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Canine Public-Art Phobia

When they’re not peeing on the gates, they’re petrified of them.

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Why is Conan O’brien’s dog, Hudson, so spooked by The Gates? “His ears are pinned back in fear,” said the retriever’s walker (O’Brien himself had no comment). And while she allowed that Hudson “is unusually sensitive,” a quick walk through the park last week showed he’s not the only pooch with art-appreciation issues. “All this orange has them all worked up,” said a sheepdog owner, as her normally docile doggie lunged at a passing pup. But aren’t dogs saffron-blind? Not necessarily, explains Joseph Rivera, canine massage therapist and self-described “dog whisperer”; research shows dogs see the world in muted colors, rather like pastels. However, he adds, it’s not the orange, it’s “the noise—the fabric flapping in the wind—that dogs are sensitive to.” Canadian psychologist Stanley Coren, author of How Dogs Think, concurs: “To dogs, the color is not much different from the color of grass—both are brownish yellow. But when The Gates move, it could be perceived as a threat. As far as they can tell, there is a really big thing with long arms that may be groping for them.” This, he warns, could definitely “make them edgier and cause more squabbles.” Marketing executive Liz Samurovich already knows who to blame for her dachshund Picasso’s increased jitteriness: “The shadows cast by the fabric make him jumpy. Picasso doesn’t think this is art.” Nor, apparently, does Tessa, a “pure American mutt” belonging to Ingrid Rossellini, Italian-literature professor and Isabella’s twin. Just as Rossellini began analyzing The Gates, Tessa began to take aim. “Look,” she said, “the dogs are interacting with the art.”


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