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krulltime
June 10th, 2004, 09:52 AM
PRIDE FOR PETS

By JULIA SZABO

JUNE is Gay Pride month, a time for dispelling negative homo sexual stereotypes. But there's one very positive stereotype that's cause for celebration: It's said that gays and lesbians make the best pet owners.

Doting dog lovers who are high-profile and gay include New York state Sen. Thomas Duane; TV talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres; musician k.d. lang; actor Harvey Fierstein; fashion designers Isaac Mizrahi and Todd Oldham; and interior decorator Thom Filicia of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

"It's a cliché to say that animals love you unconditionally, but it's also really true," says Gretchen Dukowitz of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), who lives with a dog, a cat and a bird, all rescued.

"Animals don't care who you are; they don't care about politics. All they know is that you care for them, and they're ecstatically happy to see you."

Shelter pets and strays have special appeal, Dukowitz says. "I think on the whole, we're suckers for a hard-luck case," she points out. "Often, mutts and strays are passed over, and gays and lesbians often feel totally ignored, so there's an affinity there."

And perhaps gay people, having experienced intolerance, can relate especially well to misunderstood animals.

At Long Island's North Shore Animal League, no one wanted to adopt a large, sweet, three-legged mutt named Tiny Tim - so named because he'd had one leg amputated on Christmas Eve.

But when fashion designer John Bartlett met Tim, it was puppy love at first sight.

"I saw him, and my heart just broke open," Bartlett recalls. "But even now, many people are afraid of Tim because he looks different."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc

krulltime
June 10th, 2004, 10:01 AM
"I saw him, and my heart just broke open," Bartlett recalls. "But even now, many people are afraid of Tim because he looks different."

That is just so ironic. :|

krulltime
June 10th, 2004, 11:46 AM
Study finds dogs understand language

June 10, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As many a dog owner will attest, our furry friends are listening. Now, for the doubters, there is scientific proof they understand much of what they hear.

German researchers have found a border collie named Rico who understands more than 200 words and can learn new ones as quickly as many children.

Patti Strand, an American Kennel Club board member, called the report "good news for those of us who talk to our dogs."

"Like parents of toddlers, we learned long ago the importance of spelling key words like bath, pill or vet when speaking in front of our dogs," Strand said. "Thanks to the researchers who've proven that people who talk to their dogs are cutting-edge communicators, not just a bunch of eccentrics."

The researchers found that Rico knows the names of dozens of play toys and can find the one called for by his owner. That is a vocabulary size about the same as apes, dolphins and parrots trained to understand words, the researchers say.

Rico can even take the next step, figuring out what a new word means.

The researchers put several known toys in a room along with one that Rico had not seen before. From a different room, Rico's owner asked him to fetch a toy, using a name for the toy the dog had never heard.

The border collie, a breed known primarily for its herding ability, was able to go to the room with the toys and, seven times out of 10, bring back the one he had not seen before. The dog seemingly understood that because he knew the names of all the other toys, the new one must be the one with the unfamiliar name.

"Apparently he was able to link the novel word to the novel item based on exclusion learning, either because he knew that the familiar items already had names or because they were not novel," said the researchers, led by Julia Fischer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

A month later, he still remembered the name of that new toy three out of six times, even without having seen it since that first test. That is a rate the scientists said was equivalent to that of a 3-year-old.

Rico's learning ability may indicate that some parts of speech comprehension developed separately from human speech, the scientists said.

"You don't have to be able to talk to understand a lot," Fischer said. The team noted that dogs have evolved with humans and have been selected for their ability to respond to the communications of people.

Katrina Kelner, Science's deputy editor for life sciences, said "such fast, one-trial learning in dogs is remarkable. This ability suggests that the brain structures that support this kind of learning are not unique to humans and may have formed the evolutionary basis of some of the advanced language abilities of humans."

Perhaps, although Paul Bloom of Yale University urges caution.

"Children can understand words used in a range of contexts. Rico's understanding is manifested in his fetching behavior," Bloom writes in a commentary, also in Science.

Bloom calls for further experiments to answer several questions: Can Rico learn a word for something other than a small object to be fetched? Can he display knowledge of a word in some way other than fetching? Can he follow an instruction not to fetch something?

Fischer and her colleagues are still working with Rico to see if he can understand requests to put toys in boxes or to bring them to certain people. Rico was born in December 1994 and lives with his owners. He was tested at home.

Funding for this research was provided in part by the German Research Foundation.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.

Punzie
December 15th, 2006, 08:15 PM
After 2004, Rico completely dropped out of sight in the news. It was the strangest thing: in December '04 he was a celebrity, and by 2005 he seemed to have vanished.

But there has not been a news release that Rico has passed away -- not that I could find. Does anybody know what happened to the dog?

(Yep, I'm putting the question through Yahoo Answers.:))