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Randolph’s Review Deal
If you are a blogger or want to review the books in any media, please email adogabouttown@ hotmail.com and I will send you free copies.
Randolph’s No-Kill Manhattan Crusade
Yours Truly knows that any attempt to change the world always starts at home. Thus, I’ve decided in the name of canine and human consciousness, cognition and compassion to urge making Manhattan a “No-Kill” island for all animals.
To this end, I will be joining forces with some of the important advocates at work on this issue. I will also highlight the effort through occasional writing and promotions on this site. Naturally, a portion of the proceeds from Randolph’s Store will go to fund the cause.
I love Manhattan. Please visit the map to see some of my favorite haunts and important places featured in the books.
Readers have asked me to put their favorite words from the books on both dog and human t-shirts. This is flattering. Happy shopping and remember that a portion of the proceeds will go to our ongoing crusade to make the small isle of Manhattan a model for no-kill shelters.
Please forgive the gratuitous posting of the Italian cover of A Dog At Sea –I’ve been told I look distinguished (also, the Garzanti softcover is coming out soon). The image has nothing to do with the post which has to do with just how good dogs are at tracking down scat for naturalists.
The article from the Times is below and linked here:
January 14, 2011
Four-Legged Investigators Sniff Out Wildlife Data
By SINDYA N. BHANOO
Scat-sniffing dogs are becoming increasingly popular among scientists as assistants that can gather data about a wildlife area.
The dogs can be trained to sniff out the scat of other animals and to help researchers estimate population statistics.
But according to new research in The Journal of Wildlife Management, a dog’s ability to sniff scat could vary based on a number of factors, including air temperature and precipitation.
Dr. Reed and her colleagues found that precipitation had the greatest influence on the dogs’ abilities. Dogs are more likely to find scat between May and October, when it is drier, since the scat has a chance to accumulate.
Air temperature also seems to have an effect, since dogs can’t smell as well when they are overheated and panting. The exact effect depends on a specific dog’s heat tolerance, Dr. Reed said.
She hopes that other researchers will create calibration tools that measure how optimally their detection dogs perform in different conditions.
Regardless of their handicaps, dogs are much more capable than humans at scoping out scat.
Trained dogs can detect scat up to 33 feet away about 75 percent of the time, the researchers found.
Humans, on the other hand, can see scat only within three to five feet.
The dog above is apparently very, very smart (and she’s not keeping it to herself like Yours Truly).
Here’s the story:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - She just might be the smartest pooch ever.
A border collie has learned more than 1,000 words, showing US researchers that her memory is not only better than theirs, but that she understands quite a bit about how language works.
Chaser learned the names for 1,022 toys, so many that her human handlers had to write on them in marker so that they wouldn’t forget, said study co-author Alliston Reid, a psychology professor at Wofford College in South Carolina.
With that repertoire, Chaser has far outpaced another dog, Rico, found by German researchers to be able to grasp about 200 words, according to a study published in 2004 in the journal Science.
As a border collie, Chaser comes from a breed of herding dog known for its intelligence, energy and strong work ethic.
Reid said she might be able to learn even more words, but her keepers stopped at 1,022 after three years of training simply because of time constraints.
But identifying objects by name was just the beginning of the research, conducted by a pair of American psychology professors who became curious about the upper limits of a dog’s learning abilities after seeing the German study.
Study co-author John Pilley was also a master animal trainer and just happened to be getting a young border collie as a pet at about the same time as the research on Rico came out.
By the time the pup was five months old, language training began in earnest.
“John Pilley and I would go to second-hand stores and just buy huge numbers of stuffed animals and balls and children’s toys and so forth,” said Reid.
“And we would give each one a name and write down the name on each item in permanent marker so that we could remember what the name of it was and use it systematically with Chaser.”
Over the course of three years, in sessions of four to five hours per day, Pilley and other trainers found that Chaser could identify every stuffed animal, frisbee and ball out of a colorful and growing pile of fun doggie toys.
She could also differentiate toys by categories, such as her 116 balls, and she could perform specific commands with select playthings, such as touching her paw to a certain ball, or fetching a particular frisbee.
And they trained her to do all this without offering any tasty treats.
“Chaser really, really likes playing with her toys and the social interaction of one of us taking one of her toys and throwing it up in the air and having her catch it,” said Reid.
“It is much more rewarding for her than a morsel of food.”
The study, which appeared this week in the journal Behavioural Processes, published by the Amsterdam-based company Elsevier, shows Chaser has abilities that were left in doubt by the earlier work with Rico, such as the ability to discern commands from nouns and how to identify toys versus non-toys.
“Her learning and retention of more than 1,000 proper nouns revealed clear evidence of several capacities necessary for learning receptive human language: the ability to discriminate many nouns phonetically, the ability to discriminate many objects visually, a sizable vocabulary, and a sufficient memory system,” it said.
“Chaser understood that names refer to particular objects, independent of the activity requested involving that object. Thus, (the) concern that Rico may not have understood the difference between ’sock’ and ‘fetch-the-sock’ is ruled out in this study.”
Scientists who raised questions about the earlier studies on Rico and the extent of his abilities did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the study involving Chaser.
Meanwhile, Reid said that he and Pilley are continuing to study Chaser, who is now six and a half years old.
“We would like to know for example, does she really understand syntax, the order of words in a sentence? One experiment has to do with if we asked Chaser to pick up one object and place it on top of another object, will she always get that correct?”
But for Reid, who has no dog at home since his daughter took their Labrador-mix off to graduate school, a bursting-with-energy border collie is not in his future.
“They are high maintenance dogs,” he said with a laugh. “John Pilley often says that he goes to bed really early at night just to get away from his dog.”
Yours Truly does not watch much television, but he does read and this curious article on a seeming epidemic of neurotic TV dogs has just crossed his desk. I’m not sure if dogs are actually neurotic but the writer of this New York Times piece, who suggests a sinister canine-anarchy campaign of international dimensions, seems to be:
January 7, 2011
There’s a Canine Conspiracy! Television Reveals It!
What in blazes is wrong with this country’s dogs? Such a collection of neurotic, insecure, bitchy, bullying creatures hasn’t been seen since whenever the latest episode of “Real Housewives” was broadcast.
I do not own a dog and never have, but I do own a television, and from the evidence it emits, the whole danged species needs to go on a lengthy timeout. On the National Geographic Channel, Cesar Milan is now in his seventh season of grappling with ill-behaved mutts on his “Dog Whisperer.” On Saturday on Animal Planet, Victoria Stilwell returns for a third season of unprovoked barking and biting on “It’s Me or the Dog.” Even the Hallmark Channel got into the act this week; on Monday it rolled out a fresh incarnation of “Petkeeping With Marc Morrone,” which isn’t limited to problem dogs but certainly had plenty of them in the premiere.
Watch enough of these shows and you come to suspect that they are treating the symptoms of an epidemic, not the causes. For instance, a superficial analysis might suggest that Ginger, the Chihuahua in Saturday’s “Me or the Dog,” is unbearable because her owner, an Upper East Side caricature (and “Real Housewives of New York” alum) named Jill Zarin, has lost the ability to distinguish normal human-dog interactions from abnormal. (The episode becomes unwatchable about the fourth time Ginger is allowed to stick her doggie tongue up Ms. Zarin’s nostrils.) But Ginger isn’t yapping, biting and inappropriately licking just because she happened to be paired with a permissive human. This kind of misbehavior takes generations of breeding to perfect.
The same is true of Phoebe, a recent “Dog Whisperer” poodle who attacked anything male on two legs; Sydney, a Jack Russell terrier whose hostility toward another dog puts her on Ms. Stilwell’s “Top 10 Difficult Dogs” list; Shayna Punim, a German shepherd in the “Petkeeping” premiere who can’t take a simple car trip without incident.
It’s tempting to write these cases off to reality television’s penchant for focusing on the absolute worst of a species, be it humans or animals, but apparently there is dog trouble all over the land, and multiple kinds of it. Start typing “dog behavior problems” into Google, and it helpfully offers you these suggestions:
¶dog behavior problems dominance
¶dog behavior problems anxiety
¶dog behavior problems biting
¶dog behavior problems chewing
¶dog behavior problems barking
¶dog behavior problems aggression
¶dog behavior problems urinating
¶dog behavior problems marking
¶dog behavior problems licking
In contrast, start typing “dog behavior good” into your search box, and Google is baffled. “Dog behavior good bad,” it says, sounding like a desperate guess. No “dog behavior good rescuing Timmy from a well” here; apparently, since the invention of Google sometime in the last century, no one in the entire world has had occasion to inquire about good behavior by dogs. Because there hasn’t been any.
All our dog experts seem to be tied up trying to fix this mess one televised dog at a time, an impractical approach, given that according to a news release I just received promoting — no kidding — a weight-loss contest for pets, there are 77.5 million dogs in the United States. So it’s left to a nonexpert like myself to try to figure out the root causes of this orgy of misbehavior. It seems to me that it can all be traced to three familiar bugaboos:
1. THE MEDIA Specifically, television. Dogs, stuck in the house all day, probably watch more of it than kids do. That was fine in the early days of the medium because the role models they would see were, basically, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, the two finest dogs in history.
Lassie never barked unless a tree had fallen on some family member eight miles away and certainly never required the kind of dog therapy loose in the land today. And it’s a good thing that TV’s Rin Tin Tin — a German shepherd, like the aforementioned Shayna — wasn’t around to see Mr. Morrone’s prescription for Shayna’s travel problems in “Petkeeping”: he suggested an “anxiety wrap,” a tight-fitting garment that supposedly has a soothing effect.
“An anxiety wrap?” Mr. Tin might say. “For riding in a car? Are you arfing kidding me? You want anxiety, try rescuing Rusty from 50 armed Apaches. I did that three times a day, and nobody ever wrapped me.”
Anyway, by the late ’60s those paragons were going or gone, and there were new dogs in town. The neurotic Scooby-Doo arrived in 1969; yes, the title beast would eventually help save the day, but what the dogs in the viewing audience noticed was that he could also, say, eat his master’s triple-decker sandwich and not be punished.
Then came the slobbery “Beethoven” movies, which turn up on TV a lot because they’re family-friendly, and the even more slobbery “Turner & Hooch,” which turns up on TV a lot because it has lengthy scenes with Tom Hanks wearing nothing but black underpants. And now there’s Brian, the more-human-than-the-humans dog on “Family Guy.” It’s no wonder your postmodern mutt, after spending hours watching this kind of stuff, thinks there are no rules.
2. LIBERAL DEMOCRATS The “barking chain” scene in the 1961 film “101 Dalmatians” taught dogs how to spread news far and wide, and one of their first chances to do so was provided on April 27, 1964, by the nation’s No. 1 liberal Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson pulled his beagles, Him and Her, up on their hind legs by yanking their ears; a photograph of the president demonstrating the stunt with Him appeared far and wide. Him yipped, and dog lovers howled. (“White House Gets Protests on Dogs,” read a headline. “Telephone Callers Deplore Pulling Beagles’ Ears.”)
We can safely postulate that word of the ear pulling reached every dog in America within a few days and that retaliatory planning began almost immediately. Mid-’60s dogs were smart enough to realize that a direct attack on a nuclear power like the United States could not succeed; instead they chose a guerrilla campaign of accelerating misbehavior, calculated to produce within a few generations — i.e., now — dog anarchy.
3. OVERREGULATION Let’s state the unpleasant but obvious: the balance of power between dogs and humans shifted when we started ordering ourselves to clean up after the beasts. In New York that took place on Aug. 1, 1978; that’s when the city’s Canine Waste Law went into effect. One man interviewed that day called it “the stupidest thing in the history of the city,” but now it’s considered standard operating procedure — by both us and our dogs. Is it any surprise that dogs don’t obey us when they view us as their personal hygienists?
So that’s my guess as to what has given rise to the kinds of behavior now rampant on dog-whisperer TV: the confluence of bad role models, an image of subservience and a long-held grudge. Possible solutions: play “Lassie” DVDs in a continuous loop, limit dog ownership to landowners with at least 10 acres and have President Obama issue one of those apologies for historical grievances that have become popular in recent years. It’s either that or get used to dog tongues in your nostrils and dog behaviorists every time you turn on the TV.
The woman pictured above is an opera singer, the dog is named Bella. The dog swallowed a bee and stopped breathing. Luckily, opera singers have powerful lungs. Here’s the story from Australia’s Herald Sun:
BEAUTIFUL opera singer Jessica Yeo would do anything for her dog Bella.
Even the kiss of life.
When Bella swallowed a bee and “died” of anaphylactic shock, the first thing Jessica did was faint.
The stunning soprano then pulled herself together and performed mouth-to-snout resuscitation to bring the five-month-old Australian bulldog back to life.
The 27-year-old singer used her powerful lungs to force air down past the dog’s blocked windpipe.
She had to grip Bella’s flapping jowls shut to stop the air escaping.
“I don’t know how I did it, but I knew I wouldn’t let her die,” Yeo said.
“She’s our baby. She means the world to us, so we’d do anything to save her.”
Yeo and partner Eugene Bouchard were enjoying a weekend on the Mornington Peninsula when Bella appeared suddenly sick on Sunday morning.
“She started to breathe in short little gasps and while I went inside to get a towel, she collapsed,” Yeo said.
“Her gums turned white, her tongue turned blue, her eyes rolled back in her head and she stopped breathing and then her heart stopped.”
Mr Bouchard initially began CPR but then told his distressed partner that Bella had gone, there was nothing more they could do.
“But I knew I had to save her so I pulled her tongue free, checked her throat was clear and started breathing deeply down her throat.
“I could tell air was getting to her neck but not going past so I just kept breathing as deeply as I could, while holding her cheeks over mine to stop the air escaping.
“I shoved my head as far down her mouth as I could to make sure the air was getting to the back.
“I suddenly heard a pop sound which the vet later said was probably the noise of her airways opening up.
“Bella suddenly blinked, and she tried to sit up but collapsed again.”
A friend frantically rang 000 for the address of the nearest vet and Mr Bouchard drove the desperately sick dog while Yeo continued to help breathe for her.
After two hours in care, Bella was discharged. Yesterday she was home in South Melbourne. Despite bruises and scratches from Bella’s jaws, Yeo was happy to give her a peck on the head.
Here’s Yours Truly pictured on the latest cover of the German edition of A Dog About Town –it’s the second they’ve done (I’m not sure if it’s for an e-version or another print version). I’ve been told I look like a pug/chihuahua. At least I look inquisitive. And am in my Central Park with actual New York Buildings behind me (that’s the Time Warner building just above “my” right ear).
Apparently humans have just discovered that dogs can be pessimistic (despite all of our misleading tail wagging and seeming amiability we, too, can have “negative” attitudes toward life…though one might also call this simply realism). Here is the article and pasted below:
As with people, some dogs always expect the worst, according to research suggesting that pessimistic pups are also more likely to have behaviour problems.
The study of 24 dogs was reported today in the journal Current Biology. The animals were trained to expect an empty food bowl at one position in a room, and one with food at another. When the victuals were placed elsewhere, some dogs ran to the bowls and others ignored them, the researchers said.
That suggests the dogs had different expectations, the researchers said. Those who didn’t go quickly to the bowls, the pessimists, were also found to have behaviour problems when left alone. This included tearing up furniture or relieving themselves indoors. While about a third of dogs have separation anxiety, only the worst cases are treated, said Emily Blackwell, an animal behaviourist at the University of Bristol in Britain.
“We tried to come up with a way of measuring the dog’s attitude,” said Blackwell, a study author, in a telephone interview. Many owners “think the dog is trying to get revenge by chewing up their slippers - they don’t understand the dog is anxious.”
There isn’t a connection between breed and misbehaviour in Blackwell’s previous research, she said. Instead, the dogs are misbehaving because they weren’t trained at any early age to know that being alone isn’t something to be concerned about. The process of training a dog to know how to behave, called socialisation, is best done during puppyhood, Blackwell said.
Although later training can undo bad behaviour, it requires a great deal of work and effort, she said.
Training a puppy is important for dogs, said Adam Goldfarb, the director of the Pets at Risk program for the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington.
Today’s study shows that dogs who aren’t socialised well have a negative attitude about life, he said. Goldfarb wasn’t involved in the study.
“This tells us something that isn’t reflected in the way every dog is cared for,” Goldfarb said in a telephone interview. “A dog who is being destructive is a dog whose needs aren’t being met.”
It is no secret that Yours Truly has long harbored a deep interest in art and the brain. Having a nose that is extremely powerful and frequently reveals layers to the visible world that are undreamt of by man has obviously helped push me in this direction.
I wonder what Jackson would think? I also wonder if the frequently undervalued olfactory senses will somehow develop their own aesthetic in the years to come… It will take a pioneering dog and Yours Truly is not quite ready to his advance his name for risk of an all too thorough cranial examination.
Thankfully on days when creativity is absent, there are the tabloids… Record breakers from the dog with the longest tongue (pictured above) and the fastest time to pop 100 balloons by a dog. Here’s the start of the story:
From the sublime to the ridiculous, they’re all record breakers.
These are just some of the new entries in the Guinness Book Of World Records 2011, including Swallow the smallest cow - who stands at just 33.5 inches tall - and a man who can fit 400 drinking straws in his mouth and keep them there for ten seconds.
One of the oddest has to be Stephen Parkes, a media technician from Nottingham, 44, who has the Largest Collection Of Smurf Memorabilia at 1,061 figures.
Amarilis Espinoza, of Guinness World Records, said: ‘It is very difficult to get into the book and about 80 per cent of entries get rejected.’
Yours Truly doesn’t usually write about films or books that he hasn’t read or seen but just today I came across a review in The New York Times about what looks to be a very special animated movie based on a particularly good book by J.R. Ackerley. The movie and the book concern the love between Ackerley and his dog Tulip. The cast includes Christopher Plummer, the late Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini (who we have frequently seen in the park, a renowned lover of all animals). Here is the film’s official website and some interesting excerpts from the Times review that I think you might enjoy:
“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”
When Ackerley was “quite over 50,” and Tulip was 18 months old, he acquired her from a family that had kept her imprisoned indoors. The slender volume is a classic of animal literature for the refinement of its prose, its dry wit, and its close, unblinking attention to the subtleties of human-animal interaction.
Consider this observation, by the discreetly misanthropic Ackerley as he marvels at his new pet’s exuberance: “It seemed to me both touching and strange that she should find the world so wonderful.”
In a final printed statement scrolled across the screen, Ackerley contemplates a dog’s frustration at trying to understand the human mind. As his imagination soars, he wonders if thousands of years ago, humans came under the protection of dogs, which tried to tame them and failed.