major media websites, and broadcast on TV, like yesterday’s Today Show — all but guaranteeing it will go viral.

We hesitated before even posting it, because in a way we see it as laughing “at” Fritz, who, for all we know, might have a vision problem or other disability.

But we admire his persistence, and the look of determination in his eyes. We admire that far more than we admire the owner, and — assuming Fritz is eating everything thrown at him after it lands on the ground — the unhealthy diet he is providing his dog.

Fritz flubs it when he tries to catch, among other food items, a donut, a slice of pizza, a hot dog (on bun, with mustard), a chimichanga and more.

Not until the very end does he manage to catch an item — what appears to be a french fry.

The YouTube post provides few details, so we can only hope this was videotaped over time, as opposed to all in one day — for the sake of Fritz’s stomach, and his owner’s carpeting.

Woof in Advertising: Utterly unskippable

You know, probably all too well, those intrusive and uninvited advertisements that often precede viewing the videos you want to view on the Internet.

They are known as “pre-roll ads,” and I always do my best to make them disappear — both in terms of the videos I put on ohmidog!, and in terms of my own home viewing. I skip them the millisecond YouTube permits me to.

This one though, I’ve watched ten times, in its entirety.

The first five seconds of the Geico ad shows an all-too-typical family enjoying an all-too-typical spaghetti dinner, with the wife bragging about saving money on her insurance bill before the ad seems to culminate, at the five-second mark, in what at first appears to be an all-too-typical freeze frame.

That, as the family remains frozen — or at least tries to — is where the Saint Bernard comes in.

wia

He eats spaghetti off the dad’s fork, climbs atop the table and clears the daughter’s plate, passes over the salad and spills a glass of milk as he proceeds to the the son’s plate, devouring its contents. Then he plunges his snout  into the serving dish mom is holding.

The ad doesn’t really make me want to find out if 15 seconds can save me 15 percent on my insurance bill, but it’s brilliant — and further proof that dogs have a way of holding our attention, especially dogs behaving badly.

The ad was filmed in Los Angeles last month, and the dog, whose real name is Bolt, is a Saint Bernard mix.

If you find it impossible to skip, that was exactly the goal — to keep people riveted, even though it’s a form of advertising most of us detest.

“We call these unskippable,” Joe Alexander, chief creative officer at The Martin Agency, told USA Today. The agency has created three other mock freeze-frame Geico spots.

“Our goal is to bring attention to Geico in a space that is often hated,” he said.

(You can find more of our “Woof  in Advertising” posts — about how marketers use dogs in advertising — here.)

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (it used to be above but was removed from YouTube) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

Hopeless dogs? Think again

There are plenty of rescue groups that likely do as good a job saving, rehabilitating and re-homing stray dogs as Hope For Paws.

But there is probably none better than that Los Angeles-based non-profit at documenting what they do on video.

Above is their latest rescue video — that of a pit bull, since named Bunny,  found abandoned on some government property. Shy, skittish and — even we’d admit — looking a little intimidating, she was lured in with hamburgers and trapped in a crate.

Not until she’s transported to safety and let out of the crate do we get the answer to the question that — in addition to the beautiful camera work — keeps us watching: How is she going to react, close up, with a member of the species that treated her so rudely?

Therein lies the beauty of the Hope For Paws videos, and the beauty of dogs.

Bunny, who apparently experienced little kindness in life — with the exception of one good Samaritan who would drop her off some food while she was living in the wild — doesn’t just give humans a second chance, she becomes an instant, gentle, trusting and tail-wagging friend.

After a few shy sniffs, she was resting her head on the laps of her rescuers.

Bunny is now up for adoption through Sevadog, an Oregon organization that helps dogs find forever homes. Hope For Paws often teams up with other rescues. In Bunny’s case, three were involved, including the group Rescue From the Hart, which notified Hope For Paws about the dog’s situation.

Hope For Paws went to the site, found the dog and got her veterinary care — shooting video the whole time.

The videos, which get millions of views on YouTube, help raise funds for the organization, and melt our hearts in the process. But they also bring attention to the issue of stray and homeless dogs, and remind us that, no matter how rough shape a being might be in, hope and love can conquer all.

The Internet age has seen us all become more adept at touting ourselves — as individuals, as non-profit organizations, as corporations. There are downsides to that. One is how easy it has become to mislead the masses. Another is the danger that we all end up spending 10 percent of our time on a project, and 90 percent of our time touting what we’ve done.

On the other hand, for a non-profit organization, showing the public what it does, in a way that touches the heart, can be a key to survival.

So, all things considered, we hope the Hope For Paws videos keep coming, and we urge you to take at some of the others by clicking the link in this paragraph.

You’ll see some dogs in pretty horrid shape, like this one found living in a landfill, but you’ll also get transported from sad to happy on your way to the final destination — hope.

Run-on sentience: Are we going way overboard in attributing emotions to dogs?

Lately, it seems, hardly a month goes by without either some viral video or paper-writing scientist suggesting that — contrary to what scientists and the media think we think — dogs feel emotions much like our own, or at least a doggy version of them.

If it’s not a video, like the one above  – which is being described in the news media as a dog not just feeling remorse, but atoning for his misdeed —  it’s a new scientific paper proclaiming, yes, dogs do feel … you name it … joy, fear, anger, guilt, pride, compassion, love, shame.

(If you didn’t already think dogs feel joy, you may not be the world’s most perceptive person.)

(Some, apparently, get so overwhelmed by it that they pass out.)

This month’s emotion? Jealousy.

Dr. Christine Harris, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego — after a study involving dogs, their owners, stuffed animals,  jack-o’-lantern and children’s books – concluded that dogs showed a “primordial” form of jealousy, meaning, I guess, not as evolved, twisted, complex, nasty and, sometimes, fatal as the human form.

According to an article in the New York Times, the dog version of jealousy is “not as complex as the human emotion, but similar in that there is a social triangle and the dog is trying to make sure it, not the rival, receives the attention.”

In the study, as it’s described in a a PLoS One paper co-written by Harris, researchers compared the reactions of dogs when their owners petted and talked to a jack-o’-lantern, read a children’s book aloud, and petted and talked to a stuffed toy dog that barked and whined.

The dogs paid little attention to the jack-o’-lantern or the book. But when dog owners petted and talked to the stuffed dog, their dogs reacted, coming over, pushing their noses into the owner or stuffed dog, sometimes barking, and sniffing the rear end of the stuffed dog.

I’m not sure that’s proof of jealousy — it could just be proof that dogs are smart enough to investigate when humans are trying to dupe them. On top of that, most dogs have experience playing with stuffed toys, as opposed to plastic pumpkins and children’s books. So it’s not too astonishing they would have a more excited reaction to them.

SONY DSCIn that way, the findings of this study aren’t really too surprising, or revealing, but they are indicative, I think, of a trend — in the scientific community, in the news media, and among normal members of society — of seeing dogs more and more as humans.

The “dogs feel jealousy” study, for example — flimsy as its findings sound — was picked up by most major news organizations.

“Study: Jealousy Is So Universal Even Dogs Feel It,” reported the New York Times.

“Study: Dogs Can Feel Jealous, Too,” said a CNN headline.

At least NPR phrased their headline as a question: “Does Your Dog Feel Jealous, Or Is That A Purely Human Flaw?”

These days, the news media doesn’t need a legitimate study to draw sweeping conclusions; a viral video will do.

The video at the top of this post has been shared — if not actually reported on with any depth — on news websites from Alabama to India.

The headlines all presume to know what the beagle is feeling, and some go so far as to explain the goal of his behavior as well: “I’m Sorry! Charlie the guilty dog showers crying baby with gifts to apologize for stealing her toy,” reads the headline in The Daily Mail.

acecouchAmazing the conclusions reporters and headline writers can reach nowadays — and the mind reading they can do — usually without ever stepping away from their computer.

My problem is not with attributing emotions to dogs. I believe they have most of the ones we do, or at least most of the desirable ones. I believe they have other magical gifts and skills we haven’t even begun to figure out. I believe studying what’s going on in their heads is a good thing — at least when it’s done by dog experts. I can even handle a little anthropomorphization; given we’re humans we tend to interpret things in human terms.

What bothers me, for starters, is presenting such findings as new, when dog owners have known most of them all along. Sometimes, it’s as if scientists and the news media are saying, oh wait, we’ve discovered dogs are not unfeeling blobs of fur, after all. Well, duh.

The problem I have is not so much ascribing emotions to dogs as it is the vanity of assuming emotions are something only humans feel.

SONY DSCFeel free, scientists, to study jealousy in dogs. And feel free to study it in humans. And feel free to compare and contrast the two.

And feel free as well, video posters, to share your dog’s interesting and seemingly human-like behavior, and to offer any theories you might have.

But let’s not leap to wild conclusions, based on how things look through our human eyes. Let’s not forget that dogs have had emotions all along. Let’s not assume they are “catching up” with us in terms of their emotions and behaviors. Maybe they’ve been ahead of us all along.

And let’s not be so surprised — given the centuries man has been choreographing their evolution, and the half century or so they’ve been mostly living inside with us — that they’re picking up some of our habits, good and bad.

While we’re at it, let’s let dogs remain, at least in part, dogs.

Let’s keep in mind, during all this, what we can learn from them. Are dogs lagging behind us, in terms of developing a sense of jealousy, or are they exhibiting a purer form of what we homo sapiens have taken to ridiculous extremes?

And let’s at least keep our minds open to the possibility that, when it comes to what dog and man can learn from each other,  we may not always be the teachers, or the role models, in that equation.

(Photos: Ace in Monterey, California, at home on the couch, and with a panhandler in Portland, Maine; by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

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