Tag: Mother Nature Network

Saturday reflection

This is a supremely clever young man.

I’m splitting this post in two.

Today, I will republish the story and then tomorrow I will reproduce the wonderful photographs.

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Woodland animals leap from the screen in Finnish photographer’s work

By JACQUELINE GULLEDGE,  January 1, 2019.

The red fox is one of Saarinen’s favorite subjects. (Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

When most people think of Finland, they likely imagine a country of sprawling forests and winter wonderlands where everyone is content and has a respectful relationship with wildlife.

Helsinki University student and photographer Ossi Saarinen has lived in Finland his whole life, and his work reveals his passion for nature and animals.

“I’ve always been interested in animals. Somehow I find their behavior and all very interesting,” Saarinen, 22, tells MNN. “Even being in the nature without seeing any animals is very enjoyable for me.”

Saarinen has been interested in nature since he was a little boy, but it wasn’t until he started taking photos of a family of foxes in 2015 that he realized this love of animals could frame his life’s work.

“When I was just starting my photographing career I met a fox family with four tiny cubs. I managed to get some photos and in one of them, it looks like they’re all walking towards the camera. It’s my favorite not only because I like it as a photo but also because it was the day when my career really started and I felt like it was something I wanted to do in the future as well.”

Since then, Saarinen has honed his craft into a beautiful collection of photographs featuring different wild animals in their natural habitats. What sets his work apart is the sense you get of just how much he loves animals.

“I try to show the emotions and feelings of the animals and that way also make the people watching the photos to feel something.”

Not only is the raw beauty of animals captured in his images, but they also shine a spotlight on the gorgeous Finnish setting. Saarinen wants people to know how Finnish people take care of the land and respect it.

“Finnish nature looks almost like untouched, which is very rare thing in developed countries. It’s clean, full of different kinds of plants and animals. It has four beautiful seasons over the year. Even if you live in the center of our biggest city, Helsinki, you don’t have to go far away to see beautiful nature and animals. Actually most of my animal photos are taken less than 10 km from the center of Helsinki.”

“I like to tell and show people how clean and beautiful the nature here is. How it can look when people really take care of it.”

You can see more of his photography below, follow him on Instagram or check out his website, where his photos are available for purchase.

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Come back tomorrow to experience Saarinen’s photographs.

A survival story par excellence.

A missing Saint Bernard found after 17 days in frigid temps and snow

This is an amazing story about a dog that went missing at a time when it hadn’t yet learned of its new surroundings.

Luckily it had a great ending.

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Missing Saint Bernard survived 17 days in frigid temps and snow

By MARY JO DILONARDO,  January 24, 2019

The lost dog was found trapped in some branches and still dragging her leash. (Photo: Ruff Start Rescue)

It’s one of an animal rescuer’s worst nightmares. There’s that limbo moment when a rescued dog is being transported to a new foster home and is getting out of the car. He doesn’t know the people or the area and everything is scary. Often, the dog’s natural inclination is to bolt.

That’s what happened in early January when a 10-year-old Saint Bernard was being taken to her new foster home in Zimmerman, Minnesota. The dog, dubbed “Old Lady,” had been rescued from a puppy mill in Wisconsin, where she had likely spent her entire life locked away, so she was timid and afraid of people. As she was being coaxed out of the car by her new foster, she took off.
“It was snowing really hard and the crunching noise from the snow freaked her out,” Ruff Start Rescue Executive Director Azure Davis tells MNN. “She was pulling and she’s very strong and the driveway was all ice. She pulled the foster down and ran.”

The temperatures were in the teens and there was so much snow on the ground, Davis knew there was only so long the dog could survive outside. In addition, Old Lady had recently been shaved, probably because her fur had been so matted. So she would feel even colder than normal in the freezing weather.

The rescue distributed “lost dog” signs and set up feeding stations and organized search parties. But after a week, no one had seen her.

“We were really concerned. She was dragging her leash, so we were worried she was stuck,” Davis says. “We had signs, everyone knew about her, but no one had seen anything. How does no one see a Saint Bernard?”

After a week, they had a sighting and then another, but by the time they got there, she was gone. They set up a camera and a trap, but she never came back to that particular area.

Tangled in the trees

Azure Davis of Ruff Start comforts Old Lady before trying to coax her home. (Photo: Ruff Start Rescue)

Then after 17 days, they got a call from the sheriff’s department. Someone had reported a dog tangled in some trees in the woods. Davis and Julie Lessard, director of programs, raced over there and found Old Lady. Her leash had picked up a branch during her travels and that branch got caught up in some trees, trapping her in the woods.

Calming her with soothing voices and canned dog food, they managed to slowly slip two leashes over her head, untangle her and gently maneuver her to the comfort of a waiting car.

“She eventually started trotting along,” Davis says. “When she felt the warmth of the car, it was crazy, she crawled right in. I think she was ready to be done.”

Old Lady walks with several rescuers including Carolyn Kne, who is now fostering her with plans to hopefully adopt her. Kne is the one whose face you can see in the image above. (Photo: Ruff Start Rescue)

Davis thinks Old Lady probably survived by eating a lot of snow and taking food from the feeding stations that had been set out for her. She may also have scavenged from garbage cans and food people set out for their outdoor pets. She had definitely lost a lot of weight: She was only 88 pounds and she should weigh closer to 120 or 130 pounds when healthy.

The first couple days she was back in the rescue’s care, she stayed in her kennel, just decompressing, Davis says. She was sleeping, eating and working on getting her energy back, just lifting her head when people would stop by, but she was very shut down.

Venturing back out

“Today, she came out of her kennel for the first time,” says Davis, who posted the above video on Facebook of the dog’s stroll. “She was walking very nice, greeting everyone and smelling everyone. It’s really cool to see the progress in just three days.”

So many people have been following Old Lady on the rescue’s Facebook page since her escape and through her rescue, with many people asking if she would be available for foster or adoption. Many have also asked how they can donate toward her care.

Carolyn Kne greets Old Lady as they head for home. Kne is Old Lay’s current foster — and hopefully her permanent adopter. (Photo: Ruff Start Rescue)

One of the volunteers who helped search for the lost dog was also there when she was rescued, helping to untangle her from the branches and get her to safety.

Carolyn Kne is now fostering her with the hopes that the pup will want a permanent spot in her home.

“I think she was out looking for her enough times that she fell in love with her,” Davis says. “She said, ‘If we find her, I’m keeping her.'”

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This is a lovely story. One that shows the benefit that comes from dedication and commitment to dogs. Thanks RuffStart Rescue.

She was one very lucky dog!

Freedom matters, even for animals.

So many of us take it for granted that we can hardly imagine what it’s like for our animals not to have freedom.

Mary Jo retells an account of rescuing a number of dogs from a terrible situation. I won’t get in the way of her story.

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Why the 5 freedoms of animal welfare matter

Hoarding and neglect cases hit us hard because we can’t imagine people who don’t take care of their animals.

By MARY JO DILONARDO
January 19, 2019.

A mama doodle and her week-old baby decompress after being rescued from a hoarding situation. (Photo: Mary Jo DiLonardo)

I was supposed to be on a break. I fostered eight puppies back to back last year with the last one leaving right after Christmas. No doe-eyed dog was going to tug on my heartstrings.

But then I heard about a hoarding and neglect case where some 30 doodles were found living outdoors, perched on piles of hard clay and mounds of feces. A local rescue, Releash Atlanta, waded into the mess and scooped up seven of these dogs, putting out a plea for fosters to help. I kept looking at the face of a mama dog curled up with her newborn pup.

What break? The frightened mom and her itty-bitty baby are now decompressing in my basement until their permanent foster takes over next week. They’re learning that people aren’t terrible, and mama has found that chicken tastes great.

There’s something about cases like these that hit animal lovers — heck, most people — with a sickening blow. We can’t wrap our heads around the idea of animals, especially pets, living in such deplorable conditions.

The 5 freedoms of animal welfare

Former rescue dog Stanna now lives a great life with the best food, shelter and toys. (Photo: Lucy Bell)

Look at the lives of most of the pets you know. They eat quality food, go to the vet regularly, stay cool in summer and warm in winter and want for very little.

These life basics seem like common sense to most of us, but more than 50 years ago the U.K. government wanted to put them in writing. In 1965, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council) defined the specific conditions that must be met for animals being cared for by humans. They called them the “Five Freedoms,” which cover an animal’s physical and mental state. The freedoms were later updated but the gist is basically the same.

These conditions of humane treatment have been adopted by veterinarians and animal-welfare groups including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigor
  • Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to express normal behavior, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind
  • Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering

Taking things for granted

More than 300 German shepherds were rescued from filthy breeding operations in Georgia. (Photo: Guardians of Rescue)

These freedoms seem so incredibly basic and that’s likely why when an animal neglect case makes headlines, we’re all so horrified.

This happened in early January, when hundreds of German shepherds were found living in unimaginably squalid conditions from a suspected puppy mill in two locations in Montgomery and Candler counties in Georgia. Led by New York’s Guardians of Rescue, dozens of rescue groups immediately stepped up to help, rescuing more than 300 of the mostly purebred dogs. They found that in addition to being housed in filthy, crowded pens, some of the dogs had sores and had been living like that for at least five years.

“We know that a lot lost their lives fighting simply because they fought for dominance. It was a recipe for disaster every single day,” Mike Lawson, an investigator for Guardians, tells MNN. “They didn’t get out, they didn’t go for walks and they had to share the same soil covered with their own feces and urine. There was no protection from the cold and no shelter from the sun on a hot day. Obviously we are grateful they are no longer there.”

The German shepherds were living in cramped, filthy pens. (Photo: Guardians of Rescue)

People from around the country and even in other parts of the world followed the drama on Facebook as all the dogs were removed from the property. Many people donated to the various rescue groups and offered to help foster or otherwise give support to these hundreds of dogs.

While Guardians also is involved with typical, everyday rescues, the group is often called in for these complicated cases.

“When people feel there’s no more hope, that’s when we jump into action,” says Lawson, who’s a retired FBI agent, like many of the group’s investigators.

“There’s the sheer number of animals and generally it’s the same typical M.O. in all these hoarding cases: It’s cramped areas, the hygiene is at an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, and generally the health of the animals is not taken into consideration,” Lawson says. “Regardless of how it started, nobody should be keeping so many dogs on any property.”

People step up

Rescues and animal shelters save animals every day. They always need donations, fosters and other kinds of support. But when these unimaginable neglect stories surface, they know they can count on people to help.

“We see an outpouring of support from the community for a few reasons,” says Kristin Sarkar, founder of Releash Atlanta. “The first is, usually it’s a big undertaking that requires a lot of donations, whether financial or just items needed to begin the process of transferring the dogs to safety and it’s something everyone can help with, such as donating blankets, crates or leashes and collars.”

Sarkar posted the heart-wrenching video above of the doodle dogs being rescued with photos of the petrified pups as they were taken from their filthy pens. Immediately, people started asking how they could help.

“There’s also a visual that makes it hard to ignore. We can tell a story all we want, but when you actually see the story, it has a much greater effect. We’ve passed 100 car accidents, yet we will still slow down to look at the next one,” she says. “Lastly, a lot of times with cases like this, for the most part, people are good, and they want to help, and what better time to want to help than when the need is so great? Such is the case with these recent hoarding situations.”

I’ve learned this kindness firsthand.

My scared little foster dog was covered with mats and not trusting enough to really be handled yet. I asked a trainer friend of mine for advice and she called her assistant trainer who is also a groomer. He immediately came over on his day off and spent time calmly talking to this frightened pup as he trimmed off these horrible clumps of nastiness. People are amazing.

I fostered one other hoarding dog, Pax. He was petrified when he arrived and had heartworms, so he had a long road to recovery. People donated toys, treats and medical care while he was with me and were very kindly invested in his background and rescue, as well as his transformation. It took five months for him to come around and realize that people can be good.

The doodles and the German shepherds have a long road ahead of them. Thanks to rescues, fosters and the people who are donating for their care, they will now have access to the Five Freedoms. They’ll be free from hunger and pain, discomfort and fear, and will be in a safe, loving environment.

It will take a lot of work, but the good news is that eventually there will be happy endings.

“So many people have to invest time, energy, love and money into these dogs to fix them,” Lawson says. “These dogs have never been inside a home. They have never taken a car ride. Never been on a leash. Never have had a collar. To put these dogs into wonderful homes, everybody who has taken these dogs will have to put a lot into them. I’m sure, before you know it, you will start seeing some wonderful before-and-after photos of these dogs placed in homes.”

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Words fail me when it comes to the appalling cruelty as described above.

So thank goodness for those wonderful people who truly understand what it means for a dog to be loved and cared for.

No other reason than this is beautiful

Beautiful nature.

Feast your eyes on this.

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Woodland animals leap from the screen in Finnish photographer’s work

By JACQUELINE GULLEDGE
January 1, 2019

The red fox is one of Saarinen’s favorite subjects. (Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

When most people think of Finland, they likely imagine a country of sprawling forests and winter wonderlands where everyone is content and has a respectful relationship with wildlife.

Helsinki University student and photographer Ossi Saarinen has lived in Finland his whole life, and his work reveals his passion for nature and animals.

“I’ve always been interested in animals. Somehow I find their behavior all very interesting,” Saarinen, 22, tells MNN. “Even being in the nature without seeing any animals is very enjoyable for me.”

Saarinen has been interested in nature since he was a little boy, but it wasn’t until he started taking photos of a family of foxes in 2015 that he realized this love of animals could frame his life’s work.

“When I was just starting my photographing career I met a fox family with four tiny cubs. I managed to get some photos and in one of them, it looks like they’re all walking towards the camera. It’s my favorite not only because I like it as a photo but also because it was the day when my career really started and I felt like it was something I wanted to do in the future as well.”

Since then, Saarinen has honed his craft into a beautiful collection of photographs featuring different wild animals in their natural habitats. What sets his work apart is the sense you get of just how much he loves animals.

“I try to show the emotions and feelings of the animals and that way also make the people watching the photos to feel something.”

Not only is the raw beauty of animals captured in his images, but they also shine a spotlight on the gorgeous Finnish setting. Saarinen wants people to know how Finnish people take care of the land and respect it.

“Finnish nature looks almost like untouched, which is very rare thing in developed countries. It’s clean, full of different kinds of plants and animals. It has four beautiful seasons over the year. Even if you live in the center of our biggest city, Helsinki, you don’t have to go far away to see beautiful nature and animals. Actually most of my animal photos are taken less than 10 km from the center of Helsinki.”

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

“I like to tell and show people how clean and beautiful the nature here is. How it can look when people really take care of it.”

You can see more of his photography below, follow him on Instagram or check out his website, where his photos are available for purchase.

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

Are you a fan of all things Nordic? If so, join us at Nordic by Nature, a Facebook group dedicated to exploring the best of Nordic culture, nature and more.

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Taken from here.

Beautiful!

Now there’s delivery, and there’s delivery!

The Belgian Malinois gets delivered in real style.

There was a time in the past when I considered myself quite the Private Pilot. This was back in the UK long before I left in 2008. I still look up at the sky when a light aircraft goes by but have made the decision to ‘hang up my headphones’.

Back in the days when I was an active pilot I never had the opportunity to take a dog with me. Or rather I should say that I got close to taking Pharaoh up in the Piper Super Cub but, in the end, limited myself to taxing around the grass airfield.

Pharaoh riding the back of the Piper Super Cub

All of which is an introduction to a post from Mary Jo.

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Kodak the dog had a rough start, but it’s all blue skies from here

Belgian Malinois delivered to veteran’s family via private plane.

By MARY JO DILONARDO   December 12, 2018.

Kodak checks out Pilots N Paws volunteer pilot Rob Lucas during their flight to Tennessee. (Photo: Big Cypress German Shepherd Rescue)

When Kodak arrived at Big Cypress German Shepherd Rescue in Naples, Florida, in late November, the Belgian Malinois mix had been picked up as a stray by a nearby shelter. The gorgeous, blue-eyed boy was jumping and barking constantly.

“To any person unfamiliar with this breed, it can easily be looked at as aggression or fearfulness,” Shirley Lubo, the outreach coordinator for Big Cypress, tells MNN. “He was a ball of energy and excitement that just really wanted to be out of the shelter environment. He was pretty skinny and in desperate need of some TLC. We agreed that his striking looks would draw the wrong attention, and that he needed to go to a Malinois-experienced home.”

Volunteers took care of the sweet 2-year-old, working with him on basic manners while searching for a home with someone who had experience with this sometimes-challenging breed.
Afghanistan veteran Joe Bane heard about Kodak from a friend he knew in the Army. Bane was a K-9 contractor who now lives in Morristown, Tennessee, with three Malinois and a Dutch shepherd. His 17-year-old daughter, Syd, fell in love with Kodak when she saw him online.

“I’m very well versed in the breed,” Bane tells MNN. “My daughter was determined to save him.”

Syd Bane smiles with Kodak as he arrives in Tennessee, just off the plane from Florida. (Photo: Joe Bane)

Bane applied for Kodak and with the help of a village of volunteers, Kodak made the trek from Florida to Tennessee. The pup made the trip courtesy of Pilots N Paws, a volunteer group that flew him to his destination.

“We knew there was no one better suited to take Kodak. He has handled countless Belgian Malinois as both working dogs and pets. Joe thoroughly understands the breed,” Lubo says.

“After many, many phone calls over the last couple weeks and emails to coordinate flight plans, vet visits, transportation, etc. we were able to connect with Pilots N Paws, Ryan Fiorini, Rob Lucas, and so many others that stepped up to make this all possible. It is by far one of the most wonderful things we have ever done, and we are all so ecstatic about finding the most perfect home for Kodak.”

When Kodak arrived, the Banes were there at the airport waiting for him, eager to meet their newest family member.

“Syd was so excited. I knew we did the right thing. We helped save him,” Bane says.

Kodak sleeps soundly in his new home. (Photo: Joe Bane)

It’s only been a few days and Kodak is slowly adapting to his new life. At 80 pounds, he’s still underweight, but getting healthier.

“He is coming out of his shell,” Bane says. “He slept with my daughter last night. He’s finally allowed to be a dog.”

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Well done all concerned. Especially Kodak!

Dogs and seasonal affective disorder.

Back to dogs!

After yesterday’s giant essay I return to something to do with dogs. Albeit, a subject that is in the range of controversial – seasonal affective disorder. As published by Mother Nature Network.

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Can pets get seasonal affective disorder?

Winter can be as hard on pets as it is on people.

SIDNEY STEVENS,  November 12, 2018

If your dog’s mood takes a nosedive when the days grow shorter, it may be a case of seasonal affective disorder. (Photo: Tim Dawson Photography/Wikimedia Commons)

During the shorter, darker days of winter many of us turn lethargic and gloomy. But seasonal affective disorder (SAD) isn’t just a human affliction. The animals we share our lives with may also suffer from something akin to the “winter blues.”

Here’s what experts know about SAD in pets and what you can do to alleviate it. (Hint: Some of the same things that counteract seasonal depression in people also work for our four-legged companions.)

SAD pets

Starting in fall as the days get shorter and sunlight levels decline, many people notice their mood begins to dip. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD isn’t just a weather-related funk, but a type of depression that fluctuates with the seasons and causes unpleasant symptoms like sluggishness, increased appetite, depression, social withdrawal and even suicidal thoughts in the most severe cases. It’s believed that lower light levels prompt a decline in the feel-good brain hormone serotonin and boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

No surprise then that pets, with their similar brain chemistry, may also suffer from the same kind of seasonal hormonal havoc.

Not a lot of research has been done on pets, but a survey by a veterinary charity in the U.K. called the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that one in three dog owners noticed their pooch seemed down during the winter months. Symptoms ranged from aggressive behavior, inappropriate soiling and less interest in going for walks to lethargy, demand for more attention and increased sleep.

Like humans, cats may suffer from SAD during the winter months and require extra light and activity to head it off. (Photo: Bondesgaarde/Flickr)

Cats also apparently get the winter blues. One-third of cat owners in the same survey said their felines seemed glum in the winter and about one-quarter said their pet ate more.

Is it real?

There’s plenty of evidence that animals suffer from physical afflictions related to seasonal sun deprivation. One is called light responsive alopecia (fur loss that occurs in certain dog breeds during the winter months). But there’s not yet any hard science on whether pets actually experience SAD. Remember, the U.K. study was subjective, based on pet owners’ perceptions rather than rigorous research.

One alternate explanation for SAD-like symptoms in cats and dogs is that they’re picking up on the blue moods of their owners. Studies show that dogs, in particular, recognize human emotions and respond to them.

Or perhaps pets are merely bored during the winter months when they can’t get outside as much. Lack of physical and mental stimulation may push them into listlessness.

Remedies for winter doldrums

Getting pets outside for a regular dose of sunshine during shorter winter days can boost their mood and help ward off SAD. (Photo: Matthias Zirngibl/Wikimedia Commons)

Whether pets are prone to SAD like humans are or they slip into a seasonal slump for other reasons, there are ways to keep their spirits high during the chilly season. In fact, the same fixes that help people beat winter depression might also help their animal companions maintain a brighter mood. Here are some simple things you and your pet can try together.

More indoor light. Open your curtains and shades during the day to let in natural light. Position your pet’s bed near a sunny window and be sure to hang out there, too. Also consider light therapy that mimics sunlight. Buy a full-spectrum light box that covers the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to near-ultraviolet and plant yourself and your pet in front of it for 30 to 60 minutes a day.

Providing pets with more love and indoor fun during SAD season is good for their well-being — and yours. (Photo: pandabearphotography/Flickr)

Spend quality indoor time together. Engage your pet more when you’re inside during the winter months with new toys, extra play and increased cuddle time. Multitask by enjoying these activities in front of the light box.

Enjoy the outdoors. Take advantage of mood-boosting sunny days by letting your pet go outside during peak daylight hours. Better yet, join in for a romp in the yard or a walk in the park (cats can be leash trained). Outdoor time has the added advantage of allowing pets (and you) to exercise, take in stimulating neighborhood sights and socialize with other people and animals. All are known blues busters.

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Whether or not pets suffer from this disorder isn’t really known, “Whether pets are prone to SAD like humans are or they slip into a seasonal slump for other reasons, ” the fact remains that the winter months for some dogs do have the cause to provide a slump. Whether you have one pets or quite a few, keep a close watch of them and love them through and through.

Bet they are wrong!

It seems to me, that although the science is good it can’t be perfect!

I saw this recently and, ….. well you decide!

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Dogs may not be as exceptionally smart as we think they are

Mary Jo DiLonardo

MARY JO DILONARDO

October 3rd, 2018.

Dogs have a scientific reputation for being rather brainy, but a new study says that may not be deserved. (Photo: Shevs/Shutterstock)

I know I’m biased, but I think my dog is brilliant. I’ve been bringing home animals all my life — from parakeets to ducks, cats to horses. But of all my feathered and furry pets, it’s no contest: Dogs are by far the brainiest. They are quick learners and great communicators with an incredible ability to solve problems.

But a new paper in the journal Learning & Behavior finds dog intelligence is “not exceptional.”

Although animal smarts have long been the subject of scientific research, recently there’s been a lot of focus on canine cognition. And that’s what triggered Stephen Lea, professor emeritus at the University of Exeter, to take a closer look. He was editor of the journal Animal Behavior, where he saw so many papers dealing with the mental abilities of dogs.

“Through the process of working as an editor [and] seeing all this research, I definitely got a sense that we as a collective had gotten a bit overexcited about dog intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science.

History of studying dog smarts

Dogs can learn problem solving, but raccoons often solve puzzles more easily. (Photo: Joerg Huettenhoelscher/Shutterstock)

Dogs and their brains have been studied for centuries (remember Pavlov and his bell?), but then were pushed aside for more popular studies with primates and other species. It wasn’t until the 1990s when dogs came back into focus. Lea wondered whether humans were giving dogs too much credit.

Lea and his coauthor, Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University, studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. They looked at research that covered three groups: carnivorans (another name for carnivores), social hunters and domesticated animals. Dogs fall into all three groups.

They discovered that when it comes to brainpower, dogs don’t particularly excel in any of the groups. There were species in each that were on par with or better than dogs in cognition comparisons. Raccoons, for example, seem to solve puzzles more easily, and hyenas seem to follow the cues of their pack more handily.

“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Osthaus in a statement. “We are doing dogs no favor by expecting too much of them. Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them.”

Dogs do, however, stand out from their smart counterparts because they perform well in all three categories.

“Every species has unique intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science. “Their intelligence is what you would expect of an animal that is … recently descended from social hunters … that are carnivores and that have [also] been domesticated …There’s no other animal that fits all three of those criteria.”

Sounds pretty brilliant to me.

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It seems to me that science it taking far to narrow a look at our dogs.

For if one expands the range of qualities then one can include:

  • Unconditional love,
  • Companionship,
  • Sensitivity,
  • Consciousness,
  • Spirituality,
  • Bravery,
  • and a whole lot more besides.

Not only beautiful …….

……. but also intelligent.

There is something about a Huskie that takes one’s breath away. Not only because of the grace and wit with which they conduct their lives but also because the majority of them are working dogs.

So it was with interest that I read recently about the Huskies and wanted to share it with you all.

Here it is.

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Why do huskies have blue eyes?

New genetic study finally solves the mystery.

BRYAN NELSON,   October 4, 2018.

A happy husky with its characteristic blue eyes. (Photo: Nancy Wong/Wiki Commons)

A dog DNA startup company called Embark, based out of Boston, Massachusetts, and Ithaca, New York, appears to have finally solved the mystery as to why huskies sport their beautiful blue eyes. The study is the first consumer genomics study ever conducted in a non-human model, as well as the largest canine genome-wide association study to date, reports Phys.org.

The key, it turns out, lies in the dogs’ 18th chromosome. A duplication on chromosome 18, near the ALX4 gene, was found to be strongly associated with blue eye color. The ALX4 gene plays an important role in mammalian eye development, so this association is not entirely out of left field. And interestingly, the study also found this same genetic quirk in non-merle Australian shepherds, which also tend to have blue eyes.

This flies in the face of how eye color is usually thought to be determined in dogs. For instance, two genetic variants are known to underlie blue eye color in many dogs, but scientists have long known that these variants do not explain the blue eyes of huskies, thus the mystery.

In fact, even though we’re seemingly in a genomic scientific age, the genetic underpinnings of many traits in non-human animals are still largely unknown, even for humans’ best friends. Embark aims to change that.

For the study, which was performed in partnership with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, researchers used a diverse panel of 6,070 genetically tested dogs, with owners who contributed phenotype data — physical traits of the dogs — via web-based surveys and photo uploads. A comprehensive, consumer-driven survey of this size is largely unprecedented.

“Using genetic data from the pets of our customers, combined with eye colors reported by customers for those same animals, we have discovered a genetic duplication that is strongly associated with blue eye color. This study demonstrates the power of the approach that Embark is taking towards improving canine health,” explained Aaron J. Sams of Embark. “In a single year, we collected enough data to conduct the largest canine study of its kind. Embark is currently pursuing similar research projects in a range of morphological and health-related traits and we hope to continue to use our platform to move canine genetics and health forward in a very real way.”

It’s all in the name of improved health care options for our canine companions, as well as helping curious human owners better understand the origins of their pets. Answering why huskies have blue eyes is just the first such mystery they hope to solve.

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What can one say! They are such beautiful dogs!