Happy news about animals

Sometimes an animal can make a big difference in a human’s life. CBS 11 News was introduced to Owly, an Alaskan bird who won a national award and the woman who’s stuck by him for many years.

Owly is a very special Alaskan bird.

“You’re beautiful, you’re showing your wings. Isn’t that nice,” said Barbara Doak of the Bird TLC.

But keeper, Barbara Doak, remembers when Owly was not so beautiful. When he first came to the Bird TLC clinic, he’d had a run-in with a fishing boat on St. Paul Island that left him partially blind and partially paralyzed. In fact, it took a team of three just to hold him down and help him eat.

“Holding his mouth open and somebody else taking little pieces of mice and dipping them in egg yolk and pushing them about halfway down his throat before he could get them down. And after that going on for about the first month. That’s when people began to say it’s going to be hopeless,” said Doak.

Fortunately, Doak never said that. Instead she took Owly home from a small cage in the clinic and brought him home with her. The sunroom off her living room was a place where he started to thrive almost immediately. Doak says it wasn’t long before she was taking Owly out to education events and noticing that he seemed to have a special way with people.

owly.jpg“He doesn’t mind people being close to him. He doesn’t get stressed out. Like at a walk by where there’s possibly hundreds of people walking by him,” said Doak.

But it was Owly’s connection with a single child that earned him this most recent award. Doak wasn’t there, but she’s heard the story many times. A presenter was introducing Owly to a grade school class. Unbeknownst to her, one of the children there was an autistic boy who had never spoken a word in his life.

“As soon as it was over, the boy ran up to his teacher and started asking about the owl. And the teacher was just overwhelmed. And the boy’s mother was there and had never heard him speak and she was in tears,” said Doak.

Doak says she’s not surprised that Owly could touch a special place in a human’s heart, because in the 15 years they’ve lived together, he has definitely found a special place in hers.

US Bird Watchers Flock to See New Species

Author: Dora | Filed under: Bird

Bird watchers are flocking to a state park in the southeastern United States to view a species discovered for the first time on U.S. soil. In Miami, VOA’s Brian Wagner reports that experts believe the Loggerhead Kingbird may have arrived from Cuba.

South Florida is home to immigrants from across Latin America and other parts of the world. It also hosts scores of non-native animals and plants that have arrived in various ways over the years.

The latest arrival is the Loggerhead Kingbird, a small insect-eating bird that is native to parts of the Caribbean. A retiree first spotted the gray-and-black bird at a state park in the Florida Keys last week, and since then bird watchers have been flocking to the area to view it.

Andy Kratter, collection manager of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, has been monitoring the developments.

“It was photographed right away and distributed on the web,” said Andy Kratter. “It’s definitely a Loggerhead kingbird, and this is the first record for the United States, and for north America, outside of Cuba. Cuba is where it’s from. It’s also found in the Bahamas and the West Indies.”

Kratter says most new bird sightings in the country take place in relatively remote areas, such as Alaska. He says Florida sees one or two such discoveries each year.

At the Fort Zachary Taylor state park, the sighting has increased visitor activity, drawing bird watchers from more than 20 U.S. states. Park manager Mark Knapke says most can only speculate at how it arrived in Florida.

“We’re only 90 miles from Cuba,” said Mark Knapke. “Some of the birders [bird watchers] have told me it’s kind of a tenacious little bird, [with] a blue jay attitude. And it may have just been sitting along the shore of Cuba and said, ‘hey, I wonder what’s over there,’ and headed across the seas.”

Knapke says the park is popular for migratory birds who visit during the winter and return home. Many non-native species that arrive to Florida, however, do not return home.

The state has one of the highest non-native animal populations in the country, says Art Roybal, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’ve estimated there’s 26 percent of the fauna are non-native, and a lot of that is due to the sub-tropical climate of Florida,” said Art Roybal. “Also the major ports of entry, pet trade, aquarium and ornamental plant industries have contributed to some releases of some non-natives.”

Roybal says wildlife agencies struggle to control such species once established, because they can damage the environment. Non-native animals like the Burmese python and some South American toads are key threats because they have few, if any, natural predators in the area.

The discovery of the Loggerhead Kingbird, however, raises no such concerns to Florida’s ecosystem. In fact, Andy Kratter says the Kingbird faces greater dangers here than at home.

“The Kingbird is not in its usual place, so it doesn’t know the predators very well,” he said. “The short-tailed hawk doesn’t occur in Cuba, so that’s a new predator. It doesn’t have that profile for trying to detect it.”

Experts say they are unsure what will happen to the Kingbird, whether he will eventually return home or disappear from view. Until then, bird watchers are expected to continue to flock to this rare sighting.

From wolf to woof

Author: Dora | Filed under: Dog & Puppy

To the casual observer, the numerous breeds of domestic dogs would seem to have reached the acme of diversity by a single species. There are about 400 breeds of purebred dogs, though the American Kennel Club recognizes only about 162. Those who watched the recent telecast of the Westminster Club’s dog show from Madison Square Garden in New York City must have been amazed at the great variety of dogs exhibited—from the huge Great Dane to the tiny chihuahua. We can’t but wonder what some paleontologist in the distant future will think when he digs up the bones of the different dogs man has created.

Yet, we know that all of the different varieties of dogs belong to the same species. This is primarily because they are theoretically capable of mating and producing fertile offspring. Size difference, however, may make the act of mating impossible, as in the case of a Saint Bernard attempting to mate with a Pekinese. Though not characters for differentiating species, it is interesting to note that all dogs have similar basic habits, instincts, and the working of their brains.

The evolutionary history of the dog is lost in the clouded mists of the past, but we do know with a high degree of certainty that the dog was the first animal domesticated by early man. The origin of dogs has perplexed zoologists for ages, and many theories have been put forth as to their ancestry, with none being generally accepted. The one thing, however, that most experts agree upon is that the dog’s immediate ancestor is the wolf. In fact, a dog may be backcrossed to a wolf, and hybrids, though usually infertile, may be produced.

A plausible scenario of how this came to be is that an early man found an abandoned wolf pup and took it to his primitive abode, where he nurtured it. Raised in the friendly environment, the pup grew into an adult that was more docile than its parents and eventually became bonded to its surrogate “parent.” The young wolf proved to be of great value to the hunter in his quest for game and as a guard for his family, and the relationship was sealed.

If the captive wolf reverted to the aggressiveness of its parents, it was killed and another one procured who was less belligerent and was used as a breeder. Thusly, the use of selective inbreeding to produce a desired animal was instigated. And this practice has continued through time and accounts for the great variety of dogs we have today. Charles Darwin considered selective breeding while he was pondering how new species were formed, but rejected the idea. Though there is a plethora of different varieties of dogs, there is only one species, Canis domesticus.

Until recent years, it was generally believed that man had domesticated dogs no more that 10,000 years ago. However, recent DNA and other genetic tests has convinced anthropologist Dr. Colin Groves and others that dogs became associated with man and became domesticated some 100,000 years ago. One hundred thousand years ago is the generally believed time that modern man emerged. If true, Fido has been man’s best friend for a considerable time.

The origin of the dog’s immediate ancestor the wolf is obscured. Paleontologists have long speculated about how the family Canidae, the family that includes the dog, wolf, hyena, jackal, fox and many other flesh-eating mammals arose. The tree of the evolution of the Canidae is indeed complex and has many branches, one of which leads to the bears. Some of the early canine ancestors lived in trees when the ancestor of the modern horse was about the size of a large dog and had three toes. It took a considerable time for the first wolf to make an appearance on earth, but when man appeared, the dog evolved in a relatively short time.

When you look deeply into the eyes of your pet dog, you may be able to detect a bit of the wolf’s presence in your beloved companion.

Trapped hamster saved by vacuum

Author: Dora | Filed under: Hamster

A hamster trapped in a kitchen pipe was eventually rescued by being sucked up on the end of a vacuum cleaner.

Henry got stuck in a pipe measuring almost 4in (10cm) wide and 4ft (1.2m) deep at a house in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

After the RSPCA failed to reach him, help was sought from two council wardens who tied a number of hamster ladders and Curly Wurly bars together.

Hamster rescueFinally, a narrow attachment on the vacuum was used to retrieve him.

He was unharmed apart from worn down nails.

A statement from Tamworth Borough Council said the owner’s son was terrified of Henry so the wardens found him a new home and also paid the vet’s bill.

It continued: “Henry is now safe and sound and has been given a good home by the council’s customer services manager who has adopted him for her son.”

Students at Pacific Coast Charter School were given a lesson Tuesday in environmental conservation.

Glenn Stewart, a research associate with the Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz, did most of the talking, but all eyes were fixed on his assistant, Curtis.

Curtis is a 6-year-old peregrine falcon raised in captivity. Stewart and the falcon visit about 60 schools each year spreading the word about the environment and beating the odds.

“My goal is to inspire young people to find new innovations to deal with new challenges like global warming,” Stewart said. “There are solutions out there”

Stewart said Curtis and other birds of his kind are proof that humans can make a difference in the world when they tackle a problem.

In 1964, Stewart said there were no peregrine falcons east of the Mississippi River.

In the West the figures weren’t much better.

By 1970 only a pair of falcons called California home, Stewart said.

The demise of the birds, Stewart said, was blamed on the use of the pesticide DDT.

The insecticide, used to kill mosquitoes and the spread of malaria and other insect-borne human diseases, was passed through the food chain and harmed bird reproduction by thinning eggshells, Stewart said.

“It was an environmental crisis; lots of birds were disappearing,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT in 1972 and a year later President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, protecting the peregrine falcon and other species threatened by extinction.

In an effort to restore the dwindling population, researchers at UC Santa Cruz in 1975 began trying to raise the falcons in captivity, Stewart said.

“People said peregrine falcons wouldn’t breed in captivity,” he said.

But since then more than 1,000 falcons have been introduced into the wild, Stewart said.

In the state there are now more than 200 of the birds, which can be seen nesting in places such as the PG&E headquarters in San Francisco and Embassy Suites in Seaside, Stewart said.

Vicki Carr, principal of Pacific Coast Charter, said she was pleased her students could learn about the falcons.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for them,” she said. “The theme is one individual can make a change”

Matthew Founds, 7, loved the sight of the rare bird as it sat still on its perch.

“I liked the feathers,” he said.

Stewart said the group plans to release three 6-week-old peregrine falcons into the wild on March 20 at Long Marine Laboratory in Santa Cruz.

They call it puppy love

Author: Dora | Filed under: Dog & Puppy

IN THE old days they were known as ‘poodle parlours’, but nowadays dog grooming takes place in ‘canine beauty salons’ with highly-experienced groomers.

One such canine beauty parlour is Wagtails on Morecambe’s Yorkshire Street – heaven for dog lovers like me. I don’t have a dog of my own, but I would love to have a four-legged friend.

I am straining at the leash to find out what it’s like to be a canine beautician.

A few days earlier on the phone, Ray Headington of Wagtails told me: “I can’t wait to see this, flower!”

He set a few alarm bells ringing, but it didn’t put me off.

“Don’t wear your good clothes,” he warned.

Oh dear.

Dressed in my scruffs, I turn up at Wagtails on a Thursday morning and am greeted at the door by ‘Tinkerbelle’, a massive, friendly Rottweiler and Hattie, an enthusiastic Airedale terrier.

Both dogs belong to Ray and his wife Tricia, who run Wagtails together. Their dogs are extremely popular with the customers and Tinkerbelle even collects 10 pound notes from the customers.

Obligingly, Tinkerbelle gives us a demonstration of her cash collecting skills before I get ready to work. Behind the counter is a door leading to the beauty parlour. The sound of hairdryers is blasting from the doorway. Ray shows me through and Tricia says ‘hello’.

I had imagined a couple of dogs and perhaps one beautician. However, the parlour is full of all kinds of dogs and five women are busy grooming them.

Tricia, who has worked as a canine beautician for an amazing 48 years and has been in Morecambe for 18 of those years, takes a breather from finishing a very stylish haircut for a shi tzu called Benji, to welcome me to Wagtails.

Benji lives in Heysham and visits the salon every week for a special bath and shampoo. His nails get a trim and his fine hair gets a tidy-up. Tricia explains that the groomers also check for “lumps and bumps” on the dogs and recommend a visit to the vet, if need be. Benji looks very relaxed as Tricia combs his hair – she even lets me do it.

“The dogs get to know you and they let you do it,” she explains. “Most come in wagging their tails and can’t wait.”
As Tricia cuts Benji’s fringe, she coos: “Stay still darling.”

My ‘client’ is Max, a grand old English sheepdog who looks like Donny Tourette from the band, The Towers of London. Max is in need of a haircut, nail trimming, a good shampoo, a blow dry and much more.

He looks at me with his big, soulful eyes so I give him a good pat before Tricia starts telling me about the salon.

The salon opens at 9am and the women work flat out for the rest of the day as it’s often very busy. Wagtails recently moved from Heysham Road to Yorkshire Street, a move Tricia describes as “brilliant”.

“There’s a nice community on Yorkshire Street. We’ve got lots of business.”

Dog owners travel from far and wide to have their pets beautified at Wagtails. One dog even travels all the way from Benidorm.

Ray says: “They come to us because we have a good reputation.

“Most of our business is by word of mouth. Some people who have moved away from the area still come to us. They make a day of it. One comes from Ireland and another comes from Halifax.”

All of the dogs’ records are kept on computer – a staggering 1,669 pooches.

Benji is easy to manage, but Tricia and her staff have much bigger clients on their books including a Great Dane and a 13.5 stone New Foundland dog.

As we chat, Dougal the Westie and Caspar, a miniature poodle, are getting the works.

Imogen Newlands is one of the groomers working on the dogs. She has been in the business for nearly seven years and loves it.

“Every day is different,” she explains.

Tricia takes people on apprenticeships and believes they learn much more this way than by going to college.

“A lot do go to college, but all they learn is the basics,” she says.

“It takes three years to learn the whole lot.

“It’s like being a car mechanic – you have to be ‘hands-on’ to do it.

“It’s a profession for life. It’s something you can either do, or you can’t.

“You must not be nervous of the dogs. Even dogs that are normally well-behaved will have a go if you’re nervous. You need to learn to have the right body language.”

Tricia got into the business when she was 16 years-old and worked in boarding kennels in Stratford-upon-Avon. She later moved to boarding kennels in Southport owned by Bob Martin.

When she left there she managed ‘The Smart Dog’ in Southport.

“It was a grooming parlour – they used to call them poodle parlours,” she says. “We didn’t get the wide spectrum of dogs that we get nowadays.

“It was mainly poodles, spaniels and terriers.”
Max is waiting for his bath so we stop chatting and, ominously, Tricia hands me a large, waterproof apron to wear. “You’ll need this,” she smiles.

Groomer Sam Long and I prepare to lift Max.

He’s a big, heavy dog (about six stone I’d say) so it takes two of us.

He doesn’t seem to mind as we carry him over to the bath.
The bath itself is raised up to waist level for ease of dog washing.

Max has clearly done this many times before and he waits patiently as Sam and I use jugs to pour water over him.

It’s great fun giving Max his shampoo. We even use Dove soap to clean the white fur on his face and paws.

He doesn’t howl or growl, but he does look a little bit like a child who doesn’t want to get soap in his eyes.

Then we shower off the shampoo and soap and squeeze his fur to get the water out.

The next step is to dry him with cloths and towels before lifting him out of the bath and onto a drying table covered in towels.

Blast
Sam hands me a large dog hairdryer and we both blast Max’s fur with the warm air.

Tricia explains that we must keep the dryers moving constantly so as not to burn Max’s skin.

This is the bit Max least likes and he grumbles a lot.
The bathing, showering, lifting and drying are all very physical and I can imagine that after a whole day of working like this, anyone would be worn out. Still, it’s satisfying work and the dogs are great characters.

Sam continues working on Max and Tricia introduces me to ‘Aggro’, a tiny long-haired dog that looks as if it should really be called ‘Sweetie’ or ‘Cutie’.

Jasmine, a fabulous black standard poodle, is also waiting, so I shake paws with her and give her a pat.

Tricia says the groomers will treat between 15 to 18 dogs in a day and that it’s “one of the hardest jobs you can do”.

She explains: “A lot of people don’t realise how hard it is.

They just think it’s going to be all cuddles and kisses.”
She shows me her hand which is badly scarred: “This finger was split right down the middle by a chihuahua. It’s like going to the dentist – some dogs probably think they’re going to the vets.”

Tricia has occasionally worked on show dogs, but not recently.

I’ve had a highly enjoyable day at Wagtails, but would I like to do it as a job?

Well, I doubt I’d be able to hack the physical side of the job. However, I would like the creative side of being a groomer.

One thing is for sure – Tricia and her groomers do a superb job and If I had a pet dog, I’d be happy to leave it in their capable hands.

It would certainly be a lot more fun than working in a ladies’ or gents’ salon.

On the grooming table Sam has almost finished Max’s treatment.

He looks gorgeous now that he has had his ‘cut and blow dry.

“The dogs are usually a lot happier once they’ve had their coats shampooed and their hair cut,” adds Tricia.

“I would far rather have dogs than people.”

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