Sora and the iPhone App

Sora can balance items on her headAt Where’s Pom, we can’t resist any story featuring a dog with special talents. The Instagram user community recently attracted our attention with the story of user @umetaturou’s border collie, Sora, who has attracted a following with her ability to balance objects on her head. She has even inspired other users to create artwork of her. Check out his photos.

If you have an iPhone, consider downloading the Instagram app. It’s a free, fun way to style and share photos. For the latest Instagram news, visit their blog.



Domestic Foxes In Boxes (From Russia With Love)

Dogs are humanity’s oldest friend. For tens of thousands of years, they’ve helped us hunt, helped guard the home and helped keep us warm at night. There’s little doubt that tens of thousands of years ago, grey wolves became domesticated dogs. The question is how?

According to one narrative, grey wolves circled neolithic camp fires in search of food. Humans selectively fed and bred the tamest among them. Over time, Canis lupus evolved into Canis lupus familiaris –– the domestic dog.

In the late 1950s, a Soviet scientist sought to test this theory. Dmitry Belyaev attempted to re-enact the selective process through which dogs evolved. He used silver foxes. Belyaev selectively bred 35 generations over 40 years based solely on their friendliness to humans.

Over time, the foxes developed traits that we associate with domestic dogs. They developed floppy ears, curly tails and spotted coats. These traits developed even though they weren’t selected by researchers. Remember, they were just breeding for friendliness.

The path to floppy-eared foxes was long and arduous. Researchers worked tirelessly over forty years to achieve a substantial population of domestic foxes. Belyaev concluded that neolithic man could not have reproduce his experiment under primitive conditions. Instead he reached another conclusion: dogs selected themselves.

The wolves that possessed the traits Belyaev selected in foxes were probably the ones most likely to approach the camp fire. Generations of selective breeding produced packs that were likely to follow humans as they traveled in search of food. As they became domesticated, human selection started to accelerate the process.

The legacies of Belyaev’s experiment are now available in the US as pets. SIBFOX is a Las Vegas distributor of Siberian domestic foxes in America. Where’s Pom? doesn’t know enough about the company to endorse the business but we did want to make our readers aware of it.



Therapy dog helps victims testify

Rosie the service dogThe tennis club we frequent has its own dog — an easy-going Golden Retriever named Massie — one of four dogs the club’s proprietor owns. As anyone who plays tennis already knows, the game can be a frustrating endeavor that makes you wonder why you play. Enter Massie. She’s a calming presence seeking a quick pet as soon as you come off the court regardless of how you played. Getting ready for a big match? Give her a hug before stepping on the court, and you’ll instantly feel better.

It’s no surprise that dogs are frequently enlisted to sooth frayed nerves. They’re masters at reading human behavior. Rosie (pictured right), a seemingly easy-going Golden Retriever, is the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York. She is frequently employed to relieve the stress of witnesses testifying even gently nudging them toward the witness stand as she did recently in the case of a 15-year old girl who testified against her father for raping and impregnating her. The father was convicted.

Attorneys for this defendent argued that the dog’s presence in the courtroom tainted the jury who handed down the conviction as the NY Times reported: “Defense lawyers argue that the dogs may unfairly sway jurors with their cuteness and the natural empathy they attract, whether a witness is telling the truth or not.”

It’s worth noting that service dogs like Rosie are frequently used to calm witnesses who are also children. The prosecution compares them to toys like teddy bears, which children are allowed to hold during testimony.

Lawyers in the above case are preparing an appeal while acknowledging the risk of appearing anti-dog. The Times noted, “Rosie, they wrote, “is a lovely creature and by all standards a ‘good dog,’ ” and, they added, the defendant “wishes her only the best.” The case could set precedent for how other service dogs are used in courtrooms.

Rosie, named for Rosa Parks, was trained by Dale and Lu Picard, of  Educated Canines Assisting With Disabilities, or ECAD, who noticed her special abilities with emotionally troubled children.

Read more: [NY Times] [Gothamist] [ECAD]



Dog Years

It’s generally assume that dogs mature faster than humans. As a result, some humans try to interpret dog years on a linear human scale. According to this convention, a dog ages seven years for each human one.

Pets/WebMD takes a more nuanced approach. It assigns more human years at the beginning of a dog’s life then adds diminishing amounts near the back end. By this method, a one year old puppy is a teenager and a seven year old dog is middle aged. This tells us that Pets/WebMD has never met a seven year old dog.

Others prefer to place dog years on logarithmic scales. (They’re called nerds).

My formula works this way: for each year your dog has been alive, that’s how old he is. Pommie Jones has been with us three years, that means he three. He’s not 21; he’s not 28; and he’s certainly not whatever the nerds at San Jose State think he is. A dog may mature more quickly than a human, but he spins around the earth at the exact same pace.



Sammi Earns Her Keep

Our friends Kim and Stick have a border collie. No matter how many times they toss a ball, he brings it back. Stick could throw his arm out of its socket and the collie would bring it back. The city council in Elmira, NY decided to use this trait in Border Collies to its advantage.

The city has a ring-billed gull problem. The little devils are every where. Some regard them as a pest because they’ll steal unguarded food on crowded beaches. Then there’s the poop issue but we won’t get into that…

The Elmira city council voted to accept the services of a border collie from the local shelter. It’s a seven year old female named Sammi. Her job is to harass gulls. Because of their herding instinct, border collies don’t hurt the birds. They try to herd them. Of course a bird doesn’t know it’s being herded. As far as its concerned, the collie is attacking. Elmira hopes Sammi does her job so effectively, they just go somewhere else.

If she’s successful, Sammi will save the city $4000.00 a year on its USDA contract for gull control. Under the agreement, Sammi will remain under the care of the kennel but the city is responsible for her medical bills.  So where will all those gulls go? My guess is a town without border collies….

 



Detroit Area Strip Club Owner Faces Jail … Over Dog Toys

A Detroit area strip club owner faces prison … over dog toys. Nicholas Faranso pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges after he claimed dog toys as tax deductions. Faranso labeled them “fetish toys” on his tax return and claimed they were used inside his strip clubs. Prosecutors said, “Mmmmkay” and charged him with  conspiracy. But that’s not all. Faranso skimmed money from his clubs to pay vet bills and buy his dog Pebbles an invisible fence.

Prosecutors asked for a forty-six month sentence. The judge will consider that next week at his sentencing.

[CT Post]



Mothers Against Dog Driving?

There have been several major crackdowns against risky behind the wheel behavior: drunk driving, drugged driving, texting while driving. Is dog driving next?

You know what we’re talking about – the pet owner who can’t say “no” even when lives are at stake. She lets Claude the miniature poodle ride in her lap as she steers the wheel. Does anybody see a problem with this?

According to the American Automobile Association, six in ten drivers traveled with their dog at least once a month. During that time, drivers admitted to petting their dog 52% of the time, holding it while braking 23% of the time and preventing it from getting into the front seat 19% of the time.

An AAA spokesperson told the Daily Herald than an unrestrained dog becomes a powerful projectile in a collision. Beth Mosher urged dog owners to restrain their pets when they drive. A ten pound dog can exert 300 pounds of force in a 30 mph crash.

The Federal government has waged a high-profile campaign against distracted driving and this AAA survey provides ammunition for a crackdown. It’s only a matter of time until unrestrained dogs become the new drunk. Click-it or ticket will soon apply to Fido as well.



The Human-Dog Singularity Is At Hand

The Homo-canine singularity continues unabated.

For centuries humans have practiced yoga in order to achieve a state of perfect spiritual tranquility. Now they are adding dogs to this discipline so they may achieve that state with their pet. The result is “doga” – yoga with your dog.

According to Reuters, Suzi Teitelman is a Florida-based doga expert. Her dog would lie on the mat beneath her as she practiced the ancient art. Rather than push the pooch away, she incorporated it into her yoga. Classes, DVDs and a training manual soon followed.

Kari Harendorf is a New York-based doga instructor. Like Teitelman she came to doga in a similar fashion – her dog liked to lay on the mat as she mediatated. Soon he was part of her routine. She uses him in traditional poses such as warriors, triangles and backbends. The position is enhanced by balancing the dog on her belly or waist.

The downward dog is not just for humans.

According to the New York Times, doga classes are increasing in size and popularity. Kristyn Caliendo is a Chicago-based instructor. Since she started teaching doga last year, her classes have doubled in size.  Doga combines massaging and gentle stretching that leaves your dog in a blissful state …. at least until the first motorcycle races by.

 



Riding In Cars With Dogs

Dogs are humankind’s oldest friend. Back when we were ungainly two-legged things foraging for food with spears, canines were the one animal that saw our potential. “You know,” one dog said to another. “If anyone can invent a car, I’ll bet its those two-legged things.” It took another 30,000 years but we did build cars and dogs love them.

Now the Weather Channel writes about dogs in cars. They love the four-wheeled go-machine but cars don’t always love them. In the summer time heat and humidity can be fatal. The Weather Channel has more details but its summary is correct and worth repeating: If Fido can’t come with you when you reach your destination, leave the dog at home. A cracked window does not offer relief.

From the South Tampa Patch we have an experiment that demonstrates the problem. The reporter parked a car and cracked a window. The day was 83 degrees and overcast. He measured the temperature inside the vehicle and this is what happened:

After Five Minutes: The temperature rose to 86 degrees.

After Ten Minutes: The temperature rose to 90 degrees.

After Thirty Minutes: The temperature rose to 100.

After An Hour: The Temperature rose to 110 degrees inside the car.

Remember, we started with a 83 degree overcast day and in a short time, conditions inside the parked vehicle were lethal. Yes, humans invented cars and dogs love them but there’s another invention they love even more: air conditioning.  If he can’t join you when you get there, leave him at home.



McQueen loved his dogs

Alexander McQueen on the runway with his dogs

Alexander McQueen’s will was unveiled this week, and the late British designer, who died in 2010, included provisions for his beloved English bull terriers–50,000 pounds in all (82,126 US dollars). In addition, he left twice that amount to two charities that help animals: the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross Animal Welfare Charity.

While McQueen left the bulk of his estate to his own charity, newspaper headlines focused on the amount left to the dogs. However, bequeaths to animal charities are not new. As Battersea told the Guardian newspaper, 77% of its funds come from legacies. American Philanthropist Brooke Astor left $250,000 to the Animal Medical Center in New York City — specifically for the veterinary care of the pets of poor and old people–when she died in 2007 at the age of 105.

The most famous dog named in a will died earlier this year. Hotelier Leona Helmsley’s dog, Trouble, was named in her will with $12 million left for her care. A judge later reduced that amount to $2 million, and Trouble lived out her days at a Helmsley property in Sarasota, Florida.

In an interesting note for bully breed lovers like McQueen, Battersea noted that 43% of the dogs in its care are staffordshire bull terriers.

Read more: [Huff Po] [Guardian] [ABC News]