Tag: Mother Nature Network

My furry friend’s breath!

Dogs see cleanliness from a different angle to most of us.

Can’t resist starting today’s post with that silly joke: “My friend’s breath is so bad, we don’t know if he needs gum or toilet paper.”

But, dear friends, this post is not about how smelly or not we humans are but it is about how our dogs clearly see what they smell like in a different way to you and me.

All brought on by a lovely, and most interesting, article that appeared on Mother Nature Network on May 17th.

Have a read:

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Why do dogs like to roll in smelly things?

Mary Jo DiLonardo May 17, 2017.

Rolling in smelly stuff just feels so good. (Photo: Cindy Haggerty/Shutterstock)

We know dogs have amazing noses. Scientists say their sense of smell is anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours. While humans have a mere 6 million olfactory receptors in our noses, dogs have somewhere around 300 million, according to Nova.

But that doesn’t mean their idea of what smells “good” matches our sensibilities.

If your canine buddy runs across an overturned garbage can or something dead in the backyard, there’s a good chance he’ll roll around in it until he’s good and stinky too. Does your dog just like the gross smell or is there some other innate reason for what we think is a disgusting habit? Animal behaviorists have several theories.

They’re trying to hide their own smell

Well-known dog expert and psychologist Stanley Coren, author of many books on dog behavior, says the explanation that seems to make the most evolutionary sense is that dogs roll in odoriferous things to disguise their own scent.

“The suggestion is that we are looking at a leftover behavior from when our domestic dogs were still wild and had to hunt for a living,” Coren says. “If an antelope smelled the scent of a wild dog, or jackal or wolf nearby, it would be likely to bolt and run for safety.”

But if a dog’s wild ancestors rolled in the dung of antelope or carrion, prey antelopes would be less suspicious than if the animal smelled like its true self. This would allow those wild canines to get closer to their prey.

Animal behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell is skeptical of this theory.

“First off, most prey animals are highly visual, and use sight and sound to be on the alert for predators. It’s not that they can’t use their noses, but their noses are dependent on wind direction and so sight and sound are often more important,” McConnell writes, noting that’s why hoofed animals have eyes on the sides of their head and ears that swivel around, in order to see and hear animals sneaking up from behind.

“In addition, if a prey animal’s sensory ability is good enough to use scent as a primary sense for predator detection, surely they could still smell the scent of dog through the coating of yuck. Neither does this explain the intense desire of dogs to roll in fox poop.”

They’re trying to share their own smell

Just like a cat will rub up against you to mark you with its smell, some behaviorists theorize that a dog will roll in something stinky to try to cover up the smell with its own scent. Just like dogs will roll around on a new dog bed or toy as if they are trying to claim it as their own, Coren writes, some psychologists have suggested that dogs will roll in grossness or rub against people trying to leave a trace of themselves.

Again, McConnell disagrees, pointing out that dogs have much easier and effective tools if they want to make their mark.

“This idea makes little sense to me, since dogs use urine and feces to scent mark just about everything and anything,” she writes. “Why bother with the milder scent of a shoulder or the ruff around one’s neck when you’ve got urine to use?”

It’s a communication tool

Being smelly is a way to communicate to other dogs what a dog has found. (Photo: Ivica Drusany/Shutterstock)

Dogs might roll around in smelly things because it’s one way to bring news back to the rest of the pack about what they’ve found.

Pat Goodmann, research associate and curator of Wolf Park in Indiana, has extensively studied wolves and scent rolling.

“When a wolf encounters a novel odor, it first sniffs and then rolls in it, getting the scent on its body, especially around the face and neck,” Goodmann says. “Upon its return, the pack greets it and during the greeting investigates the scent thoroughly. At Wolf Park, we’ve observed several instances where one or more pack members has then followed the scent directly back to its origin.”

But it’s not just gross smells that attract this rolling behavior. Goodman placed an array of smells in the wolf enclosures and found that the wolves were just as likely to roll in mint extract or perfume as they were to get up close and personal with fish sandwiches, elk droppings or fly repellent.

Motor system link to the brain

Yet another theory, according to Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” who runs the dog cognition lab at Barnard College, is that there’s a link between the nose and the brain. A stinky odor that lights up the olfactory lobe in a dog’s brain also works on the brain’s motor cortex. That communication tells the dog to get some serious contact with the smelly new discovery, Horowitz tells the New York Times.

“There’s no ‘noxious scent’ receptor in the dog’s brain,” she added. “But they do seem particularly interested in rolling in smells that we find somewhere between off-putting and disgusting.”

It makes them feel cool

But maybe the reason dogs roll in gross things is to show off to their canine friends. It could be the same reason some of us wear flashy clothes or smelly perfume. McConnell calls it the “guy-with-a-gold-chain” hypothesis.

“Perhaps dogs roll in stinky stuff because it makes them more attractive to other dogs,” she says. “‘Look at me! I have dead fish in my territory! Am I not cool?!’ Behavioral ecology reminds us that much of animal is related to coping with limited resources — from food to mates to good nesting sites. If a dog can advertise to other dogs that they live in an area with lots of dead things, then to a dog, what could be better?”

Can you stop the rolling?

Get used to giving baths or keep your dog on a leash. (Photo: Shevs/Shutterstock)

Whatever the reason for your dog’s roll in the muck, there’s little chance you can get him to change his habits.

“With thousands of years of practice backing their interest, dogs will continue to go boldly where no man, or woman, would ever choose to go,” says veterinarian Marty Becker. “The only surefire way to stop the stinky sniff-and-roll is to keep your dog on the leash or teach a foolproof ‘come-hither’ when called.”

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At the start of today’s post I implied that we humans had a certain degree of sensitivity as to how we smelt.

Well, to be precise, today’s post started with a silly joke.

So, I better close with another silly joke (but one I had to look up to remind myself of exactly how it went):

As you may know, Mahatma Gandhi, walked barefoot most of the time.

This resulted in an impressive set of calluses on his feet.

He also ate very little, which made him rather frail.

And as a result of his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath.

This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Follow that; as they say!

The roll of the dice

Or observing Lady Luck in great form!

We all know that so many things in life have two sides to them. As in a positive and negative side. Which ‘side’ we look at has more to do with ourselves, again as you all know.

So when I republished an essay from Patrice Ayme a little over a year ago about the loss of the ice in Antarctica I was in harmony with Patrice’s gloomy stance:

I have written for years that a runaway Antarctica was certain, with half the icy continent melting rather spectacularly on an horizon of two centuries at most, and probably much less than that. This rested on the fact that half of Antarctica rests on nothing but bedrock at the bottom of the sea. At the bottom of what should naturally be the sea, in the present circumstances of significant greenhouse gas concentrations.

But Lady Luck comes into view and we have this: (Courtesy of Mother Nature Network.)

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Global warming is making Antarctica green again, and it’s stunning

At current rates, it’s not crazy to think that the Antarctic peninsula could eventually become forested again.

Bryan Nelson May 19, 2017

From white to green: plant life is booming in Antarctica as the climate warms. (Photo: Matt Amesbury, University of Exeter/Flickr)

When you think of Antarctica, you probably imagine a frigid, windswept, icy, inhospitable domain; the whitest, most barren canvas on Earth. That’s pretty much the way the Southern continent has been for at least the last 3 million years, since the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels approached their current levels. But times, they are a-changing.

The effects of global warming are beginning to radically alter the Antarctic landscape in some surprising ways. Scientists say it’s like looking back in time, to an epoch when this bleached terrain was actually green. Mossy mats are rapidly spreading across the thawed, exposed soils at unprecedented rates, transforming the land from a place of desolation, to a place of viridescence.

At the very least, we’re getting a peek at Antarctica’s future, which like its past was green and filled with plant-life, reports the Washington Post.

“This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backward in geologic time — which makes sense, considering atmospheric CO2 levels have already risen to levels that the planet hasn’t seen since the Pliocene, 3 million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea-levels were higher,” said Rob DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, Antarctica will head even further back in geologic time… perhaps the peninsula will even become forested again someday, like it was during the greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene, when the continent was ice free.”

So far, the greening of Antarctica is mostly limited to the peninsula, where two different species of mosses are fanning out at a startling clip, at four to five times the rate seen just a few decades ago. They gain a footing in the summers, when the frozen ground thaws, then freeze back over in the winter. But these layers-upon-layers are thickening, generating an increasingly detailed record of Antarctica’s warming climate.

It’s perhaps only a matter of time before grasses, bushes, perhaps even trees begin to sprout. As beautiful as a forested Antarctica might be to imagine, it’s important to remember that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Climate change is an ambiguous beast; Antarctica might be getting greener, but deserts elsewhere in the world are expanding, sea levels are rising, and weather is becoming more severe.

“These changes, combined with increased ice-free land areas from glacier retreat, will drive large-scale alteration to the biological functioning, appearance, and landscape of the [Antarctic peninsula] over the rest of the 21st century and beyond,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Current Biology.

Lead author Matthew Amesbury added: “Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human induced climate change.”

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 Sorry to drag out this old saw of mine, but it is so perfect: “I can predict anything except those things that involve the future”!

Because I am still staying with the Lady Luck theme but this time going from the vastness of the Southern polar regions to something a little closer to home. (Again, seen on Mother Nature Network.)

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Pit bull on ‘death row’ at shelter gets new life as police dog

Leonard recently became Ohio’s first ever pit bull K-9.
Jenn Savedge    May 19, 2017

Leonard found his forever home with Ohio’s Clay Township police force. (Photo: Union County Humane Society/Facebook)

When Leonard, a stout young pit bull, arrived on the doorstep of the Union County Humane Society in Ohio a few months ago, the staff had little hope for his prospects of being adopted. Leonard was deemed “aggressive,” and that meant he was more likely to be euthanized than sent home with a new family. But Jim Alloway, the center director, saw something different in the dog. And thanks to his observation, Leonard has a future that includes work, play and lots of belly rubs.

As luck would have it, Alloway has an extensive background of working with police dogs. He realized Leonard’s aggression was really a very strong desire to play. Whenever someone was holding something, Leonard wanted it and would try to grab it. As a pet in the average family, this may not be a desirable trait. But this strong “prey drive” made him a great candidate for training as a police dog.

So Alloway called Storm Dog K-9 training. After an initial round of testing, Mike Pennington, the owner of the training facility, agreed to take Leonard on and train him to sniff out narcotics. (Leonard wasn’t a good candidate for tracking and catching suspects because he loves people way too much.)

Before his training with Pennington, Leonard didn’t even know basic commands. But after a few weeks of hard work — which his trainers said he absolutely loved — Leonard was fully certified as a police dog, becoming Ohio’s first pit bull K-9 officer.

Leonard was paired with Terry Mitchell, Clay Township’s Chief of Police. Mitchell told the local ABC affiliate that he was unsure at first about the idea of using a pit bull as a K-9. But the pair bonded immediately.

“I scheduled a time to come down and see him, and after about 10 minutes, I knew this was the dog for us,” Mitchell said.

Leonard officially started work with the force this week. When he has his police vest on, Mitchell says the pup is all business and ready to tackle his narcotics-sniffing job. Off-duty though, Leonard is just a sweet, playful pup, hopping on Mitchell’s lap for evening naps. Oh, and according to Mitchell, he snores horribly.

Leonard — and Mitchell — couldn’t be happier.

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Wonder how long it will be before we have happy ex-rescue dogs frolicking through the forests of Antarctica!!

Magical skies!

Of clouds and the Grand Canyon.

Saw this item on the Mother Nature Network site a week ago and thought it beautiful.

Whatever you are doing, rest up for a couple of minutes and revel in the beauty of our natural world.

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Mesmerizing time-lapse captures rare cloud phenomenon in Grand Canyon

Angela Nelson May 16, 2017,

The creators of “SKYGLOW,” a crowd-funded project showing the impact of urban light pollution through time-lapse videos, photos and a book, have another stunning video to share. In “Kaibab Elegy,” filmmakers Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović visit Grand Canyon National Park and capture a rare weather event.

In the mesmerizing video, clouds build inside the canyon almost like bubbling water filling a jacuzzi as the sun rises and sets in the background, creating the pinkest sky you’ve ever seen. Those clouds roll like waves in the ocean and crash against the cliffs. This phenomenon is called full cloud inversion, and it happens when cold air is trapped in the canyon and topped by a layer of warm air, which combines with moisture and condensation.

“We were extremely lucky to be there to capture it, and it’s a collection of unique footage not found anywhere else,” Mehmedinović says.

He and Heffernan, who journeyed 150,000 miles around the globe for their new book and video series, work with the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit fighting to preserve the dark skies around the world.

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I bet that’s left you feeling wonderful!

A nose for doing good work!

A dog’s nose, of course!

We all know how good are the noses of our dogs. Yet, I suspect, many do not know how truly good is that nose. The Science ABC site has a detailed account of Why Do Dogs Have Such A Great Sense of Smell?
Here’s part of that article:

Dog Nose vs. Human Nose

When we try to smell something, we inhale air with our nose and we use the same passage in our nose to exhale that air. Therefore, all the smell that we get when we are inhaling is lost when we exhale that air. However, a dog has two different air passages, one for breathing and another for smelling. This means that dogs are able to store the smell in their nose even while breathing out the air!

When dogs exhale, they send air out through the slits of their nose, but the manner in which this air is exhaled through their nose helps the dogs to draw in new odor molecules. This also helps dogs capture more smells when sniffing.

You must have noticed that dogs’ noses are always wet, but have you ever wondered why? The mucus on the dog’s nose helps it smell by capturing scent particles. A dog also has the ability to smell independently from each nostril, this helps the dog to understand from which direction the smell is coming.

The passage through which dogs smell the air contains highly specialized olfactory receptor cells, which are responsible for receiving smells. A dog contains about 225-300 million smell receptors, as compared to just 5 million of these receptors being present in a human nose.

Dog Brain vs. Human Brain

By now, we clearly know that dogs have a nose that can smell about 1,000-10,000 times better than a human, but how are dogs able to remember all the different smells that they have sensed throughout their life?

The answer lies in the difference between the brains of dogs and humans. A human brain has a larger visual cortex than dogs, whereas a dog’s brain has a much larger olfactory cortex than humans. The visual cortex is responsible for processing visual information, whereas the olfactory cortex is responsible for processing the sense of smell. A dog’s olfactory cortex is about 40 times larger than that of a human.

Read the full science article here.

All of which makes a slightly longer introduction than normal to a fascinating article over on Mother Nature Network published two days ago.

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5 ways dogs are used for species conservation

May 16, 2017 Jaymi Heimbuch

Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch

Working dogs are an amazing asset not only for people, but for wildlife, endangered species and even threatened habitats. Expanding on the skills dogs have for tracking down scents and guarding something important, we humans have enlisted their help in many ways for conservation.

Here are five ways dogs are contributing to environmental protection efforts.

Smell for scat

It’s amazing the amount of information that can be sussed out of an animal’s poop. We can determine diet, health, genetics — even whether or not an animal is pregnant. Scat is really important to biologists studying elusive, sensitive or endangered species. Putting dogs on the track is an ideal solution.

Take cheetahs, for example. Scientists in Africa are using dogs and their unparalleled sniffing power to find cheetah poop, all in an effort to get an accurate count on the endangered big cats. (Only 7,000 cheetahs are left in the African wild, according to estimates.) And it’s working. Two trained dogs found 27 scats in an area of 2,400 square kilometers in western Zambia, according to a study published in the Journal of Zoology. Humans, looking for cheetah tracks over the same area, found none.

Groups like Conservation Canines (a handler and dog from the program pictured above), Working Dogs for Conservation and Green Dogs Conservation specialize in this area. Conservation Canines rescues highly energetic, “last chance” dogs from shelters and trains them to track down the scat of dozens of species, from wolves to moose to owl. Even things that are nearly impossible for humans to find — the minuscule scat of endangered pocket mice or orca scat floating on the ocean surface — dogs can track down. They are able to make huge contributions to scientific studies, all without ever bothering the wildlife being studied.

Sniff out problems for wildlife

Whether it’s sniffing out invasive species like giant snails in the Galapagos or detecting disease in beehives, dogs’ noses can be put to work in searching out what shouldn’t be there so that humans can act.

Dogs are able to sniff out particular plant species, pointing ecologists to tiny patches of invasive mustard so that the plants can be removed before they take over an area.

Conversely, dogs can sniff out rare or endangered native plants so that the species can be protected. Rogue is one such dog. The Nature Conservancy writes, “The 4-year-old Belgian sheepdog is part of a Nature Conservancy collaborative project to test the efficacy of using dogs to sniff out the threatened Kincaid’s lupine. The plant is host to the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly, found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.”

Surveying for the plant species is difficult work for people. It can only be done when the plant is in bloom so people can visually identify it. However, dogs like Rogue can sniff out the plant even when not in bloom, which can potentially double the length of the field season.

“More refined regional mapping of Kincaid’s lupine could promote the butterfly’s recovery and delisting — and contribute to larger habitat goals and wildlife impacts.”

Track down poachers

The trade in rare or endangered wildlife is a lot tougher for traffickers thanks to wildlife detector dogs. Trained to smell anything from tiger parts to ivory to South American rosewood, dogs are used in shipping ports, airports, border crossings and other locations to sniff out smuggled products.

It doesn’t stop there. Trained dogs can lead rangers to armed poachers in the wild, tracking down the culprits over long hours through heat and rain. They can catch poachers in the act, rather than just the products.

“Canine sleuths aren’t limited to the plains of East Africa, either,” reports National Geographic. “In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bloodhounds are assisting in the fight against poaching in forested Virunga National Park, where the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas live. In South Africa, Weimaraner and Malinois dogs are helping to find wounded animals and track poachers on foot through the reserves around Kruger National Park.”

Guard endangered species

Dogs are also useful in putting their protective nature to use for endangered species.

Livestock protection dogs are trained to keep predators like cheetahs, lions and leopards safe, which then reduces conflict between ranchers and big cats and minimizes the instances of snaring or retaliatory killing of big cats. Cheetah Conservation Fund has a successful livestock protection dog program, which places Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs with ranchers. That not only has significantly reduced the number of livestock killed by predators but is also improving the attitude of local people toward cheetahs.

Sometimes the dogs are put to work guarding the endangered species themselves. One such successful program uses Maremma shepherd dogs to protect colonies of little penguins from foxes.

Keep bears wild

Karelian bear dogs are trained to keep bears from becoming too comfortable around people. A program by Wind River Bear Institute named Partners-in-Life uses a technique called bear shepherding. This specialized breed of hunting dog is used to scare bears away, and are an important part of the “adverse conditioning” work that keeps bears from becoming habituated. The ultimate goal is to protect bears from becoming habituated, a problem that leads to their being relocated or euthanized.

“Our Wind River Bear Institute mission, with the effective training and use of Karelian Bear Dogs, is to reduce human-caused bear mortality and conflicts worldwide to ensure the continued survival of all species of bears for future generations,” states the program.

This list is only a handful of ways that dogs help us with environmental conservation every day. More and more, we are figuring out new ways to put their skills to work, and more and more the dogs are proving they’re ready for the task!

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated with more recent information.

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Closing words from that Science ABC piece:

A dog does not care how you look or dress, but if he gets good vibes from your smell, then a dog will love you. The world is truly a better place because of these wonderful creatures that we are lucky enough to welcome into our lives.

Why not make the world smell a bit more beautiful for them?

Belay that!

Closing picture taken from the OregonLive website. A stunning picture of the “Fender’s blue butterfly, found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.”

Earth Day 2017

We must have a better relationship with our one and only planet!

There’s a part of me that sadly wonders why we, as in Jean and me, and undoubtedly countless others, bother with recognising ‘Earth Day’!

For in so many ways our Planet is screaming out that we humans are not doing enough to care for it! (Yes, I know that’s an emotional outburst from me!)

It could be argued that we don’t have a friendship with our planet. For if we cared for and loved our home planet as so many of us care for and love our animals what a difference that would make.

My way of introducing this recent essay from Mother Nature Network this Earth Day 2017.

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The power of unusual animal friendships

Studying odd couple animal friendships can help researchers learn what goes into normal human relationships.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

April 20, 2017
A ferret and a cat take a nap together. (Photo: Best dog photo/Shutterstock)

We know that sometimes animals have unlikely friendships. Whether it’s circumstances that throw them together or they just happen to find a friend from another species, animals will occasionally become pals, creating an unconventional alliance.

These unusual relationships cause a certain amount of double-takes — and they’re often incredibly adorable — but there’s also a scientific benefit to studying odd animal friendships.

“There’s no question that studying these relationships can give you some insight into the factors that go into normal relationships,” Gordon Burghardt, a professor in the departments of psychology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, told the New York Times.

An African elephant and a giraffe have become unlikely pals due to the confines of a zoo. (Photo: Glass and Nature/Shutterstock)

Cross-species bonds typically occur in young animals, and they’re also common among captive animals that have no choice but to seek each other out.

“I think the choices animals make in cross-species relationships are the same as they’d make in same-species relationships,” Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, told Slate. “Some dogs don’t like every other dog. Animals are very selective about the other individuals who they let into their lives.”

And when predator and prey become buddies, that requires serious trust from the animal on the prey end, Bekoff points out.

The polar bears at SeaWorld San Diego in happier times. (Photo: samantha celera/flickr)

Animal friendships — whether in their own species or outside — can be very meaningful. Consider the story of Szenja, a 21-year-old polar bear who died at SeaWorld San Diego in mid-April after an unexplained illness including loss of appetite and energy, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Szenja had recently been separated from her long-time companion, Snowflake, who had been sent to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for a breeding visit. The pair had been together for 20 years. The polar bears made headlines in March when more than 55,000 people signed a petition not to separate the “best friends.”

In a statement, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Remain said Szenja died of a broken heart.

Humpty the hippo and her friend Sala the kudu are orphans who became friends at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. (Photo: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Here’s a look at some animal odd couples that have forged lasting bonds.

A llama nuzzles its sheep friend. (Photo: Katriona McCarthy/flickr)
This squirrel and wren are backyard BFFs. (Photo: Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock)
A pigeon hangs out with its rabbit friends. (Photo: Marina2811/Shutterstock)
This kitten and bearded dragon can’t get enough of each other. (Photo: ohheyitsnikki/imgur)

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Dear people, make a promise to improve the relationship we all have with our planet.

Happy Easter Days

Learning about happiness from our animals as new parents!

Spring is most definitely in the air with this recent post published over on the Mother Nature Network site.

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Happy animal parents show off their babies

Animals feel happiness (and maybe even pride) in their new offspring.

Mary Jo DiLonardo April 12, 2017.

These golden retriever parents appear quite pleased with the new arrivals. (Photo: reinederien/Reddit)

When animals have babies, we often ascribe human feelings to what they’re likely going through. They must be proud and happy showing off those sweet, little babies, we figure. After all, look how adorable the wee ones are.

But as proud and as happy as they might look, do animal parents really feel that way?

We checked in with Jonathan Balcombe, the director of Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science, who has published more than 50 scientific papers on animal behavior, as well as several books including “Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good.”

“Having researched and written two books on animal pleasure, I feel well qualified that say that animals clearly know happiness,” Balcombe says. “Bearing and raising young surely brings many forms of satisfaction and joy for animal parents, as we know it does for us.”

The idea of whether animals experience pride may not be so clear.

“Whether they feel ‘pride’ is an interesting question, and a rather anthropomorphic one in that it is an emotion that we egocentric humans know well, but one that might not apply to non-humans,” Balcombe says. “I don’t think that matters though; what is important to recognize is that other species have lives that matter to them and that is not just because they have an interest in avoiding pain and suffering, but because they also seek pleasures and rewards.”

With that in mind, here’s a photo roundup of some animal parents with their new offspring. (They certainly seem happy!)

‘Yep, I made these.’ (Photo: yasmapaz & ace_heart/flickr)
Sweetie looks awfully happy with her new puppy. (Photo: SmileLikeAKat/imgur)
They’re just so teeny. (Photo: mjconns/Reddit)
Sophia, an orangutan at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, holds her new baby. (Photo: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society)
This bulldog dad hangs out with his son. (Photo: STARER_OF_CAMELTOES/imgur)
This Australian shepherd mom has a little guy who looks just like her. (Photo: Techdestro/Reddit)

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Yes, Spring is most certainly Sprung.

I have used this line before and will now show my age by sharing the full ‘poem’.

Spring is Sprung

“Spring has sprung,
The Grass has riz,
I wonder where the birdies is?
The bird is on the wing,
But that’s absurd!
The wing is on the bird!”

I don’t know the origins of this silly verse but suspect it may have been The Goon Show, as described (in part) on WikiPedia:

The Goon Show was a British radio comedy programme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The first series broadcast from 28 May to 20 September 1951, was titled Crazy People; subsequent series had the title The Goon Show, a title inspired, according to Spike Milligan, by a Popeye character.[1]

The show’s chief creator and main writer was Spike Milligan. The scripts mixed ludicrous plots with surreal humour, puns, catchphrases and an array of bizarre sound effects. Some of the later episodes feature electronic effects devised by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop, many of which were reused by other shows for decades. Many elements of the show satirised contemporary life in Britain, parodying aspects of show business, commerce, industry, art, politics, diplomacy, the police, the military, education, class structure, literature and film.

We can never have too much laughter and happiness in our lives!

Out of this world!

Forgive my indulgence!

I wish I understood where my fascination with the night sky came from. Not that I am anything other than an amateur gazer (of the night sky, I should hasten to add!). I have never taken the trouble to gain any real knowledge.

Yet, some of the most serene moments of my life have been when I have been alone at sea under a night sky.

OK, that’s enough wallowing for anyone!

The last week has been an important one for those that take an interest in the planets in our solar system, or to be specific, take an interest in Jupiter.

For as EarthSky reported on the 8th April:

Today – April 8, 2017 – the planet Jupiter is closest to Earth for this year.

Yet yesterday was Jupiter’s opposition, when Earth flew between Jupiter and the sun, placing Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky. You’d think Jupiter was closest to Earth for 2017 yesterday as well … and yet it wasn’t. It’s closest to Earth for 2017 today, April 8, coming to within 414 million miles (666 million km).

EarthSky also included this image:

Jupiter at its April 7, 2017 opposition with the Great Red Spot and moons Io, Europa, and Ganymede (L to R). Photo by Rob Pettengill in Austin, Texas.

Then, Mother Nature Network yesterday presented more information:

Jupiter strikes a pose for Hubble portrait

April 12, 2017

During the month of April, Jupiter will be in opposition, meaning the planet is at its closest point to Earth. Thanks to the sun, it’s during this window that astronomers can enjoy a particularly close-up photo session that can help reveal how the planet’s atmosphere has changed over time by comparing it with previous such photos of the gas giant.

This photo of Jupiter was taken on April 3 by the Hubble Space Telescope when the enormous planet was 670 million kilometers (or about 416 million miles) from Earth. The photo shows the Great Red Spot, but it also shows something new: a weather feature called the Great Cold Spot, which is almost as large as its more well-known cousin.

“The Great Cold Spot is much more volatile than the slowly changing Great Red Spot, changing dramatically in shape and size over only a few days and weeks, but it has reappeared for as long as we have data to search for it, for over 15 years,” Tom Stallard, a planetary astronomer at the University of Leicester in the U.K. and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The cold spot is nearly 15,000 miles by about 7,500 miles in size, and it’s dubbed the “cold” spot because it’s 200 degrees Kelvin (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the surrounding atmosphere.

The article included this stunning image of Jupiter.

Photo: A. Simon (GSFC)/NASA, ESA

Jaymi went on to write:

Here’s what some of the other details in the image mean:
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes. These bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at various latitudes. Lighter coloured areas, called zones, are high-pressure where the atmosphere rises. Darker low-pressure regions where air falls are called belts. Constantly stormy weather occurs where these opposing east-to-west and west-to-east flows interact. The planet’s trademark, the Great Red Spot, is a long-lived storm roughly the diameter of Earth. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-coloured ovals. Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.

The Great Red Spot is an anticyclonic storm that is so large that Earth would fit inside it. That stormy spot — which is actually shrinking, though astronomers don’t know why — gives us a great perspective for understanding just how huge Jupiter is compared to our own blue dot in the solar system.

Finally, I’m taking the liberty of republishing in full an item that appeared on The Smithsonian site on April 7th.

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Hubble Snags Splendid Snapshot of Jupiter

The perfect photographic conditions make for a grand view of the gas giant

This snapshot shows Jupiter’s swirling, banded atmosphere and signature vortices. (NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC))
smithsonian.com
April 7, 2017

It’s been 27 years since the Hubble Space Telescope went into orbit, and the geriatric observatory is still going strong. When the telescope recently trained its sights on the solar system’s largest planet, the results were spectacular—proof that for the stellar spectator, age is but a number.

The image above is the latest picture of Jupiter. The snapshot was taken by Hubble on April 3 with the help of the telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, a high-res instrument that lets the telescope observe using different wavelengths. It combines light on the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared spectrum to create an image of a massive planet in constant atmospheric flux.

In a press release, the European Space Agency, which co-runs Hubble with NASA, said that Hubble was able to take advantage of the planet’s current opposition with Earth to take the close-up. At the moment, Jupiter is lined up perfectly with the sun, and Earth is lined up with both the sun and Jupiter. Think of it as a truly heavenly photographic opportunity—a chance to look at the planet head-on. Better yet, Jupiter’s position relative to the sun means that it’s brighter than at any other time of year, which lets telescopes trained on the gigantic planet see even more detail than usual.

As The Washington Post’s Amy B. Wang notes, there were no new discoveries in the picture per se, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look at. As ESA explains, scientists will compare the photo to previous views of the planet to hopefully learn more about the atmosphere. And for the rest of us, there’s a strangely soothing view of Jupiter’s layered cloud bands and impressive vortices.

The gas giant is thought to have sucked up most of the space debris left over after the sun formed, grabbing dust and gas with gravity. Scientists think it has two times as much debris as all of the other bodies in the solar system combined—and all of that material swirls through cloud layers in its quickly-rotating atmosphere.

Since Jupiter doesn’t exactly have a surface, it has nothing to slow the spots and vortices that appear in its atmosphere. The most famous, the Great Red Spot, is thought to have been swirling around for more than 150 years, and even though it’s unclear which gases give it that red hue, it’s the planet’s most recognizable feature. As NASA writes, the cloudiness of Jupiter’s atmosphere makes it hard to understand what might be contributing to it. But that doesn’t decrease its allure.

Want to delve even further into the mesmerizing bands of a huge planet’s atmosphere? A high-res version of the snapshot is available online. And if you prefer seeing things live, it’s a great time to check out Jupiter through in the night sky. You can find Jupiter in the east right after the sun goes down—a massive mystery that’s brighter than any star.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hubble-snags-splendid-snapshot-jupiter-180962832/#2QLP7buDDb5PJaGK.99
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Let me finish up with another incredible fact.

Namely, that the universe came into existence some 13.82 billion years ago. The power of natural evolution that came with that event eventually brought along homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago. 200,000 is 0.0000145 of 13.82 billion.

Or to put it another way, we humans have only been a part of this universe for 1/10th of 1% of the life of said universe! (Oh, and dogs came along 100,000 years ago!)

Keep saving those dogs!

Yet another wonderful saving of a dog from a frozen lake!

One of the ‘generalist’ blogs that I follow is Mother Nature Network (MNN) and yesterday MNN published the account of a dog in Canada being rescued from icy cold water.

So another wonderful story to share with you all!

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Man jumps into icy lake to save beloved pup

Noel Kirkpatrick April 10, 2017.

Winter hasn’t let go of some parts of North America just yet, including St. Albert, Alberta, in Canada. Cold temperatures keep the lakes frigid and icy, as a local man and his dog discovered recently.

A French bulldog named Cosmo plunged into a lake in a park in St. Albert — it was a leash-free area of the park — and was struggling to pull himself out of the thin ice that covered the lake. Cosmo’s owner, Duncan McIver, jumped in to save his pup.

McIver was able to push Cosmo onto the ice and then, while carrying Cosmo, slowly walked across the ice, but not without plunging into the freezing cold water once more.

In a bit of serendipity, a CTV news crew was already at the park, filming a report on ice safety, and caught the whole episode on camera.

“As soon as the ice broke, I just went right in,” McIver told CTV Edmonton, “I think most people would do the same for their dog.”

The saying goes that a dog is man’s best friend, but we think moments like this prove the feeling is mutual.

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Yes, picking up on that remark by Duncan McIver, most people really would do what Duncan did!

Thank goodness for that!

Bath time!

Not just for dogs!!

At 11am this morning I am checking in to the local hospital in nearby Grants Pass for a colonoscopy. I am very hopeful that this routine examination will not find anything to worry about.

However, yesterday evening I had to take the first of two doses of Bowel Preparation ‘Kit’. That was after a full day staying off solids!! The second dose is being taken at 7am PDT this morning. One could take a tongue-in-cheek view that the results will not be a pretty site.  Once back home a decent shower and a lovely meal will be the order of the day.

So with bathing in my mind, let me share this recent delightful item that was published by Mother Nature News.

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Rub a dub dub, 2 dogs have very different experiences in the tub

Noel Kirkpatrick   April 4, 2017.

Getting pets into the bath can be a tricky endeavor, but these two dogs seem content to be in the tub. Now if they only had the same idea of how to behave there …

The husky on the right is just there for a relaxing soak and maybe a good shampooing. Its pal, on the other hand, wants to dig through the water the entire time as if there’s a bone somewhere buried just below the water.

To the husky’s credit, it allows its puppy companion to live in its own bath tub truth, but we all know that deep down it’s thinking, “I just wanted some quiet time and some cucumbers on my eyes. Is that too much to ask?”

Apparently, yes, it is.

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See you tomorrow!

Putting a smile on your dog’s face!

Dogs do suffer from depression.

OK, in many cases I’m sure it is because dogs are watching too much television; especially the news!

OK: Only kidding!

Some may be surprised that dogs can express sadness and suffer from depression but it is true.

Only a few days ago there was a bit of a ‘punch up’ between Brandy and Ruby. Ruby was feeding and Brandy approached her food bowl. Ruby gave a short, throaty “stay away from my food” growl and the next instant Brandy had Ruby’s face in his mouth and it was quickly turning into a Grade A dog fight.

Luckily Jean and I were on hand and had the two of them separated within seconds. But it was still sufficient time for Brandy to have drawn blood from a small bite to the side of Ruby’s face.

However, the point I was coming to was that since that incident Ruby has clearly been very depressed and withdrawn.

So on to today’s topic. Recently published on Mother Nature Network.

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Is my dog depressed? The warning signs and solutions

Find out what causes doggy depression and how to fix it.

Jaymi Heimbuch March 30, 2017.

Dogs can get the doldrums. But there are ways to help them come out of it with a wagging tail. (Photo: Iuliubo/Shutterstock)

Yes, dogs can get depressed. Whether or not it’s the same as what humans experience, we may never know since we can’t ask a dog. But there are signs and symptoms from a dog’s behavior that reveal when a dog is in the doldrums. If you’ve noticed a sudden change in your four-legged friend’s behavior and are worried, you may need to see if the change is a clue that your dog needs some psychological TLC.

Common triggers for dog depression

Dogs are creatures of habit, activity and loyalty. A sudden change that affects their world can cause a dog to have a spat of depression. Triggers include:

  • The addition of a new person or pet to the family
  • A sudden drop in attention from an owner or family members
  • A sudden change in the household schedule
  • The loss of an owner or companion
  • Moving to a new home
  • A traumatic injury

Dogs may also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, during the winter months. Stanley Coren reports in Psychology Today: “Do dogs suffer from SAD? Some data comes from a survey conducted by a leading veterinary charity in the UK. PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months. In addition, half of the dog owners felt that their dogs slept longer, with around two in five reporting their pets to be less active overall.”

Some dogs may suffer depression simply for not having a job to do. The Guardian notes:

“In the not too distant past, dogs mostly had to work for a living and were probably very often physically and mentally fatigued at the end of the day – which is why we have the expression ‘dog-tired’. Could the stress of being made redundant be the source of this apparent unhappiness? Dog behaviourist Penel Malby told me: ‘Dogs live very differently to the way they used to. Lots more dogs, lots more people, lots more stress for everyone, I think. If you think back even just 50 years, dogs were allowed to roam free every day, socialise with their neighbourhood friends. Now they either go out with a dog walker or go out for an hour if they’re lucky, and the rest of the time is spent at home.'”

The upside is that canine depression usually isn’t permanent, or even necessarily long-lived, and there are ways to combat it to help your dog get back to normal in due time.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for warning signs of depression so you can catch the trouble early and help your dog recover. (Photo: DREIDREIEINS Foto/Shutterstock)

The most common symptoms dogs display when they’re depressed mirror those that humans experience during a depression. They include:

  • Sleeping much more than usual
  • A change in eating habits, including a loss or gain in appetite and in weight
  • A refusal to drink water
  • A lack of interest in usual energetic activities like going for walks or playing
  • Excessive licking of their paws
  • Excessive shedding
  • Become withdrawn or hiding in the house
  • Suddenly showing signs of aggression or anxiety

Unfortunately, these symptoms also occur with a range of other medical issues. A dog might have a change in appetite because of a thyroid or kidney issue, or the dog might not want to go on a walk because of joint pain or arthritis flaring up. So if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, the first thing to do is visit the vet to rule out any serious health-related issues before assuming it comes down to depression.

How to help your dog out of a depression

Sometimes time, extra love and a steady routine is all that’s needed. (Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

If you have determined your dog is feeling depressed, there are many things you can do to help them pull out of it.

– Take your dog on more frequent walks during the day to favorite places, allowing them to sniff around and enjoy the scenery. It’s also helpful to do this first thing in the morning to start the day out with a bit of fresh air and energy.

– Try to keep a schedule as much as possible. Dogs are creatures of habit and having a predictable routine can be an enormous source of comfort for a stressed or depressed dog, especially if the trigger for the depression was a sudden change in routine.

– Reward your dog when he shows signs of improved mood or energy. Rather than babying the dog during the down times — which reinforces that behavior — reward him with extra special treats or a favorite toy when he shows a bit of enthusiasm about life to amplify the mood even more.

– Bring home a new toy, such as a squeaker or puzzle toy that stimulates the senses and encourages play.

– If the cause of depression is the loss of a companion, like another household pet, consider adopting another dog that can be a companion. However, only do this if you’ve seriously considered the needs of your household and your depressed dog. It isn’t an option to be taken lightly.

As a last resort, medication could be an option. There are antidepressants for dogs that you can discuss with your veterinarian. However, catching depression early on and trying for behavioral changes first is the best solution. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, notes in a WebMD article, “[I]t can take up to two months for drugs to become effective. But unlike people, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs.”

And finally, give it time. As Wag Walking notes, “Be Patient: Sometimes — especially if the issue was a loss of a companion or master — the only thing that will heal a dog’s heart is time. It may be as few as a couple days or as much as a few months, but most dogs will be able to pull themselves out of depression with a little time and understanding.”

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May you, your family and all your wonderful animals have a wall-to-wall happy weekend!