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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Awards for Promoting Animal Issues
The Genesis Awards honors media for raising public awareness

Some say that award shows are all about politics and popularity. But at least one show is about rewarding works that bring attention and compassion to those who need it. Since 1986, the Genesis Awards has honored television, film, print and radio media for raising public awareness about animal issues. One of my favorite films of all time, Finding Nemo, won Best Animated Feature Film in 2004.

The Genesis Awards were founded by Broadway actress and animal advocate, Gretchen Wyler, to encourage members of the media to spotlight animal issues. In her honor, a special award is given each year to a celebrity who uses his or her fame to bring attention to animal issues.

This year's Gretchen Wyler Award will be given to actor Ian Somerhalder. The Vampire Diaries actor blogs, tweets and talks about animal issues, such as puppy mills and shark finning. He has also addressed Congress about endangered species.

The other Genesis Award winners will be revealed at the ceremony on Saturday, March 24 in Beverly Hills. The final results are decided by a committee selected based on their personal histories in working for animal causes.

Here are some of this year's Genesis Award nominees. The full list can be viewed on their website. Which are your favorites?

Feature Film

  • Dolphin Tale
  • Rio
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • War Horse

Feature Documentary

  • Born to Be Wild 3D
  • Buck
  • One Lucky Elephant

Sid Caesar Comedy Award

  • The Cleveland Show, “Ain't Nothin' But Mutton Bustin'”
  • The Colbert Report, multiple issues
  • Melissa & Joey, “Toledo's Next Top Model”

Dramatic Series

  • The Glades, “Swamp Thing”
  • Hawaii Five-O, “Lapa'au”

National News

  • ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, “Egg Farm Cruelty”
  • CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, multiple issues
  • NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, multiple issues

Talk Show

  • The Ellen Degeneres Show, multiple issues
  • The Martha Stewart Show, “Vegan Cooking”
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Vegan Challenge”

Reality Series

  • Animal Planet Investigates: Captive Hunting Exposed
  • Crimes Against Nature, “Blood Ivory” and “Making a Killing”
  • It's Me or the Dog, “Bone of Contention”
  • Vanguard, “Tiger Farms”

Magazine

  • Mother Jones, "The Cruelest Show on Earth"
  • National Geographic, multiple articles
  • O, Oprah Magazine, multiple articles
  • Vanity Fair, “Agony and Ivory”
News: Guest Posts
Congatulations, Uggie
If canines could win Oscars, he’d have retrieved a golden statuette

With Hollywood awards season over and Uggie’s big moment at the Oscars last night (receiving high profile props from Best Picture director Michel Hazanavicius), we thought we’d take one more appreciative look at the Jack Russell who chewed up the screen in this year’s runaway favorite, The Artist.

A charming Uggie helps co-star Jean Dujardin to his Best Actor win:

In the run up to the red carpet, Uggie displays his considerable talent on Ellen:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
TV for Dogs
New station features content designed for canines

These days it seems that there are dogs in just about every commercial and television show. But now content is being created to appeal, not only to pet lovers, but to dogs themselves. Starting last week, pups in San Diego now have their very own television station. DOGTV is designed to keep dogs from being stressed and anxious when home alone.

DOGTV's content was developed using research on what relaxes and stimulates the dogs' senses. For instance, the color, contrast, brightness and frame rate is adjusted to create an ideal visual for the canine eye. The sound effects and music use specific frequencies for the canine ear.

DOGTV rotates between three- to six-minute segments that fall into three different categories: relaxation (designed to soothe dogs), stimulation (designed to encourage dogs to be playful) and exposure (designed to exercise the brain with day-to-day stimuli).

My dogs don't usually pay much attention to the television and, when I'm not home, I'm pretty sure they spend most of the day sleeping. But it's an intriguing concept. The relaxation segment is pretty soothing, but I think the stimulation segment would drive my anxious pup crazy. If a dog has separation anxiety, leaving the television on with stimulating programming might not be the best solution. But for a calm dog, I can see how DOGTV would provide a little break from the monotony of being alone.

Interested in checking out DOGTV? You can view clips of each of the three categories on its website.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Commercial Aimed at Dogs
Directly at dogs, that is

A dog food commercial is expected to air in the UK with sounds so high in pitch that people won’t be able to hear them, but dogs will. The goal of the commercial is to attract the attention of dogs. Ideally, from the point of view of those who designed the ad, dogs will perk up their ears and even bark when the commercial plays. They hope that this will direct their guardians’ attention to the commercial. Along with the high frequency sounds, the commercial has bells, whistles and barking.

This 2011 version of the commercial does not have the high-pitched sounds in it, but the one that will air in 2012 does.

As a behaviorist, it alarms me to think of sounds that target dogs without humans being able to detect them. What if the dogs find them distressing? We would have no way of knowing that there are sounds associated with the commercial, and that can make it extra hard to find the source of trouble. There are already so many stimuli that our dogs can detect without our being aware of them, especially scents. The idea of adding triggers whose purpose is to cause our dogs to perk up and bark doesn’t thrill me.

On the other hand, I’m curious about whether dogs will react to the commercial as expected, based on the 12 dogs tested by the company. All 12 expressed some interest in the commercial and a couple of them came over to the television.

What do you think about commercials with sounds only our dogs can hear?

News: Guest Posts
Martha Speaks Turns Four
Jon Hamm, Jennifer Westfeldt and their real-life dog, Cora, star in season premier

In one of those series of events that usually only happen in dreams—Jon Hamm (the enigmatic, chain-smoking star of “Mad Men”) drives around in a purple boot with a loquacious yellow mutt named Martha in tonight’s season premier of “Martha Speaks” on PBS.

Based on the best-selling books by Susan Meddaugh, “Martha Speaks” follows the adventures of a pup whose appetite for alphabet soup gives her the power of human speech. While the stories are geared for children ages 4 to 7, with the goal of increasing oral vocabulary, you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate the verbal richness of this spirited dog.

In tonight’s episode, Hamm plays an actor who is trying to save up enough money to create vocabulary calendars (watch the teaser below). He and Martha are joined in this adventure by Hamm’s real-life girlfriend, the actress Jennifer Westfeldt (“Friends with Kids”), and the couple’s German Shepherd mix, Cora. It’s a classic Martha plot with mistaken identity, verbal gaffes, silliness—plus a very animated Don Draper.

Check local PBS listings for times.

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Show Severs Ties with Pedigree
A little too much sad reality

I don’t feed my dog Pedigree dog food, but I am a huge fan of their ads. I know the company is pushing product, but I admire all the time, attention and high-production effort they give to promoting the adoption of shelter dogs and celebrating mixed-breed pups. Some of their ads are funny and celebratory; others make me weep in my cups (above).

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show had ended its long-running relationship with Pedigree as a show sponsor. According to several stories, dog show honchos felt the adoption/shelter message and associated images of sad-eyed shelter dogs was too big of a bummer, a little too much reality.

The real bummer is the American Kennel Club’s disconnect from the problem of too many homeless dogs and outrageous euthanasia rates. The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show doesn’t happen in a vacuum even if organizers might want to pretend it does—and kicking Pedigree to the curb only highlights that reality.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
“Like My Dog”
Song Sings Dog’s Praises

Billy Currington’s song “Like My Dog” expresses what most of us have felt at one time or another. When the country singer sings, “I want you to love me like my dog does,” it’s easy to relate to his desire for unconditional love and uncomplicated relationships. Though he’s been accused of misogyny and unrealistic expectations, I enjoy the song from a more light-hearted perspective.

Just for fun, check out this video with the whole song and let us know if you’ve ever shared his sentiments.

 

 

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Super Bowl Ads Review: Four Paws Down

Call me a cur-mudgeon, but I think that this year’s Super Bowl commercials featuring canines, well, went to the dogs. They were derivative at best, poorly conceived in the great midsection and downright cruel at their worst.  

The obvious winner was the “Here, We Go” spot for Bud Light, featuring a scruffy little Terrier mix “rescue dog.” He tirelessly fetches beer at a party—by the bottle, the six-pack and even the keg. There was a brief, nonspecific pitch to “Help Rescue Dogs” on a Styrofoam cooler at the end. Thanks for that, Buds, but beer-retrievers-as-men’s-best-friends have been done to death—by Goldens, Border Collies and others. Too bad that this was, by far, the best we got. 

VW weighed-in with a portly pup who is inspired to get in shape, alone, by the image of a passing sedan. When the dog later triumphs by fitting through a formerly too-narrow dog door, the payoff is that he gets to … chase the car??! As I watched him dash, pell-mell after the fleeing auto, I cringed at the prospect of the first cross street. 

What, do you suppose, is the one thing dogs do that gets them killed by cars, most often? The Fahrvergnügen folks need to usetheirnoggins. 

It gets worse. Skechers featured a Bulldog wearing its sneakers—to win a dog race? Granted that there’s some humor in a built-for-comfort breed acting against type, but dog racing is a pastime so inhumane that it’s banned in many states. At least they might’ve included a shoe box touting the good folks at greyhound rescue!

Nothing, however, even approaches the remarkably stupid Doritos dog spot. In it, a brindle Great Dane who has killed and buried the family cat buys his moronic owner’s silence with a bag of corn chips. The even bigger two-legged idiots were the company flacks who chose this ad from hundreds of entries in a contest. 

Was Michael Vick (his possible rehabilitation notwithstanding) unavailable to them?

News: Guest Posts
Super Bowl Pitch-Pups
Love ‘em or leave ‘em?

Last week, we blogged about the teaser for Volkswagen’s Super Bowl 46 ad, which featured a chorus of dogs barking “The Imperial March” from Star Wars. A continuation of 2011’s Super Bowl theme, “The Bark Side” was essentially an ad for an ad, and it has logged more than 11 million hits online.

On Wednesday, the carmaker released the actual game day ad, which stars a beautiful dog namd Bolt. Does it live up to the hype?

Is he wearing a canine fat-suit at the start? Keeping dogs fit and active is definitely on message for us here at Bark.

Two other dog-themed commercials are in the mix this year—so far. One, a spot for Suzuki, lands four lovely sled dogs comfortably in a Kizashi—where they groove to hip-hop as they cross the snowy tundra.

Dogs are usually an excellent addition to most commercial messages. According to a story in Media Life Magazine, ads with animals outperformed ads featuring celebrities by 14 percent during last year’s Super Bowl, and among the most effective ads during the 2011 game was a Doritos spot featuring a surprisingly strong Pug. 

But building a pitch around a dog can also be a risky proposition. A teaser for Skechers’ Super Bowl contender—a sneakers-wearing French Bulldog on a Greyhound race track—has garnered justifiable criticism for celebrating the cruel sport of dog racing.

I’ll be watching for the full Skechers commercial (ugh!) and more pups in ads this Sunday night, let me know what you think.

News: Guest Posts
Are Dogs Who Play Tough in Films Overlooked?
Martin Scorcese challenges the first-ever Golden Collar Awards

The people have spoken: Following a campaign led by Martin Scorsese, a Doberman named Blackie is in the running to be named “Best Dog in a Theatrical Film” at the first-ever Golden Collar Awards.

According to Dog News Daily, the sponsor of the awards, hundreds of Dobie devotees wrote to support Blackie after The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Scorsese. The Oscar-winning director wrote on Sunday that Blackie was unfairly overlooked by the nominating committee for her work in Hugo.

The director’s tongue-in-cheek piece suggested that Blackie was snubbed because of the Doberman’s imposing looks: “enormous and handsome,” as opposed to twice-nominated Uggie, a compact and cute Jack Russell Terrier. Scorsese also notes Blackie’s brave choice to portray an unlikable, mean guard dog, where Uggie played it safe as a lovable pet in Water for Elephants and The Artist. (We’re not sure why the conversation doesn’t include this year’s other breakout thespian, a Jack Russell named Arthur, who played Cosmo in Beginners.)

Blackie’s fans descended on Dog News’ Facebook page and, according to the site, posted more than 500 comments in less than 24 hours. Scorsese appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live on Tuesday to speak out again for Blackie. By Wednesday, Blackie was officially on the list of nominations.

The Golden Collars ceremony will be held on Feb. 13 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in L.A., complete with a red carpet entrance. Organizers are hoping Blackie will attend—perhaps with Scorsese on the other end of the leash.

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