Claire thanks her dog for helping her find her new husband: “Much like our two guide dogs, we really are best friends and soul mates.”
For sweet photos of the two couples and more, go here.
This is so cute: Sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium playing with colored, frozen ice “eggs” this morning. The “frosting” is made of ground clams. Yummy!
I’m thinking about rebirth and renewal and about the possibility that today represents the hope that we humans will find a way to be kinder to each other and much, much more respectful of the plants and animals who (try to) coexist with us on this little sphere we live on.
I’m so proud of my local newspaper – the Boulder Daily Camera — for accepting this obituary for a beloved cat — Tasha Magaldi — and for publishing it, taking it seriously and treating it with respect. I mean, click on “Obituaries” on the Camera‘s website and you’ll find it right there with obituaries for human beings.
Very, very nice.
Be forewarned: It’s a tearjerker.
Tasha came into our lives almost 9 years ago as a sickly 4-week old foster kitten, dumped along with a couple litters at a shelter in California where we spent winters. By the time we took her in to join her brothers already in our care, she had spent several days in the vet hospital, barely surviving a respiratory infection which claimed another of the group. She was the runt of her litter but tough, and often made her brothers cry in rough and tumble play.
She suffered throughout her life with a viral infection that left her with impaired vision, scar tissue partially covering one of her perpetually teary eyes. In her first few months she battled intermittent respiratory infections and a bout of pneumonia. Because of these ongoing health issues, we couldn’t get her adopted so wound up accepting what she probably already knew; she was going to ours. What a gift from God that was. She brought us much love and laughter.
While my wife stayed in California the past few years, she would accompany me back to Boulder for the summers where it would be just her and me hanging out. I never felt alone. When I came home from work each day she would come running and greet me with a head butt, then impatiently wait for me to sit in my favorite chair so she could plop herself on my lap to be petted for hours.
All her life she loved to play fetch with a foil ball, sometimes just a wad of paper. She would initiate the game, dropping the ball at my feet, then looking up at me with her one big eye, one little eye, her tail twitching until I would throw the ball, over and over again.
When she was diagnosed with asthma, she took her medication and inhaler like a trooper. When she was diagnosed with cancer in her brain and skull 5 months ago, she underwent radiation treatment and rebounded impressively. When she was diagnosed with kidney cancer the beginning of March, she bravely endured chemo but it was too much for her little body. She fought hard, and she fought long enough, and it was time for her to rest.
Despite her many lifelong ailments, she was the happiest, silliest cat I’ve ever known. All her doctors and caregivers remarked on her purring, happy disposition.
She was an abandoned, tiny rescued kitten who wound up rescuing me.
Good bye my sweet girl.
Check this out:
See more paper animals here (the donkey is pretty amazing too).
Both the elephant and the dog in this video look happy but omg, the dog’s body language is joy personified.
This is one of the most adorable animal friendships that we’ve seen in a long time. Bubbles the African elephant and Bella the black Labrador, both residents at the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina, have become the best of friends.
Bubbles was rescued in Africa after her parents were both found killed by poachers during a 20-year slaughter of elephants in Africa for their ivory. She was one of few elephants adopted — the rest were released or killed because facilities for them could not be found. When Bubbles first arrived, she weighed only 340 lbs and stood 42 inches tall.
Look at this gorgeousness: An owl in flight:
Ugh. Like a slow drip, the horrible ramifications of climate change are revealing themselves. This one is awful. “Winter ticks” are literally sucking the life blood out of the moose population along the U.S.’s northern border:
From the Humane Society of the United States:
I think it’s wrong that the HUHS made light of, and joked about, gestational crates in this video (we can handle serious stuff people, can’t we!?) but hey, it’s better than nothing.
Now that the birds are courting, I’ve started to put out my dryer lint for them to use when making their nests. Here’s a handful I tucked into a blue spruce this morning. Chances are good it’ll be gone by this time tomorrow. They seem to have an eye for this kind of thing. And it’s fun knowing their little chicks will have something super-soft to snuggle up to (other than mom and dad, of course).
My brother brought some old photos over today. Among them was this one of our first dog, an Irish setter named O’Douglas (after the great Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas).
This was taken on our wedding day on July 16, 1977.
He was such a good dog, always by our side. We didn’t have to train him to stay close. He did that on his own. Sadly he only lived for four years but alas, his time in our life is such a sweet memory.
Look at that beautiful profile.
No tears. Just wanted to add his gorgeousness to my site.
Love you Doug!
I am newly in awe of whales:
Think about how long you can hold your breath and then let this discovery blow your mind.
Northwest-based whale researchers have documented a new breath-hold record among mammals. They timed a dive by a beaked whale that lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes.
A paper published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One by scientists with the Cascadia Research Collective of Olympia revealed two new records. The researchers tagged Cuvier’s beaked whales, a rarely seen species which forages in deep ocean waters worldwide, including off the U.S. West Coast.
Lead study author Greg Schorr says his team tracked thousands of dives by these whales. The longest lasted 137 minutes.
“Imagine holding your breath while flying from Seattle to San Jose,” says Schorr. “That would be similar to what these animals are capable of doing.”
Schorr says one beaked whale also dove deeper than any other mammal seen before, including the previous record holder, a southern elephant seal. The tagged whale dove nearly two miles below the surface — 2,992 meters deep.
How in the world do they do that?!
“They basically can store huge amounts of oxygen in their muscle tissue and release it in a very controlled manner to allow them to dive to these depths,” explains Schoor.
Amazing animals. Maybe we should stop slaughtering them like they’re catfish (here’s lookin’ at you Japan).
Here’s a sweet piece about Puffins. They mate for life and they dive as deep as 200 feet to catch their prey. And, as is obvious, Mother Nature did a great job designing their beautiful feathered bodies.
You probably heard about the Copenhagen Zoo killing a giraffe, in front of visitors no less, chopping it up and feeding it to the lions. And, you probably heard that that same zoo killed four lions last week.
That said, I’m loving this spoof piece:
Copenhagen Zoo Kills Four Healthy Staff Members To Make Space for New Employees
Officials of the Zoo say that the four members of the staff were humanly executed after being put to sleep with a lethal injection, and then skinned and chopped up while visitors crowded around and the meat was fed to the lion population.
“Based on the recommendation of the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP), we have decided to make space for new work positions, because the Zoo needs new workers, and we found that killing old staff members was the cheapest and the most efficient way to do it,” said Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro “Four of the oldest staff members, among them one female, were put to sleep with a lethal injection and then fed to the giraffes. However, the giraffes didn’t show interest in their meat, so they were fed to the lions,” explained the Zoo spokesman.
“Being that the oldest staff members could no longer keep track with the new Zoo technologies, and could not manage themselves in the fast and ever-changing job environment, we feel that the criticism coming from some of their family members is completely unfounded,” the Zoo spokesman was quoted as saying.
This video - I, Elephant — is just under three minutes long but it gives a glimpse (emphasis on the word glimpse) into to what it’s like to be an elephant.
Elephants can live for 60+ years (if they aren’t poached by humans for their ivory) so we still have a lot to learn about their lives. Again, this is a roughly three minute glimpse into their lives:
Yes, there’s untold heartache in the world but there’s also this:
Blind Couple Marry After Their Guide Dogs Fall in Love
Claire, 50, and Mark, 51, first met in March 2012 after their golden retrievers Venice and Rodd met at a two-week guide dog training course. The two dogs were smitten with each other, and trainers said they were the “love and romance of the course.”
The two owners found out they lived only a mile and a half away from each other, but had never met. Not wanting to break up their dogs’ relationship, they decided to keep meeting for playdates after the course ended. Soon, their love for each other grew just as strong as their dogs’ love that brought them together. Mark said, “I love Claire’s personality and her laugh is infectious. We’ve never had an argument, we just seem to click.”
This is the spectacular — look at that color combination! — orange-bellied parrot. There are less than “a few 100 of them left” in the wild in Australia and Tasmania.
Australia is having a debate about which animals to try to save because so many are going extinct all at once:
The dramatic ongoing loss of Australian animal and plant species has prompted influential scientists to call on governments to start making tough decisions about which ones to save – and which species should be left to face extinction.
The proposal to triage Australia’s unique species comes from some of the nation’s most senior conservation biologists.
It is a radical and controversial shift from decades of hard-fought conservation victories aiming to preserve all species and wilderness.
“I’m afraid to tell everybody we’re in a terminal situation. We’re confronting a whole raft of species about to go over the extinction cliff,” Professor David Bowman, an expert in environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania, said.
It is a worldwide phenomenon, with global extinction rates of species not seen at this level since the loss of the dinosaurs.
The orange-bellied parrot looks like it’s going to be thrown overboard:
The orange-bellied parrot has more than 300 volunteers in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia trying to preserve it in the wild.
But Professor Bowman says the parrot “looks like it’s a goner”.
“There are heroic efforts to try to keep it going in the wild. You really have to look at that expenditure and ask ‘is this really a smart use of money?’” he said.
Species numbering less than a few hundred in the wild, like the orange-bellied parrot, are dubbed the “living dead” by scientists.
My apologies to you, you beautiful orange-bellied parrot. The human beings who control this planet are out of their minds with greed. They don’t care if they destroy everything to get what they want.
This cute, microscopic insect is a tardigrade, also known as a “water bear.”
Here are some incredible factoids about this super-tough microscopic animal:
The water bear’s trick is something called cryptobiosis, in which it brings its metabolic processes nearly to a halt. In this state it can dehydrate to 3 percent of its normal water content in what is called desiccation, becoming a husk of its former self. But just add water and the tardigrade roars back to life.
As far as scientists can tell, water bears can be dried out for at least a decade and still revivify, only to find their clothes are suddenly out of style.
[The] water bear … can survive in a lab environment of just 1 degree kelvin. That’s an astonishing -458 degrees Fahrenheit, where matter goes bizarro, with gases becoming liquids and liquids becoming solids.
Water bears also can tolerate pressures six times that of the deepest oceans. And a few of them once survived an experiment that subjected them to 10 days exposed to the vacuum of space. (While we’re on the topic, humans can survive for a couple minutes, max.)
They can take hundreds of times the radiation that would kill a human. Water bears don’t mind hot water either–like, 300 degrees Fahrenheit hot.
Scientists are studying the animal to see if any of its amazing traits can be applied to we humans.
We humans are stupid to think we can outsmart bugs who have the ability to mutate and adapt much faster than we give them credit for:
One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification.
After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.
Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop.
First planted in 1996, Bt corn quickly became hugely popular among U.S. farmers. Within a few years, populations of rootworms and corn borers, another common corn pest, had plummeted across the midwest. Yields rose and farmers reduced their use of conventional insecticides that cause more ecological damage than the Bt toxin.
In the new paper, Gassmann describes further incidents of Bt resistance in other parts of Iowa. He also found rootworms resistant to a second variety of Bt corn. Moreover, being resistant to one variety heightened the chances of resistance to another. That means corn engineered to produce multiple Bt toxins — so-called stacked varieties — won’t do much to slow the evolution of rootworm resistance, as was originally hoped.
Shorter: Rootworms have figured out a way around Bt corn and they’ve begun destroying corn crops in Iowa again. Farmers don’t want to do the “hard” thing, i.e., rotate the fields they plant their corn on — i.e. crop rotation (Remember that old fashioned thing? Hello!) — which has been proven to work against rootworms:
Breaks in the corn cycle naturally disrupt rootworm populations, but the approach fell from favor as the high price of corn made continuous planting appealing. “Continuous corn is the perfect habitat for rootworm,” said Gassmann.
Greed rears its ugly head again.
I predict we’re heading toward more and “better” GMO corn. The thing is, rootworms will become resistant to that version too. We can alter this seed and that seed and pour chemicals on fields all we want but Mother Nature will win in the end. It’s about time we got off our high horse and accepted that. But will we? Sadly, probably not.
What a bittersweet story:
Maintenance worker Mario has terminal cancer and had asked to be taken into the giraffe enclosure at Rotterdam’s Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo.
The 54-year-old was wheeled into the enclosure on his hospital bed. Within minutes, the giraffes approached him and began to nuzzle and kiss him.
“These animals recognised him, and felt that (things aren’t) going well with him,’ Kees Veldboer, the founder of the AWF told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
“(It was) a very special moment. You saw him beaming.”
Almost brings tears to my eyes.
This is pretty cool:
Some animals, including your pets, may be partially colorblind, and yet certain aspects of their vision are superior to your own. Living creatures’ visual perception of the surrounding world depends on how their eyes process light. Humans are trichromats—meaning that our eyes have three types of the photoreceptors known as cone cells, which are sensitive to the colors red, green, and blue. A different type of photoreceptors, called rods, detect small amounts of light; this allows us to see in the dark. Animals process light differently—some creatures have only two types of photoreceptors, which renders them partially colorblind, some have four, which enables them to see ultraviolet light, and others can detect polarized light, meaning light waves that are oscillating in the same plane.
For example, this is how a human sees a black-eyed Susan:
And this is how a bee sees it:
I swear, we so underestimate the intelligence of every single animal below us:
Bees Capable of Learning Feats with Tasty Prize in Sight
They may have tiny brains, but bumblebees are capable of some remarkable learning feats, especially when they might get a tasty reward, according to two studies by University of Guelph researchers.
The researchers presented bees with a series of artificial flowers that required ever-more challenging strategies, such as moving objects aside or upwards, to gain a sugar syrup reward.
When inexperienced bees encountered the most complex flower first, they were unable to access the syrup reward and stopped trying. Bees allowed to progress through increasingly complex flowers were able to navigate the most difficult ones.
She and Kevan consider the study an example of scaffold learning, a concept normally restricted to human psychology in which learners move through increasingly complex steps.
In a second study recently published in Psyche, the researchers found bees learned by watching and communicating with other bees, a process called social learning.
Good reason to respect the humble bumble bee. Oh, and here’s another one: They have a lot to do with feeding us. We’d better take care of them:
Here’s Mr. Al giving me the saddest, most pitiful look tonight while I was making chicken enchiladas.
Yes. I gave him a piece. Are you kidding? Look at that face.
I came across this out of Australia a few days ago:
Rescued Farm Animals Bring Joy to Nursing Home Residents
Many of us are familiar with the idea of therapy animals, particularly friendly dogs and cats who visit sick children or victims of abuse and neglect. However, dogs and cats are not the only domestic animals that can provide us humans with great comfort and happiness.
In fact, if only we’d allow them more of a chance, we’d see that farm animals can also bring joy into our lives.
Take for instance the group of “kindness crusaders” out of Edgar’s Mission farm animal sanctuary in Victoria, Australia, made up of Timmy the sheep, Miss Chief the goat, and little Ginger Chicken.
It’s primarily a photo essay and the pictures are priceless. The nursing home residents look like they’re vibrating with joy:
If I was in a nursing home I’d love this. Heck, I’d love it right now! and I’m not in a nursing home. And isn’t this a great idea? Think of all the animals that could be rescued and live a great life going to nursing homes, getting showered with attention, and bringing joy and a bit of levity to the residents.
Hey, maybe we could cut a million or two out of the military budget and do that! Make joy not war.
Wow, this is fascinating, 19,000 miles!
A great white shark called Lydia is set to make history. First tagged a year ago off the Florida coast, she’s on her way to becoming the first tracked white shark to cross the Atlantic.
Lydia is being monitored by the marine nonprofit Ocearch as part of its ongoing project to help researchers and scientists gather previously unattainable data on shark movement, biology and health. The 14-foot-6-inch great white has migrated more than 19,000 miles since being tagged.
The Ocearch team uses two different kinds of electronic tags, Skomal explained. One is a pop-up satellite tag that can archive data such as depth and light levels. The tag can be programmed to release from the shark and then float on the water surface to transmit data back to the scientists.
Another is a real-time satellite tag, which connects to a satellite whenever the shark comes to the surface, providing data about the shark’s movements so scientists — and the public — can follow a shark’s migration patterns over a long time. This is what Lydia has.
I can’t wait to hear more about what’s learned here.
This whole video is spectacular but my favorite part starts at 2:25 and is of a mother whale and her baby and you can just feel the love between the two of them. Very touching.
Captain Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, California, at great personal risk, has recently filmed and edited a 5-minute video that contains some of the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, footage ever taken with a drone from the air of a huge mega-pod of thousands of common dolphins stampeding off Dana Point, California, three gray whales migrating together down the coast off San Clemente, California, and heartwarming close-ups hovering over a newborn Humpback whale calf snuggling and playing with its mom as an escort whale stands guard nearby, filmed recently in Maui.
I cleaned out my kitchen silverware drawer the other day. It’s pretty well organized but at the back I had about eight pounds of odds and ends of butter knives, dessert forks and long-handled spoons that I never use. Among the things I found (I’d been ignoring that area for 15 years) was this little olive fork that belonged to my grandmother:
I’m pretty sure it’s ivory. It kind of makes me sick to even touch it.
Then I remembered seeing this perfect poster for never, ever having anything to do with ivory:
A tearjerker for sure.
Hey, maybe all the rain they got in England last month caused beavers to spontaneously generate (just kidding!).
Seriously, this is great:
Wild Beavers Seen in England for First Time in Centuries
A family of wild beavers has been seen in the English countryside in the first sighting of its kind in up to 800 years, according to experts.
Three European beavers, believed to be two adults and a juvenile, were filmed together on the River Otter in east Devon as they gnawed trees, groomed themselves and played together..
Experts said the sighting was “highly significant” as it strongly suggested a small breeding population of beavers now existed outside captivity.
This would be the first time for hundreds of years that European beavers have been breeding in the wild in England. Once widespread, they were hunted to extinction in the 12th century due to their highly-valued fur, meat and medicinal properties..
In 2008, the World Wildlife Fund launched its Pandas on Tour exhibition, a collaboration with French artist Paulo Grangeon meant to highlight the plight of the endangered species, which has since traveled the world. Now, the exhibition has made its way to Taipei, where 1,600 papier-mâché pandas (and one green tree frog) line the rows of the Taiwan National Theater, each representing one of the few real-life pandas still in existence around the world.
I’m forever grateful to people who put so much effort into issues like this.
Wildlife experts cut away more than 280 feet of commercial fishing line being dragged by an endangered right whale off the Georgia coast, though some of the heavy rope had to be left tangled in the whale’s mouth, officials said Thursday.
Entanglement in commercial fishing gear and collisions with ships off the East Coast are considered the greatest threats to the right whale’s survival. Experts estimate only about 450 of the large whales remain. Each winter they migrate to the warmer waters off Georgia and Florida to give birth to their calves.
It was the first time since 2011 that a right whale snared in fishing gear has been spotted offshore in the Southeast, said Clay Georgia, a marine mammal biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He was part of the team that got close enough to the 30-foot whale to sever the three-quarters-inch fishing line using a grappling hook equipped with cutting blades.
“We feel like what we did gives the whale a fighting chance to shed the remainder of the rope on its own,” said George, who estimated the whale is still dragging about 20 feet of the rope woven with lead weights. “The real take-home message here is we can’t just go out and save and fix every whale that shows up entangled. In some cases it’s just completely impossible to disentangle that whale.”
Unfortunately about 20 feet of line remains in the poor whale’s mouth.