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Dog's Life: Humane
Film Fatale
Is there more violence toward animals in today’s movies?

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend: Almost every time a dog appears in a movie, that dog dies. American Gangster, I Am Legend, No Country for Old Men, The Brave One, Funny Games, 30 Days of Night, Year of the Dog, and even the family movie The Martian Child all either show the dog being killed or lead you to believe that is the case.

Whatever happened, I wonder, to that unwritten rule about not killing dogs or kids in movies?

“It’s the inverse of the basic advertising law—that if you put a beautiful animal on the cover of a magazine, it’s more likely to sell,” says Dr. Alan Lipman, founder and director of the Center for the Study of Violence in Washington, D.C.

“It creates three experiences in a person,” he explains. “First, everyone’s a little bit afraid of getting hurt—everyone is protecting their vulnerability. When people see an animal, it gives them that experience of unprotected vulnerability. Second, all of us are instilled with the basic instinct for attachment, to attach to something else and to provide care for something else. An animal instantly evokes that feeling in us. The third is intense empathy, the experience of feeling what it must be like to be that helpless … little … cute.”

Thus, because we identify so strongly with an animal’s vulnerability—particularly when it comes to dogs, who are increasingly viewed as family members— we feel more devastated when we witness an act of violence against that animal.

John McKelvie, PsyD, a psychology resident at the Denver Health Medical Center, concurs. “Innocence and helplessness: Those are the two issues. It’s a value of this society that you don’t commit injury, or assault those who are not capable of defending themselves,”McKelvie says. “We have special laws to protect vulnerable populations, and dogs fall into that category.”

This phenomenon makes perfect sense, and also goes a long way toward explaining why the death of a vicious dog, as in No Country for Old Men or To Kill a Mockingbird, doesn’t usually elicit the same response. Those dogs play the role of the bad guy, so we don’t project feelings of love or vulnerability onto them, don’t imagine ourselves to be the same witless victim of violence, and don’t imagine that their loss would be as upsetting as the loss of our own beloved pet.

Elliot Kotek, editor-in-chief of Moving Pictures magazine, feels directors have very strong reasons to break the taboo. “There’s a trick called ‘petting the dog,’” he says. “In screenwriting, no matter how evil the character, the rule is that if you want to show that they’re redeemable, either have them pet a dog or show them being nice to some sort of animal. On the flip side, when they say, ‘Don’t kill a dog, don’t hurt a kid,’ they’re really saying, ‘unless you want to have a true villain,’” Kotek observes.

Peter Debruge, associate editor at Variety, agrees. “It’s certainly the case where the killing of a dog serves the purpose of illustrating how heartless these villains are,” he says. “[I Am Legend] is probably the highest-profile example. I found it almost unbearable getting to that point because if you’re someone who has seen enough movies, you’re able to see through the formula. And you realize that the dog is an emotional symbol, and the filmmakers are going to manipulate us in the worst possible way to get us to sympathize with the Will Smith character.”

But in this case, as Debruge points out, the filmmakers literally have no other choice. “The one excuse I would give the movie, although I was pretty upset by it, is that that same fate would meet a human character if the movie weren’t about the last human. So instead it’s transferred to a proxy,” he says.

According to Kotek, this trend might not be so new. Recall, for example, 1939’s Of Mice and Men, 1954’s Rear Window and even the seminal Old Yeller (1957). “I think it’s an old adage. When a protagonist in a film has a dog, more often than not, the dog will die,” he says. The difference, as Kotek explains it, might not be what happens, but how it happens.“ Movies have become more realistic,” he says. Debruge concurs, pointing out an across-the-board trend toward not turning the camera away from the gore of reality. “It becomes this symbol, and everything that goes forward is in tune with that unflinching style,” he says.

Lipman also agrees with the cinema verité theory. “Rather than there being an overall shift in movies toward depicting cruelty or violence to animals, what happens is you have a certain group of filmmakers … [who] want to depict realism— they want to depict what they would see as actual human emotions as opposed to clichéd human emotions.”

Regardless of whether we dog lovers are just hypersensitive or that the movement toward realism simply challenges us more, it doesn’t appear that the situation is going to change any time soon. “The fact that it’s happening means that there’s not been enough of a vocal reaction on the part of audiences to discourage it,” Debruge says.

So audiences beware: If you see a dog in a preview, you might very well be getting the bad with the good if you see the film. As for me, I’ll still be going to the movies—I’ll probably just start carrying more tissues.

Dog's Life: DIY
DIY Dog Leashes
With a little attention, an old leash can bloom
Updated Leashes

Spring is the perfect time to get a new “leash”on life, and it is time for me to move on from the grief of losing my dog, Eloise, who was so often the inspiration for these projects and articles. What kind of “new leash”do I want for myself? Perhaps one that I can depend on so that I can depend on myself. I also want a leash for my new dog, Pippi; I want to train her so that she can be off the leash safely and be confident and comfortable when she’s on-leash. We both want to feel free and safe so that we can take advantage of what spring may bring our way. It’s up to me to find my own leash, but for Pippi—and for your dog—a new leash isn’t required. We can give renewed life to one we have on hand.

Directions
Any kind of trim or other decoration can be glued onto a leash. I use a tacky craft glue and weight it down (usually with a few heavy books) while it dries.

For the thin green leash:
I used a flower trim on both sides, and glued a tape measure onto the thicker light-green leash.

For the thin black leash:
An extra-long necklace that I found at a dollar store. With pliers, open the first ring and attach it to the leash’s hook. Then twist the chain around as you thread the leash through some of the bigger links.

Cut off the excess chain at the top and attach it by opening the last ring, pushing it through the nylon fabric of the leash and then closing it with the pliers. Any kind of light chain is suitable for this project as long as the leash can be threaded through some of the links.

For the thick black leash:
I used nailheads and buttons on one side and reflective trim on the other. You can get decorative nailheads at arts-and-crafts or bead stores. Design a pattern and then mark the spots with a white pencil.

Push the prongs of the nailheads through with your fingers and use pliers to fold down the prongs on the other side.With heavy-duty thread and a sharp, strong needle, attach the buttons; finish off the leash by adhering the reflective trim with tacky glue.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Gallery: Dogs in the Wedding
More photos from “Here Comes the Bride ... and Her Dog”

We talked to many people for “Here Comes the Bride ... and Her Dog,” our February feature about including dogs in your wedding. It was a delight to hear all the wonderful ways in which couples include their best friends on the big day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room to include every story or every photo, so we created this online wedding album, which includes pictures of nearly all the brides and grooms who contributed advice and anecdotes but don’t appear in the story. Read our complete wedding story in the February/March 2011 issue of Bark, on sale now.

Want to add your own doggy wedding photo to this slideshow? Just follow these steps:

  • Sign up for an account on Flickr (if you don't already have one).
  • Upload your photo(s) and include your story in the description.
  • Add your photo to The Bark's Dogs in Weddings Photo Gallery.
  • And it will appear in this slideshow!

    Dog's Life: Humane
    Dog Hoarders
    What is animal hoarding? Who becomes a hoarder?
    Horders

     

    * “Long-term Outcomes in Animal Hoarding Cases,” by Berry, Patronek & Lockwood; Animal Law 11:167.

    All case citations taken from Pet-Abuse.com

    Whom to Call

    You can report suspected hoarding to your local animal control, the humane society, the local public health department, or even a zoning department that regulates unsanitary conditions or the number of animals on a property.

    If you are unsure of whom to contact, try your local yellow pages, or go to Aspca.org and search for State Animal Cruelty Laws.

    Resources

    For complete research articles and other in-depth information and statistics about animal hoarding by Dr. Patronek and others, see the Tufts University Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) website.

    Pet-Abuse.com is an excellent grassroots cruelty information and reporting site. It collects information on reported and prosecuted cases of cruelty, hoarding and puppy mills.

    Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) campaign against hoarding and animal fighting.

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Tricks of the Trade
    Cold weather walks
    Cold Walking

    A brisk winter's walk with your dog— what could be better? As invigorating as it is, cold weather brings a new set of challenges, especially if you live in the city. NYC’s Garrett Rosso, an expert urban dog-walker and trainer, tells us how he keeps walks safe and fun for his charges.

    > Ice-melting chemicals and salt can burn those sweet feet. Before hitting the streets, apply Musher’s Secret, petroleum jelly or even PAM to your dog’s footpads to reduce the sting and cracking, and take along some disposable diapers as sturdy and convenient pad-wipes.

    > Ice and snow between your pup’s toes will also cause him problems; during the course of the walk, make it a point to check his feet and remove these nuisances.

    > Keep an eye out for antifreeze—many dogs love the taste of this lethal liquid. If your dog ingests even a small amount, take him to the vet immediately.

    > Invest in a coat or sweater that covers him to the base of his tail and under his belly (many do not). Sweaters are regulation cold-weather wear for many dogs.

    > And a reminder: Don’t allow your dog to run off-leash during a winter storm; heavy snowfalls obliterate familiar scents and dogs can become disoriented and lost.

    Dog's Life: Travel
    Dog-Friendly Inns: Vail and Sturbridge
    Bark's Picks

    Antlers, Vail, Colo. Known for its stunning scenery and miles of dog-friendly trails, the Rocky Mountains around Vail, Colo., come alive in fall with glorious views of golden aspen trees. Book a stay at the Antlers at Vail hotel, a dogwelcoming and noted “Green Business,” which is offering reduced-rate stays in condominium suites complete with kitchens, fireplaces and spacious amenities.

    Recommended dog treks include ones to Wheeler and Pitkins Lakes. Area festivals include an Oktoberfest and Vail’s Restaurant Month (Sept. 20 – Oct. 17).
    Antlersvail.com 888.268.5377

    The Inn at Restful Paws, Sturbridge, Mass. This charming, doginviting inn, only 60 miles away from Boston, is situated on over 31 acres with amenities that include groomed walking trails and dog play areas located throughout the property. Dog guests might also enjoy doing laps at Rosie B’s bone-shaped indoor swimming spa.

    Recommended treks include nearby Brimfield State Forest and Wells State Park for hiking and woodland adventures. Festivals include a Harvest Festival at Charlton Orchards Farm & Winery, founded in 1733.
    Restfulpaws.com 888.430.7297

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Mobylizing
    Q&A with musician Moby

    For the past decade, multiplatinum-selling composer Moby has been showing his affinity for dogs, cats and other critters by partnering with HSUS to raise money and awareness for animal rights programs. Among these endeavors is mobygratis, a generous trove of instrumental film music he’s written “for anyone in need of free music for their independent, nonprofit film, video, or short.” The music on mobygratis remains gratis as long as it’s used in a noncommercial, nonprofit way; if it’s licensed for a commercial film, all money generated goes to HSUS.

    Bark: Why mobygratis?

    Moby: Friends who are into experimental filmmaking said that one of the most difficult things is licensing music for their work. So I set up mobygratis as a way of helping students and others making these types of independent films.

    B: Tell us about the music—is it mostly extra tracks?

    M: In some cases, they’re extra tracks, and others, they’re pieces that I wrote specifically for the site. There’s a pretty wide range of music up there.

    B: How has the response been so far?

    M: Good! I haven’t really publicized it, but the music has already been used in about 3,000 different films. A few features, but for the most part, they’ve been short pieces—five to ten minutes long.

    B: Why did you select HSUS?

    M: I’ve worked with them quite a lot over the years. One of the things that impresses me most about them is their diligence and their persistence. And also, because they’re such a big organization, they’re actually able to accomplish a lot on a legislative level.

    B: On your site, to promote your new album, you made an animated video of yourself being interviewed by a dog. Why?

    M: I don’t know how to draw cats!

    B: Beyond companionship, what do you think dogs teach us?

    M: I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but they teach the idea of loyalty, and the capacity to find joy in just the simplest things—to be uninhibited in our emotions.

    Find out more at moby.com.

    Wellness: Recipes
    Make It & Take It
    Nothing says love like homemade gifts
    pupcakes

    Nothing says love like homemade gifts, and if we asked dogs what’s on their wish list, we bet they’d say, “Treats, please.” When it comes to wrapping those treats, think creative reuse and extend the gift potential.Here are ideas to get you started.

    PUPCAKES
    By Dianne Porter
    Whip up three dozen bite-sized carob mini-cupcakes in less than an hour with this original recipe.

    Ingredients
    1/4 cup honey
    2 cups whole wheat flour
    1/2 cup sugar-free applesauce
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    3 tablespoons carob powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 cup warm water
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Mix It Up
    Preheat oven to 350°.Whisk ingredients together. Oil mini-muffin tins and fill with approximately one tablespoon of batter. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, remove from muffin tin. (Pupcakes freeze well.)

    Remember: Chocolate is off limits to dogs. Never substitute cocoa for the carob.

    CHEESE STICKS
    By Friederike Friedel

    Ingredients
    2 1/2 cups wheat flour
    1/2 cup oat bran
    1/3 cup semolina
    3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons sunflower oil
    1 cup (approx.) water

    How to Do It
    Preheat oven to 300º and line a pan with baking paper.Measure and mix wheat flour, oat bran and semolina. Add the cheese, egg, sunflower oil and water.Mix to a smooth dough. Roll the dough 1/4'' thick on a floured surface. Cut strips 1/2'' wide and 5'' long with a large knife. Twist the dough strips like corkscrews. Bake about 20 minutes.

    WRAP IT UP
    While dogs would be happy to have their gift treats piled on the floor in front of them, their human companions will appreciate a more thoughtful presentation. This year, try the traditional Japanese art of wrapping gifts in fabric squares—furoshiki—as an attractive and functional way to reduce paper waste. Not only is this an eco-sensitive option, the fabric can be put to other uses, doubling the gift. For furoshiki wrapping directions, click here.

    Dog's Life: Humane
    Safety On the Set
    American Humane dogs the industry on behalf of animals
    Dogs on Movie Sets

    Aside from consuming unbuttered popcorn and starspotting, LA movie audiences have another timehonored tradition: When the credits roll, rather than dash to the parking lot to beat the traffic, many Angelenos stay in their seats. It’s not that they’re still soaking up the film’s subtext or wiping away a few last tears in the dark (well, maybe sometimes). Rather, they’re looking for familiar names—the best boy, the key grip, the caterer—and smatterings of applause arise when a friend’s name scrolls by. But while the names in the credits change from film to film, one important credit remains steadfastly the same: No Animals Were Harmed.

    We’ve all read that line many times, but what does it mean, and who are the people protecting those sassy pups and noble eagles? Ensuring that animals cast in a movie, music video, television show or commercial are safe is just one of the crucial missions of the American Humane Association, which has stood up for the wellbeing and dignity of children and animals for more than a century. And when it comes to Hollywood, the organization has been truly vital. In fact, American Humane is the only organization authorized to award the trademarked “No Animals Were Harmed”seal.

    More than 1,000 productions a year use the services of American Humane’s Film & Television Unit, which began monitoring movies in 1940. Jone Bouman, the unit’s director of communications, describes its responsibilities: “We are part of the SAG [Screen Actors Guild] agreement.We not only take care of the animal, which is our main priority, but by extension, we protect the people who work with that animal. I can’t tell you how many times an actor will say ‘I can ride a horse!’ They can’t ride a horse— they’ve been on a horse twice in their life. The next thing you know, a director is expecting them to go into a stampede with 40 loose animals.American Humane is there to step in and say, ‘That’s probably not gonna happen.’ So we protect the cast and the crew who work with the animals. Cast and crew are not expected to be animal specialists—we are. That’s our job.”

    So that Schnauzer who hops on the roller coaster and is later seen dangling precariously from the tracks? Or the hamster who parachutes into a car through the sunroof? Breathe easy. Though scripts often call for real creatures to do comically outlandish things, the animal star is in good hands, thanks to American Humane’s on-set oversight. Sometimes, though not often, animatronics or computer-generated imagery is employed—say, in a scene where a young child has to ride a large horse. But Bouman feels that real animals “give a richness, as the animal engages more,” making mechanical or computer-generated animal doubles a second choice.

    Before the group stepped in, animals who appeared in movies—though they often had caretakers on the set—were not uniformly protected. Attitudes varied from production to production; if a horse had to be seen falling over a cliff, it wasn’t unusual for a real horse to fall over a real cliff, with predictably disastrous results.

    Thankfully, with animal-safety reps standing by, the days of sending a living creature over the side of a mountain in the name of entertainment have ended; instead, care and caution are the watchwords. “Our people have incredible, unique banks of knowledge,” says Bouman. “When you have a director who has a vision, we’re not there to say ‘We’re going to squash your vision… sorry!’We’re there to say, ‘Okay, let’s help you get that shot, but we’re going to help you get that shot in a safe way.’”

    On many sets, few players are as well attended as the floppy-eared puppy or the swarm of wasps or the stallion who has to rear up when a rattler slithers out from under a bush (the snake is being supervised and protected, too).While a human actor may have his assistant nearby, and the director has her script supervisor at the ready, an animal— from an elephant to an gerbil—will usually have a veritable team of people looking after his welfare: his trainer, who taught him to do the stunts; his owner, who lives with and cares for him (sometimes the trainer and owner will be the same person); and his safety representative from American Humane. Typically, there is also a veterinarian on the set— definitely in major productions—or an on-call doctor “close enough to get to the set very quickly,” remarks Bouman.

    The American Humane safety representatives are a rare breed, people who greet their callings with seriousness, skill and devotion to all things furred and feathered. Not only must they undergo specialized training that prepares them to understand the needs and behaviors of canines and ferrets and parrots and apes and cows and beyond (many representatives have veterinary medicine, zoo or shelter work in their background), but they must also have the personal grit and fortitude to make what might be an unpopular or difficult determination for the sake of an animal’s well-being. Because, while caricatures of directors and film people tend to be off-base— there are no megaphone-waving megalomaniacs in the industry (or very few)—when the light is fading and hundreds of people are waiting to get a shot, the intensity on a set can be, well, intense. But if it looks like a screeching truck might come too close to a cat, or if a dog leaping through a window might injure herself, the representative must make the critical call.

    That said, injuries do occur on occasion. “We live in the real world—accidents happen, even with the best of intentions,” observes Bouman. But she describes such incidents as “very rare” and says that, after investigation, even if it proves to be a true accident, a different end credit must be given—in short,“No Animals Were Harmed” will not roll at the end of the film.However, if the abuse or neglect is not accidental, that’s a different hive of bees altogether. American Humane has no qualms about immediately stepping in, removing the animal and shutting down the scene.

    Sets visited by American Humane reps can be on a Tinseltown studio lot or on some faraway isle. “We go all over the world,” Bouman says, noting that there are 11 full-time representatives in Los Angeles and a few dozen part-timers stationed around the country and the globe. “In the U.S., when you shoot under the Screen Actors Guild agreement, our services are free, which is great, because any production that wants us there doesn’t have to worry about getting us into the budget. However, when you film overseas, as many large productions are wont to do, we have to charge a small fee.” It should be noted that American Humane oversight is mandatory in the Screen Actors Guild contract; a production under that contract must inform American Humane when an animal is going to be used in a scene. While on occasion, American Humane cannot be present— for instance, if more films are being shot than they have representatives to cover on a particular day or week—the organization considers where their team is needed most (for example, a film using elephants and bears versus a television show in which the dog’s only job is to sleep on a couch).

    Finding money for an animal-safety rep is not an ordeal for most films; rather, it is one of the most important things the producers do when they are shooting outside the U.S. and know an animal actor will be in their film.“Most productions are very aware of the benefits of having an American Humane rep on set,” observes Bouman.“Not only are their animals going to be taken care of under the strictest guidelines—I mean, our guidelines are serious—but we are also extremely collaborative.”

    At the end of the day, an animal in a film is not just part of the scenery or background; he or she is an employee, hired to do a job, and protections must be extended. Cheering on the feisty mutt as he dashes in front of the train is much more fun when you know that he returned to his snug little bed after filming wrapped.Whether he develops a big head from so much on-set attention and adoration is another matter entirely.

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Don't Let Bedbugs Bite Your Dog

    Although once nearly eradicated in developed countries, bedbugs are on the rise. These tiny bloodsuckers don’t transmit diseases, but can leave itchy welts on you and your warm-blooded pets. It’s important to routinely check any place you or your pets sleep for the telltale dark stains of bedbug activity.

    Dogs aren’t taking this bedbug business lying down, either. Some companies are training dogs to be the ultimate pest detectors. With their sensitive noses, dogs can sniff out a single bedbug, and even tell live bugs from harmless dead ones, helping pest control specialists work more quickly and use less pesticide.

    If you suspect a bedbug infestation, contact your pest control specialist. Pets are especially at risk from the long-lasting pesticides used to kill bedbugs, but certain chemicals, such as pyrethrin, may be safe when used correctly, and a handful of companies do offer non-toxic solutions to the bedbug problem.

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