Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poodle Bitch wonders about what life was like for Nazi dogs

Poodle Bitch briefly notes the presence of an article from, via yahoo, in which it is claimed that Adolf Hitler, the former leader of Germany, attempted to create an army of superior dogs that would do his bidding for him.
In his new book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, Cardiff University historian Jan Bondeson mines obscure German periodicals to reveal the Nazis' failed attempt to breed an army of educated dogs that could read, write and talk. "In the 1920s, Germany had numerous 'new animal psychologists' who believed dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, and capable of abstract thinking and communication," he writes. "When the Nazi party took over, one might have thought they would be building concentration camps to lock these fanatics up, but instead they were actually very interested in their ideas."

Poodle Bitch isn't sure why a human who believed that "dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans" should be considered a "fanatic," but his comment has prompted Poodle Bitch to scratch Mr. Bondeson's new book off her summer reading list.

Poodle Bitch found The Sun's much less dry take on the story, in particular some specifics about a school that was set up to train the dogs, more entertaining than Time's:
Star pupil at the school near Hanover, Germany, was Aire- dale terrier Rolf. He tapped out letters of the alphabet with his paws and was said to have speculated about religion and learnt POETRY.

He reportedly asked a visiting noblewoman: "Could you wag your tail?" Another mutt was said to have uttered the words "Mein Fuhrer" when asked who Hitler was - while another imitated a human voice to bark: "Hungry! Give me cakes" in German.

Other ludicrous experiments saw so-called scientists test telepathic communications between humans and dogs.

Poodle Bitch doubts very much that Rolf was anything more than a very clever canine who found himself in a difficult situation and made the best of it in order to survive. She has found that humans who want to believe in something -- who desperately want to believe in something -- can be made to believe in that something with only the barest of outside help. Poodle Bitch cites the allegedly "guilty" dog, Denver, who recently sent the internet into a tizzy, and Sonny, the dog who could supposedly "read."

These dogs were playing along for the benefit of their human companions. Dogs like to make their human companions feel good. And, Poodle Bitch dryly notes, to get rewards. Because humans are basically good, this is a mostly harmless exercise. However, Poodle Bitch notes with sadness that there are those who, for instance, run dog fighting rings, who exploit this feature of the canine personality for nefarious ends. Then there are the so-called "drug sniffing dogs," who are wrong more than half the time about the presence of drugs, but are right 100% of the time in trying to make their human co-workers happy.

But back to the Nazis: Rolf et al had no idea that these humans were working toward malefic ends. They just wanted to make them happy; so they followed the cues they were given. The humans, in turn, were part of a dangerous, powerful movement centered around a murderously deranged man who was apparently "a well-known dog lover," (as the TIME article ludicrously puts it) and a "barking-mad pet lover" (as the Sun article absurdly puts it) and very much wanted his silly program to succeed. So there were powerful motivations all around to show some measure of success.

She feels safe in declaring that the Nazi attempt to create a race of super dogs who would help them run their concentration camps was essentially a non-starter.

Some dogs will do anything for a treat.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poodle Bitch admires May, the young poodle bitch who fought off a vicious eagle attack

Poodle Bitch does not consider herself to be a particularly athletic dog. Certainly she enjoys the occasional gambol, and has been known to chase a squirrel or two. But she's not much of a romper, and she deeply abhors violence.

Poodle Bitch understands that she is a domestic animal, and as such, her life has been much easier than the life of an animal that must fend for him/herself in the wild. She does not judge other animals doing what they must to survive.

Poodle Bitch's own experiences with "wild" animals have been fairly limited. Aside from the aforementioned squirrels, she might on occasion chase a bird that has lit upon the ground. Otherwise, she is fairly content to let other animals go their way, just as Poodle Bitch expects to be allowed to go her own way, unmolested.

But she has often wondered what she might do in a situation in which she was confronted by a hostile, wild animal, and there was no human there to defuse the situation. Would Poodle Bitch have the intestinal wherewithal to extricate herself from, say, the talons of a vicious, hungry bird of prey?

It is for that reason that Poodle Bitch has taken what might be an obsessive interest in the story of May, a toy poodle who recently found herself in just such a situation.

May fought, and fought hard. And taught a nasty eagle that poodles are not to be trifled with.
She’s a vagabond toy poodle named May by SPCA staff after she fell out of the sky earlier this month and landed on the grounds of the Shorncliffe Nursing Home in Sechelt, B.C.

And how she came to be flying over the nursing home is explained by the deep talon marks in her back and sides, showing she was probably the unwilling passenger of a hungry eagle that had picked her up but eventually found her 18 pounds too much to hold.

May — her ribs broken and her body lacerated — was found by nursing staff on May 2 and delivered to the Sunshine Coast SPCA.

Poodle Bitch is filled with wondering admiration for this dear little bitch -- not merely because May fought her way out of the talons of a ravening beast (Poodle Bitch admits she has filled in certain holes in the story using her own imagination -- for some reason, no journalists have seen fit to interview May, and so the full story might never be known), but because May's life has apparently been that of a wayward urchin, a little vagabond bitch searching for a place to call home:
“She’s been a stray. There’s been severe neglect, and who knows how long she’s been out there,” said [BC SPCA official Lorie] Chortyk. “We estimate she’s six years old but her nails were growing into her pads and her teeth are badly decayed.”

Oh, this poor little bitch's life has apparently been harder even than that of Precious, as depicted in the novel Push.

Poodle Bitch would also like to note that the little bitch May also managed to make her way to a healing center where she might be able to receive the help she needs to recover. This healing center is a nursing home. Poodle Bitch has heard that such institutions often employ the services of Therapy Dogs, which help to raise the spirits of those humans who reside within them.

Poodle Bitch likes to think that May, the stray bitch, was on her way to the nursing home to apply for work as a Therapy Dog, when she was snatched up by the nasty eagle that attempted to murder her. Perhaps an enterprising journalist will take the time to actually ask May for the circumstances of her attack.

Although May has already received some medical treatment, the Sunshine Coast branch of the BC SPCA is soliciting donations for the $4,000 required for May's dental work (doubtless young May damaged her teeth as she used them to tear into the hard, leathery flesh of the cruel nightmare beast that attacked her -- again, Poodle Bitch embellishes). Poodle Bitch very much hopes that May's story moves humans enough to actually donate to what she considers to be a most worthy cause.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Poodle Bitch is unconcerned about "changes" to the Scrabble board game

To Poodle Bitch, most "board" games might as well be called "bored" games, although she does on occasion enjoy the camaraderie and fun engendered by some of them -- Trivial Pursuit, Beyond Balderdash, and Scrabble in particular. Games like these enable you to get a better sense of your friends' personalities by displaying their knowledge and interest in the world around them. Because Scrabble is one of her more favored games, Poodle Bitch has noted with interest that the game makers are adding 3,000 new words to its official dictionary.
The game's publishers say the additions make this the "most comprehensive Scrabble wordlist ever produced," but that's doing little to soothe some players' ruffled feathers.

"I don't like slang words at all, but if they are going to put them in we will have to use them," Jean Gallacher, of Scotland's Inverness Scrabble Club, told The Scotsman. "I think there is too much slang in the English language as it is, with the way young people are talking."

Poodle Bitch would like to point out that many words that we today take for granted as perfectly acceptable began their lives as "slang" terms that the "young people" used. In fact, she notes that very often attempts to keep "slang" terms out of wider usage were actually snobbish, veiled attempts to keep people of the "lower orders" in their place. Dictionaries are decidedly undemocratic, as they are put together by small groups of people who make decisions as to what words to include and what to leave out based on their own prejudices, and deference to what has been considered "proper" before. This mindset was put into words by Samuel Johnson in the preface to his Dictionary -- the first major dictionary and the standard dictionary from which all subsequent English dictionaries were based:
Of the laborious and mercantile part of the people, the diction is in a great measure casual and mutable; many of their terms are formed for some temporary or local convenience, and though current at certain times and places, are in others utterly unknown. This fugitive cant, which is always in a state of increase or decay, cannot be regarded as any part of the durable materials of a language, and therefore must be suffered to perish with other things unworthy of preservation.

For instance, regarding the word "shabby," which was originally defined by Dr. Johnson in his Dictionary as "mean; paltry," he wrote,

A word that has crept into conversation and low writing; but ought not to be admitted into the language.

Poodle Bitch notes with some amusement that Dr. Johnson wrote that such a low word "ought not to be admitted into the language"; not, "ought not to be admitted into my particular vocabulary."

Johnson was motivated to write his dictionary by a fear that people would be unable to read Shakespeare, or Victorian writers, because the words used in their works would fall into disuse. So his inclination was to "fix" the language so as to slow its natural progression, the change of which was often accelerated by the "fugitive cant." He wanted to emphasize what he considered to be "durable" -- for instance, words Shakespeare used -- and to marginalize that which he did not. Dr. Johnson was remarkably successful in this endeavor. Human language has evolved far less since he wrote his first Dictionary than it ever did before. As invaluable as Poodle Bitch considers Dr. Johnson's work to be, she cannot help but marvel at the venality of his motives.

Poodle Bitch wonders if it is the prevalence of this attitude that has led to the decline of interest in the dictionary as a tool of reference. These antiquated, quaint printed relics cannot keep up in an age in which, if Poodle Bitch has a question about a definition of a word, she is just as likely to check the Urban Dictionary as Merriam Webster online.

Poodle Bitch knows few children, but those she does know crack open their dictionaries solely because a teacher has specifically assigned it. And, as for Scrabble, Poodle Bitch is only a casual player, and only uses the "official" dictionary in online versions of the game.

As far as Poodle Bitch is concerned, the idea of an "official Scrabble dictionary" is as antiquated as the idea of "a dictionary." So it has added words such as "grrl" (why only two "r"'s, by the way?), "thang," "innit," and "MySpace" (there is a word that would have been relevant five years ago)? This will affect very few of us.

Poodle Bitch believes that is a good thing.