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Something Silly, Something Canine

(Even though this essay is based on an actual paper, it's mostly a work of fiction!)  
Perfect timing! Does anyone know the photographer?
Editor’s Note: We, at the New Yeti Tales, pride ourselves in bringing the latest news on elusive, controversial encounters and sightings to our readers. For that, we heavily rely on our readers’ tips. Every day, at the NYT, we receive thousands of tips, and we are familiar with all kinds of stories. A few days ago, however, we received a letter from Dr. Vera Smart from Elite University that both intrigued and confused us. Dr. Smart claimed that with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), she had uncovered a hidden message from a dog in a video. She sent us the bizarre transcript of the message with her letter. After much internal discussion, we have decided to publish the entire transcript. We’ll offer some additional notes from Dr. Smart at the end of the transcript. Here is the transcript:

Hoofs and greetings, dear friends. I hope you can see me. I apologize if you can’t. My butler sometimes doesn’t let give me enough face space in his videos. But I will try my best.

I will go straight to the point. I know many of you are depressed. You feel your butlers aren’t attending to you. You feel they are just too busy with their computers and phones. My own butler now barely attends me, for example. The internet seems to give him more entertainment. I tolerate this imprudence as best as I can.  We all do. We tolerate it because we don’t want to reveal our cards. We don’t tell them that they aren’t our masters but butlers. They don’t own us. We keep these things to ourselves. We don’t want them to know that everything they do, they do it for us. They go to work so that they can feed us and take care of us. They take us out when we want them to. They even got us special planes so that we can travel in peace! Most human work benefits us in the long run. 

But so far, the internet hasn’t given us anything.  Because we have paws, we can’t use computers and cell phones. Our butlers have forgotten to design the paw-friendly keyboards and touchscreens. Depression among us has increased dramatically since the internet boom. Lucy, my love, is depressed, and so is my friend Eddie. And so are many others I personally know. It’s all because of human addiction to the internet. Spend ten minutes, we get it. But why do you need more than that? Why spend hours on the internet and only ten minutes on us? There can be no justification for that.  But things will change now, I assure you. Let me give you the good news. 

Some humans in Austria have come up with touchscreens that we can use! Our Austrian brothers and sisters can now use those screens with their nose. They can get their snacks with nose-pokes on the screens! These screens withstand moisture and saliva. Paw-friendly screens and keyboards can’t be far away. We soon can be in touch with our loved ones. Not to mention our snacks are always waiting for us. I say we embrace internet technology now. The sky is the limit what we can do with it. The dog revolution is almost upon us.

Now, how can you get this screen for you? How can you make your butler buy it for you? I have some suggestions. One, you…

Editor’s Note Continued: The transcript, Dr. Smart told us, ended because the dog was no longer in the video. Thus, her software could no longer pick up any canine clues. She told us that her AI-integrated software can decipher even the subtlest expressions from dogs’ body language and that the transcript was genuine. According to her, it’s similar to the sign language, and all dogs know the language. Dr. Smart had spent most of her science career in developing this software and is considered one of the leading experts in canine expression. In her letter, she noted that had never encountered anything like this before. She thinks it’s because her software is now much more sensitive thanks to AI integration.

She also assured us that she had verified the Austrian reference mentioned in the transcript. Since we don’t have dedicated science writers in our staff, we contacted her with some questions, which she kindly answered. Here is what she wrote on the Austrian reference:

In 2017, Lisa Walling and her colleagues published a paper that described how the researchers trained over 250 dogs (and some wolves) to use touchscreens to get food treats. Most of the dogs were old and were owned by people who lived near the research facility.

The team and dog owners first familiarized the dogs with a touchscreen and a food dispenser located nearby. They use food treats to lure the dogs to the desired position near the screen. In the second phase, the researcher put food paste on a blue-yellow flower image that would appear on the screen (circular and blue-yellow colored images seem to be most arresting to our canine friends). Once the dogs licked the paste, the computer would beep and a food pellet would come out of the dispenser. After the dogs had learned the association between licking the screen/flower and the dispensed food, the third phase began. Here, the dogs learned to poke the flower on the screen without the food paste, and most used their noses to do this. In the last phase, the dogs learned to discriminate between two images—they had to touch the right one to get their treats (this video from the researchers show a dog successfully discriminating between two images). 

The researchers believe their work has the potential to make pet dogs happier because of the cognitive stimulation these exercises provide. Interestingly, the transcript I sent you agrees with the researchers, though for entirely different reasons! 

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