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
Here’s a video that has been posted and reposted to YouTube in recent days, showing a shiba inu (or is it a golden retriever?) in Thailand (or is it Taiwan?) trying to save (or bury?) a fish out of water.
Yes, we humans are at it again. We all think we know — despite the lack of any factual foundation, despite living on the opposite side of the planet, despite being of another species, despite our inability to get straight what few facts there are — what this dog is doing, and why he’s doing it.
How do we know? Because we’re humans, dammit.
On its surface, through human eyes, it seems a most touching scene — as if the dog, by splashing water on the lifeless fish, and nudging it with his nose, is trying to revive it. (All this, we’d note, as humans stand by idly, giggling and taking video.)
And maybe that’s exactly what he’s doing.
But we do not know that.
We don’t know that, and yet, in our vanity, we are willing to express our interpretation as indisputable fact — whether we are the original observer, a watcher of the video, or a blogger in search of hits.
“This Dog Trying To Save A Fish Will Make You Say Aww” reports BuzzFeed
“Kindest Dog Ever Tries to Save Fishes by Splashing them with Water!” says the Inquisitr.
I’ve bemoaned this phenomenon before, and will bemoan it again — because it’s a little presumptious, and a little vain, to proclaim we know what’s motivating the behavior of animals. And it’s a little disingenuous of us to to let ourselves be moved to tears based on a rash, and possibly erroneous, interpetration.
It’s as if we don’t want to let facts or reason get in the way of our “awwwws,” or when something is going viral.
The video, and snippets thereof, have been posted on YouTube by dozens, all it seems in the last couple of days.
One of those post reads, “In the city of Phetchaburi in Thailand, a dog discovered the fish out of the water and unconscious on the pavement. It will try not to let them die by spraying water with its snout. Besides the fish are few puddles. The dog will then sprinkle the fish, as if he wished they would not die. Touching!”
The original poster of the video, or at least someone claiming to be such, explained on LiveLeak “Hello we took this video on a short trip to asia. The dog here … hangs out at the docks (and) is trying to keep the fish alive. He understands they need water to live and it made me a little sad inside.”
(A short trip to Asia? Could they be less specific?)
Others who have posted the video say it happened in Taiwan. Some describe the dog as a golden retriever; others suspect it’s a shiba inu, but they all agree the dog is engaged in a valiant rescue effort.
Some of those commenting on YouTube are pointing out that may not be the case:
“Sorry to burst your bubble but.. the Dog isn’t trying to save the fish. He think’s he is burying it. He’s using the water to bury it but doesn’t realize that water is not dirt, and hence he cannot successfully do the job properly. Canines are not intellectual enough to know that a fish needs water to breathe or survive.”
Others — caught up in the “awwww” of it all — refuse to accept that theory, or even consider it: “He is trying to save the fish,” asserts one. “He’s nudging it with his nose at 0:39. He’s trying to get the fish to move again and doesn’t understand why it won’t.”
There’s nothing wrong with speculation — as long as we admit it’s speculation, and don’t get too carried away by it.
Here’s mine. Assuming this dog is a regular at the wharf, maybe he discovered one day that he could revive dying fish by splashing them with water, and maybe he remembers that. Maybe he is trying to get them to move again. Maybe that’s because death saddens him, or maybe it’s because they’re more fun to play with when they’re flopping around.
Most of us are taught — in school, and in training for careers — to avoid using the word “maybe,” as it could maybe make us appear uncertain and plagued by self-doubt, the sort of person who would flip flop.
Not to splash water in your face, but I think, just maybe, that’s a mistake.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, awwww, buzzfeed, certainty, docks, dog, dog and fish, dog trying to save fish, dogs, emotions, fish, fish and dog, humans, internet, interpretations, maybe, pets, reality, rescue, revive, save, speculation, taiwan, thailand, truth, video, viral, websites
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.
In 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 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.
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.
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!)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 30th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, anthropomorphization, cognition, dog, dogs, emotions, feelings, guilt, internet, jealousy, media, news, pets, pop culture, remorse, science, society, studies, study, trend, videos, viral, what dogs feel
A family in western Pennsylvania says their schnauzer got so excited about seeing their daughter for the first time in two years that she passed out — the schnauzer, that is.
A video of the reunion was posted on YouTube four days ago.
Rebecca Svetina and her husband, Miha, have been living in Slovenia and returned home to have a wedding reception at the home of Rebecca’s parents in Murrysville.
Miha was recording the reunion to show his relatives overseas how excited Casey gets when Rebecca returns home, but this time, something happened that never happened before – Casey passed out.
“We never expected her to pass out, but luckily she’s fine,” Rebecca told WTAE in Pittsburgh.
“I think our hearts stopped a little bit as well until she came back and started running around, and we knew everything would be OK,” said Miha.
Both were surprised when the video of the 9-year-old schnauzer went viral — approaching 17 million views by this morning — and prompting calls from news organizations around the world.
The next day, we woke up to a crazy day. The views went sky high,” Miha Svetina said. “It’s so genuine. It’s so cute. There are so many things going on in the world. People are actually excited when they see something so nice and dogs are just awesome.”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 28th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, casey, dog, dogs, emotions, faints, family, murrysville, passed out, passes out, pennsylvania, pets, rebecca svetina, reunion, reunions, schnauzer, slovenia, video, viral, viral video
The California mayor caught on video flinging a bag of dog poop into a neighbor’s yard has resigned.
Dennis Kneier’s resignation as mayor of San Marino — he’ll remain on the city council — came amid mounting criticism about his behavior in what some have dubbed “Poopgate.”
About 100 community members attended a June 11 city council meeting, where some residents called for Kneier’s resignation.
He offered it, effective immediately, yesterday.
The controversy began after Kneier’s neighbor Philip Lao discovered the small bag of dog poop outside his home.
He reviewed video from his home’s surveillance cameras, which showed Kneier tossing the bag.
San Marino police cited Kneier for littering that same day, and the video, which Lao shared publicly, went viral.
Lao — apparently not good buddies with Kneier — believes the mayor intentionally tossed the bag in retribution for putting a “No Poop Zone” sign outside his home and publicly opposing a proposed dog park, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Our take on all this? We think his honor behaved childishly, and less than honorably, but we also think — when it comes to the amounts of shit politicians routinely sling — Kneier’s poop-pitching was probably both less heinous and less harmful than much of what, historically, has been hurled.
In San Marino, Vice Mayor Eugene Sun will assume mayoral responsibilities through June 27 when the council is scheduled to meet and select a new mayor. Kneier will remain on the City Council until his term ends in November 2015.
In his letter of resignation, Kneier apologized, saying he suffered a moment of bad judgment.
“I thought it would be the very best thing for us to move forward and have a reorganization and have a new mayor,” he said in an interview with NBC in Los Angeles.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bag, california, city council, dennis kneier, dog, dog park, dog poop, dogs, littering, mayor, neighbor, no poop zone, pets, philip lao, politics, poop, resignation, resigned, resigns, san marino, surveillance, tossed, video, viral
“First Kiss,” a video of strangers kissing, has become an Internet sensation.
Like a lot of Internet sensations, it’s kind of stupid, mostly staged, and less than fully honest.
But that hasn’t kept it from being shared by millions, and becoming — in less than a week — the subject of many video parodies, including a dog version we’ll show you in a minute.
It was just last week that “First Kiss” appeared on the Internet, showing, or so it appeared, newly introduced couples — after much foot-shuffling and awkwardness — locking lips on camera.
It garnered more than 30 million views in less than three days, and many viewers, based on comments, found it sweet and heartwarming, almost pure, in a tongue-sucking kind of way.
Director Tatia Pilieva posted the short film on YouTube on March 10, with little explanation. The post didn’t clearly point out the film was an advertisement for a clothing brand’s 2014 line, but said only: ”We asked twenty strangers to kiss for the first time.”
It was a couple of days later that WREN, a Los Angeles womenswear brand, admitted on Twitter that the video was an advertisement, and most of its kissers were actors and models.
Some bloggers went so far to ask if that constituted a “hoax.” Others viewed it as a legitimate “filmvertisement,” and its makers explained they were just trying to make something artistic and interesting.
“We make these fashion films every season,” said WREN founder Melissa Coker. “I strive to make them an interesting film that exists on its own rather than something that feels like a commercial, and it seems to be touching people — not only people who are in fashion and would see this, but also random guys who aren’t connected at all.”
That apparently left some feeling a bit manipulated.
“Knowing it’s an ad is initially forgivable until you realize that the majority of the people kissing are actors and models,” commented a blogger on the website Fstoppers. “Then the veil of whimsy is gone and all that’s left is another well planned, viral advertisement and our suspension of disbelief.”
We wouldn’t go so far as to call “First Kiss” a hoax, and sneaky advertising isn’t anything new. While television, radio and newspapers are all pretty good at passing off advertising as editorial content these days, the Internet makes it simpler than ever — both to disguise advertising and get it published or broadcast for free.
The Internet can also take credit for a rebirth in parodies, many of which have been made of “First Kiss” already — some in better taste than others.
Our favorite, of course, is “First Sniff,” the doggie version, produced by another ad agency, Mother London. Even though it’s staged, its actors aren’t acting — just being their butt-sniffing selves.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 17th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: advertisement, advertising, animals, butt, clothing, dogs, film, filmvertisement, first, first kiss, first sniff, internet sensation, kiss, kissing, kissing dogs, line, marketing, melissa coker, parodies, parody, people, pets, sniffing, tatia pilieva, video, viral, womenswear, wren
You know how frustrated you get when you have to tell your dog something over and over again?
Come here. Come HERE. Listen to me. Get over here right now. Don’t make me say it again. COME HERE!
In this video, the shoe is sort of on the other paw.
John Ventresco, of New Hampshire, is trying to persuade his 11-month-old husky, Blaze, to get into her crate.
Not only does Blaze physically (but peacefully) resist, refusing to budge, but she says what sounds like “no” — 30 times by my count, at least 10 of those quite clearly:
Posted on YouTube just two weeks ago, the video is approaching 5 million views, meaning a lot of people are getting a chuckle, and learning how not to train a dog, and debating whether Ventresco — as gentle and good-humored as his urging is — is going to get bitten one of these days, and, if so, will he have deserved it.
Eventually one of them will have the other properly trained, I’m just not sure if it will be Ventresco or Blaze. Right now, it appears to be a draw.
The bigger question it raises, to me, anyway, is whether the day will come when dogs really do talk. I predict it will — that they will someday talk, on their own, without the aid of implants, headsets, devices that monitor their brain waves and apps that translate what they’re thinking into words.
Several projects are underway that do just that — because we humans want to know what’s going on in their heads, and we want to know now, and somebody somewhere thinks it might make some money.
We’ll take advantage of technology to bring that about and get it on the market as soon as possible, rather than wait a few hundred or thousand more years when, I’d venture, dogs will have evolved to the point that they’re talking on their own anyway.
It’s only natural for that to happen, with them living so closely to us, observing us around the clock, and watching too much TV. They will continue to pick up our skills – learning to operate a remote control, warming up some chicken nuggets, uttering words, then entire phrases.
Mark my words. By the year 2525 (and that’s just a wild guess), dogs will be saying “yes” and “no,” and more:
I want to go outside for a while.
But wait, there’s more. Details at 11. Ohmigod, they killed Kenny. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night.
Put me in that damn crate again and, I swear, I’m going to call my attorney.
They may never have as sophisticated a vocabulary as us, may never be as erudite, snotty, self-promoting and adept at making barbed comments as us. But the day will come that they use words.
The question is not whether dogs will someday learn to talk. It’s whether, when they do, we’ll listen.
We already stink at that — in terms of listening to our fellow humans, and in terms of hearing what our dogs are silently saying. We’re so dependent on words we don’t hone our wordless communication skills, even though that mode is often more honest and meaningful.
My fear is that, through continued domicile-sharing with humans, dogs are going to learn to talk, but also – like Blaze, like Ventresco — not to listen.
It all brings to mind some lyrics from a song that has nothing to do with dogs — Don McLean’s “Vincent.” When you think about it, the misunderstood artist and modern day dog have much in common. We wonder what they’re trying to say, fail to see their brilliance, and don’t appreciate them fully until they’re gone.
Instead, often, we taunt, ridicule and shame them.
How much shorter might Van Gogh’s career have been, how many appendages might he have lopped off, were he around in the Internet age, reading nasty comments from people about his paintings?
How much quicker might the civil rights movement have progressed if people had shut up and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., the first time?
Are we getting any better at listening, or quicker to turn a deaf ear?
As the song “Vincent” says:
They would not listen, they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will…
Let’s give it a listen.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 20th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, apps, artist, behavior, biology, blaze, civility, cognition, comments, communication, crate, devices, dog talk, dog training, dogs, don mclean, evolution, headsets, humans, husky, impatience, implants, internet, kennel, listen, listening, martin luther king, martin luther king jr, misunderstood, mlk, mlk day, no!, noooo, persuasion, pets, refusal, repetition, resistance, siberian husky, skills, starry starry night, stubborness, talking, talking dogs, technology, thoughts, training, translation, van gogh, video, vincent, viral, vocabulary, vocalizing, what part of no don't you understand, words, youtube