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Wordless Wednesday: locked-up Layla

Wordless Wednesday: locked-up Layla

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i am here: an urban intervention to make the invisible visble

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Have you seen it?

I’m out of touch with what’s gone viral and what hasn’t, and I don’t make a habit of sharing viral videos to generate traffic or whatever it might do. And I don’t know the original source, so I can’t cite it. And I don’t know the people who took this video, or I’d be contacting them and kissing them. I just want you to see it.

So, what do I know?

I viewed this video a couple of months ago and didn’t feel worthy to share it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s so spectacular.

I now feel that everyone should see it, damn the torpedoes!

I challenge you to watch it without laughing and crying at the same time. It’s the kind of laughing-through-the-tears video that we all need sometimes. No…I’m not on my period.

Just check it out.


do the ASPCA commercials make you want to hang yourself?

My friend, April, recently posted on Facebook that she always mutes the TV when the ASPCA commercial comes on because it brings her to tears. She asked if anyone else mutes the TV. She got an overwhelming response, and no one said “I always watch them and then call in to donate money.” Responses ranged from “I turn the TV off,” to “I change the channel,” to “I fast forward on my DVR.” I explained that I shut my eyes, plug my ears, and sing “la la la, la la la, la la la…” My conclusion was that not too many people are watching these commercials, and my friend who started the post asked how effective the commercials could be if everyone was turning away.

That got me thinking. Us die-hard animal lovers probably already donate to some sort of animal-saving organization, perhaps local or, in all likelihood, the ASPCA. We know the horrors because we probably think about all the animals we can’t save on a daily basis. We volunteer hours and we open our pocketbooks. We even write blog posts. Most of us can’t bear to watch, and certainly can’t keep the tears at bay when Willie Nelson sings to us about love as the pitiful, sad faces in cages stream across our TVs.

I found the ASPCA commercial that is currently airing with Willie Nelson and Kim Rhodes on iSpot.tv:

7tb9~2~800

When I pulled up the commercial on the computer for the purpose of this post, the littles even had a strong reaction. Campbell, my 4-year-old daughter, said “awww” every time the picture changed, and then declared “we have to save all those animals. I want to get them all.” Yeah, Cam. Me, too.

Porter, my six-year-old son, said “those animals all need our help? When can we get a cat?” Once again, I explained to him why we don’t have a cat.

And, of course, I was crying. These commercials are depressing. Does anyone actually watch them?

iSpot.tv is pretty cool because you can track the statistics on the commercials. Like when it last aired and how many times it’s aired and which programs it interrupts. What you can’t track is how effective it is. In a 2010 blog post, writer Franny Syufy reported that she asked the ASPCA directly about just that and they responded that “the ASPCA measures our success by the number of animals we are able to help and by how efficient we are at raising the money that allows us to help those animals.” They went on to say that they see significant revenue growth surrounding these ad campaigns. Yes, the same ones that are making most people I talk to turn away. So it appears that they do produce enough revenue to justify the cost of advertising. I won’t get into the debate about whether or not the ASPCA is a good organization to donate to because we all have our opinions about whether we should donate to national or local organizations. Suffice it to say that the ASPCA is a highly rated charity. Donating to a legitimate charity is a wonderful thing to do and a personal choice.

So I’m thinking these commercials can’t be targeting people like April and I (and all of her Facebook friends), because we’re just turning them off. We already understand the atrocities and don’t wish to be saddened further. So who do these commercials target? Who knows? But somebody is watching and donating because of them, or the ASPCA wouldn’t keep airing them, right? For those of us who don’t turn away, pulling at our heartstrings is effective.

But why not add a bit of positive into this advertising campaign? April put it perfectly:

I would much rather them show heart-warming stories of animals that have been impacted by the support. Showing them in loving homes, etc. I think that would have a much better impact than sad music, injured animals and stories of them being tortured.

She makes a great point, doesn’t she? I would totally watch a commercial like that!

Whether you’re turning away or opening your pockets, both, or neither, find a cause that you can support wholeheartedly and go for it! Helping animals in need, or anyone or anything in need just makes you feel good, even if the commercials make you want to hang yourself.


older and wiser: considering the senior pet

Blog Paws has designated August as senior pet month and has provided this informative graphic to illustrate the importance of senior pet care and some interesting statistics about our aging animals.

Whenever you are considering adopting a pet, it is just as important to consider their life span and care they will possibly need as they age. Knowing your pet’s life expectancy and common health issues for the type or breed is key in determining if the pet is a good fit for your family. It is important to remember that your pet won’t be that cute little baby for long!

There are many senior pets available for adoption, and they can make excellent additions to your family! Although you miss out on the baby book photos, there are definite advantages to a senior pet. The shelter or foster family can often provide you valuable information about temperament and behavior, so you’ll know if the pet gets along well with other animals or with children. Senior pets are usually not as active as younger animals, so exercise requirements and energy levels may be a great match for some families. And, best of all, your adopted senior may already be potty trained or know some fun tricks. Older and wiser is a great thing.

There are organizations nationwide that specialize in the care and adoption of senior pets, so consider that option if you’re looking to grow your family!


photos giving shelter dogs a second chance

You know that photographer who does the awesome photos of dogs underwater? You’ve likely seen them and shared them…

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photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

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photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

That photographer is Seth Casteel, and he does more than just take groundbreaking photos of pets. He does groundbreaking work for pets.

In addition to his life as a world-renowned photographer and New York Times Best Selling Author, in 2007, he started volunteer work to help homeless pets find loving families. Through photography, he showcases these animals-in-need in a positive light that captures their true personalities. Casteel created a Web site, Second Chance Photos, that is dedicated to this quest. The Web site explains

When a dog or cat arrives at an animal shelter, it often is scared, dirty and disoriented. As part of the intake process, the animal has their photo taken, and this untimely photo is the face that people see when looking to potentially adopt a pet. An inaccurate headshot can hurt its chances of adoption, but an uplifting, hopeful portrait can save its life.

Check out this before & after:

photo credit: secondchancephotos.com

photo credit: secondchancephotos.com

AMAZING, right? Which dog would you be more likely to adopt? Wait–it’s the same dog!

The Second Chance Photos Web site aims to educate shelter photographers, offering technical guidance and even a free pdf of shelter pet photography tips. Another goal of the organization is to increase awareness about rescue and adoption. Second Chance Photos also orchestrates fundraisers so shelters can purchase better photography equipment. Casteel and Second Chance Photos also conduct workshops for shelters.

The work they do is amazing, and something that often gets overlooked. But, oh, what a difference it makes! Connect with Second Chance Photos on Twitter and Facebook.


so what about dog sharing?

Do you share well with others? Books? Food? Your dog?

When I heard about dog sharing on the news several months ago, I was surprised and had mixed feelings about it. I didn’t completely understand why a person would want to share their dog, so I checked it out.

citydogshare.orgWeb sites such as City Dog Share of California are popping up for reasons of convenience, economics, and philanthropy. So what’s this all about? At it’s foundation, it is a pet sitting co-op. Owners seeking someone to watch their dog are paired with strangers who are looking to spend time with a dog. It’s touted as a great way for people to test out a breed before taking the plunge. City Dog Share says:

People with or without dogs are encouraged to join. If you are looking to foster or adopt a dog, but still not sure which type of dog is right for you, maybe meeting up with someone and sharing their dog can help. They will help guide you with all the tips and tricks that are best for their dog. And maybe that can help you find a dog that’s right for you.

Post a picture of your dog when you have a dog that needs to be watched. Include relevant details like the dates away, care needed, etc. Members can comment on the thread or send you a private message in response–it’s that easy!

For many reasons, this seems like an awesome idea. In these troubled economic times, I’m all for helping each other out. In fact, I would have six inch gray roots, if it wasn’t for the fact that I trade services with my hair dresser. She colors and cuts my hair, then I credit her pet sitting account with the value of the service. It works out great for both of us.

To think that strangers with complimentary objectives could be paired in the name of animal welfare is a pretty cool idea, however, I would be nervous about leaving my dog in the care of a stranger with no professional experience. It’s not like trading landscaping services for housekeeping…this is a deeply loved member of the family! But, still…I love the concept and hope it can work. One person receives the dog care they need for free and the other gets to learn–before adopting or purchasing–what breed of dog might or might not work for them. How wonderful.

The City Dog Share Web site also includes sponsored services such as nonprofit foster and adoption organizations and professional services and currently have open groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles area, Humboldt County, Greater Portland, and Seattle Metro. They also facilitate adoptions and local canine social groups.

Under what circumstances would you be willing to share your dog?


Finding Rover: the new app that changes the game for lost dogs

Facial recognition software has played a key role in solving some of the most publicized and critical criminal cases, including the Boston Marathon bombing case that shocked us so recently. Last Tuesday, this technology was released to dog lovers the world over in the form of a free mobile app, Finding Rover. According to a press release out of San Francisco,

More than 10 million pets go missing each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Finding Rover’s state-of-the-art facial recognition technology helps reunite more dogs with their owners by enabling anyone to instantly identify a missing dog on the spot by taking a photo on a mobile device.

I spoke to CEO and founder of Finding Rover, John Polimeno, about Finding Rover and the adventure that was its creation. If I could use one word to describe Polimeno, it would be “infectious.” His desire to save every dog is childlike, yet with the use of the most advanced technology available–newly developed just for his vision–will likely come close to getting the job done. “It was a dream I committed myself to,” he beamed. And now it’s happening.

WM: I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this app. As soon as I heard about it, it was downloaded on my iPhone, and I created a profile for my dog. It is amazing, and is really going to change things for lost pets and their families.

Polimeno: I’m really excited too! The app was released on Tuesday at 5 p.m., and we had over 2000 downloads within 24 hours.

WM: That’s fantastic. How did you get the idea for Finding Rover?

Polimeno: Well, my wife, Kristie, and I were sitting at a coffee shop.

(I couldn’t help but think, “of course…isn’t that how all genius ideas begin?”)

Polimeno: We saw a lost dog poster, and we remembered the trauma of losing our own dog. How we drove the kids around and how awful it was. A dog is a beloved family member, and if it goes missing, it can be devastating to everyone involved. We thought that there has to be a better way.

WM: Had you ever created an app before?

Polimeno: (chuckling) No. I was in the construction business, and I was going to retire.

WM: So how did you develop Finding Rover? How long did it take?

Photo courtesy of Finding Rover.

Photo courtesy of Finding Rover.

Polimeno: It took three years to develop. I started by taking the idea to five different facial recognition technology companies around the world. They all said ‘no, we do people.’ So then I took it to universities. At last, University of Utah’s Software Development Center said ‘we do people. It would be really hard to do. But we’ll give it a try, if you’ll fund the research.’ So I funded a year of research. The technology is based on facial recognition software, but was created to work specifically for dogs, and specifically for this app. You can put 100 German Shepherds in the group, and yours will pop up. The software is very complicated.

WM: Wow. To me, dog faces are much harder to distinguish between than human faces.

Polimeno: The software doesn’t know it’s a dog.

WM: When I downloaded the app, I noticed registration on Finding Rover is incredibly simple.

Polimeno: It’s not intrusive. We wanted people to be able to register their dogs and not have to enter in a bunch of personal information. Only when you lose your dog are you asked for your phone number, just so people can contact you. The app is clean, and we want to keep it that way.

WM: This must have been an expensive venture, but the app is free. Will you eventually charge for it so you can recoup your costs?

Polimeno: No. Never. The app will always be free. I haven’t figured out how to recoup costs, and I’m not even thinking about that right now. I just want to help people find their dogs. Maybe there will be sponsorships or something in the future, but right now, the goal is to get 50 million dogs registered. It was just released Tuesday, and people are already finding their dogs. That’s so cool.

WM: That is cool.

Photos courtesy of Finding Rover.

Photos courtesy of Finding Rover.

Polimeno: I want anyone in the world to be able to use it, so it will always be free. Currently, the app is available on iPhone, but there are plans to release an app for Android this year. People who aren’t smart-phone savvy will be able to register on the Web site. It’s all about your dog, and it’s about bringing people together to help each other.

WM: What if I haven’t downloaded Finding Rover, yet, and my dog is lost. Is there anything I can do?

Polimeno: Yes, you can upload a photo that exists in your photo library. Even if the photo isn’t suitable for facial recognition, you can still post any picture of your lost dog for others to view.

He went on to explain that even if you don’t have a dog, you should still have the app. People often hesitate to pick up dogs because they think they might get stuck with them. If you can find the owner on Finding Rover, it makes it convenient to do a good deed. And it goes beyond the individual. Shelters and vets can also use Finding Rover to quickly reunite owners with their lost pets.

WM: So, would you recommend Finding Rover over microchipping?

Polimeno: No, no. Pet owners should do everything they can. Finding Rover is free, and there is a cost with microchipping. That might make a difference to some people. Our goal is to rescue every lost dog.

WM: This is awesome. You have such a fantastic energy.

Polimeno: Well, it’s positive! It’s all about dogs and helping people.

It is positive. And we need positive in this world right now.

Polimeno is genuine. He is so excited to help people find their dogs, he can hardly contain himself.

Photo courtesy of Finding Rover.

Photo courtesy of Finding Rover.

Finding Rover also has some fun features. You can create and/or join a “pack,” a group of dog owners who have something in common. If the shelter from which you adopted your dog has a pack, you can connect with other pet owners who have adopted a dog from the same shelter. Or perhaps your neighborhood or office could have a pack. The app also offers a “tips & tricks” tab, where you can ask and answer canine-related questions. There’s even a place to just post cute photos of your dog. Social media for dog owners. What more do we need? Polimeno explained,

people are turning to niche social media platforms, such as Finding Rover, as a way to communicate with people with similar interests. Finding Rover is for anyone who cares about dogs and wants to make sure they find their way back home, regardless of if they own a dog or not. Our goal is to be an essential part of dog lovers’ day-to-day routine that they can rely on in the event of a missing dog.

My experience with the app has been great. It is easy to register your dog, and Finding Rover even takes the difficulty out of getting that perfect face-front shot. You just align your dog’s eyes with a line on the screen, and if you can’t get your dog to look, just hit the “bark” button, equipped with two sounds sure to get your dog’s attention. Snap! It’s that easy.

I believe that Finding Rover will change the face of the lost-dog problem. And with John Polimeno at the helm, it can’t lose. Download Finding Rover now, and join the community. Share this exciting news with your friends so there are no more lost dogs.