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A Huge Tip Windfall for an Airport Piano Player

Sarrah M

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These days, with all the security involved, it’s not often one sees local entertainment at the airport. However, for Tonee “Valentine” Carter, playing the piano at Atlanta International Airport has been his gig for decades. As it turned out, one day, that became the best life choice he ever made.

Tonee Carter has been playing piano for years. And at age 66, there isn’t much else he’s going to do. So, travelers who make their way through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport get the unique opportunity to enjoy Carter’s piano playing daily, often stopping folks in their tracks as they arrive, depart or catch a connecting flight. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that Carter puts his soul into his music when he plays.

As it turned out, one traveler named Carlos Whittaker was also in Atlanta International on a given day, trying to make his way back home midweek after one of his events ended up being cancelled at the last second. Looking to make a connection back to Tennessee, Whittaker was not in his best mood getting circumvented through Atlanta instead of his normal flight route. However, that was also the moment that Whitaker was put in the right place at the right time to hear and enjoy Tonee Carter’s piano playing in the airport.

Whitaker not only stopped to catch his bearings, the motivational speaker was moved by the music, and he stayed to listen for almost two hours as Carter played one melody after another ,the music wafting through Concourse A, blocking out the incessant chatter of airport announcements and general buzz of travelers talking. Whitaker didn’t stop listening either; he used his smartphone to video film the musician as well as post a meeting and chat with Carter as well. That particular post then ended up going viral with Whitaker’s network and 200,000 viewers online.

As they talked, Whitaker, who normally makes a living speaking, ended up hearing an amazing personal story of Carter’s and how he ended up doing what he does with a piano. The telling moved Whitaker and a spark flashed inside the professional speaker’s head; he was going to see if his following audience would be willing to participate in giving Carter the biggest tip he ever received in his piano-playing history. The idea went off like a rocket. In a half hour, the tip amount grew to $10,000.

Carter at first thought the whole thing and Whitaker were a spoof, a candid camera joke. However, when he realized that Whitaker was serious, and the money for the pianist’s tip was real, he was floored. Carter had spent his entire life giving to others; nobody had ever picked him out from the crowd to be a recipient. Whitaker kept the drive going before leaving for his connection, and when he did reach Nashville, the donation account had doubled. Later that same day, Whitaker connected with Carter and put the pianist on a podcast, and the balance was then at $44,000. By the end of the workweek, Carter was going to be the tip recipient of well over $61,000, without any strings attached.

From a boy who was inspired by Ray Charles’ piano-playing at the age of six, Tonee Carter would find himself 60 years later being rewarded for his musicianship by complete strangers. For Whitaker, the moment galvanized his speeches on how people can do great things when they work together, even if just with small contributions rolled together in a big movement. However, for Carter, he doesn’t plan to be greedy. Instead, he expects to take his tip and pay it forward to others who need help. And he’ll still be playing piano at Atlanta International Airport, Concourse A, for as long as he can.

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Pebbles Takes Over Title of Oldest Dog Ever

Amanda J

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With the Internet digging up the latest accomplishments, the oldest human gets identified every year. However, for 2022, the new age crown goes to the dogs, literally. Pebbles took the top honors for being the oldest dog living on the planet, removing the title from another canine that had just been crowned only a few months earlier. Fame is a fickle thing.

A toy fox terrier by breed, Pebbles is not a big dog, which does go in her favor. Big dogs have, in general, very short lives. Pebbles, on the other hand, has reached an astronomical 22 years (which probably equates to about 154 human years, give or take about 5). That allowed Pebbles to cleanly knock out TobyKeith, the previously oldest dog at a hefty 21 years old. The prior contender, a chihuahua, could likely claim the warm weather of Florida as his secret for longevity. However, Pebbles knocked that advantage out of the water with a similar locale in South Carolina.

The above said, the real reason Pebbles came to light was because her owners, Bobby and Julia Gregory, picked up on TobyKeith’s fame and decided they could do one better, highlighting Pebbles’ age. Sure enough, they reached out and applied to the Guinness World Records website, who then set about validating the claim. Getting the recognition to at least be seriously considered was already a big leap for Bobby and Julia. However, when it turned out that Pebbles was indeed validated as the oldest and would claim the title, the fireworks went off.

Pebbles wasn’t exactly the first choice; when the Gregorys first went looking for a dog, they were expecting to come home with something a lot bigger. However, as it turned out, Pebbles was making such a racket when the dog met them, the Gregorys decided on the small terrier instead. Instant love would probably be going a little too far, but it was pretty close, pretty darn close.

For the public statement, it was a nice touch for the Gregorys to describe Pebbles as ruling the roost, but at 22, the dog is generally just focused on eating, sleeping and getting lots of pets the hour or two she’s awake. And, according to her human owners, Pebbles is a big fan of country music as well. For her record-breaking birthday, Pebbles got a special dog dinner or ribs as well as a bubble bath. A few online readers were jealous.

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Lake Tahoe Trash Cleanup, Jumbo-Style (25K Pounds!)

Danielle S

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In the category of old, Lake Tahoe is easily situated in the “ancient” category. As one of the few alpine lakes in the United States, the crystal blue basin is a tourist gem and ecological treasure for both California and Nevada states. It is also filtered so well by the mountains and the natural drainage that water suppliers don’t have to apply additional cleaning to use it. In fact, the purity is so high, it rates a 99.994 percent quality level, something generally unheard of in natural water anywhere else in nature.

The above said, modern living continues to find ways to pollute things. And Lake Tahoe is not an exception. In fact, an unacceptable amount of junk and debris is making its way to the lake floor, being deposited in the water by boating activity, shoreline laziness, and animals dragging things off looking for food and then discarding the material. Eventually sinking to the bottom of the lake, enough of it exists to have prompted a major cleanup along the 25 foot rim of the lake underwater.

Utilizing scuba teams and paid for by a non-profit, a record 25,281 pounds of garbage were picked up and pulled out of the lake waters. Not all of it was trash; a few engagement rings were picked up as well. However, the greater assortment was lost items such as cameras, boat debris, wallets and keys dropped by accident, and a whole lot of plastic bottles (which, fortunately, can be recycled and put back to use). Clean Up the Lake reported that they ran a trailer full of trash and debris out of the Lake area every two to three days for an 80-day period. Other garbage included tires, sunglasses, soda cans and at least 125 lost boat anchors.

The saving grace is that at least a good amount of the debris was not intentionally placed in the lake. Many of the items are clearly the type that were lost by accident and have probably been underwater for decades. That said, continued debris and pollution continue to affect the clarity of the Lake. Since 1968, the algae buildup and sediment has reduced clarity from a depth of 100 feet to only 64 feet by 2000. Climate change hasn’t helped either, adding to the Lake’s temperature, which adds to algae growth.

To remind folks of the need to keep Lake Tahoe clean and garbage-free, some of the debris will be re-utilized in a sculpture and large artwork for public viewing and learning. Envisioned as an educational piece, the sculpture will be placed at the Tahoe South Events Center for tourists and visitors to view when they make their way through Tahoe City, CA.

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Cat Sneaks into a Shipping Container for a Serious Ride

Danielle S

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When your cat goes missing for almost five years, it’s a pretty safe assumption that the animal has probably passed away. What you’re probably not ready to hear is that the cat is alive and well, ready to come home, and has been away at sea. That was the case for one feline that managed to get itself stuck inside a shipping container that ended up on the North Sea, literally.

As it turned out, food brought out the stowaway. Realizing they had an unexpected visitor, the crew on an offshore platform were able to coax the cat out of hiding with a bit of chicken. Figuring it was going to get a better meal and care than sitting inside a cold metal box, the cat made itself at home with the crew and was nicknamed as a result. However, Dexter, the cat’s real name, was not an unknown. Once the story got out, it was discovered the cat had been a regular on the HMP Grampian as well, where prisoners working the boat had taken a liking to the cat and gave it a different name, One-Eyed Joe.

Ultimately, the Scottish SPCA were contacted about the unscheduled visitor and how to get the cat off the platform. With the regular trips made for supplies and personnel to and from the platform, Dexter was transported by helicopter to the mainland and put in the trusted hands of waiting SPCA personnel on landing. So now, not only has the stowaway cat been on a boat and an offshore platform, he’s probably one of a select few felines that has been in a helicopter as well.

Aimee Findlay, the SPCA rescue officer, was perplexed how Dexter got into a shipping container in the first place, much less an offshore platform. Dexter was then identified by micro-chip as well as his true owner, Bridie Dorta. Because of smart thinking with a microchip, Dexter was ultimately reunited with his original owner, who never expected to see the cat again after he disappeared. Dexter had always been a roaming type of cat, Dorta noted, but when he really disappeared, they thought he had been hit by a car or something similar. Seeing the cat again almost half a decade later was more than a bit of a shock for Dorta.

All turned out well though. Dexter was in good health, curious and friendly as ever, and he definitely seemed to remember his original owner when reunited. No surprise a number of comments were made about the cat having 9 lives and probably having used up his reserves to get all the way back home.

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A Kiwi Chick With a Maggot-Filled Cracked Egg Should Not Have Made It

Danielle S

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Kiwis are known to be the national bird for the country of New Zealand. However, while New Zealanders also have a reputation for being a hardy bunch, the kiwi bird itself is actually a very fragile animal, particularly when it is born. In one particular case, a small chick, not even hatched from its egg, was essentially on the ropes when found by hikers in the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. Turned over quickly to the Department of Conservation, the chick in the egg was moved over to the Hatchery for care and a slim chance of survival.

Arriving, the egg was damaged, broken and worse, infested with maggots. Nature was already hard at work trying to claim the chick as a statistic. The staff at the Hatchery thought the bird had a chance and the damage was just on the outside, so it was placed in an incubator. However, the next day, on close inspection, it was realized the maggots were threatening the bird itself. Vets worked immediately to clean out the fly larvae and preserve the bird. Every kiwi literally counts as the bird among a scant 80 species left that have not gone extinct.

As it turned out, the timing was incredibly fortuitous. The chick was able to make it through those first days, grow, and gain strength. After a bout of antibiotics for good measure, the chick got a solid bill of health from the vets and adapted just fine to its new digs. From there it was able to gain in size and ultimately grew to a full young bird, active and strong in chasing food and taking care of itself. For the caretakers at the Hatchery, the stubborn chick is symbolic of the New Zealander spirit. It’s also a classic case of how much effort, time, skill and expertise goes into trying to save each chick and help the numbers of Kiwi birds grow at the Hatchery.

At the one kilogram weight level, the bird has reached enough maturity to be returned to the wild. The chick will become part of the Kiwi population, fostered and protected at Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rotokare. The story of the chick’s survival continues to impress everyone who deals with the case and the transfer of the bird as it grows, not to mention it makes for a good national story as well.

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German Shepherd Mix Saved After Two Hours in the LA River

Danielle S

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Scooby, a German Shepherd mix breed dog, was rescued after two long hours in the Los Angeles River. The river is fifty-one miles long beginning in the Canoga Park section of Los Angeles and continuing through the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles. It flows through a concrete channel on a fixed course. It only takes six inches of fast-moving water to sweep an average-sized person off their feet and carry them downriver. When the water reaches twelve inches, the current can move a car off the road. It was easy for Scooby to be carried away by the strong currents created by the storm a day or two before. The river’s current can be fast-moving after a storm, and this is what happened right before Scooby spent two hours in the river.

Scooby is a large German Shepherd, a breed known for their strength. Scooby was strong enough to escape his owner and a would-be civilian rescuer. Scooby’s owner refused to let go of him to grab a rescue ring thrown by firefighters.. Scooby broke away from his owner, but firefighters were able to get a rescue ring around her and she was rescued safely with the help of a helicopter. She was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries.

Around three-thirty, in the afternoon, a twenty-eight-year-old would-be rescuer and good Samaritan jumped into the river and was able to grab hold of Scooby. After a few minutes, other rescuers were able to get the man a rope. However, Scooby was able to escape his rescuer and continue his journey down the river. After his own rescue by firefighters, the civilian good Samaritan was treated for dog bites inflicted by Scooby, who was acting out of fear and exhaustion. Dogs do not recognize when humans are trying to help them. They react out of fear in an attempt to escape the dangerous situation they have found themselves in.

The Los Angeles Fire Department released a statement asking well-meaning civilians to stay away from active rescues, including Scooby’s. Even though some civilians may truly want to help, they ultimately end up interfering with trained rescuers’ attempts to save the animal in danger, like Scooby. Rescuers often end up with multiple victims because, even though they have good intentions, these would-be rescuers are not trained and do not have the proper personal protective equipment to prevent injury. In this case, both the owner and the young man suffered from dog bites because they were not wearing the right protective gear.

Scooby was rescued after spending about two hours in the river. Firefighters were able to corner him in an area of the cement riverbed where they could safely stand up. The Los Angeles Animal Services Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team also helped with the lengthy rescue. He was suffering from hypothermia and had some abrasions on his paws. In addition, he was understandably exhausted and hungry. Scooby was able to be returned to his family the same night.

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