Dogfishing

Here’s another sign of how out of step I am with popular culture:  the new trend in on-line dating websites is to post a photo in which the person who wants a date poses with some cute dog . . . who isn’t actually their dog.

dog-yawningIt’s called “dogfishing.”  The underlying concept is that a picture with an adorable dog instantly communicates something about the life and personality of the person in the photo.  Dog ownership is associated with positive qualities, so photos with dogs convey, to some people, at least, that the person is a friendly, nurturing type who loves animals.  After all, if the dog in the photo evidently likes the person, that’s an endorsement of sorts.  Plus, the dog in the photo is something that the two strangers who connect through the dating site can talk about when they meet each other.

So some on-line dating app users — mostly men, apparently — have decided to latch on to the positive associations of dog ownership, without actually having to deal with poop pick-up, worms, shedding, and the other negative attributes of actual dog ownership.  They find a dog, get a consciously cute picture taken with the dog, ditch the dog, post their picture, and they’re off to the races.  Apparently they’re banking on making a lasting connection before the people they meet through the websites figure out that there is no dog.

I’ve read about users of on-line dating sites misrepresenting their physical appearance, employment status, education, and the like, so another bit of conscious deception probably shouldn’t be a surprise.  But, to me, taking a fake photo with a cute dog in hopes that some gullible dog lover decides to venture a meeting seems to plumb new depths in on-line deception.  What’s next?  Fake mothers?

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A Cat In The House

After years — decades, even — of existing in my own cat-free zone, I’m back to living in a cathouse.  Richard and Julianne are here for a visit, and they brought their cat Froli and their dog Pretty along with them.

Even a non-cat person like me can see that Froli is a beautiful cat, with bright green eyes and jet-black fur.  She seems wary by nature, and it took a while for her to get her bearings in the new place.  Pretty, on the other hand, just plopped down on the floor like she’d been here a thousand times before.  Now that Froli is used to the place, she’s acting like she owns the place, too. No table, counter, shelf, or other surface is immune from a Froli prowl and exploration, and she’s apt to be found lounging and stretching just about anywhere.

We last had a cat back in the early ’90s, when we briefly provided services for an extremely haughty and diffident cat named Baby who vanished after we moved to a new house.  Since then, dealing with nothing but dogs, I’ve forgotten my cat lessons and lost my cat reflexes.  I’ve been startled by Froli’s leaping ability, her sudden movements, and her ability to silently appear just about anywhere when you least expect it.  She’s already scaled the screens on our windows and doors in her ceaseless quest to get outside and check out the neighborhood, and I’ve relearned the need to move quickly coming in and out so she can’t dart by.

When Froli jumps up next to you and hits you with her searching, green-eyed gaze, you wonder what she’s thinking.  With Pretty, on the other hand, you have a pretty good idea that she either (1) wants to be petted, or (2) wants to be fed.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a cat person, but it’s interesting being around a cat again.

Squirrel Sentinel

Russell’s dog Betty is here for a visit. At our house, her job is to protect our backyard from squirrel invasions. She sits atop the back steps, ever-vigilant, ceaselessly scanning for squirrel intrusions and the foul depredations that would inevitably follow if one of the furry rodents were to actually set foot in our yard.

At some point in the past, Betty’s ancestors must have had a serious run-in with squirrels. Betty carries around the genetic memory of that encounter in every fiber of her being. As a result, no house in the neighborhood is better protected from squirrel trespass than ours. The squirrels steer clear when our Squirrel Sentinel is at her post.

Canine Conenfreude

I always feel sorry for dogs that have to wear one of those neck cones.  They’ve got to be embarrassed.  Having to wear a cone shows that you don’t have the kind of control that a self-respecting dog really should have, and the only way you can be stopping from worrying stitches or constantly licking a wound is through some artificial restraint.  And, because you’re wearing an embarrassing neck cone, you can’t do what a dog needs to do — like chew from time to time on your back leg.

tmg-article_tallYes, I’ve always thought:  dogs must really hate those neck cones.

Now there’s proof of it.  Here’s an article about Barley, a golden retriever who lives in Amsterdam.  Poor Barley got one of those despised neck cones when he was neutered.  When Barley got the cone, he started moping around and not behaving like his normal, happy self.  Then his human family decided to see if Barley would feel better if they put one of the neck cones on the golden retriever stuffed animal that is Barley’s favorite toy and boon companion, and sure enough — Barley perked right up when he saw his pal in a cone, too.  You might call his reaction a bit of friendly schadenfreude.  In fact, you might call it canine conenfreude.

It’s nice to see a confirmation that dogs definitely have complex feelings, too.  Now if we could only figure out a way to test that The Far Side cartoon that postulated that dogs don’t like to stay inside playing the violin while other dogs are outside, pestering the postman.

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Dog Days Afternoon

Russell ‘s dog Betty is visiting for a few days. I took her for a walk this morning, and since then she hasn’t been straining at the leash to go outside into the dog days of summer. Staying inside on the cool floor with a bone is the preferred alternative.

Imagine being outside with a fur coat in this weather! Betty is one smart pooch.

Puppy Fraud

The unfortunate reality is that there are a huge number of scam artists in the world.  There is no fraud too low for them to try, if they think there is money in it, and the internet just makes committing the fraud easier and more anonymous.

block-photos_available-pets_383968525-cropped-small.jpg__320x240_q90_crop_subsampling-2_upscaleThe latest evidence of this is reports of puppy scams that prey upon people, often kids, who’ve saved their money to buy a puppy.  The victims go on line looking for the puppy of their dreams, come across a website that promises to provide them with a cute, furry pet, make contact and wire money to arrange for the delivery of a dog — and then no dogs arrive.  Sometimes the fraudsters even double-down, successfully, on hapless victims by telling them that they need to pay even more money for a kennel crate, or insurance, or to correct a delivery mistake.  People are reporting losing hundreds and even thousands of dollars through such swindles.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would consciously target dog-lovers — especially kids — in criminal fraud schemes, but apparently there are no lines some crooks won’t cross.  If fraudsters don’t mind cheating senior citizens out of their life savings, or bilking new arrivals who’ve come to this country in search of a better life, why would they hesitate to take advantage of a child who has saved money from their summer job to buy a puppy?

The lesson, of course, is to not assume that every internet web page represents a legitimate business.  If you’re going to buy a puppy — or for that matter, anything else — on the internet, do your homework and pay attention to details.  In the story linked above, for example, the Better Business Bureau notes that scam websites often feature misspellings and grammatical errors that a legitimate business would fix.

But to be as safe as possible, why buy a puppy over the internet in the first place?  Your local dog shelter has real dogs, large and small, that are yearning for a home and that you can see, and touch, and pet before you add a new member to the family.

50 Pounds Of Growling, Biting “Emotional Support”

Some stories sound like nightmares come to life.  Marlin Jackson’s experience in boarding a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego falls, horribly, into that category.

Jackson had a window seat on the flight.  According to his attorneys, as Jackson boarded the plane and moved up the aisle, he saw that the middle seat in his row was already occupied — by a man with a 50-pound dog, a lab-pointer mix, on his lap.  The dog’s owner had brought the dog aboard as an “emotional support” animal.

angry-dogAfter Jackson took his seat and began to put on his seat belt, the dog started growling at him.  The growling increased, and then the dog lunged at Jackson and began biting him in the face.  Jackson couldn’t escape because of his position, pinned in the window seat.  The dog was initially pulled away but broke loose and attacked Jackson a second time before he was finally restrained.  By then, Jackson had suffered severe facial lacerations and had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where his injuries required 28 stitches.

Why in the world would a 50-pound dog be seated on the lap of its owner in the middle seat on a transcontinental flight?  According to the article linked above, the federal Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to accommodate service or emotional support animals, within certain guidelines, and the Department of Transportation says that airlines cannot require that service and support animals be carried in a kennel unless there is “a safety-related reason to do so.”  The article also reports that Delta’s website states that “[a] kennel is not required for emotional support animals if they are fully trained and meet the same requirements as a service animal.”  Of course, how in the world are an airline and a federal agency supposed to know whether a particular dog, or other animal, meets those requirements when it appears at the airport with its owner and they seek to board a flight?

Anyone who travels much has noticed that dogs in airports are increasingly common.  I’ve been seated next to a passenger traveling with a dog — but the dog was kept in a kennel under the seat in front of her.  It’s one thing to be seated elbow to elbow next to an unknown person on a flight, but it’s quite another to be seated inches away from a strange 50-pound dog sitting loose on its owner’s lap.  Would you get that close to a strange dog under any other circumstances?  If I were Jackson, I’m not sure that I would have taken my seat.  Is it really fair to ask a passenger to accept that kind of risk?

I like dogs, and I have no problem with trained service dogs in public places.  I also can understand how dogs can provide important emotional support to people — but I think we’ve gone too far when we are letting “emotional support” dogs travel unrestrained in the passenger cabin on planes.