Real Israel: Dog daze TV

I’m dreading the day I come home to find my hound is begging to be my best friend on Facebook. Or worse still, that my pooch prefers watching TV to going for a walk with me.

By
March 8, 2013 07:14
lady and dog 521

lady and dog 521. (photo credit: OURIA TADMOR)

The stereotypical Jewish mother makes her children feel guilty. In real life, it’s the other way round. The kids make the mothers feel bad.

And as if that isn’t bad enough, I’m now feeling pressure from an unexpected direction: my dog.

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It seems that my poor old pooch is looking at me with sad eyes because she hasn’t got anything better to look at. Like a canine TV channel.

Now, not only do I feel that my son is possibly the only one in his class without cable TV, but my dog, too, is feeling the effects of being kept on a short leash, television-wise.

The recent announcement that DOGTV was making aliya made me raise an eyebrow, if not my metaphorical hackles. After all, who wants to get into an argument with their pet over the remote control?

Actually, the channel, available in Israel via the Yes satellite company, is not so much making aliya as coming home. The channel dedicated to dogs’ viewing pleasure is a blue-and-white product. The management comprises executive chairman, president and founder of the Jasmine Group Yossi Uzrad, CEO Gilad Neumann, and cofounder and chief content officer Ron Levi, all of whom have Israeli media experience behind them – although to get the channel up and running, they consulted with animal behaviorists and specialists abroad. The product was first launched in the US, where the market is bigger; debuting last February in San Diego, it reached some 483,000 homes in California’s second-largest city.

The idea is simple: While we owners go out to work to bring home the Bonzo, our animal companions need to have something to keep them occupied and stop them going barking mad. The perfect solution, according to the enterprising media moguls for purebreds and mongrels, is a cable TV channel dedicated to their special needs and tastes.

“DOGTV is scientifically developed and Pup approved. DOGTV is cable’s first television network for dogs that is created exclusively for canines, and the humans who love them,” enthuses the company’s website.

“DOGTV provides television for dogs with three types of programming offering relaxing and stimulating content as well as positive behavioral reinforcements,” it goes on.

“Dogs that are left alone tend to become anxious so the calming sounds and music in the relaxing segments on DOGTV were created to keep them peaceful. Many dogs also suffer from a lack of stimulation, which becomes acute when their parents are away. The stimulating segments provide dogs with invigorating images, animation and exciting real world sounds to keep them up and running.

“Unlike any other TV channel, every frame and every sound on DOGTV is designed 100% for dogs.”

The company claims that years of research led it to develop special content to meet the specific characteristics of canine vision and hearing, such as enhanced coloring to emphasize details and stress on contrast, brightness, and frame rate; and the use of sound effects, music and specific ranges of frequencies that best suit dogs.

ALTHOUGH I wish the company every success, in my case I think they may be barking up the wrong tree. I usually work from home one day a week. This doesn’t give me a chance to watch daytime TV, but it does offer me the opportunity to see what my pets do all day: sleep.

It is pretty distracting in its own way to be slaving over the computer while the dog and cats are all napping (and I won’t go into details about how the gerbils spend their time; suffice it to say they breed very rapidly.) The idea of special shows for dogs is not new. Some time in the early 1990s, I was given a video to review which purported to be perfect for pets whose owners had to leave them alone. It ran as a loop, repeating the story every 20 minutes, if I recall correctly.

Ignoring the temptation to prepare a bag of popcorn, I sat on the sofa with my dog in front of the TV, and we watched together. Schmoo watched for about two minutes before getting bored; I saw the whole film through, again and again. I’m not sure how long it took before we both fell asleep. As with most daytime TV, I didn’t feel I was missing much.

DOGTV’s subscription-based channel claims to avoid this problem by arranging its programing into three- to-sixminute segments of relaxing, stimulating and behavior-improving footage “that work collaboratively to provide just the right balance for the daily routines of our beloved ‘stay-at-home’ dogs.”

Cats, it seems, have different tastes.

My family has had several felines who enjoyed various programs. Several of our cats would run to watch nature movies, and two were particularly partial to sporting events – Olympic marathons could actually make them postpone the important things in life, like catnapping and licking their bums.

In the days when there was only one channel in Israel – and only now do I realize how deprived that apparently made kids and pets – one of my parents’ cats would wait until the end of the broadcasts and then, in an only-in- Israel scene, jump up and follow the silver yad (Torah pointer) that crossed the screen during the sign-off Psuko Shel Yom – the minute-long segment that aired at midnight, reciting selected daily biblical or religious verses. Paws for thought, indeed.

As a matter of fact, rather than more 24-hour cable channels, I think we should bring back what was known as “Psuko,” which not only enriched viewers (and their pets) spiritually, but also encouraged them to go to sleep at a set and reasonable hour. That was before our collective viewing habits and sleep patterns went to the dogs.

My parents’ current dog, while lacking a rich Torah education, does seem able to read English. Whenever the two magic words “The End” appear on the screen, she figures it’s a good time to beg for a walk.

My own dog is obviously missing out in life; at 15, she is beginning to suffer from cataracts. This, I tell myself, is another reason I should not feel guilty about not signing up for cable or Internet TV for her. I’m in favor of letting this sleeping dog lie.

Dogs, being pack animals, probably could benefit from company during the day when owners are out, as the DOGTV management contends.

Instead of television, however, I suggest you adopt a cat as well as a dog and let them keep each other entertained.

Call me dogmatic, but I’m afraid that if it starts with television, it will end with demands to spend hours on the computer. I have visions of couch potato pets. Already, DOGTV has an Internet channel and phone application. Should I feel guilty that I have so far denied both my son and my animals a smartphone?

I’m dreading the day I come home to find my hound is begging to be my best friend on Facebook. Or worse still, that my pooch prefers watching TV to going for a walk with me.

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