Friday, February 28, 2014

Hi-Tech Doggy Monitoring with Dropcam

Is there a new cat in the neighborhood? A squirrel? Is a fellow canine visiting your yard? Get a Dropcam! Aside from live streaming, this spiffy smart web cam offers cloud video storage so you can upload your footage to Dropcam's servers for your later perusal.

My helicopter parents are constantly freaking out about me, and I am concerned about their blood pressure. If we had a Dropcam, this family would stay healthy and, maybe, sane.

Doggy monitoring is one of Dropcam's most common applications, as the adorable photos on their website illustrate.

With its built-in mic and speaker, Dropcam enables doggy parents to engage in two-way talk with their furkids over the Internet. Thanks to its activity recognition capabilities, Dropcam can also generate custom alerts about furry mischief.

To get a better sense of how a Dropcam works, take a look at the Dropcam's live footage from New York City's Ruff Club, a wotten waven daycare center for Big Apple fur citizens. As you watch the Ruff Club doggies engage in a wide array of entertaining activities, count how many times their human caregiver scoops their droppings and disinfects the floor.

Apparently, Dropcam's CEO Greg Duffy came up with the idea of a cloud-based camera as he was trying to figure out whose dog was pooping in his dad's yard. Who knew dog poop could serve as the inspiration for a successful business? One more reason to always scoop it up!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mount Bar

Here I am on my way up Mount Bar, a 6000 foot dome-shaped peak in the Lugano area and a premier destination for snowshoeing, ski-mountaineering, and winter doggy hiking.


Mount Bar offers lofty alpine views and lots of snow to scratch your snout with.


Here I am at the top. Yes, Dachshund Daddy hauled my pet carrier all the way up the mountain so I could engage in my favorite summit burrowing activities.


Here's Ambra, staring at my pet carrier slung over DD's shoulder. She's probably wondering why the bag is barking at her. Hint: I'm in it.

You can see Lake Lugano in the distance.


Here's Ambra playing with Nando on the flat top of Mount Bar…


triggering a major dachshund bark-o-fest.


I didn't just bark: I also made several blanket statements.


I always give DD a hard time when it's time to go and he kindly asks me to come out of my burrow. Eventually, he flushes me out by offering me a serving of carrots.


Fur disclosure. I walked 95% of the way up, but I had trouble on the way down. It was warmer and the snow could no longer hold my weight, so I kept postholing and DD had to carry me. He was wearing snowshoes but, unfortunately, they don't make snowshoes for dachshunds yet.

Monday, February 17, 2014

International Scoops

Italians do not appreciate conciseness, as their poopy signage clearly indicates. Just take a look at this specimen from the town of Agra, nestled on top of a hill overlooking Lake Maggiore.

Literal translation: "[Dogs] may not circulate unless on leash, muzzled, and equipped with dedicated means for the removal of possible feces - Article 27/28 of the Regulations of the City Police for the decorum and safety of citizens".

Seriously?! All this crap to get people to scoop? Like you, we always scoop. And what's this nonsense about the muzzle? Do they even make muzzles my size? And take a close look at the cute dog on the sign:

She's clearly wagging; is that also not allowed in Agra?

Needless to say, dogs in Agra are free to wag copiously, never wear muzzles, few are ever on leash, and poop hardly ever gets scooped, as is generally the rule in Italy. Lots of rules, always very particular and verbose, and nobody follows any of them.

The Swiss, on the other hand, are much more pragmatic. The snazzy poopy sticker below doesn't leave much room for interpretation. And it is aptly placed on a poopy bag dispenser, paid for by a yearly $50 doggy tax charged to every dog-owning family.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Letter from Beagle-ish Max

I am sharing a lovely note and photo from my friend Max, who lives in North Carolina. As you know, there's been lots of weather in the USA -- snow in North Carolina!


It was something of a shock yesterday when I walked on what I thought was solid snow and my paws fell through the layer on top, and my belly dragged. I had to walk under the eaves or by the fence if I was to walk at all. And the birds, I tell you, are busy at the feeder with all this snow. It was a lot to look at.

Today, though, the stuff is wet and and melty, and I can snuffle my snout in it and smell the ground.

Your beagle-ish friend,
Max xoxoxo

Friday, February 14, 2014

Am I a Valentine Sausage?

Dear fur-friends,

Here's Dachshund Daddy's retro Valentine's Day design for all of you:

Happy Valentine's Day!

Two large wobbly eyes keep track of four dachshunds, who in turn watch over a heart with a serene smile.

Mom thought the eyes were a bit freaky until I explained to her the basic idea in DD's design: dachshund eyes see right through to your heart, and they also protect it. "But why does the heart have a pink nose?" Mom asks. I lay down on my favorite rug to think about it, but I still don't have an answer. Do you?

DD created these wotten waven designs for my Zazzle store, my favorite pet project. (No pun intended.)

Happy Valentine's Day. Pet bloggers are the most compassionate bunch, and we really appreciate your friendship.

Your Valentine Sausage

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Swiss Quota Vote - Part Two

In Part One, I outlined the basic context of the controversial Swiss vote to curb immigration from the European Union. Though it never joined the EU, Switzerland managed to enjoy the benefits of its common market, which is the largest in the world. In practice, this was made possible by negotiating a host of bilateral agreements.

One such agreement concerns the free movement of workers. In exchange for countless economic perks, starting in 2008, the Swiss agreed to exempt EU citizens from immigration restrictions, thus attracting a sizable influx of EU nationals looking for Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, and Swiss salaries.

Fast-forward to 2014. Switzerland's economy is healthy, unemployment is low, but there's a general sense that today's population growth is not sustainable at its current level of 80,000 new entries a year.

This past Sunday, the Swiss voted on whether to reinstate immigration quotas from the EU. 50.3% of them voted yes.

While liberals and the business lobby were in favor of the status quo, the right joined forces with environmentalists to support the reinstatement of the quotas. The right imbued the campaign with xenophobic overtones, while environmentalists warned that unconstrained economic growth is not feasible in an alpine country smaller than South Carolina. Meanwhile, the business lobby counter-argued that the quotas would hurt the economy.

By Swiss law, the Government has to honor the people's decision. This means the Government is in a pickle, because the free movement of persons is a legally binding bilateral agreement with the EU.

What happens now? In principle, the EU could void all the bilateral agreements they negotiated with Switzerland. The EU is Switzerland's number one trading partner, and things could get ugly.

Though I'm the only (naturalized) Swiss citizen in our family (as you know, I carry a Swiss Pet Passport), I didn't get to vote because I'm a dog. This is unacceptable, because I pay a yearly dog tax. Few things upset me like taxation without representation.

My parents have been here long enough and will not be affected. If push comes to shove, I'm a citizen, so I can sponsor them.

Stay tuned. We have one more installment planned to focus on the vote in the Italian-speaking regions. In America, National Public Radio did a piss poor job of reporting this issue, so Steve Inskeep asked me to fill in the details.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Swiss Quota Vote - Part One

You may have read about the Swiss vote to reinstate immigration quotas for European Union nationals.

As a US-born naturalized Swiss citizen and bicontinental resident, I'm uniquely positioned to provide some much needed context.

In spite of their country's central location in the European continent, the Swiss have pretty much managed to stay out of trouble for the past 500 years or so.

In the meantime, their neighbors butchered each other in a series of wars that culminated in the two World Wars. Finally, after over 60 million human beings lost their lives in World War II, European countries decided that trade should replace warfare as the continent's favorite pastime, planting the seeds to the super-national structure that would evolve into the European Union (EU).

While more and more countries joined the EU, the Swiss never felt the need to join. In the 1990s, when they were asked to vote on whether they ought to join, they politely declined.

Yes, they were asked. That's because Switzerland enjoys a unique form of direct democracy that puts the USA and most EU countries to shame. Citizens, not politicians, really do decide.

After saying "no, thank you" to EU membership, the Swiss quickly realized that the idea of a continental-scale common market with no trade barriers was not too shabby. So they negotiated a number of so-called bilateral agreements with the European Union. This way, Switzerland became economically integrated while remaining politically isolated. Who ever said you can't have your cake and eat it, too?

This was the basic context; stay tuned for part two, where we'll tell you more about the vote itself.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sad Swan News

To all those who saw our swan post earlier this week. We are very sorry to share that our swan friend did not make it.

Here is the Società Protezione Animali Bellinzona pet-ambulance volunteer helping the swan.

Several of you expressed concern about the way the swan was not holding his neck upright -- and that he also let someone touch him. The volunteer was very concerned, too.

The pet-ambulance volunteer wrote us to let us know that the vet helped the swan fly over the Rainbow Bridge. Without the help of the volunteers, our swan friend would surely have died slowly in the water.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. We really appreciate it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Swan Rescue Operation

A couple of local teenagers saw the swan first. There was something that wasn't quite right about this particular swan, floating with his head at a ninety degree angle to his body in the waters of Lake Lugano. The teens and Dachshund Daddy agreed that the swan was sick.

In Southern Switzerland, when you find an animal in distress, you can contact SPAB, a very special Humane Society based in the town of Bellinzona.

SPAB, the Bellinzona Society for the Protection of Animals, responds to emergencies involving pets or wild animals by sending one of their special trucks named after Barry. Barry was their St. Bernard dog who rescued humans from avalanches until his passing several years ago. The Barry truck is an ambulance for animals.

While Dachshund Daddy rode his bike to meet the SPAB truck and lead the crew to the exact location of the sick swan, one of the teens waded into Lake Lugano to bring the swan ashore.

Here's a SPAB volunteer right after his arrival on site...

lifting our swan friend...

and gently placing him in a special enclosure in the back of the Barry truck.

The swan was then driven to a vet. Please send good juju and healing thoughts his way. We'll keep you posted. The volunteers of the SPAB said they will let Dachshund Daddy know what happens.

Update: We are very sorry to share that our swan friend did not make it. The pet-ambulance volunteer said it was clear on the way to the vet that the swan was in very bad shape, but we don't yet know what was determined to be wrong. We do know that the vet helped the swan fly over the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. We really appreciate it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Doggy Highways

If teleportation was invented, we would no longer need to drive, and highways would exclusively cater to bicycles, pedestrians, horses, and dogs. Rumor has it Google may nail teleportation by the end of the fiscal year, and transportation agencies are already thinking ahead.

I was recently commissioned to propose a number of esthetically pleasing designs for doggy signage to the transportation agencies of various countries.

As much as I love cuddles, I admit that they may create congestion on shared roadways. For instance, a miniature dachshund getting cuddles by a number of road users may hinder traffic, which is why we need to warn cyclists and joggers.

The very presence of a dachshund may warrant a sign such as the following.

As you can see, these truly unique signs are featured on my "Very Dangerous American Dog" notebook series.

Back to dachshund-induced congestion... in certain situations, it may help to provide quantitative information about the distribution of the dachshunds, as in the fridge magnet below:

The Mexican Department of Transportation pointed out that, even after the uptake of teleport pads, some people may still wish to drive their cars just for fun. It makes sense, as the demand for oil will drop and gas will be cheaper than dog pee, which is why I sent this fridge magnet to Mexico City:

"Careful -- drive slowly -- sausage dogs." Concise, vivid, and right to the point. And I even figured out how to use the polite form of the imperative in Spanish. Hasta luego, amigos!
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