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Paying It Forward: Kidney Vouchers

Sarrah M

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Who wouldn’t do anything to save someone they loved? Most of us would have very few limits when it came to finding a way to save a loved one’s life. 

Sometimes that seems like an impossible task, like in the case of 7-year-old-Quinn Gerlach. He was born with only one kidney, and that kidney doesn’t function the way it should. There is a very real possibility that Quinn will need another kidney in the future, and his grandfather wanted to help. But retired judge Howard Broadman isn’t compatible, so he can’t be the one to offer his kidney to Quinn.

What does it mean to be compatible?

In order to donate a kidney to someone, both people have to have a lot in common. First, the donor will need to take a blood test to see if blood types match. There are 4 basic blood types: A, B, AB, and O. Individuals also may or may not have an Rh factor, in which case they would either be positive or negative.

After blood typing, the donor will be checked for tissue typing. Tissue typing will determine how many antigens the donor and recipient share. Six out of six is best, but it’s hard to find. Parents probably only share 50%. The last compatibility test is cross-matching, where the recipient is tested at least twice to see if he or she reacts to the new kidney. It’s no good to get a kidney your body attacks as a foreign invader.

Finally, the donor must be checked for overall physical health, in order to make sure the donor will be able to successfully donate without coming to harm. There could be several tests before the transplant team is satisfied.

Getting creative

Once Howard realized he couldn’t donate the kidney himself, he started thinking of how else to help. There are never enough donated kidneys to help everyone who needs it, so Howard figured there was a huge unmet need.

Howard ended up donating his kidney to a complete stranger, a retired airport manager named Kathy, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. In exchange for the kidney, he received a gift certificate for a kidney. He presented the voucher to his grandson, and Quinn can use it to help him get to the top of a transplant list if there is a compatible kidney available.

The idea catches on

At this point, about 30 hospitals around the country are willing to work with donors who want to swap kidneys. Instead of just potentially saving his grandson’s life, Howard set a new idea in motion that has already saved many lives. Other family members who want to help their loved ones now know that they can donate their kidneys so they can get a voucher to get a kidney from another stranger in exchange.

Kidneys are unusual in that people only need one kidney to survive. That is why it is possible to donate one kidney and continue to live a long, healthy life. Selena Gomez is one of the biggest stars in the world and she received a kidney from her best friend.  Anyone who wants to help someone by being a live kidney donor but doesn’t know where to start can check out the information at The Big Ask: The Big Give.

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Culture

A Soldier’s Dog Proves Canine Memory is Strong

Liz L

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There’s a well-known saying that a dog is man’s best friend. This sentiment is assumed to go back ages to the very early beginnings of man, when dogs were domesticated and trained to live with humans versus attack them or be hunted by them. In modern times, we see them as pets at a distance, but up close to dog owners, they become more than animals. They become our best friends and partners. And the feeling is reciprocated as any dog owner with a bond knows. That was the case for Lt. Dylan Cox.

Like all military personnel these days, Lt. Cox was called for duty and had to work overseas. Unfortunately, South Korea where he was based was a half world away from his 2-year old dog, Bentley. The golden retriever had just had barely two years to bond with his owner before Cox had to ship out. Instead, the dog was left behind, and stayed with Lt. Cox’s wife, Amelia, and waited. Most would think that a dog doesn’t have the ability to remember, but that was the case for Bentley. The canine clearly proved not only did he remember Lt. Cox after an extended absence, the dog really missed his absent owner as well.

Lt. Cox, however, was worried. Throughout the whole trip back to the U.S. he kept wondering if Bentley would still have a connection with him. Generally, dogs seem to act in the moment, and Bentley never behaved different from that stereotype. So, would the dog act weird when Lt. Cox finally got home and came in the door? He wasn’t sure, and the closer he got to home, the more the soldier’s anxiety grew inside him.

Part of the fear had to do with how young Bentley was when the Lieutenant left for duty. A dog with a good number of years had a higher probability of retaining memory of an owner, but a puppy was another story. So, Lt. Cox and his wife tried to be creative about reminding the dog even while the soldier was overseas. Using digital video, Amelia and Lt. Cox gave Bentley the ability to “see” and “hear” his owner despite the distance. And the trick seemed to work. Bentley would act like he recognized Dylan and tried to look at the soldier on the Facetime screen directly when Lt. Cox talked.

Finally, after spending a long six months in South Korea, Lt. Cox was allowed to return home in the U.S. again. Dylan shipped back to Austin, Texas, and arrived at his own house doorstep. Normally, someone comes in a door, a dog inside is the first to see who’s coming in, moving far faster than the resident human. Bentley was no exception. However, instead of growling or barking, Bentley immediately perked up in full excitement when he heard Dylan announce himself coming in. The dog literally went bonkers as well.

Bentley was so freaked out about Lt. Cox being physically present instead of on a video screen, the dog was shaking. Amelia was worried Bentley was going to have an accident at the rate he was going. AS Dylan came into the kitchen Bentley jumped onto Lt. Cox, practically bringing the soldier down to the floor. The dog was so excited his tail was smacking anything within close proximity over.

Amelia just smiled and took in the sight. She was never worried that Bentley would forget Dylan. Instead, she made sure to have a camera ready and filmed the whole thing so they would all have it for posterity years later. And Bentley made it crystal clear that dogs remember extremely well regardless of time.

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Culture

Alec Baldwin and Ireland Baldwin Are Mending the Rift

Amanda J

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Alec and Ireland Baldwin have always had a tumultuous relationship. Ireland commented on the supportiveness of her family and friends in 2015 when she voluntarily checked herself into rehab for stress and emotional trauma. She didn’t share many details of her stay but did include that it was not related to drugs or alcohol. However, we can glean that some of her trauma was likely related to her relationship with her father. Some of that trauma was brought to light in 2007 when Alec Baldwin left a nasty voicemail on her phone after she didn’t answer a scheduled phone call. In the voicemail, he called her a “rude, thoughtless little pig” among other insults. In 2019, Ireland went on to roast her father on Comedy Central saying that she knew as much about him as the audience did, alluding to their distant relationship. While that was her chance for a little revenge, it was also a moment for her to share some biting truths about the toxicity shared between them. 

Recently, Ireland talked in an interview about how she is repairing her relationship with her father. She described going to therapy with Alec and the long process of unpacking years of verbal abuse, teenage acting out and the toll that the media took on their already rocky dynamic. She described that the media often inflated any tensions between them, putting a spotlight on their troubles. This made any kind of healing nearly impossible when their worst moments were publicized. She also emphasized the importance of sharing bonding experiences and traveling together. This seems like a real change of heart from what we’ve seen in the past. She mentioned that Kobe Bryant’s death was a profound wake-up call for her about the fragility of life and the importance of forgiving and staying in the present. His death caused her to introspect about what might happen if she lost her Dad. After reflecting, she felt that it was important to repair that relationship and live in the present instead of the past. She was quoted saying that “family is everything” and she is living those words while mending the rift with Alec.

Publicly, both of them have admitted that there was blame to share for their dysfunctional relationship. After his nasty divorce with Kim Basinger, Alec felt that it was difficult to stay in Ireland’s life based on the custody agreement. These tensions likely lead to the anger and frustration when Ireland missed his call. Ireland herself admits that she was rebellious and she naturally sided with her mom through the divorce proceedings which made things difficult for Alec. Kim has said that she has no problems with Alec anymore and that they’re amicable. With Ireland and Alec working on their relationship and Kim at least in neutral territory, the Baldwin family is off the battleground and working towards a better family future.

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Amazing

When the Cowboy Walks Into the Tractor Store and It’s No Joke

Danielle S

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A cowboy walks into a Tractor store with his horse. It sounds so much like a joke that you might be waiting for the punchline. But it really happened, according to Robin Morris, who posted about her experience on Facebook. Morris described the man as elderly, and said that he walked right up to one of the staff and asked about the pet policy. The gist of the discussion was about whether they’d count his horse as a pet on a leash if he brought him inside the store.  The answer, of course, was a definitive yes. 

A Caring Friend 

The elderly cowboy was as worried about his hoofed friend as anyone would be for a 4-pawed pal. It was warm outside, and he didn’t want to leave his horse to stand in the heat while he purchased the feed. It’s just that you probably have never seen a horse in a store before, even if it was a feed-and-farming equipment store. So, even the idea seems bound for an Old West tale or legend.  

The cowboy rides up to the store, dismounts from his horse, and then leads his mount into the building. It’s the stuff out of some unexpected alternate universe or freaky legend. It demonstrates not only the depths to which a cowboy will go for his friend, but it also allows us to see the kindness and worth of fellow human beings. 

  1. The Tractor Store had a policy of allowing pets and their owners to visit the store together, as long as a leash is used.  
  2. The cowboy cared enough about his 4-hoofed friend to ask for permission to make sure that the horse’s presence was acceptable.  
  3. The staff were open and kind enough to allow the man to bring his horse into the store.  

It may have been the first time a man ever led a horse into the store. Given the acceptance and openness of the Tractor Store, it could be just the first of many such incidents. If they allowed one cowboy to walk through the store with his horse, what will the rest of the menagerie of animals look like? 

The Rest of the Story 

Beyond the story of the cowboy who walked into the Tractor Store, and even led his horse across the store, there are the witnesses. It must have been a shock to see a man with a horse following so close behind him. Even if it did seem surreal, Morris captured the experience via video. The incident was so out-of-the-ordinary and heart-warming that the story and video immediately inspired a viral reception.  

You don’t have to be an animal lover or a fan of Old Westerns to appreciate the idea that the depths of friendship can be found in all forms, shapes, and sizes. There’s also a tie in with age and wisdom, which leads to an understanding and appreciation. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It can’t be fully understood by onlookers, but even the casual observer can see that the horse and his cowboy have a special connection.  

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Amazing

Homeless Dogs Are Being Re-Homed After Hurricane Florence

Danielle S

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In September of 2018, Hurricane Florence ravaged West Africa, Bermuda, Cape Verde, and the East Coast of the United States. The hurricane’s impact was devastating, with over 30,000 homes destroyed by the record amounts of rainfall. The damage was costly, with an estimated $17 billion spent to restore Carolina structures.

The storm affected animals as well as people. Most pet owners make sure to bring their pets along during an evacuation. However, not all pet owners do this; some leave behind their cats and dogs. Shelter animals are also vulnerable during storm evacuations. During the chaos of a hurricane evacuation, it’s often up to rescuers and aid workers to take care of animals that have been left behind. And that is what happened with Hurricane Florence, with rescuers worked around the clock to find and aid animals at risk.

But rescue workers weren’t the only ones to step up to the plate; during the height of Hurricane Florence, members of the community volunteered to take in shelter animals during the storm. This effort was organized by Saving Grace, a nonprofit organization that helps to re-home homeless animals. As news of Hurricane Florence broke out, Saving Grace staff members sent out a call to aid from animal lovers within the community. The organization posted this note on Facebook: “We are working with our Eastern North Carolina shelters today to evacuate some pretty precious cargo! Please sign up to host a dog through our website.”

The nonprofit posted similar messages across various social media platforms. After Saving Grace sent out the call to aid, animal lovers in the community lined up to foster the homeless animals from Hurricane Florence. One of the foster volunteers was Ali Standish, who posted the shelter’s lines to Twitter. The photos posted to social media depicted an organized effort, with leashes, collars, and packages being handed out to the volunteers under tents. Ali ended up taking home Floyd, a puppy that liked to cuddle with her on the couch. After posting heartwarming photos of her time spent with Floyd, Ali was flooded with positive messages praising her for helping the animal shelter situation. While some Twitter users called her a hero, Ali made sure to thank the staff members of Saving Grace for their amazing work. She also posted other updates of Floyd, writing about how often the puppy has slept in the aftermath of the storm in one tweet. 

Saving Grace also posted updates on social media, photographing empty cages to show what a successful effort the fostering effort had been. On Facebook, the nonprofit posted the following message: “We are grateful for those individuals in our community who stepped up yesterday to open their homes to 124 Saving Grace dogs… We may have a small shelter but our volunteers and the difference they make in the lives of many is huge!”

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Culture

Police Dogs Have Been Used For Centuries To Protect Citizens

Liz L

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Police Dog History

Law enforcement has trained Dogs, since the Middle Ages, financially supported by tithes from villages to provide for parish constable’s bloodhounds to find criminal suspects, described as outlaws.  Bloodhounds were employed throughout Europe. France used Police Dogs in the 14th Century, England.  Dogs on a wide scale were used in Continental Europe, which caused Paris Police use of dogs against prowling criminal gangs at night.  Ghent, Belgium police department in 1899, organized the first police dog service program. Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police of London, because of vilification from the press, was forced to use Police Dogs in 1889, because Jack the Ripper was able to escape apprehension. As a result, two bloodhounds were trained, despite one of them biting the commissionaire, in the 1880s.  Police Dogs have a widespread use even in the private sector where night watchman employs dogs. 

Dog Training and Breed

The dog handlers must take police academy training, which takes one to two years, including patrol experience. At that point, the canine and handler will transfer to a canine unit.  For a dog to enter training, it must be successful in a basic obedience training course.  Handler commands must be obeyed be without any faltering.  The officer must have control over the dog to not injure a suspect. The dog’s training includes maintaining Public Order, anti-drug, anti-explosive, to take down suspects, find corpses, and search and rescue.  The dogs can be trained to be a single purpose or dual-purpose dogs.  The single-purpose dog is backup and is trained for personal protection and tracking.  The dual-purpose dog is trained to do both single-purpose and also detect either explosives or narcotics. The dog must distinguish different types of drugs by scent.  If the handler suspects that the dog has identified a narcotic, this is considered reasonable suspicion of a crime, and in the United States the suspect’s belongings and a car can be searched without a warrant,

K9 officer’s training centers around knowing how to care for the dogs and learn their abilities, which includes command cues and competent working with the dog as a team and a partner.  It is not unusual for Police dogs to be sworn in as officers, and they receive their badges and ID numbers, 

Any dog that has natural skills for hunting retrieving and detection assistance can be trained as Police dogs. German Shepherds are a common K9 breed but other breeds such as the Dutch Shepherd,  Bloodhound, Rottweiler, Labrador, Belgian Malinois, Beagle, and the and Retriever breeds have been successfully trained. Intentional injuring or killing a police dog is a criminal offense in many countries.

Caring For An Injured Police Dog

It’s a big deal for Greenwood Village Colorado’s Police Department to have a K-9 unit with a SWAT trained K-9 Team consisting of an officer/handler and one police dog.  The K-9 team offers important services to Greenwood Village’s almost 16,000 residents.  To support the k-9 team, fundraisers are important. The police department is proud of its K-9 unit and encourages children to meet and understand the function of the police dog.  This support of the K-9 team is similar to how Middle Age villages financially supported police dog activities to fight crime. The K-9 team is SWAT trained and is a vital component of the department’s Emergency Response Team. The K-9 unit, at the request of the local schools, performs proactive searches of the school children’s lockers, sniffing for narcotics.

A Greenwood Village K-9 officer Miner, a German Shepard, was seriously injured and needed extensive surgery because he ate a toy that caused an internal blockage, requiring major surgery.  Miner is a significant emotional and financial investment.  He needed to return to service, but the police department did not have the funds to treat the serious injury.  Funds were sought, and Back the Blue K-9 Force, a charitable organization, volunteered to seek the funds for this medical emergency.   As it turns out, the Back the Blue K-9 Force decided that it could pay for the entire cost of the medical bills.  This organization is committed to the K-9 Team, as seen by its name, has also sought funds to purchase protective vests for the K-9’s and to purchase dogs for K-9 training.

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