Whoever coined the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” would be in for a surprise today. The Austin Humane Society teaches sign language to dogs like Aspen, a 4-year-old Austin pup, and he grasps it well.
Bastrop County Animal Services surrendered Aspen to AHS in May; she was on the verge of euthanasia. Volunteers discovered that Aspen was deaf and therefore unable to listen to verbal directions when they arrived at AHS.
However, how do you go about teaching a dog to sign?
A variety of hand movements are already engaged in the process of teaching a dog, or even just thinking about your dog.” According to AHS’s director of communications, Katie Kennedy, “when you teach the dog to sit or lay on the floor, you convey them a hand gesture.”
A clicker is commonly used in dog training to provide positive reinforcement. We had to start figuring out what Aspen’s version of the clicker was.
In the case of Aspen, her “clicker” was a specific thumbs-up hand gesture that she used in conjunction with a reward to encourage her to do well.
After that came “good girl” and a “watch me” command, which instructed Aspen to keep an eye out for AHS employees and potential adopters as they passed through the kennel.
People may be discouraged from adopting if they learn that the child is deaf and assume that they will not overcome this difficulty. Once you’ve learned a few words, “forgive the pun,” she explained.
Because of the hard effort our volunteers put in to teach her gesture recognition instructions, many PO; many adopters felt more confident in taking the plunge and putting down a deposit for her. It is a simple task.”
After meeting and going home with several potential adoptive families, Aspen found the perfect match through AHS’s “Foster-to-Adopt” program. On Dec. 7, a meeting with potential adopters resulted in them coming back the following day to adopt her officially.
The day after, our employee took a picture of Aspen sleeping while they filled out the papers. And she was grinning in her sleep, something that just seemed so sweet as if she understood that this would be her time and everything was harmonizing,” Kennedy added. To put it another way, “We were all just overjoyed for her.”
Adoption counselors can help you find the ideal dog for your family, lifestyle, as well as other pets in the house, according to Kennedy’s advice. To make it easier for people to adopt a pet this holiday season, the Bissell Pet Foundation has lowered adoption fees to $25, according to Kennedy.
AHS will mark its 70th anniversary next month. As the shelter marks its 70th anniversary, Kennedy believes AHS can keep helping dogs like Aspen find new homes for the next seven decades.
We were overjoyed, as Kennedy put it. As a result of our joy that this particular girl had finally found her ideal match. “
Cat Sneaks into a Shipping Container for a Serious Ride
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.
A Kiwi Chick With a Maggot-Filled Cracked Egg Should Not Have Made It
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.
German Shepherd Mix Saved After Two Hours in the LA River
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.
From Desert to Forest- Indigenous Residents Transform Mexican Landscape
We’ve heard a lot about deforestation but a desert being transformed into a forest…now that’s unheard of.
The delicate soil in sections of Oaxaca had begun altering wind gusts and affecting rainfall, as well as the wide stretches of temperate and caliche rocks which only the most tenacious plants, like succulents, could thrive in.
However, it would be difficult to convince shepherds to quit entering restored areas after hundreds of years of grazing customs. It’d be only the beginning of a long list of difficulties.
Since generations of overgrazing have impoverished soils in the Mexican state, 22 neighborhoods have decided to take up the responsibility of replenishing them.
The restoration of 49,000 acres or more in the previous two decades has resulted in thriving forests on numerous sites.
Community members must first find ways to rehabilitate their soil before planting trees, which makes the work even more difficult than usual.
Agroforestry and even carbon credit sales are now viable possibilities for forest-dependent livelihoods because of the initiative’s success.
On one of the many hills in the San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca city of southern Mexico, erosion has stripped the land to its bare rock, leaving no trace of a forest or, even more incredible, a civilization. In Tepejillo, this has occurred.
Mayor of Mixteca Alta, Horacio Miguel, believes the forests sustained a population of over 100,000 ahead of the arrival of the Spanish.
As a graduate of the University of Chapingo’s irrigation engineering program, Miguel worked extensively throughout this limestone region, which previously supported the mighty Mixtec king of Coixtlahuaca.
The world back then was completely different from the one we live in now. Some 2,800 individuals are battling to receive enough water for their daily needs. The terrain is barren and not capable of retaining or filtering precipitation in the basin’s higher reaches.
Communities in this area began water restoration and soil fertilization about two decades ago. Their perseverance has paid off. Amidst the whiteness of the desert, green shoots of plants sprouted from the karst rocks. It’s only when you get closer to the trees that you realize the junipers, breadnuts, pines, and oaks planted there since 2021.
Before they could plant them, they had to excavate ditches to collect rainwater. Since the rock is pure, the team had to utilize machines to break ground. Miguel admits that “sometimes even the machines weren’t able to accomplish it.”
It seemed impossible that these flimsy seedlings could grow in a forest in such harsh conditions. On the other hand, a few kilometers away, at the Loma Larga as well as Narreje locations, where community work had begun 20 years earlier, good results were being shown. The highway that connects Puebla and Oaxaca is flanked by dense vegetation that rises to a height of 5 meters (16 feet).
San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca’s agricultural community has been reforested since 2000, with at least 2,000 acres of damaged land returning to its natural state. Mexico City’s Chapultepec Forest—the largest urban park in the Americas—is just about triple that size.
Reforestation in the Mixtecs-Chocho Community Alliance stretches across 25 villages, including Coixtlahuaca, which is just one of them. Over 49,000 acres of land have undergone restoration in the alliance’s region, which is the equivalent of at least three Manhattans. As a result, forest restoration may be achieved when the entire population is on board with the concept of functioning rather than against nature.
To celebrate their accomplishments on June 17th, 2021, the Environment and Natural Resources secretary as well as FAO hosted a World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought at the site they worked so hard to restore.
Maine’s First Official Courthouse Pup Reporting for Service
Most people have heard of judges, bailiffs, courthouse clerks and all the various trappings that go along with a court. However, a courthouse pup is bit of a new curveball for some folks. The use of animals for help people suffering from trauma has been a regular practice in recent decades, particularly those who have been suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome or similar. Animals sense people’s emotions far faster than other humans, and when trained properly, they can react accordingly to help a victim alleviate their suffering with something as simple as comfort.
Holiday, a donated dog from a local breeder, was provided to the local courthouse in Aroostook County to be an emotional support dog. The young Labrador Retriever is all fur and goofiness at the moment, but the dog will be quickly trained to become an emotional support animal, particularly during sessions and hearings involving family, crime victims’ presence, children, rape victims, developmentally disabled adults and elderly. The comfort dog will be a regular presence during court proceedings or investigations that can otherwise be extremely stressful to attendees who are vulnerable. For families and children, particularly those who are victims of crime, the dog can be a comfort outlet while having to witness the trial and sentencing of an offender.
Of course, for Holiday, life at the beginning is about figuring out this complex world humans live in while being cared for and raised by Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins. The project is a bit of a first of its kind for the County as well as probably Maine. No other courthouses currently involve a comfort dog for attendees and particularly victims or children engaged in the legal process. If the significant stress people normally go through in a case and hearing can be reduced, Collins believes the benefits can be exponentially in better witnesses, proceedings and less impact on the victims seeking justice.
Many wonder how a dog wouldn’t become a big distraction during a court trial or hearing. However, comfort dogs once trained can be amazingly responsive and behaved in their professional settings. And the benefits are not just for the attendees. Court employees who by their role have to listen and work through the trauma of others’ suffering can be emotionally impacted over time as well. The aggregate of suffering one hears and listens to case after case takes a price on people, especially responders and investigators. Comfort dogs help these professionals reduce their own built-up anxiety and stress, even if it is just being a distraction as something furry to pet and interact with for a few minutes and forget about work in the process.
Holiday’s job will be a bit more specific at times; the dog will be part of an investigation team, attending when investigators need to go through the harsh details of a crime with a victim to build a case for prosecution. It’s hard for such victims to trust and open up to anyone after such an event, and comfort dogs have been an amazing help doing so. Holiday’s job will be a big one on a daily basis, but Collins believes the animal will easily earn her keep ten times over when applied to case work.
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