TIME animals

Watch a Hippo Chase a Boat Full of People on Safari

No word on whether it was a hungry hungry hippo

Tourists on safari got up close and personal with a hippopotamus.

In the description of this viral video on YouTube, user David Jackson says his son Craig Clive Jackson captured the footage from a boat on the Chobe River during a safari in Kasane, Botswana.

“We were traveling on the Chobe River in Botswana, when we came across this hippo which appeared to want to charge the boat,” the user wrote. “The Hippo was closer to the boat than what it appears on the video.”

No word on whether it was a hungry hungry hippo.

TIME Bizarre

LA Residents Kept Alligator in Backyard For 37 Years

Los Angeles Alligator
An 8-foot alligator was found in a box with two dead cats in the backyard of a home in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Animal Services Department/AP

"We tried to give him a good home"

An eight-foot-long alligator was found by animal control officials in the backyard of a Los Angeles home Monday after remaining in captivity in the same location for 37 years, according to media reports.

The alligator, named Jaxson, was found in a wooden crate alongside two cat carcasses and was taken to the Los Angeles Zoo by animal control officials, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We tried to give him a good home,” said Ron Gorecki, who took care of the alligator after the death of the original owner last year.

The keepers of the pet are likely to face prosecution for housing wildlife without a permit, an animal services spokesman told the Times.

[LA Times]

TIME psychology

The Science Behind Why Dogs Might Just Be Man’s Best Friend

dog
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Dog owners experience a wide range of health benefits.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

After carefully following the recovery rates of patients who had suffered a heart attack, Friedmann discovered that those who were dog owners, compared to those without a canine pal, were almost nine times more likely to be alive twelve months later. This remarkable result encouraged scientists to explore other possible benefits of canine companionship, resulting in studies showing that dog owners coped well with everyday stress, were relaxed about life, had high self-esteem, and were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.

In fact, they’re more health promoting than a spouse is.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

The participants had lower heart rates and blood pressure and made far fewer errors on the counting task in the presence of dog than they did if their partner was present—scientific evidence, if any is needed, that your dog is better for your health than your husband or wife is.

And this isn’t true for cat owners.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

Interestingly, the same cannot be said for cats. Some studies show that living with a cat may help alleviate negative moods but is unlikely to make you feel especially good, and others suggest that cat owners may actually be more likely than others to die in the twelve months following a heart attack.

And it’s causal, not correlative.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

She assembled a group of city stockbrokers who suffered from hypertension, randomly divided them into two groups, and gave each person in one group a dog to look after. Both groups had their blood pressure monitored over a six-month period. The results revealed that the stockbrokers with dogs were significantly more relaxed than those in the control group. In fact, when it came to alleviating the effects of mental stress, the dogs proved more effective than one of the most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension. More important, as the people were randomly assigned to the “dog” and “no dog” condition, there was no difference in personality between the groups, and so that factor could not account for the findings. In addition to feeling less stressed, the hard-nosed city types had become emotionally attached to their animals, and none of them accepted the opportunity of returning their newfound friends at the end of the study.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Watch a Mourning Dog Standing Guard Over Her Puppy’s Grave

A stray dog in Georgia refuses to leave her puppy's grave in Georgia

A stray dog in Georgia has taken residence in Savannah’s Laurel Grove North Cemetery after burying her deceased puppy among the headstones, reports The New York Daily News.

Aspiring photographer Hunter Cone, 15, first spotted the mother dog sitting beside her late pup while he was taking photos in the cemetery on Jan. 6. Cone returned with his mother to try and feed the mourning animal, but she ran off.

Cone came back again the following day, and found the dog standing guard in the same spot, but now with her puppy buried next to her.

“She wouldn’t let us get within seven feet of her,” Hunter told the Daily News. “She wasn’t aggressive. She didn’t bark at us or anything.”

Rescuers have been feeding the dog and working to safely remove the grieving mom from the cemetery and into a shelter, even bringing in another puppy to distract the canine. So far attempts to lure the dog away from her own puppy’s grave have not been fruitful.

“If this doesn’t prove that dogs have feelings, just like humans do, I don’t think anything else will,” said Cone.

Along with wanting to help the mourning stray, Cone hopes this story raises awareness about Georgia’s animal control laws, which prevent rescue groups from taking in strays unless the group is contracted by the government.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME animals

Super Chill Dog Takes the Bus to Meet Her Owner at the Dog Park

Owners: who needs 'em?

Sometimes a dog just really wants to go to the dog park — and if that means taking the bus alone, so be it.

Eclipse, a self-sufficient 2-year-old black lab, has taken to riding public transit to the dog park alone when her owner misses the bus. “We get separated. She gets on the bus without me, and I catch up with her at the dog park,” said Eclipse’s owner Jeff Young, speaking to Seattle’s KOMO News. “It’s not hard to get on. She gets on in front of her house and she gets off at the dog park, three or four stops later.” No word on how she pays the fare with her cute little paws.

Since Lassie, Benji and Milo and Otis have helped pave the way for such precocious canine behavior, neither the dog, the owner, the bus driver, nor the other commuters seem to view the pup’s behavior as anything but adorable. “All the bus drivers know her. She sits here just like a person does,” commuter Tiona Rainwater, told KOMO. “She makes everybody happy. How could you not love this thing?” A spokesman for Seattle’s Metro Transit said the agency loves that a dog appreciates public transit.

While Eclipse is apparently capable of riding the streets of Seattle alone, helpful Seattleites frequently stop the dog on her travels. Young told KOMO that he gets a phone call once a week or so from good Samaritans anxious to help reunite a lost dog with its owner: “I have to tell them, ‘no. She’s fine.’ She knows what she’s doing.” Lassie probably never had to put up with that.
[H/T KOMO News]

TIME animals

Dogs Arrived in the Americas Only 10,000 Years Ago, Research Suggests

That's several thousand years after humans first migrated to the region

They may be man’s best friend, but new research indicates that dogs arrived in the Americas thousands of years after humans did.

According to a recent study, dogs only came to the region about 10,000 years ago, NBC News reports.

Researchers arrived at this conclusion by testing 42 D.N.A. samples taken from taken from ancient dog remains and comparing it with the same number of samples from previous studies. Their findings indicate canines came to the continent with a second wave of human migration, long after humans had initially settled in the New World.

The study’s lead author Kelsey Witt said in a statement that dogs were one of the earliest species to accompany human migration to every continent. “They can be a powerful tool when you’re looking at how human populations have moved around over time,” she said.

[NBC]

TIME animals

Marine Biologists Capture Rare Photo of a Shark Birth

Scientists noticed a visibly "agitated" shark off of the Philippines coastline

Marine biologists say they’ve never seen anything like it: Possibly the first known snapshot of an elusive species of shark giving birth in the open ocean.

The image, which was published in the December issue of the journal Coral Reefs, was captured off of the Philippines coastline in 2013. Scientists there, during a routine reef survey, noticed a “visibly” agitated thresher shark swimming nearby, trailed by several cleaner fish pecking at its pelvic region. One marine photographer snapped a photo, which later revealed the cause of the shark’s agitation: The head of a newborn pup jutting out head-first from the shark’s body.

“I freaked out,” study author Simon Arthur told BBC News, adding that it was the first image of a shark birth he had encountered in his career.

TIME Science

Dogs Can Get Dementia Too

dog-lying-ground
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Dogs are living longer — and a veterinarian finds himself diagnosing canine dementia at least once a day

Zeigfield waddled, rather than walked, into my examination room. I had been seeing this obese Dachshund at my veterinary hospital for most of his 17 years, treating many of the common ailments of the breed: back problems, mild skin disease, and regular episodes of what veterinarians tactfully refer to as “dietary indiscretion” (in Zeigfield’s case, eating a batch of chocolate chip cookies, part of an old sock, and a half bottle of his owner’s Prozac). But today’s visit was different. “He just hasn’t been himself for the past several months,” his owner Carol reported. “He seems restless at night, but mostly he just lays around. He doesn’t play his old games anymore. There isn’t any single issue, but he just isn’t right.”

Further questioning revealed that there actually was a single issue that prompted the visit: Zeigfield had been urinating and defecating indoors, despite being well house-trained since puppyhood. After ruling out most of the possible physical causes, I told Carol that her dog was likely developing cognitive dysfunction syndrome, the most common type of dementia in dogs.

Pets’ lives are different now than when I started my veterinary practice 40 years ago. Dogs are no longer allowed to run freely outside to be hit by cars, fight with other animals, or eat out of garbage cans. The quality of our dog foods is considerably better, and we have controlled the mostly deadly infectious diseases. Dogs’ lifestyles are safe but sedentary, leading to longer lives and more chronic conditions like obesity, arthritis, and cognitive dysfunction—which I find myself diagnosing almost daily at the Southern California veterinary hospitals where I practice.

People are often surprised that their pets can develop something similar to the Alzheimer’s Disease we see in humans, but our brains are not that different from dogs’. When your dog greets you, the same parts of the dog’s brain sends sensory input to the hippocampus, where memory connections are forged. Just beside the hippocampus sits the amygdala, which links the memories passed on from the hippocampus to emotions (like joy at your homecoming) and refers these feelings to the neural systems that initiate activity. Various parts of the cerebral cortex sort these impulses and modify them so that they are appropriate. This how the sound of the owner’s car pulling into the driveway tells your dog an affectionate greeting, a long walk, and, of course, dinner are on their way.

The cellular changes of canine cognitive dysfunction would be recognizable under the microscope to any human brain pathologist: Plaques of beta amyloid—protein fragments believed to be the result of “oxidative stress”—lead to distinctive “neurofibrillary tangles” within the damaged nerve cells, and shrinkage of the brain appears in areas where memories are made and behaviors are shaped.

Some things are different between our species, of course. Fido doesn’t forget where he put his car keys. But he may not remember which door he uses to go out to the yard. The same inability to evaluate behavioral appropriateness may prompt a person with dementia to disrobe in public, or a dog with dementia to eliminate in the house without hesitation. Many dogs with cognitive dysfunction wander restlessly all evening in a manner reminiscent of the “sundown syndrome” of Alzheimer’s patients. And most significantly, finding familiar surroundings strangely unfamiliar often triggers anxiety and agitation.

When I explain such anxiety to owners of senile dogs, I often refer to a scene in the movie On Golden Pond, in which Henry Fonda’s character leaves the house to pick strawberries and returns a few minutes later, shaking and distraught. “Nothing was familiar, not one damn tree,” he says. “I was scared half to death.”

As with many of the dogs I treat, Sterling, a 14-year-old Labrador retriever from El Cajon, was dealing with dementia along with other health problems. He had recently lost most of his hearing, and arthritic hips made it difficult for him to rise from his favorite sleeping spot. Sterling spent hours every night panting and whining. Once he got to his feet, he could move fairly well. But as soon as he left the house for a walk around the neighborhood, he pulled nervously at the leash to get back into the house, where he would pant and tremble for the next hour. Sterling’s owners felt that he was suffering, and they had started to consider euthanasia.

Once a dog’s cognition deteriorates, it loses the ability to compensate for discomfort, and the dog’s suffering becomes compounded by anxiety. This is the point at which most compassionate owners I’ve dealt with have made the difficult decision to euthanize their long-time companion. Although dementia is almost never fatal on its own, cognitive dysfunction and physical health problems are a debilitating combination.

I told Sterling’s owners we could treat the low thyroid condition that was diminishing his hearing and potentially find more effective treatments for his hip arthritis. We could lessen his distress with the same antidepressant medications given to humans. But I couldn’t offer any honest reassurance of dramatic improvement.

Treatments for canine dementia are most effective when they are started before the signs of cognitive dysfunction start to show. This is equally true in humans, which is why researchers are working on tests to predict Alzheimer’s long before symptoms appear. A number of nutritional supplements (particularly DHA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil) and various antioxidants have been shown to slow the progression of mental decline. S-AdenosylMethionine (SAMe) is an over-the-counter supplement that provides mild help for old brains. There is even an FDA-approved medication to treat canine cognitive dysfunction: Seleginine is a derivative of a drug used in human Parkinson’s Disease. In my personal experience I have not seen dramatic results with this medication, but it is usually prescribed in the later stages of dementia, when it may be “too little, too late.”

We can also borrow from the extensive research that has been done in humans and laboratory animals, which find that eating a healthy diet (high in omega-3), staying mentally active, and getting lots of aerobic exercise can delay the onset of senile dementia. The exact amount of exercise that is required to delay senility in dogs has yet to be studied, but my personal experience has been that when I see one of my canine patients who is still alert and happy at 15 years old, the dog’s owner invariably tell me, “He has always gotten out on his walks every day, no matter what.”

When we are in the middle of our busy lives, old age seems far away, and taking steps to delay senile dementia (for our dogs or ourselves) isn’t a priority. There is even a certain unspoken acknowledgment that old age and a weak mind are inexorably linked. It isn’t until your graying canine companion is anxiously pacing the house at midnight or your mother forgets your name that you think you’d do anything possible to bring back the memory and comprehension that has been lost. Something to think about while you take a long walk with your dog.

Lee Harris, who holds a doctor of veterinary medicine degree, has been taking care of pets for 40 years in the San Diego and Seattle areas. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a project of UCLA and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Fire at South Carolina Zoo Kills 28 Animals

“This is very devastating," a zoo official said

A fire at Hollywild Animal Park in South Carolina killed 28 animals in the organization’s primate barn early Friday, park officials said.

A staff member at the park found smoke in the barn as he arrived for work a little before 8:30 a.m. on Friday, according to a Facebook post from the park. Twenty-eight animals died due to smoke inhalation, and 14 other animals in the building survived and are being treated.

“This is very devastating to me and the entire Hollywild family,” said Dr. Beverly Hargus, Hollywild’s veterinarian. “At this point, we do not feel any animals are suffering. None were burned. The survivors are recovering from smoke inhalation. It appears it was a quick and painless death for the animals that died.”

Local fire officials said the fire was caused by an electrical short in a light fixture that traveled into the ceiling and spread, causing the building to fill with smoke.

Four chimpanzees, two baboons, eight lemurs, one bear cub and three tortoises were among the animals that died.

“This is definitely the kind of fire that can just happen anywhere,” Hargus said.

TIME animals

Koalas May Not Need Tiny Mittens for Burned Paws After All

If you tell the Etsy-loving people of the internet that injured koalas need little mittens to help their burned paws heal, your request for gloves will apparently be answered overnight.

Thursday, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) asked the public to make special mittens to koalas that had been injured in the brushfires raging throughout Southern Australia. The organization even provided a pattern.

“Injured koalas typically come into care with severe burns, especially on their paws, caused by contact with burning trees or from fleeing across fire grounds,” the IFAW told the Guardian.

“These injuries need treatment with burns cream and paws need to be protected with special cotton mittens. Just like any burns victim, koalas’ dressings need changing daily, meaning a constant supply of mittens is needed by wildlife carers. Some burned koalas can take up to a year to fully recover.”

Come Friday, the IFAW tweeted that their call for mittens had been met with an outpouring of tiny marsupial paw-protectors:

But while the mittens might be cute, they may be totally unnecessary — or so the Australian Marine Wildlife Research & Rescue Organization would have you believe.

“Mittens are NOT required as these will only impeded the animals ability to eat or hold onto trees limbs whilst in care,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post urging people to donate money rather than bust out their sewing machines.

The Daily Dot notes that the confusion is reminiscent of the conflicting reports as to whether oiled penguins actually need small knit sweaters in their cleaning and recovery.

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