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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
The Summer of 2013 officially began the Friday before last, but already it has a good shot at achieving a dubious distinction in the annals of parental indulgence. This could be the summer that ice cream trucks for dogs go mainstream.
Ever since the K99 ice cream truck set up shop in the parks of London during the summer of 2010–to the tune of the Scooby Doo theme song, no less–the trend of cruising trucks full of specially-made canine ice cream treats and cookies has been spreading and appears to be hitting its jaunty stride. Last summer, they started dropping by dog parks in more and more American cities, confident in the knowledge that all it takes is one person ponying up $3 for a doggie cone and in no time, every other dog owner in the vicinity will feel compelled to do the same for their own little precious. And now, according to a story on NBC’s website this weekend, some of the more successful dog food trucks are talking about franchising their brands.
This was inevitable, I suppose, given all the singles whose significant other has paws, and all the aging Baby Boomers whose own kids have moved out, or at least down to the basement. These days, dog love swings easily into sweet, excessive indulgence.
Among recent examples of ideas whose time apparently has come are a device developed by a San Francisco firm that allows pet owners to track how active their dog is during the day while they’re at work, and a high-end dog food whose main ingredient is ground-up chicken feathers. It’s designed for dogs with food allergies.
Products like those get much of the media attention, yet some of the more interesting developments in the deepening entanglement of dogs and owners have not been in the marketplace, but in scientific laboratories. Researchers have been focusing on the potent bond between dogs and owners, particularly how it affects a pet’s behavior.
For instance, a study done at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, published last week in the journal PLOS ONE, found that connections between dogs and their owners can have striking similarities to parent-child relationships. Okay, no surprise there, but what they learned about how it influences a dog’s confidence was pretty revealing.
Specifically, they saw that, as in parent-child bonding, dogs use their caregivers as a “secure base” from which to interact with the world around them. In this case, the dogs could earn a food reward by manipulating toys. But they showed much less interest in working for a treat when their owners weren’t around. If they were there, it didn’t seem to make much difference if the owner was silent or encouraging. What mattered was their presence. And it couldn’t be just any human–the dogs weren’t very motivated when a stranger was in the room with them. Only when their owners were nearby did they go after the food with gusto.
Said researcher Lisa Horn, “One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do.”
Then there was the study published earlier this year in the journal Animal Cognition, which concluded that dogs are much more likely to steal food if they think nobody can see them. Again, big surprise, right? Anyone with a dog knows that even the most guileless mutt becomes a creature of cunning when food is involved.
But there’s a larger lesson here. What the research actually determined was that dogs were four times more likely to sneak food in a dark room than a lighted room. Which suggests that they can understand when a human can or cannot see them. And that could mean that dogs are capable of understanding a human’s point of view.
Explained lead researcher Juliane Kaminski:
“”Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that’s us thinking, not them.The results of these tests suggest that dogs are deciding it’s safer to steal the food when the room is dark because they understand something of the human’s perspective.”
In dogs we trust
Here are other recent studies on the dog-human connection:
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)