Therapy Dogs Are Helping Kids Learn To Read

Over the past few years, therapy dogs have improved the lives of the handicapped. They’ve eased the pain of those suffering from PTSD and even helped baby cheetahs improve their social skills. In another attempt to aid those in need, dogs from Tail Waggin’ Tutors are helping children with anxiety learn to read.

The new “dog-friendly” atmosphere makes use of the same principles used with therapy dogs… It relaxes the child and allows them to focus on reading instead of waiting for… feedback. Patting or petting the attentive dog also helps put the child at ease.

If cute puppy videos are helping the entire population of Facebook get over Monday blues, these dogs must be doing wonders. Fortunately, the dogs cater to children anywhere in the world, as the program is international. And for the most part, it seems to be working.

“When [people] ask why the kids read to a dog, I say, because a dog is not going to correct them,” said Shilo Perlman, a library assistant in youth services. “We’ve heard from many parents who will say, ‘You know, my child will not read at home, won’t pick up a book. She’s afraid she’s going to make mistakes. But she will read to the dog.’”

Looks like man’s best friend may also be man’s top educator!

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Dutch Startup Using Crows To Clean Cigarette Litter

It’s more than likely that we call groups of ravens an unkindness due to their unforgiving intelligence. A Swedish experiment training birds to earn food rewards had one raven hacking the project entirely. The thoughtful budgie even took the time to teach other birds the secret. Now, startup Crowded Cities is testing the brainpower of crows, using them to pick up litter.

The idea is to train the crows to drop cigarette butts in a ‘Crowbar,’ which scans the item to confirm it’s a cigarette butt, and then gives the crow a food reward to reinforce the behavior.

Considering the amount of cigarette butts that end up on sidewalks annually (about 4.5 trillion), these crows could make a difference. The butts are not only non-biodegradable, but toxic to marine life. For ultimate efficiency, the Crowbar uses a simple give-and-take mechanism.

[Everything] is done with the intention that the crow will fly away and inform others of this system, so that more crows participate in cigarette butt collecting.

Research has found that crows are as cognitive as apes, so the success of the Crowbar should be anticipated.

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Modified Chickens Are Laying Cancer-Fighting Eggs

With alternative treatments for cancer on the rise, we’re also seeing an increase in unusual remedies. If anything from avocado husks to flexible batteries are on the market, using livestock should be no surprise. At least not to engineers in Japan. Researchers are genetically modifying chickens to lay eggs filled with cancer-preventing drugs.

The eggs were developed using genome-editing technology to produce a protein called interferon, which is used to treat hepatitis, multiple sclerosis and malignant skin cancer.

Injecting it into cancer patients three times per week can prevent cancer cells from multiplying, while also boosting T cells to fight tumors.

Conventionally, interferon costs anywhere between $250 to $900. Interferon from chicken eggs, on the other hand, won’t have patients clucking up more than half the price. What remains to be more dangerous than cancer itself is the price tag that comes with therapy.

“Cancer drugs are not a luxury item, like an expensive car, that people can choose to buy or not to buy…. When prices come down, mortality rates will surely follow.” [said Brian Bolwell of the Cleveland Clinic.]

Perhaps, one day we’ll all agree that curing cancer isn’t about the money. Kudos, Mr. Bolwell. Kudos.

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Acrobatic Felines Give Stray Cats A Second Chance

Though places like Vancouver are encouraging shelter rescues by banning the sale of puppy mill animals, many others have a long way to go. If an animal isn’t cute, chances are it’s not leaving its cage. Because of this, cat trainer Samantha Martin and her acrobatic felines are giving strays a second chance at life.

 The Amazing Acro-Cats [are] a traveling troupe of house cats that ride skateboards, play musical instruments and sometimes get bored and wander off into the audience.

“The team [of cats] themselves are all former rescues and strays,”

Martin, who is an experienced feline foster mom, has no problem draining shelters of its resident kittens. Since starting the group, Martin has been savior to over 200 cats.

“We try to partner with a local rescue and donate a portion of the [show’s] proceeds,” she said. “Sometimes people just contact us. It can be very random.”

Martin often takes in kittens with behavioral problems, proving that aggression can, in fact, be trained away. However, she focuses only on positive reinforcement. If you’re lucky enough to see the Acro-Cats in action, perhaps consider taking a non-permanent purr-former home.

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Bee Saving Paper — You Guessed It! — Saves Bees Globally

Unable to resist our sweet stripey friends — and of course, the danger to our food resource brought about by the dwindling of their populations — different sectors have already been participating in bee saving initiatives. There is the UK’s ban on harmful pesticides. There is the transformation of empty lots into bee farms by a group of Detroit locals. Recently, there is free ice cream from food company Häagen-Dazs to promote the bee saving advocacy.

The latest to join the hive is a Polish startup company that created a biodegradable paper from energy-rich glucose that may feed bees. Not only is it definitely usable for us humans because the material isn’t sticky at all, Bee Saving Paper is very nutritious and delicious for our pollinator friends.

The material is made by dissolving a special kind of sugar into water, making a paste that beekeepers use to nourish their hives during the winter. According to the paper startup’s website, only 0.5 kilograms of the substance is enough to feed several thousand bees.

The paper is also made with honey plant seeds, which means that once the bee eats up all the glucose, the paper’s biodegradation will grow another “rest stop” for bees in its place.

Now you might ask: why would any creature want to eat paper? What could make it seem sumptuous? Well, the designers have also come up with a solution to make the Bee Saving Paper look yummy.

Since bees see fields of flowers as circles of colored light on the ultraviolet spectrum, the engineers used water-based UV paint to cover the paper with colored circles that are only visible — and attractive — to bees.

Since last year, the startup has already successfully executed its first field test. They helped out a Polish beekeeper whose bee farm populations were rapidly decreasing. Now, the company aims to promote their bee saving products to large brands and businesses that need paper. Which could be every business out there, really.

[A]ny business or manufacturing company using paper can start making their products out of materials that are environmentally friendly and nourishing to pollinators — from paper bags to parking tickets and picnic plates.

I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to do everyday chores. Shop with a paper bag, read food labels printed on paper, drink from a paper cup, write love letters on paper… do pretty much everything as a bee saving hero!

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Cop Transforms Station Into Kitten Shelter

Some people may have big shoes to fill, but never leave out the chance to do good. In a courageous attempt to save endangered penguins, the Chilean government snubbed a billion-dollar mining project. On the other side of the world, policewoman Gretchen Byrne is transforming the Boca Raton station into an awesome kitten shelter.

“I will get three breaks: A 40-minute lunch break and two 10-minute breaks. Instead of going for pizza with my colleagues I use that time to run to the station and feed them,” she explained. “It all comes out of my paycheck at the end of the day but I don’t have kids so it is probably still cheaper than having kids.”

In just two years, Byrne has rescued 63 cats, knowing shelters would be too full to take them in. She uses Instagram as a platform to advertise her precious adoptables. Though her four-legged tenants can be rambunctious, Byrne claims they also help her to relax.

“The other thing is that is really nice to come home and have kittens to help me destress. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff on road patrol.”

If there is one thing we’re sure of, it’s that Byrne takes the notion of cat lady to a whole new level!

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Black Butterflies Inspire More Efficient Solar Panels

When it comes to moving forward with technology, we tend to fall back on nature. After all, in most ways, science is organic. If slugs can inspire a medical glue that will ease the difficulties of surgery, other animals can do the same. To improve on solar panels, researchers are drawing ideas from black butterflies.

The rose butterfly is native to Southeast Asia. Because it is cold-blooded and needs sunlight to fly, its black wings have evolved to be very good at absorbing energy.

Normally, solar panels are made with thick solar cells. Thin film solar cells have a lot of potential, but are not as productive. The black butterflies absorb heat perfectly because their wings are covered in holes. These holes effectively scatter light.

“I think what’s interesting is the excellent approach of looking at the underlying physiological concepts and then taking these concepts and emulating them in a structure that doesn’t look quite look like how a butterfly looks but does the same physics,” says Mathias Kolle, a professor of engineering.

The research has since received proper funding and, hopefully, will flutter along seamlessly.

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Free Ice Cream to Help Save Honey Bees

Bee populations are known to be on a steep decline. And it’s worrisome because the many benefits given to us by the cutesy bugs (please click at your own risk, lest you faint of cuteness) are no secret to our generation, to environmental activists and non-activists alike. Some people already act of their own volition, like communities turning empty lots into bee homes and repairing beekeeping equipment. The UK has even banned pesticides that are harmful to bees.

Another stint in the bee-saving movement comes from ice cream company Häagen-Dazs, as they give away free ice cream cones to promote the advocacy.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees campaign . . . Since starting 10 years ago, Häagen-Dazs has donated over $1 million to bee research and planted over 11,000 plants. If you want to help the bees too, the ice cream company asks that you donate to the Xerces Society—they have a goal of planting 1 million acres of habitat for bees.

A third of Häagen-Dazs products apparently depend on the honey bees, and so does a third of our entire food intake, which makes their decreasing population truly alarming.

The annual Free Cone Day serves as a recognition of whom Adam Hanson, President and General Manager of the food company, calls “pollinators that make our ice cream possible.” Of course, the event doesn’t stop at recognition of the hard-working bees. It is, more than anything, a call for help.

“With this year marking the 10th anniversary of the brand’s honey bee support, we wanted to build on that information and encourage everyone to band together for this important cause.”

Many people want to save the honey bees, not just for their general cuteness, but for their steadfast role in our food supply. And come on, let’s just be honest here. Who wouldn’t want to help in the name of free ice cream?

 

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Surfing Dogs Raise Funds For Orphan Pets

Dogs have been known to help people and fellow animals alike. From planting trees to assisting baby cheetahs, we can rest assured that they care about the world. After Hurricane Harvey, there is a particularly fascinating story involving our furry friends that caught my attention. Some surfing dogs are looking out for their own, raising funds for orphan pets.

The 12th annual surf competition for dogs raised $80,000 to help orphan pets at the Rancho Santa Fe-based Helen Woodward Animal Center, including more than 60 rescued dogs and cats from Hurricane Harvey.

The Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon lasted 6 hours and attracted over 5,000 guests. Dogs, separated into weight classes, surfed in 10-minute heats. To be honest, I’m not sure what I am more impressed with — the funds raised, the cause that the funds are supporting, or the fact that these dogs are practically amazing athletes.

The canine surf fest also included a costume contest for pooches to show off beach wear and freestyle surf competition, where points were awarded for creativity.

I am bummed to have missed such a lighthearted event. But more than that, I am also proud that our two-legged friends have been participating in relief efforts — and doing fantastic jobs at it! Truly, anything is paw-sible.

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Play with Cuddly Cats All Day in Hawaii

If you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole of the Internet for pet lovers — pun intended — you would know that designations as dog persons or cat persons are usual. Or even seemingly necessary. Dog person versus cat person debates even brew up sometimes, but all in good fun. For me, though, there’s no battle between species. And I hope you agree, dogs working at museums and cats surprising old ladies are equally adorbs.

I was just at the rabbit hole cooing endlessly at cute pictures — a rabbit hole which needs more bunny people, to be honest, because they’re also super cute — when I came upon this piece of exciting news for cat people and pet-neutral people like me. You can now spend your Hawaiian vacation on something other than getting a tan and sipping pina coladas. Why not hang out with the island’s lovable felines?

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary, only a “tail’s wag” from the Lanai Airport, hosts nearly 600 former street cats on a gorgeous property that attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year. The open-air space — where the cats can run, play, nap and generally do whatever they like all day — is a feline paradise.

Visitors may come to the sanctuary from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday. And the best part? Admission is free! The place, however, accepts donations to be used for maintaining paradise and helping the kitties do the activities they like.

The other best part? If spending the day with cuddly cats isn’t enough, you may choose to adopt one. Many of the felines are adult, and all of them are up for adoption through the sanctuary. But those who won’t be adopted may live their whole lives at the place.

The organization started as a project to sterilize Lanai’s street cats to control overpopulation. In 2009, the group moved the cats to its current site and established itself as a nonprofit.

If work is taking over your year, however, and you need to put off your vacay for a while, you may opt to visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary’s website in the meantime. Though I hope it inspires you to plan ahead for when you can finally slip away into holiday mode. After all, what other vacation could beat hugging cuddly cats while sipping pina coladas and getting a tan on a gorgeous island?

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