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.

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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.

Dog Signage

German Village is dog territory.  It seems like 90 percent of the residents here have dogs, and whenever you go out for a walk, you’re likely to encounter every variety of canine, every form of terrier and shepherd and retriever, from mutt to pure-bred, out strolling our brick-lined streets.

And you’re also likely to encounter signs warning dogs and their owners to avoid answering the call of nature in the yards and flower beds of the non-dog owners among us.  Some signs are more polite than others, some use “please” and some just say “No!,” but the message is ultimately the same.

What, exactly, is the purpose of those signs?  If it is to encourage dog owners to be responsible in performing their poop scoop obligations, the signs seem . . . unnecessary.  Most dog owners accept the need to stoop and scoop as part of the price that must be paid for having a four-legged friend in the house.  And f a dog owner is inclined to ignore his/her general obligations in a civilized society, a mere sign doesn’t seem likely to change their approach.  So I’ve concluded that the signs really are just another example of the prevalent NIMBY phenomenon at work.  The people with signs know the dogs are going to do what dogs do — which is to produce dog doo — and what they really want is for dog owners to yank their canine friends away from the sign owner’s property so that they find their target in the neighbor’s patch of ground instead.

The signers are really saying that their property deserves special treatment.  It’s not a very neighborly thing to do, when you think about it.

Like A Dog In The Rain

Recently I went for my morning walk on a blustery, rainy day.  As I was walking along, struggling with my umbrella in the gusts and grumbling about the cold, crummy weather, I saw a raincoat-clad woman with a dog.  The woman also looked peevish about the rain and wind.

4149865894_7a5fd51c5a_oThe dog, however, was undisturbed.  It clearly recognized that, as a four-legged creature without clothes, rain slickers, or opposable thumbs capable of gripping an umbrella handle who was subject to the walking schedule and whims of its human companion, there really wasn’t much it could do about being out in the rain and the wind at that moment.  It obviously needed to get out, walk, and answer the call of nature.  And so, it just went about its business, as usual, without concern about the fact that it was getting soaked.

I was struck by the dog’s placid expression and its contrast with the stormy looks on my face and the face of the dog’s owner.  There were no snarls or bared teeth — by the dog, at least.  The dog, who was powerless to do anything about its situation, was imperturbable, while the humans who had total control were letting the bad weather bother them.

It was a very zen-like moment, and it made me realize that, in the right situations, there is value in following the dog’s example:  don’t worry about what you can’t change, accept your circumstances, go about your business, and when you get back to that safe, dry, warm place . . . shake it all off.

The Watchful Chicken

Some days, you find odd things at Schiller Park.  This morning, I found this colorful rubber chicken — a dog’s toy, probably — positioned atop the dog poop bag dispenser, as if she were keeping an eye on the dog owners and their compliance with the admonition to clean up after their dogs.

I couldn’t help but read the stern, red-eyed expression on the chicken’s face as a look of disapproval.  And when I realized that all of the doggie bag dispensers were empty, after the dog I was walking had already required the use of three of my pocket supply of bags on the walk, leaving me sorely in need of replenishment, I couldn’t help but share the chicken’s reproachful countenance.

UJ And Man’s Best Friends

Regular readers of this blog will remember my brother UJ, who has posted occasionally about his adventures and travels.

52812917_2017707298284358_42568911224307712_nLately UJ has been volunteering at the Franklin County Dog Shelter, where his principal activity is walking the dogs and, in the process, giving them a little bit of the human attention that dogs seem to instinctively crave.  Then, he posts about his exploits and the different dogs he has met on Facebook.

UJ had not previously indicated, from outward signs at least, that he was a big dog lover.  For example, I don’t think he’s ever had a dog of his own since he left our parents’ home, where we had a cantankerous “teacup dachshund” named George.  However, when one of his friends suggested the volunteer activity at the Shelter he gladly took it on, and it’s clear that UJ and the Franklin County shelter go together like hand and glove.  The Shelter has acknowledged UJ’s dedicated volunteer work with some posts of its own, like the photo to the right.

It’s interesting, too, that the focus of UJ’s Facebook posts has changed somewhat since he started his volunteer work.  After a few posts about what he was doing there, it really became all about the dogs he was walking and their desire to be adopted.  UJ will walk the dogs, take some pictures and video, and then post something about the dogs and how good-natured and easygoing they were.  And, UJ and his Facebook posts publicizing the dogs he’s walking have helped the dogs at the Shelter who are up for adoption find homes — including homes with some of UJ’s Facebook pals.

I’ve been a critic of social media, and I still think it has contributed mightily to our current polarized political situation.  But UJ’s efforts at the Franklin County Dog Shelter show how a little volunteer work and some social media attention can really have a positive impact.  I’m proud of UJ’s good work, and I think his use of Facebook to help orphan dogs find a human family illustrates what is the right role for social media in civic affairs — to let people know about what’s happening in their communities, and how they personally can make a difference.  Kudos to UJ!

Tentative Wagging

Russell’s dog Betty is a pretty smart dog, by dog standards.  She knows the basic commands, like “sit” and “hang on!” — the latter of which inevitably is used when she is trying to charge down the outside steps as we are heading out for a walk while I am trying to lock the front door.  And she clearly recognizes her name and words like “walk,” because the mere mention of the “w” word causes her to start leaping around with a pure, energetic ecstasy rarely seen in canine or human.

And Betty is a friendly, sensitive dog, too.  She’s a jumper who likes to greet her human friends with a set of front paws to the midsection, and she’s an inveterate tail-wagger, too.  Her full-fledged tail wag is impressive — the kind that can sweep glasses, magazines, and other bric-a-brac off the coffee table and send Betty’s hindquarters twitching back and forth like she’s being manipulated by some uncontrollable invisible force.

But sometimes the brainy part of Betty and the wagging part of Betty get mixed signals.  Typically this happens when a human being is directing some kind of communication to Betty that is of uncertain meaning.  The statement might be something along the lines of:  “Betty, the weather app on my phone says it’s very cold out today, so I’ll need to bundle up.”  Betty hears her name, and sees that the human is looking at her and apparently directing human speech at her, which I suspect she finds immensely flattering, but exactly what is being communicated is a bit of a mystery.  And, because Betty is by nature a polite dog, she wants to acknowledge the statement through some kind of response — but what is the right response?

Betty deals with this personal quandary by giving a quizzical look accompanied by what might be described as a tentative wag of her tail.  It’s not the all-out wag, to be sure.  It’s hedging, and usually consists of only one twitch, or perhaps two, of the tail.  The combination of look and wag says:  “I hear you, and know you are talking to me about something, but I’m not quite sure just yet so I’m reserving my full judgment and all-in reaction until more evidence is presented.”

I admit, I get a kick out of the tentative wag response.  In fact, sometimes I’ll talk to Betty just to get the uncertain wag.  It’s one of the things that makes it fun to have a dog around the house.