Will the Great American Eclipse make animals act strangely? Watch & See

Total Solar Eclipse Day Monday 21st August 2017

What makes this one so special is that it will cut diagonally across the entire USA from Oregon down to Charleston and beyond. The last time a total solar eclipse swept the entire breadth of America was 1918, beyond the memory of anyone alive now, I suspect.

So, a particularly exciting and dramatic event for the American people. But what about the nonhuman animals? And plants? Some of the ways nonhumans react to this strange disruption of the normal day is already known to scientists. Birds fall silent and some go to roost. Cows lie down, crickets start to chirp. Whales and dolphins have been seen to swim to the surface 5 minutes before the eclipse begins, and stay there for totality and 5 minutes after. Other animals also seem to know beforehand what is coming.

But now the California Academy of Sciences needs you!

Any observations of animal behavior you make during the eclipse will become highly valued data. Whether you notice squirrels in your yard, bats, owls, horses, pigs and cows, plants, or even your own dog or cat – at CAS they want to hear about it. For starters you will need to install the iNaturalist app on your phone or tablet. Then please click on this link for full instructions on how to participate in the Life Responds Project. It’s easy.

For a taster of the day, try out this clip (With thanks to AwarenessHelps.com)

Source: Will the Great American Eclipse make animals act strangely? Science says yes

Cover pic Pixabay

Cool Cats & Dandy Dogs Get Ready for Clear the Shelters Day

Have you been thinking about adding to your family with a new furry? Well, tomorrow, Saturday August 19th is The Day to find yourself that one special pooch or moggie who’s sure to steal your heart away. It’s Clear the Shelters Day, when right across the USA shelters offer free or greatly reduced fees for all would-be adopters. It’s a once-a-year event to find loving homes for every fur baby in the participating shelters. Want to know more about this marvellous scheme? Click here and here

And to prod you in the right direction, here is a selection box of cat and dog trivia, facts and fun to dip into, that I hope will yield up one or two surprises.

Those of us already sharing our homes and lives with a BFF or three are pretty sure we can read them like a book, aren’t we. Every twitch of the ear, wag of the tail, arch of the back, squint of the eyes. We live with them for goodness sake. We know them so well that every time some new piece of scientific research on Felix or Fido reveals its (unsurprising) findings, we just go “Dah. Like we didn’t know that already”.

Except this time. Because I’m willing to bet these researchers have turned up an oddity that will have you eyeing your pooch anew.

The tell-tale tail

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“It now appears that when dogs feel generally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rear ends, and when they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left.

In spite of having lived with dogs all my life, I can’t claim ever to have noticed. But apparently, that left/right business isn’t as surprising as it seems at first glance. Many animal brains including humans, have a left hemisphere (which controls the right side of the body) that is activated by love, happiness, serenity. And the right hemisphere (controlling the left of the body) by withdrawal, fear, depression.

And, it’s not just, “Was that a left wag, or a right?” The language of doggy wag is a bit more complicated than we might have thought. Apart from the left/right business, the researchers noted 4 different kinds of rear end motion, and surprisingly they don’t all mean ‘I’m-so-happy-to-see-you’. Find the full wag guide here

action-2483689__340-1Cats on the other hand, just wag their tails when they are angry, don’t they? As befits the cat’s enigmatic aura, the feline wag is even more subtly nuanced than the canine. So we have:

  • The Vertical Tail and Tail Quiver
  • The Wrapped Tail
  • The Tail Flick (Or, the Straight Out and Back Tail)
  • The Swish
  • The Fluffy, Arched Tail
  • And the Twitch

What does it all mean? To whet your appetite for more, I’ll let you in on the meaning of the first, the VT & TQ: “An upright (or vertical) tail and tail quiver (or rattle tail) are often signs of a friendly greeting from your feline. An upright tail is usually a sign of a happy, confident cat” You knew that already of course! More on the cat wag guide here


It’s not fair

From a piece of research in Vienna, scientists found that dogs are right on the button when it comes to what is fair and what is not.

They put two dogs in separate cages, but where they could see each other. Each had a buzzer they could press with their paw. Sometimes when they pressed it they would both get a reward, but sometimes neither would. Sometimes one got a reward and the other didn’t. Sometimes one got a better treat than the other. What happened? The one consistently coming off worse would just give up pressing the buzzer. No-one wants to be the underdog.

But he or she would happily keep pressing the buzzer and not getting a reward, as long as the other dog didn’t get one either. Or, if there wasn’t another dog to compare themselves with – proof that it wasn’t just boredom that made them stop. The pooches were aggrieved. They stopped because it just wasn’t fair.

Is this something dogs have learned from living with us humans? It seems not. The researchers also tried the experiment on wolves – and got the same result. In fact the wolves stopped pressing even quicker, the alpha male quickest of all.

Dogs have been among us for maybe 40,000 years, but it seems their view of fairness learned long ago from dwelling as a member of a pack lives on.

Afterthought: wouldn’t it be fascinating to know how cats would respond? Would you like to venture a guess?


This dog stays wild!

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We’re talking Australian dingo here. In traditional aboriginal society, dingo pups were taken from the wild and draped around women’s waists like garments of clothing. Like you do. The women even breastfed them. In return, they kept the women warm, were an invaluable help in the hunt, a source of protection – and sometimes of food.

But before the pups reached the age of two, they were returned to the wild to breed. And in spite of thousands of years of semi-involvement in human lives, the adult dingo still to this day fails “to respond to any amount of discipline, kindness, bribery or coercion.” A dingo pup taken from the wild can not be trained up as a family pet. “Affectionate and tractable when young, eventually their carnivorous nature gets the better of them.”

The dingo’s most astounding gift though, is its ability to divine water. These wild dogs can detect water both above and below ground, and humans throughout history have put its remarkable skill to good use. Records reveal many accounts of “wild/semi-wild dingoes leading Europeans to lifesaving water springs.” And Australian place names still bear witness to this talent: Dingo Soak, Dingo Springs, Dingo Rock, Dingo Gap.

In aboriginal culture, dreaming tracks or songlines trace the dingo’s paths across the continent, from one water source to another. To one well-versed in them, the songs of the dreaming tracks serve as maps, since the words describe landmarks and waterholes. So by singing them they can navigate their way even over the vast Australian desertland. The dingo has shown them the way.

You can find out more about these fascinating wild dogs, and see an extraordinary image of Aboriginal women with dingoes wrapped around their waists here


But enough of dogs. Now for a bit of quality time with the cats.

Cuddles & Cat Flu

This research aimed to find out what effect if any positive interaction with humans has on shelter cats’ health and wellbeing. So, on arriving at a Vancouver cat shelter, each cat was divided into one of two groups. The ‘treated’ group got quality interaction with a human 4 times a day, 10 minutes each time, for 10 days. The control group had someone stand outside the cats’ cage with averted eyes for the same amount of time.

Surprise, surprise, these are the findings:

  • Human interaction by petting, playing and grooming improved shelter cats’ welfare
  • ‘Treated’ cats were more content and less anxious and frustrated
  • ‘Treated’ cats had increased levels of immumoglobulin [meaning healthier immune systems]
  • ‘Treated’ cats had less respiratory disease

cat-714358_960_720Even if that falls into the cat-egory (ahem) of research results stating the obvious, it does prove one thing: much as they pretend they don’t – putting on every appearance of just about tolerating us and condescending to live with us on their terms only – they do actually need us after all!


But before we get carried away with that good news, I regretfully have to confirm what we all always suspected –

Dogs really do love us more than cats

Five times as much in fact, so the scientists tell us. Who knew you could measure love? Find out how they do it here

Cat lovers take heart though – they do love us a bit😊


Now for something altogether more serious

Are Felix and Fido driving climate change?

American Professor Gregory Okin decided to find out. And these are his sobering findings:

  • Meat-eating US dogs and cats create 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars
  • That tonnage of carbon dioxide makes up 25 – 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the States overall
  • If the 163 million American dogs and cats were a separate country of their own, “their fluffy nation would rank fifth in global meat consumption behind only Russia, Brazil, the United States and China”. Now that is scary.
  • And don’t forget the ‘waste’ – they produce 5.1 million tons of feces, as much as 90 million Americans

So what’s the answer? Our dogs and cats are family. No way are we going to give them up, even for the best environmental reasons in the world. Prof Okin doesn’t offer solutions, other than his half-joking suggestion that we transfer our affections to naturally vegetarian pets like hamsters or birds – or little ponies that can mow our lawns. Well, I have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Feed your furry friend veggie/vegan dog and cat foods, like Ami, Benevo, and Yarrah. Taurine and arachidonic acid are vital for cats, but these brands do contain them, so don’t listen to those who like to tell you a cat can’t live on a vegetarian diet
  2. DON’T give up the chance to save the life of a rescue pet – a lovable little critter that might well end up euthanized – by getting your BFF from a pet store or breeder. You would simply be lining the pockets of people who exploit dogs and cats just for money.
  3. ALWAYS go to your nearest animal shelter – TOMORROW! – and give a loving home to a pet who’s been abandoned through no fault of their own. They will reward you a thousand times over.

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#adoptdontshop


And finally, just for fun!

 

Actions to take for dogs and cats

Sign up to Cruelty Free International’s campaign to put an end to cruel experiments on dogs here

Speak out for the dogs and cats suffering at Liberty research here

Sign to end the killing in US animal shelters here

(All images Pixabay)

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3 Genius Ways of Helping Rescue Dogs – & Cats – But Mainly Dogs!

“This was just a small, tiny, organic, nice gesture of kindness and it’s resonated with people all across the country. Anybody can do it. It doesn’t have to a be big thing; it can just be walking a dog.”

Luis Escobar, coach at Californian high school St. Joseph’s one day surprised his runners with a bunch of four-leggers super keen to join them on their run – pooches normally cooped up in the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter.

Fun was had by all, regardless of leg number. Luis made this little video.

As you can see, all relished being out in the big wide world, though one was a bit of a tortoise. And Fred – well Fred preferred to travel in style (reminds me of my own rescue canine!) It proved for him a tactic with a payoff, because he scored himself a nice new home – runner and ‘Fred-carrier’ Josh Menusa and his family ended up adopting him.

As if this little story is not wonderful enough, after Luis posted his video on Facebook, his simple but genius idea caught fire and spread all over the country. And why wouldn’t it? Runners love to run, and so do pups – a match made in heaven.

Find out more here


Now for genius off-the-wall idea no.2 – books

A good run-out, yes that makes sense, but books? For dogs? Seems the mutts are particularly partial to a good animal yarn. But if you’re letting your imagination run wild with visions of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “Lassie”, and “101 Dalmations” lining the walls in dog pens, let me bring you gently back down to earth. Dogs are clever but not that clever. Or maybe they are, because they let us do the work for them and in some choice shelters they have a child human read to them. Why keep a dog and bark yourself, is what they say.

The kids sit on the floor in front of the pens so it’s the dog’s choice how much he/she wants to interact. It’s a quiet gentle activity that seems to have a calming effect on stressed animals.

It helps shy and fearful dogs overcome their insecurities and increase their chances of being adopted.”

This little guy is rapt!

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Pic Humane Society of Missouri/Facebook

And everyone’s a winner:

  • The kids aren’t frightened of making a mistake reading to animals as they would be with people. It increases their confidence – animals are so nonjudgmental
  • A study at the University of California found that children who participated in a 10-week reading program at a shelter saw a 12 percent improvement in their reading
  • It is the perfect way to teach children the importance of compassion, and the need to adopt not shop
  • It helps create positive ties between a shelter and the community it’s in

Why not find out if your local shelter has such a scheme, and if not, suggest they might like to start one.

Plenty more lush ideas of how you can show your love for shelter animals here


Our third genius idea really is genius! Where do folk rustle up these amazing ideas? I wish I knew. Here you go – optical illusions

Under the slogan, “There’s always room for more. Adopt”, World for All in Mumbai, India commissioned these marvels that speak better than words because they speak to the heart.

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All 3 amazing pics by Amal Jadhav for World for All’s adoption event

What family could resist finding a place in their lives for a needy animal after seeing these? The pics’ impact was huge. Attendance at the adoption event was up 150 percent from the previous year, and saw 42 adoptions. The plan is to repeat the event yearly after such phenomenal success.

Thanks to the Dodo for that uplifting story


So there we have it – three stories of fun ways to help get animals out of shelters and into loving homes. When you decide to get a dog or a cat to make your home complete, ‘paws’ for thought, and ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

  • The Daily Mail reported that the number of stray or abandoned dogs in the UK reached 110,000 in 2013, and that 21 are put down every single day.
  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals of all kinds in 2015 in the UK, and were only able to rehome 47,651 of those.
  • The ASPCA tells us that in the USA approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • And that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)

And they are not just numbers. Each individual one an aching heart just crying out for a loving home. #AdoptDontShop Helping Abused or Abandoned Animals


To end on a brighter note, a bit of doggy fun for dog slaves everywhere.

The Amazing Abilities of Dogs – Take the Quiz here

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Animal cruelty-free testing methods will be tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“Animal testing is considered unnecessarily cruel by many, especially since new methods are being developed to take its place. The most promising are organ-chips that contain human cells and imitate the complexity of particular organs. Now they are on their way to being commonly used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office has just entered into an agreement last Tuesday with the company Emulate that creates ‘organs-on-chips’ to develop and test the technology.

“Using these organ-chips could eliminate the need to test drugs or cosmetics on animals. These chips are much more accurate than animal testing, which is good for animals and for us. The chip is the size of an AA battery. It is transparent and made out of flexible polymers. The chip contains little channels filled with tens of thousands of human cells and fluid that imitate human functions and reproduce blood and air flow similarly to in the body. Therefore, chips can recreate breathing motions and muscle contractions.
“‘We are excited to begin this relationship with FDA as a potential first step toward accelerating the adoption of our Human Emulation System for broad application as a new testing platform for a wide range of products that are reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities to protect and improve human health.’– Geraldine A. Hamilton, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Emulate.”

Isn’t this epic? A fantastic breakthrough – not even so much the technology which has been around for a while, but the fact that Emulate has been able to forge this agreement with the FDA.

Though no-one knows exact numbers, it is reckoned that every year more than 100 million animals in the US alone, are subjected to chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests, as well as medical training exercises and experiments at universities. And that’s without including mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals, which actually make up more than 99 percent of animals used in experiments, but because they are not covered by even the limited protections of America’s Animal Welfare Act, go uncounted

Cruelty Free International tells us:

  • The USA heads the list of the top 10 animal testing countries in the world, which include Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil.
  • Animal experiments are sadly not in decline, and in many parts of the world are on the increase  (e.g. China) or remain at the same level as they were in the 1980s or 1990s (e.g. the UK, Europe).
Whatever, one animal being tortured in a lab – and it always is torture – is one too many.

The US Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring the application of animal welfare legislation for animals in labs. It’s not exactly renowned for the rigour of its oversight at the best of times. Then two months ago this headline appeared in The Washington Post:

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.”

So this latest news from Emulate and the FDA is all the more welcome – and surprising, considering the state of play in Washington DC right now.

Where the US leads, others are swift to follow. Let us hope this will indeed be the beginning of the end of animal suffering in laboratories.

Meanwhile, here are 10 animal research petitions you can sign, all on one page: Care2 Animal Research petitions

And urge the European Commission and the European Parliament for a moratorium on animal experimentation here

And read more about the new cooperation between Emulate and the FDA here.

Read more about biomedical research in the US here.

Other sources

Animal Testing 101

Facts and figures on animal testing

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

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Freaky Feline Fascination!

Cover pic Twitter pic: guywholoveshiscat🐈 @noxtea0x0

If you love cats, look no further to be amused and amazed.  I invite you to dig out your roll of coloured tape, go mark out a square with it on your floor, and wait for your kitty to stroll by. Does your fur baby do this? It seems most pusses need no purrsuasion.

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Twitter pic:

Uhuh, here comes another!

Twitter pic: Jen @JeniNiquette

This puddled puss almost resisted. But no, it seems for moggies sitting is mandatory.
And another! Purple tape, pink tape, blue tape – whatever.

Twitter pic:

Squares of ribbon, paper, even shoes – the kitties will park in the middle without pro-cat-stination.
What pawsible reason can there be for this strange behaviour?

“We know that cats like safe spaces. It’s possible that the marking on the floor creates some illusion on the floor that doesn’t actually exist,” says certified cat behavior consultant Mikel Delgado. “It might have enough similarity to a low-sided box that a lot of cats are attracted to it for safety.”

Certified cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson agrees, pointing out that cats have poor close-up vision, so they may well mistake the tape for a shallow box – and we all know how cats love boxes.

“Their vision is built for distance and speed, watching a mouse run across the field,” she says. “Close up they’re virtually blind 8 to 12 inches off their muzzle.”

Curiosity killed the cat

So the saying goes. And cats are certainly curious. Your puss may just be purrusing a new strange object on your floor.

Cats in circles

Circles, hexagons, heptagons – cats can’t get enough.

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(Photo: SneakyChino/imgur)

But if it’s just curiosity, why the sitting?

Mikel Delgado has the last word: “Maybe just chalk it up to cats being mysterious,” he says.

Now just get out that tape and go!

Source

 How to mess with your cat by drawing a square’  Mary Jo DiLonardo

 

Ollie the Bobcat Breaks Out of Jail

Do you remember Flaviu, the beautiful lynx who within hours of being sent to Dartmoor Zoo broke out of his enclosure and eluded capture for three weeks?

Well, it seems that the USA had its own jailbreaker this week in the form of Ollie, a wild-born female bobcat that the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington DC claims for its own.

The American bobcat is a close relative of the Eurasian lynx – think cousin – and every bit as solitary and elusive. Ollie broke out on Monday (31st Jan) and zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson feared, “it will be very very difficult to find her.”

But on Wednesday fortune smiled on the zoo. Unhappily for the runaway, hunger drove her into a trap baited with treats inside the zoo’s bird house. Looking on the brighter side, Ollie’s capture might well have been a lucky escape for the birds, since bobcats have an acrobatic ability to leap from the ground and catch flying birds in the air.

Zoo vets assure us that she is none the worse for her little adventure, apart from a small cut on her left front paw.

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One thing is sure, if her breakout had been successful this lady would not have gone hungry. Bobcats are remarkably agile and fast and are silent and patient stalkers of rabbits, hares, mice and squirrels – even small deer.

Like most cats, bobcats are beautiful creatures, an attribute that cost them dear in the first half of last century. The wild population was almost wiped out by fur trappers. Now I’m glad to say they are protected by the Endangered Species Act, and are bouncing back.

What can I say about Ollie? I so hoped she would never be caught and locked up again. I hoped that for the rest of her life this lady would run free .

Help captive animals by never visiting zoos and aquariums

For more facts and figures about the beautiful bobcat click here

Sign Born Free Foundation petitions  here

Support the work of the Captive Animals Protection Society here

Source

Ollie the jailbreaking bobcat on the lam from National Zoo – TreeHugger

Ollie the bobcat found safe at National Zoo – Fox

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Kids, Dogs, & Bob Marley

Kids can love dogs more than their siblings, & dogs love Bob Marley, studies show.


If your dog thinks you’re the best, don’t seek a second opinion. So says the magnet on my fridge.
And that affirmation is pretty much what kids are getting from their furry friends, finds a new study coming out of Cambridge University.  It seems kids often feel closer to their pet than to their siblings – especially if that pet is a canine. Not really so surprising is it, when dogs do unconditional love so much better than people.

For kids a pet, especially a dog, is always eager to hang out with you, play with you, always has time for you, is always there to listen to your woes.

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True, confiding in your doggy pal is something of a one-way conversation. He may not get much of what you’re saying and you’re unlikely to get a reply. But isn’t that a good thing? He will know how you feel, and he’ll never laugh at you, never mock, never say, “serves you right”, and most importantly, never tell on you to the grownups. He’ll just gaze at you adoringly, because after all, You Are The Best.

Pets in general improve kids’ quality of life and have “a positive effect on children’s social skills and emotional health.” And “the social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life.”

Furthermore, the study reveals that households with dogs are more peaceable, with “lower overall levels of conflict and greater owner satisfaction compared to other kinds of pets.”

No surprises there.

It really is impossible to exaggerate how good it is for kids to grow up with a pet in the family, especially a pup. Or the joy a mutt brings to its ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, its ‘Mum’ and Dad’.

feel-sorry-for-those-with-no-dog

But if all that good stuff makes you want to rush out and get yourself a pet, press the pause button a minute. And please,

ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

  • The Daily Mail reported that the number of stray or abandoned dogs in the UK reached 110,000 in 2013, and that 21 are put down every single day.
  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals of all kinds in 2015 in the UK, and were only able to rehome 47,651 of those.
  • The ASPCA tells us that in the USA approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • And that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)

These are awful, unimaginable figures. All those loving hearts just crying out for a loving home. #AdoptDontShop

On a more cheerful note

In Scotland at least, shelter dogs’ days are about to look up – with music. The Scottish SPCA announced on its website, “In the future, every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist with the view to extending this … to other species in the charity’s care.” The idea is to create a relaxed atmosphere for the ‘guests’ and reduce their stress.

bob-marley-1888509__340The announcement stems from another piece of research, this time from Glasgow University, looking into how playing different kinds of music to shelter dogs affects their stress levels. Would you believe, Bob Marley and John Denver appear to have the edge over Motown in the mutts’ musical preferences.

For the research, “Shelter dogs listened to a wide range of music from Spotify playlists. The genres varied from day to day, with the furry residents listening to classical, reggae, soft rock, pop and Motown in a series of experiments.

While each genre was playing, the researchers measured the dogs’ stress levels by monitoring their heart rate variability and cortisol levels. They also kept track of whether the dogs were lying down or barking while the music was on.

The researchers found that regardless of what type of music was playing, the dogs were generally “less stressed” with music vs. without. They spent significantly more time lying down (versus standing) when any type of music was playing. They also seemed to show a slight preference for reggae and soft rock, with Motown coming in last, but not by much.”

It did appear though that one pooch’s musical meat is another pooch’s poison. Dogs are just like us – for them music is a matter of individual taste. But every dog will have his day because to avoid that oh-no-not-again feeling, the SPCA intend to continue rotating the musical genres each day. Anything that helps these fur babies to relax and so increase their chances of adoption has to be a good thing. Because they have so much to give.

Let’s give the last word on that to the wonderful writer Milan Kundera:

“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”

Sources

Children can become closer to pets than to siblings, study finds – ZME Science

Stressed dogs prefer reggae and soft rock – MNN

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Gifts Animals Give – & Strictly No Socks!

No socks this year please Santa. But what is on your list? A ball of spit? A skewered frog or two? Or some silk-wrapped ‘pre-loved’ insect remains? No? Well, what about stolen goods then.

If you watched the last episode of Planet Earth II you can’t fail to have noticed  sundry animals getting up to all kinds of skullduggery, not to mention some downright theft. Sneaky, opportunistic – or just clever? Well, one poor little guy living near a golf course in Australia wasn’t as clever as he thought, and his gift-giving went horribly wrong.

Karma
The scene opens with our hero – a bower bird – fussing over his art work in front of his bower, arranging and rearranging, intent on enticing a prospective mate – or two, or three…
For his colour scheme he choses white, enlivened with a splash of red here and there: a red plastic fork, a red bottle top, lengths of red string. Still he contemplates his beak-work with dissatisfaction.

Something is missing and he knows just what it is. His neighbour has hit the jackpot with the latest find for his own showpiece – a red plush heart the size of a child’s hand. It seems so improbable, but yes, really, a red plush heart. How did that get on the golf course? Whatever, no bower bird of the opposite sex is going to be able to resist that!

Envy is eating our guy up, but he knows all he has to do is loiter nonchalantly in a nearby tree and wait. His patience is rewarded – the possessor of The Heart flies off to find more objets d’art for his masterpiece. Our guy wastes no time. He swoops and carries off the prize. Back home he makes the wondrous heart the centrepiece of his display.

Soon his artistry (and thievery) bear results – a visitor arrives to inspect his creation.

Our little guy parades one cherished object after another before his guest, starting with the red plastic fork. But the visitor is not impressed. How about a length of red string then? Boy, this one is hard to please. There’s nothing for it but to offer up his pièce de resistance – The Red Heart. He hopes this will clinch the deal, and yes, finally, his gift is a winner. His visitor graciously accepts the proffered heart.

But oh no, now what’s happening?!? Our little guy has been duped. Far from falling for his charms, the prospective mate flies off with his most treasured (but stolen) possession. She is no lady, and not just because she’s a trickster and a thief – ‘she’ is in fact a juvenile male. Well all’s fair in love and war they say, and there surely is no honour among bower bird thieves.

I Made it Myself

A red plush heart as a gift to impress your lady is one thing. But how about a ball of spit? And not just any old ball of spit. The male scorpion fly (so called because his tail-end resembles a scorpion’s sting, actually his genitalia) offers his girl a ball a whole tenth of his body-weight in spit. That’s an impressive amount of spit. If the protein-rich saliva wins her over, she eats it, and the deal is sealed.

dung-beetle-54489__340

Still, a ball of spit has got to be better than a ball of something else, which is the dung beetle’s offering to his beloved!

Do I Look Stupid?

Dodgy doings and trickery are not exclusive to the bower bird. A certain S. American spider gift-wraps his prey in spider silk before offering it to his beloved. But who knows what’s really inside that silk parcel? This gent is prone to giving in to his greed and presenting his sweetheart with an offering that is, yes, beautifully wrapped. But when she tears off the layers in excitement, she discovers she’s been conned. All that’s inside is the evidence of his gluttony, the worthless remains of his prey. What a cheapskate. And no Mr. spider-guy, trying to claim it’s “pre-loved” simply will not cut it.

You’ll Want for Nothing, Darling

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Great Grey Shrike

No such scamming for this pretty little songbird. His modus operandi is 100% above board. Everything he has on offer he puts on conspicuous display to catch the eye of passing females. But don’t be deceived by those cute looks, this little avian has a startlingly macabre side. His love gift is a well-stocked ‘larder’… of corpses. If you’re ever in Scandinavia and stumble across  a spiky bush gruesomely adorned with the carcasses of insects, frogs, toads, fish, lizards, mice, voles, stoats, bats or maybe even other birds , all brutally skewered on its thorns, you’ll know ‘the butcher bird’ is not far away.

S*x

You may have noticed a common thread running through the antics of all our dudes so far, and it’s a three-letter word beginning with ‘s’. Those fellas without exception expect a full return on their gifts. But the critters up next have no such ulterior motives with their giving. A bunch of well-brought up crows in Washington State give gifts just to say ‘Thanks’.

Sparklies Are a Girl’s Best Friend

This murder of crows (that really is what seems a totally inappropriate collective noun for them) delivers all kinds of trinkets to Gabi, a young Seattle girl. Their offerings are invariably bright, shiny and small – small enough, naturally, to be carried in a crow’s beak.

Gabi had a habit of sharing her packed lunch with her feathered friends on her way to and from the school bus. Soon they were lining up on the fence waiting for her. So she began feeding them properly every day in her garden. It wasn’t long before she started to find little offerings left on the food trays – buttons, beads, bits of glass, earrings, paper clips, even a little silver ball.

One crow found the lens cap her mom had lost from her camera. He was seen dunking it in the bird bath as if to clean it before leaving it for her on one of the trays. To date she’s amassed quite a collection of little trinkets, and she treasures every one.

Stuff the ‘murder of crows’! Wouldn’t a much more fitting collective name for these clever, appreciative birds be ‘a courtesy of crows’?

The Gift that Says You Must Try Harder

Let experts disembarrass you though of the notion it’s “Thank you” your cat wishes to express when she drops her latest poor little victim on the carpet at your feet. Cat behaviorists say it’s the feline equivalent of a slap on the wrist, moggie’s way of venting her acute disappointment at your painful lack of hunting skills, and a much-needed lesson in how it’s done.

Cat behaviourists may think they’re doing us a favour with this unsolicited tidbit of information. But in this instance I reckon ignorance is bliss. Allow us to keep our happy little illusions. Forget the experts spoke. Of course our cats are saying “Thank you” and “I love you”. Aren’t they?

So, which animal is the bees’ knees, the cat’s pyjamas of gift-givers?

Just for their adorable good manners, the crows get my vote.

Compared with corpse larders, spit and dung though, socks may not be looking such a bad option after all!

Merry Christmas!

hsmno


Merriment aside

At the very end of Planet Earth II, Sir David Attenborough says this:

“Surely it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to create a planet that’s not just for us but for all life on Earth

Sir David’s impassioned plea for the planet is sobering. Let’s hope the movers and shakers of the world took note, and that it prompts the rest of us as individuals to shoulder that responsibility on ourselves and do “everything in our power’ to live in a conscious, animal-friendly, life-friendly, eco-friendly, sustainable way.

Let’s make this our gift to the planet

There could be no better way of kickstarting 2017

Sign up to Veganuary here

Check out Veganuary’s Facebook page here

Discover a great resource for sustainable living tips here

Sources

5 Gifts That Animals Give Each Other – Center for Biological Diversity – Medium

The girl who gets gifts from birds – BBC News magazine

Cover pic socks from Sock It To Me

Related posts

8 Kinds of Animal Craziness

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My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

Hanna,  passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is  founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements

Q:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories?  Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?

A:  I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout.  The following are a number of evident scenarios:

1  At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog.  I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home.  Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger.  There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper.  I cried all the way home.  As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water.  I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged.  Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move.  Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner.  Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!

2  My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street.  Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels.  My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.

I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.

Q:  Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan

A:  By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland.  Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce.  All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk.  It just seemed like those were stolen goods.  Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.

Q:  Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?

A:  I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.”  That did it!  That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them!  Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk.  Now you don’t want to eat meat?!  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to die?”  Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.

At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way.  I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof.  I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again.  By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost.  I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime.  On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.

Q:  What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?

A:  It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle.  I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals.  I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.

Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.  I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.

Q:  What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?

A:  My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path.  Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful.  As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering.  It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.

In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.

Q:  You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?

A:  Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer.  As of today, I’ve written and published:

  • vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
  • children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
  • and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)

I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.

Q:  What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?

A:  Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:

Hanna V. Golan
Sprout A Vegan
Vegan Blogger  & also here
Global Vegan Registry
Vegans in San Fernando Valley
Antelope Valley Vegans

In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.

Q:  Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?

A:  I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).

Q:  Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?

A:  My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.

Q:  Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?

A:  The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.

Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.

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Join the Global Vegan Registry here

Related posts – interviews with other remarkable vegans

A Picture of Compassion Chantal Poulin Durocher

Ama’s Story

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ryan Phillips – Ambassador for the Animals Extraordinaire

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Dale Vince – Vegan Tycoon of Unwavering Vision

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Together Forever

Who shares your home? Who shares your life? If the answer has four legs and a tail, or even two and a beak, my guess is you likely love that critter-person more than you love most human-people. Am I right? I speak from experience. Let’s face it, most animals are just nicer than most people.

There is just one problem with critter-people, and it’s a big one. Unless your critter-person happens to be a tortoise, he or she most likely won’t stick around for as long as you. They have this horrible tendency to leave us behind before we are ready to say goodbye, with a broken heart and a huge hole in our life.

I am trying right now, without success, to put back together my own broken pieces. I walked into Manchester Dogs’ Home 16 years ago, and an hour later walked back out leading a sweet friendly pup.

Here is my darling girl Holly, on holiday with us in Cornwall.

Kynance Cove – Version 2

I hope you won’t agree with the kid in the park that said, “That dog looks like a hyena.” I had to put my hands over Hols’ ears! No offence, hyenas. Of course you’re beautiful too in a hyena sort of way. Holpops’ vet did wonder if she would ever grow into those ears – and no, she never did.

Anyway the point is, from that day at the dogs’ home in 2001 until that heartbreaking Tuesday just 6 weeks ago, she and I spent every waking moment together. She would have slept in my bed too if the husband had allowed it. She did if he wasn’t around! There is nowhere I have been in those 16 years where she wasn’t by my side.

That Tuesday, as the final anaesthetic eased my beautiful baby into her journey over the rainbow bridge, I heard myself howling

“Don’t leave me!”

And so I joined the ranks of all of you who have gone through this searing grief.

 

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“Together Forever’ – the rose we planted in her memory

Did you know –  I didn’t until today – UK law permits us to make arrangements to have our darlings’ cremains included in our own burial? Or even, as in one Cornwall cemetery, have our loved ones interred and when our time comes, be laid to rest right alongside them. So it is possible for us to be together forever with our fur-&-feather babies.

Nothing could mark better the depth, the height, the strength of that bond we have with our beloved companions. How comforting it is to have that possibility.

Together in life. Together ever after.

“For many, the grieving process for a pet is no different to losing a member of the family”*

If you live in America, don’t fret. The U.S. is catching up. Just last month Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on Bill SO2582 that allows New Yorkers to include companion animals with them in their burial. Great news.

“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” said Governor Cuomo. Assemblyman James F Brennan agreed, “The pet/caregiver relationship is a very special one and I am happy that this relationship will finally be honored.”

And so am I. Isn’t it wonderful that something as hard and impersonal as the law can actually find a space for our deepest feelings?

That makes NY the fifth state after Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia to write this into the statute book. (But don’t worry if you live elsewhere in the States. It’s not unusual for funeral directors to sneak companion animals’ cremains into the casket with their carer.)

A law like this strikes me as momentous, and not just because it’s a comfort to us human-people. (Though that is huge.)

It’s significant because surely it must bring nonhuman animals a step closer to being recognised in law as persons. Anyone who has been close to an individual of another species knows that is what they are. This could take us a big step closer to recovering for all nonhuman animals, not just our companions, the rights that are innately theirs, just by virtue of their being a life.

As the good governor says, our companion animals are members of the family. And all members of a family have rights, even newborn babes. Even the unborn. So should, so must nonhuman family members too. And indeed all creatures – members equally with us of Earth’s great family.

If you agree, please sign the Declaration of Animal Rights here

And please share. It needs a lot more signatures.

*Vet Elaine Pendlebury

Sources

Owners pay to be buried with their pets – The Telegraph

New Yorkers can now be buried with their pets – Care2