A new ‘leash’ on life: Government program will train dogs for veterans with PTSD

From NBC News – As many as 20 veterans out of 100 from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Becca Stephens comforting — and being comforted by — her service dog, Bobbi.
Becca Stephens comforting — and being comforted by — her service dog, Bobbi.K9s for Warriors

This month, Congress passed a bipartisan bill — the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, for Veterans Therapy Act — to help connect veterans with their own service dogs. The bill is now headed to the desk of dog-lover President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

By Patrick Martin

Bobbi keeps her soft brown eyes on Becca Stephens while patrolling the aisles of a grocery store, ever-vigilant of potential threats. She walks slightly behind, making sure no one can get the jump on the person she is there to protect.

Once the mission is over, Bobbi will head home, get a nice treat and play with her favorite toy, a bright orange traffic cone.

Bobbi is a service dog who has been by Stephens’ side for the last three years. The golden Labrador is specially trained to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, like Stephens of Clearwater, Florida.

Stephens is a 36-year-old combat veteran who served in Basra, Iraq, from 2009 to 2010, working on radio equipment for her unit. She was diagnosed with PTSD in 2011.

“She just always has my back, and she knows” when Stephens needs reassurance, the veteran told NBC News.

Becca Stephens comforting — and being comforted by — her service dog, Bobbi.
Becca Stephens comforting — and being comforted by — her service dog, Bobbi.K9s for Warriors

This month, Congress passed a bipartisan bill — the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, for Veterans Therapy Act — to help connect veterans with their own service dogs. The bill is now headed to the desk of dog-lover President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

At that point, the Department of Veterans Affairs would work with organizations like K9s for Warriors, a Florida nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to veterans, which is where Stephens trained with Bobbi. The five-year program would take effect Jan. 1, 2022, said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors.

“We’re encouraged by the passage of this bill by both houses of Congress as an integral first step in the fight against veteran suicide,” Diamond said.

Of the more than 700 veterans who have been through the K9s for Warriors program, 72 percent had attempted suicide before being paired with their service dogs, Diamond said.

“We’re incredibly good at keeping them alive,” Diamond said. “So why wouldn’t the VA want to be part of that?”

Related

The program comes at a critical time. As many as 20 veterans out of 100 from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have PTSD, according to the VA. The pandemic has caused even more stress for veterans, with calls to the veterans crisis line surging more than 15 percent last year. And experts agree PTSD is underreported.

Veteran suicide continues to plague former service members. From 2005 to 2018, nearly 90,000 veterans have died by suicide, and the number continues to rise, according to the most recent report from the VA.

While Stephens may not have visible injuries, she is still wounded from the tolls of combat. After her deployment to Iraq, she said, she could never relax and always experienced a heightened sense of awareness. Medication prescribed after her PTSD diagnosis didn’t really help her.

“I was constantly having mood swings, you know, very palpable anger towards anything, extremely irritable, I would have nightmares, almost all the time,” she said.

Her PTSD ultimately led to a seven-year drug addiction, she said. Before meeting Bobbi, Stephens said, she contemplated suicide, going so far as to develop a pros and cons list.

“I was sitting on the edge of my bed thinking, you know, ‘This is it. I have nothing left at this point,'” she said.

Becca Stephens in her car with her service dog, Bobbi.
“You do all kinds of things that you’ve been avoiding,” said Becca Stephens, seen here in her car with her service dog, Bobbi.K9s for Warriors

Training a service dog to help someone with PTSD is an immersive program that helps the veteran and dog form a bond. The dog learns to notice signs of anxiety and how to soothe its owner.

“We found that, by and large, the most important and most commonly used task was to calm or comfort anxiety,” said Maggie O’Haire, an associate professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue University who works with K9s for Warriors.

Her research shows service dogs can help reduce the severity of PTSD in veterans. In a 2020 report released by the VA, participants paired with service dogs trained for PTSD had fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations within the first 18 months, compared to people with emotional support animals.

The tasks performed by these specially trained service dogs vary widely and are specific to the owner. One common task is called “lap,” a dog’s version of a weighted blanket.

“It’s basically deep pressure therapy for our warriors,” said Air Force veteran Christel Fleming, a trainer at K9s for Warriors. “We want the dog to get up, put its two front limbs across the warrior’s lap and to stay there calmly.”

The dog is taught not to jump up or lick the owner’s face.

A service dog.
“Instead of looking at the outside world and being really freaked out about what’s going on, they can look at their dog, scratch their dog, love on their dog and calm down,” said Air Force veteran Christel Fleming, a K9s for Warriors trainer.K9s for Warriors

“Instead of looking at the outside world and being really freaked out about what’s going on, [the veteran] can look at their dog, scratch their dog, love on their dog and calm down,” Fleming said.

The dogs aren’t intended to replace doctor visits or medication. In fact, O’Haire said the animals help their owners get out of the house for treatment appointments.

With Bobbi by her side, Stephens said, she is now three years sober and out in public all the time. She said the dog has given her a new “leash” on life.

“When I started to trust myself and respect myself and treat myself right, she could see that,” Stephens said.

Lost Your Cat?

It’s a myth that most cats will find their way home.

The most significant findings of a recent study were that a thorough physical search is likely to increase the chances of finding cats alive and most cats are found within a 500 m (1/3 mile) radius of their point of escape. Cats that were indoor-outdoor and allowed outside unsupervised traveled longer distances compared with indoor cats that were never allowed outside.

From: https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/lost-found-and-feral-cats/lost-a-cat and from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5789300/

Five things to help find your lost cat

  1. Shake a box of their favorite biscuits to entice them home.
  2. If your cat has a favorite toy, try leaving it in your garden.
  3. Cats have a strong sense of smell – leave out a regular blanket or bedding to encourage your cat out of hiding.
  4. You might find your moggy is more active at night, especially during hotter weather. Go out with a friend or family member when it is dark to call for your cat by name.
  5. Leave a bowl of water out and some food. A tasty treat such as tuna might be enough to bring your cat home.

Is my cat lost?

Not all cats are house cats. Some are inclined to wander, especially if there is fuss or food to be found elsewhere. It is normal for your cat to pop in and out throughout the day – especially if they have a taste for adventure. If your cat hasn’t returned by the time dinner time comes around, however, you might be worried that your cat is missing. Try not to panic. Cats can disappear for days at a time and return with no trouble, looking perfectly healthy. While you might be worried, they’re likely to stroll in and wonder what all the fuss is about. If they haven’t yet returned, give them a few hours before you make a plan of action.

I’ve lost my cat. What can I do?

If your pet still hasn’t returned home, there are a few simple things you can do to help find your missing cat. The first thing to do is to check your own home and garden. Cats love small cosy spaces and might be hiding in the unlikeliest of places – from cupboards to garden sheds. Check every room in your house, including any outbuildings and sheds too. Behind curtains, under duvets and even in household appliances like tumble dryers and washing machines. If you’re having building work completed, check under floorboards or any holes big enough for a cat to nestle into.

If you’re sure your cat isn’t at home, the next thing to do is to speak to your neighbors as well as any delivery people nearby. They might have seen your lost cat somewhere and can let you know of their whereabouts. Ask them to check their own sheds and outbuildings, as well as under any parked cars in the neighborhood. Remember to check homes on both sides of the road, as well as homes that have gardens that back on to yours. You could even provide neighbours with an up to date photo and your cat’s name, reminding them to keep an eye out.

Advertising on social media is a great way to get the message out that your cat is missing, particularly if you’re a member of a local Facebook community group. Post a clear photo of your cat, their name and your contact details.

It is also useful to keep a list of useful phone numbers pinned to a board in your kitchen. You can download our list below, complete with handy contact details.

How do I get my cat to come home?

If putting out the word about your missing cat hasn’t worked, there are some great tips and tricks to try at home. Cats are heavily reliant on scent and leaving out items that may entice them back to you is well worth an attempt. Things to try include the following:

  • Leave your cat’s favorite toy or some of their unwashed bedding in the garden
  • Leave an unwashed item of your clothing, which will have your scent on it
  • Place any used litter from your cat’s litter tray outside, or perhaps the contents of your hoover for a smell of home
  • Call out for your cat in the garden early in the morning or late at night, when everywhere is likely to be quieter
  • Shake a box of their favorite biscuits or treats
  • Keep calling your cat, leaving enough time for them to hear you and be led home

Lost your cat? Follow our checklist

If you’re beginning the search for a missing cat, download our checklist to tick off each action as you do it.

  • Search first. Check small spaces in your home – everywhere from cosy cupboards to garden sheds, garages and outbuildings
  • Ask your neighbors. They’ll need to check their property, sheds and garages too.
  • Is your cat microchipped? Talk to Petlog on 01296 737 600 or Identibase on 01904 487 600 to register your cat as missing
  • Speak to your local Cats Protection branch or centre to see if they’ve had a cat handed in to them. To find one in your area, visit our Find Us page and enter your postcode
  • Get in touch with animal shelters in your area. Visit catchat.org to find those local to you
  • Contact all vet practices in the area
  • Make and put up flyers with your cat’s photo and description to place around the local area – or post them through your neighbour’s letterboxes
  • Post a description of your cat on your Facebook page, as well as any local community Facebook groups

Download the checklist

Microchipping your cat

Microchipping your cat is the most effective way to ensure that they can be identified if they go missing, and keeping your details up to date can increase the likelihood of a happy reunion. If your lost cat is found and taken to a vet or animal welfare organisation, you’ll be contacted quickly.

Moved house or changed a phone number? You’ll need to let your microchipping company know so that your details that are on file can be amended.Find out more about microchipping your catDownload: Microchipping guide

You Can Make a Difference for Farm Animals by Choosing Certified Humane/Welfare Certified Meat Brands

The ASPCA has provided a list of food brands that have welfare certification, which represents more humane and transparent farming practices. Please consider helping to create a more humane world for farm animals by choosing certified humane or animal welfare certified products.

be kind!

Here are a few of the brands that are Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Certified, or Animal Welfare Approved:

CHICKEN: Aldi – Simply Nature Free Range Organic Chicken • Amazon/Whole Foods – 365 Everyday Value Chicken • Thrive Market – Free Range Chicken, Pasture Raised Chicken •

EGGS: Aldefer’s Eggs• Costco Kirkland Signature Organic Eggs • Nellie’s Free Range Eggs • Pete and Gerry’s Eggs

BEEF: Applegate – Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog • Country Natural Beef – all products • Crane Dance Farm – app products • Eel River Organic Beef – all products • Niman Ranch – all products • Redger Farms – all products • Wellshire – sliced beef bacon • TruBeef – all products • White Oak Pastures – grass fed beef

PORK: North Country Smokehouse- various products certified • Newman Farms – all products • Joia Food Farm – all products • Goodnight Brothers – all natural product certified • DuBreton – various products certified

LAMB: Anderson Ranches – all products • White Oak Pastures – all products • Joia Food Farm – all products • Central Grazing Company

TURKEY: ButcherBox – ground turkey • Diestel Turkey – pasture raised whole turkey line • Great American Turkey Company – strips, sausages, cutlets • Koch’s Turkey – all products • White Oak Pastures – all products

For ASPCA’s full list:

What You Can To Combat Pet Overpopulation

Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home. 25% of dogs that enter shelters are purebred. Estimates for homeless cats in the US range up to 70 million.

Every year, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized because shelters are too full and there are more pets than there are responsible homes for them. Until this issue is resolved, American Humane believes that all cats and dogs adopted from public or private animal care and control facilities should be spayed or neutered.

  1. If you are adding a pet to your family, please make sure the pet comes from a legitimate shelter, nonprofit rescue group or a responsible, humane breeder.
  2. Always spay and neuter your pets.
  3. Consider all the responsibilities and consequences of pet ownership before deciding to get a pet and always make a lifetime commitment to your pet.
  4. Educate your children, friends, family members and co-workers about pet overpopulation, adoption and the importance of spaying and neutering.

You can help stop generations of suffering. Have your female pet spayed and your male pet neutered. Don’t allow them to breed and add to the pet overpopulation problem. Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.

Sources: American Humane, DoSomething.org

What Kind of Emotions Do Animals Feel?

A book by primatologist Frans de Waal suggests that animal and human emotions are more similar than we think

from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_kind_of_emotions_do_animals_feel

By Karin Evans

In a Netherlands zoo, an elderly chimpanzee named Mama is weak and dying. Elderly biology professor Jan van Hooff, who has known the primate for four decades, enters Mama’s enclosure—something usually too dangerous to attempt, given the strength of chimpanzees and their capacity for violent attacks. In their final, poignant encounter, she grins and reaches for him, embraces him, and rhythmically pats the back of his head and neck in a comforting gesture that chimpanzees use to quiet a whimpering infant.

“She was letting him know not to worry,” writes Frans de Waal in his new book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.

As one of the world’s most prominent primatologists, de Waal has been observing animals for four decades now, debunking myths around the differences between animals and humans. His latest book focuses on the emotional lives of animals—showing that humans and other animals may be more alike than we think.

Like de Waal’s other books, Mama’s Last Hug is full of stories, making it highly readable, informative, and emotionally resonant. In another story he recounts, a younger female in Mama’s colony, Kuif, couldn’t produce enough milk to keep her babies alive; so de Waal taught her how to feed an adopted infant with a bottle. Kuif turned out to be a caring and protective mother, learning on her own how to remove the bottle when the baby needed to burp. Afterward, each time de Waal approached Kuif, she showered him with affection and expressions that truly seemed like gratitude.

After Mama’s death, de Waal witnessed the other chimpanzees touching, washing, anointing, and grooming her body—gestures very similar to what humans do after a death. Given such observations of chimpanzees, de Waal asserts, “Their socio-emotional lives resemble ours to such a degree that it is unclear where to draw the line.”

Non-primate animals show emotions, too

While de Waal begins his observations with chimpanzees, he also presents fascinating glimpses of the emotional lives of other animals. For example, Asian elephants wrap their trunks around each other as an expression of consolation. Even rodents, once thought to be unaffected by emotions and devoid of facial expressions, have been found to “express anguish through narrowed eyes, flattened ears, and swollen cheeks.” They also have facial expressions for pleasure, and they recognize these states in other rats. As for horses, De Waal notes that their faces are “about as expressive as those of the primates.”

In dogs, a key facial expression—the “inner-brow pull”—makes their eyes appear larger. This gives them that sad, puppy-like look that pulls at the heartstrings of humans, sometimes leading to canine adoptions. De Waal also digs at an oft-asked question: Do dogs feel shame when they do something wrong? It reminded me of online videos where you see garbage overturned and a dog slouched down, staring at the floor in a way that viewers interpret as “guilt.”

“No one doubts that dogs know when they are in trouble,” writes de Waal, “but whether they actually feel guilty is a point of debate.” According to a study by Alexandra Horowitz, the canine guilty look—“lowered gaze, ears pressed back, slumped body, averted head, tail rapidly beating between the legs—is . . . not about what they have done but about how their owner reacts. If the owner scolds them, they act extremely guilty. If the owner doesn’t, everything is fine and dandy.”

De Waal draws a clear distinction between animal behaviors that connote emotions readable to outside observers and what animals actually feel.

“Anyone who claims to know what animals feel doesn’t have science on their side,” he writes. “Emotions and feelings, while often conflated, are not the same.” Emotions drive behavior and come with physical cues that allow them to be observed and described; feelings are internal subjective states known only to those who possess them.

So, though de Waal views elephants as highly empathic, emotional beings—given how they will rush to comfort a fellow elephant in distress, and how they can recognize themselves in a mirror—he acknowledges that some scientists remain skeptical because we can’t ask elephants (or any animal) about their feelings. “The possibility that animals experience emotions the way we do makes many hard-nosed scientists feel queasy,” de Waal points out, “partly because animals never report any feelings, and partly because the existence of feelings presupposes a level of consciousness that these scientists are unwilling to grant to animals.” 

What animals can teach us about ourselves

As de Waal explores human and non-human emotional territory, he finds considerable common ground. Bonobo babies who are orphaned and raised without maternal love suffer just as human babies do when similarly deprived. Orphaned bonobos have trouble regulating their emotions, whereas bonobos who grow up with maternal affection learn how to weather upheaval. And, just like humans, bonobos who haven’t been nurtured also have trouble comforting others who are in distress.<img alt="Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves (W. W. Norton & Company, 2019, 336 pages)” src=”https://ggsc.s3.amazonaws.com/images/made/images/uploads/Mamas_Last_Hug_200_301_int_c1-1x.jpg&#8221; srcset=”https://ggsc.s3.amazonaws.com/images/made/images/uploads/Mamas_Last_Hug_200_301_int_c1-1x.jpg 1x, https://ggsc.s3.amazonaws.com/images/made/images/uploads/Mamas_Last_Hug_332_499_int_c1-2x.jpg 2x”>Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves (W. W. Norton & Company, 2019, 336 pages)

“For me,” de Waal writes, “the question has never been whether animals have emotions, but how science could have overlooked them for so long.”

Just as de Waal’s book makes readers more attuned to the emotional life of animals, it gives us more than enough to ponder about our own human emotions.

As de Waal compares human behavior to our closest relatives’, he finds much to observe and report. The human smile, for instance, may be linked to the nervous grin found in other primates. “I seriously doubt that the smile is our species’s ‘happy’ face, as is often stated in books about human emotions,” he writes. “Its background is much richer, with meanings other than cheeriness.” Instead, a smile could mean nervousness, a desire to please, amusement, or attraction. 

Additionally, we humans “often wear plastic smiles with no deep meaning whatsoever.” How do you tell which is which? Studies by 19th-century French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne identified two kinds of human smiles: The genuine version, an expression of positive feelings and joy, is known as the “Duchenne smile” and involves not only lifting the mouth corners and pulling back the lips, but pulling back the muscles around the eyes, resulting in narrowed eyes and wrinkled surrounding skin. A “fake” smile involves the mouth area but not the eyes—a useful distinction to know!

In considering current events, the author identifies two driving forces behind human politics: leaders’ lust for power and followers’ longing for leadership. De Waal observes that hierarchical battles occur in groups of humans as well as in groups of apes, with bullying tactics used by “alpha males” in both. “Like most primates, we are a hierarchical species,” he concludes.

Yet humans shrink from admitting that about themselves, he points out, preferring to describe themselves in gentler, more rarified terms. De Waal writes, “This is why it is so refreshing to work with chimpanzees: They are the honest politicians we all long for.”

Instead of considering ourselves so refined and rational, he suggests, it’s time for us to squarely face the degree to which we—like other animals—are driven by emotions.

Looking the Other Way

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way” – Author Unknown 

25 Amazing Ways Animals Communicate That You Never Knew About

And you thought we were the only creatures capable of language…

by Alex Daniel, BestLifeOnline

chimpanzees gazing wistfully at each other

Everyone knows that cats meow, dogs bark, and cows moo. But you don’t need Old MacDonald to tell you that animal communication is infinitely more complex than that. In fact, if you do a dive deep on how, exactly, some creatures talk to each other, you’ll find secret languages that make the disparate languages of humanity—of which there are 6,900, according to the Linguistic Society of America—seem rudimentary by comparison.

1 White Rhinos Speak via Dung

White rhino {best of 2018}
Shutterstock/Ondrej Prosicky

White rhinos, who have terrible eyesight, use communal dung heaps (called “middens”) as a something of a community bulletin board where they can leave messages—that one rhino is sick or another is ready to mate, if a dominant male has recently wandered through—to the rest of the group.

2 Mantis Shrimp Flash Lights

Mantis shrimp - Image
Shutterstock/WorldClass Photo

This creature has some of the most impressively complex eyesight in the animal kingdom, with 16 color receptors (compared to our measly three), which come in very handy when trying to communicate with one another. They use their own bodies to communicate using polarized light that other animals cannot spot. Researchers have found that they bounce light off bleu spots on their appendages called maxillipeds, scattering and arranging light across the surface in ways that can covey information to other mantis shrimp—rather than merely reflecting it.

3 Sperm Whales Click

Family of spermwhales underwater near water surface, shot from below - Image
Shutterstock/Willyam Bradberry

This species of whale uses clicking sounds known as “codas” to convey information to one another. Those in different areas of the ocean use different clicking patterns, sort of like regional dialects—so Caribbean sperm whales sound slightly different than those in another part of the ocean. Researchers have been particularly interested in a group near the Caribbean island of Dominica, which they’ve found may even have variations between different clans or individual whales.

4 Caterpillars Send Out Decoy Distress Calls to Ants

Alcon blue butterfly (Phengaris alcon) resting in grassy vegetation. It can be seen flying in mid to late summer. Like some other species of Lycaenidae, its larva (caterpillar) stage depends on ants. - Image
Shutterstock/Rudmer Zwerver

The caterpillar of the alcon blue butterfly scrapes its abdomen to create a kind of song. But unlike many other such critters, who use their communication techniques to contact others of their species, this is a message meant for a very different creature: red ants. The song imitates that of the red ant queen, so those soldier ants that hear it will guard the caterpillar, even killing their own kind in order to protect it.

5 African Elephants Vibrate to Each Other

Elephant and elephant. Kenya. Safari in Africa. African elephant. Animals of Africa. Travel to Kenya. Family of elephants. - Image
Shutterstock

Technically, elephants make very low sounds to one another. Thing is, they’re so low that it does not strike the human ear as a sound—or anything more than a rumbling vibration. Known as “infrasound” (sounds below 20 hertz, too low for humans to detect), this way of communicating may seem quiet to humans, but researchers estimate that one African elephant making an infrasound can be heard by another more than 175 miles away!

6 Tarsiers Screech

Philippine Tarsier Smallest Animals
Shutterstock/Jixin YU

These tiny, big-eyed primates living in Southeast Asia communicate at the opposite range of elephants—ultrasound frequencies over 20,000 Hertz that are far too high-pitched for the human ear to detect. Scientists recorded them using similar devices as those used to record bats, capturing their vocalizations at 70,000 Hertz, which is believed to help them communicate over the jungle noise (and out of range of predators), making it ideal for avoiding or alerting one another of danger. By the way, tarsiers are one of the smallest animals in the world.

7 Ravens Have Sign Language

Bird - flying Black Common raven (Corvus corax). Winter. Halloween - Image
Shutterstock/Marcin Perkowski

Just as humans use their hands to emphasize a point, ravens do their own kind of gesticulating, using their beaks and wings to show or offer items such as moss, stones or twigs (usually aimed at members of the opposite sex). They also interact by clasping their bills together or moving an item together, as a show of potential bonding.

8 Egyptian Fruit Bats Argue

Close-up Egyptian fruit bat or rousette, Rousettus aegyptiacus. on isolated black background - Image
Shutterstock

You’re probably aware that bats use high-pitched squeals to connect and communicate with each other. But you probably didn’t know how specific such communications could get. Researchers at Tel Aviv University used a machine-learning algorithm to recognize bats’ intonations and the messages they may be trying to convey, “translating” 15,000 calls into several specific messages—more than 60 percent were arguments about four specific things: food, sleep positions, invasion of personal space, or unwanted advances.

9 Chimpanzees Scratch Each Other

Wild chimpanzees
Shutterstock/GarySandyWales

Chimps love to groom and to be groomed. But just like your spouse or partner loves a backrub…but even more if you focus on that one spot right there, chimps can be particular about where they want to get scratched, using “referential gesturing” to draw the attention of another chimp to the specific area they’d like to have groomed.

10 Geckos “Seamless” Their Food

Gold dust day gecko licking the juicy red fruit of a green cactus at Moir Gardens, Kauai, Hawaii - Image
Shutterstock/The World Traveller

Day geckos, native to Madagascar, pioneered the idea of instant-order takeout long before Seamless (or even humans) came along. But rather than an app on their phones, they simply nod their heads at treehoppers—insects that digest sap an excrete it in a sugary liquid known as honeydew. When the gecko communicates to the treehoppers that it would like some of that honeydew, the insects oblige, excreting it right into the amphibian’s mouth.

11 Electric Fish Discharge Electricity

Gnathonemus petersii - Elephant nosed fish - Image
Shutterstock/Boban_NZ

You’re probably familiar with electrically charged sea creatures such as the electric eel, but there is a particular species of electric fish that is able to use its voltage as a means of communicating. Known as “weakly electric fish,” these creatures, which, as their name implies, produce a mild electric discharge, use it to “chirp” out information, such as a male stating it’s attracted a female. When two of these fish meet, they are known to tweak their wavelengths in order to allow each other to produce similar levels of voltage.

12 African Demon Mole Rats Head-Bang

Close up of a big-headed African mole-rat, Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. - Image
Shutterstock/Giedriius

“African Demon Mole Rat” sounds like a pretty good name for a metal band. As it turns out, these critters communicate through a kind of head-banging. Spending their lives underground, they can communicate with one another by thumping their heads against the tops of their tunnels, in that way sending vibrations through the earth that travel much farther attempting to make a loud noise would be able to. The pace and intensity of the thumps indicate different meanings. Rock on.

13 Black-Footed Titis Squeak

Masked titi monkey (Callicebus personatus), photographed in Santa Teresa, Espí­rito Santo - Brazil. Atlantic forest Biome. Wild animal. - Image
Shutterstock/Leonardo Mercon

When black-footed titis (a brown, rainforest-dwelling monkey), use high-pitched squeaks to let each other known not only what types of predator may be near but their general location. Researchers have found that the monkeys vary their calls in a number of ways, creating their own syntax and complex communication system.

14 Gorillas Hum

Gorilla
Shutterstock/Onyx9

Sometimes, singing to oneself is a way to tell the world you are away in your own world and don’t really want to be bothered by all the craziness happening elsewhere (hence, singing in the shower). That’s true of silverback gorillas too, which researchers have found will hum or sing while chomping down on their favorite vegetation. It’s not just a way to indicate that they are enjoying their meal, but a way to convey that they would prefer not to be bothered while eating. When they go quiet, that’s a sign that they are willing to chat.

15 Dholes Whistle

Alpha Male - Image Dhole whistling dog
Shutterstock/Nimi Virdi

Dholes, otherwise known as Asiatic wild dogs, are also sometimes called “whistling dogs“—and with good reason. These fox-like animals alert each other about the location of prey through whistle sounds. This allows them to make coordinated attacks on other animals much larger than them, communicating in packs to take down prey that’s more than 10 times their own body weight.

16 Prairie Dogs Call to Each Other

Shutterstock/Dr. Alan Lipkin

These creatures are known for their complex underground tunnel systems, but they also have complex ways of calling to one another, using slightly different intonations (reportedly of a “chee”-like sound) depending on the type of predator—coyote, hawk, human—nearby. In one study, they were found to seemingly identify the difference between a person wearing a blue shirt and one wearing a yellow shirt.

17 Tap-Dancing Blue-Capped Cordon Bleu

Blue Capped Cordon Blue (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus) spotted outdoors - Image
Shutterstock/Fireglo

As if its name isn’t cool enough, the blue-capped cordon bleu also has some killer dance moves, using a kind of winged tap dance to attract a mate. Both male and female birds of this species court by holding a piece of nesting material in their beak, and then bob up and down while they sing, and make super-fast dance steps with their feet. Researchers believe the dance is meant to not only catch the attention of a mate, but to demonstrate health and fitness.

18 Bison Choose Leaders With Their Feet

European bison - Bison bonasus in the Knyszyn Forest (Poland) - Image
Shutterstock/Szczepan Klejbuk

European bison are large creatures, but they speak softly, letting their feet do the talking. When the herds of these impressive creatures seek to move on, they decide which way to go not through the guidance of a single leader, but a complex process in which one of the members of the herd (it can be anyone, male or female, young or old) would walk 20 or more steps in a particular direction without stopping to graze. If the others trust the decision, they take the cue and follow along—and that leading animal becomes the herd’s de facto leader (until the process restarts). Perhaps we could take a cue from the bison…

19 Apes Stomp, Clap, and Shake Heads

Western Lowland Silverback Gorilla Clapping Hands - Image

There are many, many other cool ways that great apes communicate with each other; researchers have isolated some 80 gestures at least. But what may be most interesting is that these significantly overlap with human toddlers; as Smithsonian puts it, “researchers found the human toddlers used 52 discrete gestures to communicate, including clapping, hugging, stomping, raising their arms and shaking their heads, often stringing the moves together to convey complex ideas. It turns out that the chimps also used 46 of the same gestures, meaning there’s a 90 percent overlap.”

20 Caribbean Reef Squid Changes Color

Caribbean Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea), hovering over a tropical coral reef off the island of Roatan, Honduras. - Image
Shutterstock

Using specialized cells containing pigments and light-reflecting molecules known as chromataphores, the Caribbean reef squid can change the color of their skin to convey a variety of messages: to court a potential mate, to warn others of a predator or a number of other messages—even conveying one message to a squid on their left side and a different one to a squid on their right.

21 Dancing Bees, Well, Dance

Close up of flying bees. Wooden beehive and bees, blured background. - Image
Shutterstock

Research going back centuries has noted that bees use dance moves to alert fellow hive-dwellers of a honey source. A famous study found that, when a bee discovered a honey source, it would head to the hive, performing a dance while other bees touched its abdomen, allowing the others to then find the honey source without needing to be shown. The direction and speed of the dance indicated specific geolocation details that the others could follow.

22 Jackdaws Glare

close up portrait of a jackdaw with head filling the frame looking at the camera with blue eyes on a light background - Image
Shutterstock/Philip Openshaw

Just as humans can stare people down with their eyes in order to express their anger or frustration, so too can jackdaws, a bird that’s part of the same family as crows, ravens, and jays. Researchers have found that one of these birds will use his conspicuous eyes to glare at a would-be competitor, deterring it from trying to take over his nest.

23 Coral Groupers Team Up For Hunts

 Coral hind grouper (Cephalopholis miniata) in the coral reef - Image
Shutterstock/AquaPix

When these predatory fish are outsmarted by prey that dives deep into the cracks of the coral reefs, it get some help from other predatory species: usually either the napoleon wrasse or moray eel. The grouper will point with its nose to the location of the fish, shaking its body, and the wrasse will smash against the coral to open it up or the eel will creep into the cracks itself. Thanks to this team work, at least one of the predators, if not both, usually end up with dinner.

24 Chimpanzee Footsie

Monkey relaxing on rock in zoo - Image
Shutterstock/Tom Van Dyck

You could spend a lifetime analyzing chimps’ gestures. There are so many, in fact, that you can review an entire Great Ape Dictionary. Chimps have striking similarities with humans, and one of the other ways that researchers have found they signal to one another is through extending their feet to alert another (usually young) chimp to climb on them to travel.

25 Warbling Antbirds Sing Off-Time

White-bibbed Antbird photographed in Domingos Martins, Espí­rito Santo - Southeast of Brazil. Atlantic Forest Biome. Picture made in 2013. - Image
Shutterstock/Leonardo Mercon

Female Peruvian warbling antbirds will not tolerate other females making moves on their male mate and convey that message clearly to any would-be competitor who invades their territory. The mates generally sing together in a kind of charming harmony, but at the sight of an interloper, the female will shift to an arrhythmic singing that messes up the sound and creates an unpleasant cacophony, ensuring the other woman is not allured by the usual pleasant singing that might otherwise attract her. And for more on all things animal, check out these 50 Amazing Animal Facts

How this rapper quit his music career to start a cat rescue

“I think something as selfless as rescue could be an example to the world of unity and working together,” said Sterling Davis, a.k.a. the TrapKing.

Sterling Davis, aka The Trap King.

Sterling Davis, aka The Trap King.Weir MediaNov. 29, 2020, by Jen Reeder

This story was originally published on Today.com.

Atlanta resident Sterling Davis was on a break from a rap tour when he applied for a job at the county shelter scooping kitty litter. He just wanted to stay busy and make a little money. Plus, he’s always loved animals, like his cat at the time, Rick James.

“I did horrible in the interview because they had cats in the room and I was playing with all the cats, kissing all the cats,” he told Today.

Even though he didn’t really answer any of the questions because he was distracted by the friendly felines, he got the job because, as the person who hired him said, “We’re not seeing people like you with cats.”

Davis, 40, started helping shelter employees with trap-neuter-return cases. The team would trap community cats (formerly called “feral”), bring them to the shelter to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered, and then return them to their outdoor realm.

While Davis learned about TNR, he came to another realization.

Sterling TrapKing Davis
Most community cats wouldn’t do well inside a home, so trap-neuter-return is the humane alternative to euthanasia. TNR also reduces feline overpopulation, curbs the spread of disease and helps with rodent control.Courtesy of Sterling TrapKing Davis

“At the county shelter, there were no men and no Black people that worked in the cat department,” he said. “When I would go out and do TNR with all my friends, it would be all women — that’s who trained me. I finally asked the difficult question: ‘Where are all the guys and where are all the Black people?’’

The answer: There’s just you.

Davis realized he had a new calling. He let his band know he would not be coming back on tour. Instead, he was going to devote all his time to cat rescue as the TrapKing.

After five years of working at the shelter run by LifeLine Animal Project and training with Best Friends Animal Society, Davis founded the nonprofit TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions in 2017.

His bold goal: to change stereotypes of men in cat rescue and bridge the communication gap between Black communities and predominately white animal welfare organizations.

“I’ve seen rescue be something that’s looked at as hard, tedious, sad,” he said. “If people can see me and I make this look like this is a rock-star type life, this is fun — you can do it.”

When his music money dried up, Davis sold everything he owned and bought a conversion van to live in to help pay for cat surgeries and support his nonprofit. He plastered the van with TrapKing logos and people started noticing. He hosted contests for kids, who would watch his humane traps. Whoever texted him first about a cat in a trap won $20, second place got $15 and so on.

Sterling TrapKing Davis
Sterling Davis has always loved cats. “They’re pretty amazing creatures,” he told TODAY. Courtesy of Sterling TrapKing Davis

“I started going into neighborhoods and kids would see me like the ice cream truck,” he said with a chuckle. “I would pull into apartment complexes and see young boys running up to the van trying to give me cats. ‘Hey Trap, look — I got a cat. Do I get some money?’”

As the TrapKing became better known, opportunities arose. The Atlanta Humane Society offered to spay and neuter cats he brought for free, which was a huge help since he wasn’t charging anyone for his services.

Davis, who enlisted in the Navy right out of high school and served for two years as an operations specialist manning the ship’s radar, said he believes his experiences have helped him connect with people from all walks of life as the TrapKing.

“I think being in the military, being around different people, different cultures and being in entertainment is what actually helped me better communicate with all types of people and better communicate this mission,” he said. “I’ve literally been pushing to make TNR community cat care as common as recycling and get more people engaged in so many fun ways.”

It hasn’t always been easy. Early on when Davis was returning cats to a predominately Black neighborhood, a group of men walked up and told him: “White people put tracking devices and diseases in these cats to hurt the Black community and you’re helping that. You’re bringing them into the neighborhood.”

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so wrong.’ It was really difficult to explain it because all the Black community could see was this is a white person’s thing,” he said.

Over time, perceptions have changed. When protests erupted across America in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Davis launched a T-shirt campaign called “Allies in Rescue, Allies in Life.” He announced he would donate all of the funds to the nonprofit Campaign Zero, which promotes policy changes to end police violence. Support from rescue advocates and organizations was overwhelming.

“I got a lot of feedback from the Black community on that, like, ‘So you got all of these animal people to donate to issues other than just cats or dogs?’” he recalled. “I’m like, ‘Yeah — we’re allies in rescue and allies in life.’ So that really turned a lot of things around.”

A few months ago, Davis was setting a trap for a cat that surprised him by jumping into his arms. He adopted her and named her Alanis Mewissette.
A few months ago, Davis was setting a trap for a cat that surprised him by jumping into his arms. He adopted her and named her Alanis Mewissette. Courtesy of Sterling TrapKing Davis

Davis now runs TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions from an RV, which he shares with his cats Bowie, Damita Jo and Alanis Mewissette. He hopes to travel across the country soon promoting TNR and fundraising for animal shelters. He’s also pushing for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to start offering a TNR badge.

Through it all, he’s continuing his outreach to communities and modeling his motto, “You don’t lose cool points for compassion.”

“I’ve had a lot of parents reach out to me and say that their son gets made fun of because he likes cats,” he said. “I just want it to be known that you cannot lose cool points for compassion. If you are doing something compassionate, you gain cool points.”

The TrapKing would love to see the rescue community find ways to put aside any differences and work together toward the common goal of saving the lives of pets.

“I think something as selfless as rescue could be an example to the world of unity and working together,” he said. “So I want to put that out there.”

Rescue in Crete

Sam Wilson is a volunteer at https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeShelterCrete/ She is a former police inspector with Nottinghamshire, England police. She served on the force for 30 years and retired in September 2020. A week later, she flew to Crete, Greece to volunteer with George Orfanidis and his George Stray Dogs organization. Sam’s plan was volunteer for four weeks, improve her Greek language skills, and then return home. The return-home part of her plan became complicated. Her time there inspired her to book three additional flights to Crete over the following two months, with more planned in the future. Sam now has a very long commute to work and works side by side with George.

George Stray Dogs was founded by George Orfanidis, who has devoted more than 20 years to rescuing and caring for dogs and bringing about positive change for animals by changing people’s minds and hearts through education. George houses 100 dogs at his shelters, which lack electricity and water supply. Every day, without fail, he drives the 70 km round trip bringing water and food to the dogs.

Animal welfare is not a priority in Greece. There are estimated to be 8 million stray dogs and cats in the country. They are routinely abandoned in the rubbish, in the mountains, and on the street. Some dogs are chained to barrels for the length of their lives, with little food and fresh water, and riddled with ticks, fleas, and worms.

George has been reliant on his fellow Greeks for donations for food for veterinary medicine, but Greece has been in recession for a long time. Many of the people who care about animal welfare have little money to give. The struggle for funding was somewhat alleviated when Australian animal activist Stella Savvas set up the organization’s Facebook page. George has also received various volunteer assistance from his brother Nikos Orfandis, and volunteers Katerina and Debra. The organization also received a boost when George’s friend, well-known Greek rescuer Takis Proestakis, mentioned him on his FB page.

The access to a wider audience has allowed George to build infrastructure at one of the shelters, which will allow all of the dogs to be housed at one site. Fencing, kennels, and easy access to water will make the rescue work easier. George, Sam, and other volunteers are currently working to complete the site work before winter sets in.

Some of George Stray Dogs rescue success stories – Before and After:

Tommy – George found Tommy in the filth of an abandoned house. The sight of Tommy reduced George to tears. Tommy had little fur and wounds all over his face and body from the effects of leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease which afflicts many dogs in the southern Mediterranean. After months of care, love, and treatment, Tommy was transformed into a beautiful dog. Tommy and George are now inseparable.

Hara – Hara was abandoned in the rubbish five years ago. George was caring for her as a stray on the streets. One day, he was alerted that some men had her on a chain and were ready to hang her. George went to the location and fought with the men to save her life. (He has been attacked more than one occasion for his work.) The men damaged George’s car and bruised him, but Hara was saved and she now lives at the shelter. Hara is a contented dog with a sweet and gentle nature.  The deformed leg with which she was born causes her no issues.

Dias – Dias is known as the Gentle Giant. He is a 60kg Greek Shepherd found on the highway with shattered legs, unable to move. With two surgeries and care from George he is thriving. The puppies particularly adore him. He’s the alpha dog in his pen but  calm and even natured with others.

The transformation of dogs from when they arrive at the shelter in heart-breaking condition to health, balance, and friendly dispositions. They form close bonds with each other and adore George. George has a huge heart, dedication, and deep compassion for the neglected, abused, abandoned, tortured animals on Crete, Greece.

If you would like to make a donation to George Stray Dogs, their Paypal account is

George Stray Dogs also have a Go Fund Me to raise money for a 4×4 car to provide consistently reliable transport to the shelter in winter.

Hara
Dias

For further information: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeShelterCrete/