FORECLOSURE: The Forgotten Victims Left Behind

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Golden Retriever Sydney, a victim of foreclosure

I believe there is nothing more important than “family”. And, to me, families are not complete without their beloved animal companions. And, because animals continue to depend on us for their wellbeing throughout their lives, they conceptually are viewed in the same way as children are. Can you imagine the pain of having to give up a child? Honestly, I cannot. It is simply unfathomable.

The nationwide foreclosure crisis, due to financial problems caused by the many subprime mortgage lenders, has forced millions to move out of their homes. But, truly, the forgotten victims are the beloved dogs and cats left behind.

Rescue experts want pet owners to give their local shelters a call before they give up their pets. They say there’s a much better chance that way of finding a new home for abandoned animals.

Any shelters can offer referrals so pets can end up with a new family, just like Sydney did. That avoids the need for abandonment altogether. Shelters say while dogs and cats are abandoned in equal numbers, it’s much harder to find new homes for felines.

So for families in crisis, animal experts urge you to find a friend, a neighbor or a shelter as a last resort, but never leave your pet behind.

Be sure to click on 2-year-old Golden Sydney, one of the furry loves recently at the Sacramento SPCA, to see a video of his status and this plight.

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RealtyTrac reports that from October 2008, home foreclosures have increased 21 percent from September 2007; one in every 475 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing in September 2008.There are no words to the video below, only Paul Simon’s moving “American Tune” song playing.

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it’s all right, it’s all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

Service Golden Retriever Bettie – Inspiring Robotic Technology

Dr. Charles Kemp and Hai Nguyen of Georgia Tech studied Georgia Canines for Independence (GCI)‘s Service Dog Bettie last year and used her as a model to develop a robot that could increase the independence of people with disabilities. CLICK HERE to learn more about this innovative study.

Robotic Technology Inspired by Service Dogs (Georgia Tech Press Release)
Mimicking the work of expensive canines could provide less-expensive alternative for the impaired

Atlanta (October 22, 2008) —Service dogs, invaluable companions providing assistance to physically impaired individuals, are an elite and desired breed. Their presence in a home can make everyday tasks that are difficult – if not impossible – achievable, enhancing the quality of life for the disabled.

Yet with a cost averaging $16,000 per dog – not to mention the two years of training required to hone these skills – the demand for these canines’ exceeds their availability.

But what if these duties could be accomplished with an electronic companion that provides the same efficiency at a fraction of the cost? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have engineered a biologically inspired robot that mirrors the actions of sought-after service dogs. Users verbally command the robot to complete a task and the robot responds once a basic laser pointer illuminates the location of the desired action.

For instance, if a person needs an item fetched, that individual would normally command a service dog to do so and then gesture with their hands toward the location. The service robot mimics the process, with the hand gesture replaced by aiming the laser pointer at the desired item.

On the left, Golden Retriever Service Dog Bettie opens a door using a bandanna tied to the door handle. On the right, an assistive robot opens a door in an analogous manner.

Employing this technology, users can accomplish basic yet challenging missions such as opening doors, drawers and retrieving medication. “It’s a road to get robots out there helping people sooner,” said Professor Charlie Kemp, Georgia Tech Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Service dogs have a great history of helping people, but there’s a multi-year waiting list. It’s a very expensive thing to have. We think robots will eventually help to meet those needs.”

Kemp presented his findings this week at the second IEEE/RAS-EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics – BioRob 2008 – in Scottsdale, Ariz. This technology was achieved with four-legged authenticity.

Kemp and graduate student Hai Nguyen worked closely with the team of trainers at Georgia Canines for Independence (GCI) in Acworth, Ga. to research the command categories and interaction that is core to the relationship between individuals and service dogs.

Bettie, a Golden Retriever, was studied to understand her movements and relationship with commands. Key to the success is Bettie’s ability to work with a towel attached to a drawer or door handle, which allows her to use her mouth for such actions as opening and closing. The robot was then successfully programmed to use the towel in a similar manner.

Her handlers were thrilled at the potential benefits of the technology. “The waiting list for dogs can be five to seven years,” said Ramona Nichols, executive director of Georgia Canines for Independence. “It’s neat to see science happening but with a bigger cause; applying the knowledge and experience we have and really making a difference. I’m so impressed. It’s going to revolutionize our industry in helping people with disabilities.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.The video above shows the El-E opening and closing a drawer, opening a door, and opening a microwave using assistive dog inspired environmental augmentation.

In total, the robot was able to replicate 10 tasks and commands taught to service dogs at GCI – including opening drawers and doors – with impressive efficiency. Other successes included opening a microwave oven, delivering an object and placing an item on a table.

“As robotic researchers we shouldn’t just be looking at the human as an example,” Kemp said. “Dogs are very capable at what they do. They have helped thousands of people throughout the years. I believe we’re going to be able to achieve the capabilities of a service dog sooner than those of a human caregiver.”

While the robot may not be able to mirror the personality and furry companionship of a canine, it does have other benefits. “The robot won’t require the same care and maintenance,” Kemp said. “It also won’t be distracted by a steak.”

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A proud Graduating Team

A proud Graduating Team

Bettie’s help with this project may one day make a difference for many folks struggling with disabilities. But, right now, she is surely making a difference in the life of her new human companion, Kelly, only having graduated on April 19, 2008.

Service Dog Bettie will assist Kelley, who has quadriplegia caused by a diving accident, by opening & closing doors, turning lights on & off, opening drawers, and retrieving dropped or needed items. And, she certainly will bring laughter and joy as well, as we know that is the special hidden benefit of those fortunate to have a Golden Service Dog.