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Tag: zoo

Dog helps cheetah get through surgery

ruuxaandraina

They’ve been playmates and cuddle-buddies for several months now, so when Ruuxa, a cheetah cub, underwent surgery last week at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a puppy named Raina was there for him.

Raina, Rhodesian ridgeback, stood guard while the cheetah recovered from an operation, and licked and nuzzled him once he woke up, zoo officials say.

The two were paired up shortly after Ruuxa, seven weeks old at the time, arrived at the zoo. Born alone, instead of in a litter, he was rejected by his mother, as zoo officials say is often the case with single-birth cheetahs.

Figuring he needed a companion, staff teamed him up with Raina as part of the zoo’s animal ambassador program.

They are both about four months old now, and have become close friends.

Last week, KPBS reports, Ruuxa underwent surgery to correct a growth abnormality causing a bowing of his limbs.

Raina, according to animal training manager Susie Ekard, grew distressed. She waited outside the operating room during the surgery at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. When Ruuxa, still sedated, was in recovery, Raina was allowed to stand guard.

“She appeared very concerned about Ruuxa when she saw he was sleeping and she couldn’t wake him,”  Ekard said.

Once Ruuxa woke up, Raina licked and nuzzled him and layed down beside him, Ekard said.

Under the amabassador program, Safari Park officials pair cheetahs with domestic dogs, with the idea that they will be companions for life. according to a zoo blog. The dogs help the wild animals feel more relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings and to be less fearful of people.

Here’s a video of the two not long after they were first paired up:

(Photo: San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

Lion and dachshund: Who’s getting exactly what out of this relationship?

When it comes to animals, there are those softies among us who see nearly everything they do – especially dogs — as magical and motivated by love.

Then there are those – generally not ohmidog! readers — who see dogs as unfeeling beasts concerned only with their next meal and their own comfort.

When a dog does something that seems kind, noble or otherwise amazing, members of that first group will “ooh” and “ah,” while members of the second will say “so what?” Anything a dog does, in their view, is explainable solely by instincts, training and will to survive. That way dogs snuggle with you at night? They are just trying to keep warm. Those goo goo eyes adoringly staring at you? They’re just trying to manipulate you into providing a treat.

For sure, the first group may often read too much into the motivations behind a dog’s behavior. But, just as surely, the second group sometimes isn’t reading en0ugh.

I, being author of a blog on the amazing things dogs do, am clearly a member of the first group. But, also being a realist and even more of a cynic, I can sometimes – just sometimes – see the second group’s point. As soon as I watched this video, for instance — once my “awwwwwwww” came to the final “w” — I started wondering about the motivations of the lion and dachshund, and, realistically, who was getting exactly what out of this relationship.

Bonedigger, the lion, and Milo, the dachshund, live together at Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla. Milo was among a litter of puppies living a the park when Bonedigger, who suffers from a bone disease, arrived as 4-week-old cub. The pups and lion eat together every day.

After the meal, Milo licks Bonedigger’s teeth clean.

I’d venture Milo is not exhibiting love — or at least not love alone — when he sticks his head into the mouth of a lion. I’d submit, too, that Bonedigger’s dental hygiene is not Milo’s top concern. (Then again, you never know.)

More likely, Milo is after a few final morsels, and Bonedigger, for his part, cooperates because he appreciates the attention, or the gum massage, or having a wiener dog who serves as his own personal flossing aide.

Park president Joe Schreibvogel says the dogs and lion have eaten together since they were youngsters. They also cuddle with each other, and sometimes even mimic each other. It’s as if, species differences aside, they’ve become a pack.

“The dogs thought it was just a big puppy and have loved each other since,” Schreibvogel, who goes by the name “Joe Exotic,”  told Today. The video of the lion and the dog has brought some needed attention to the Oklahoma zoo, which suffered about $18,000 in damage during the recent tornadoes. A spokesperson for the zoo says they’ve taken in about 100 homeless animals — domestic and exotic — since then.

But back to Milo and Bonedigger, and the question at hand.

Who’s getting what from this unlikely inter-species relationship, and who is benefitting most – the tooth-sucking canine, or the massive feline, who, rather than roaring at the little dog, says “ahhh” (or is it awwwww?) and lets him have at it?

My guess, is it’s a third species, one whose members sometimes over-analyze, and sometimes under-analyze, but still haven’t loss the ability to be amazed; one whose members – just as Bonedigger seems to appreciate a good tooth-licking — like to have their hearts warmed now and then.

Judging from the half million views this video has gotten in the past month,  I’d say it ’s us.

Dogs suspected in flamingo deaths at zoo

flamingosBaton Rouge Zoo officials think a pack of wild dogs may be responsible for the Sunday night deaths of 17 flamingos, more than a third of the zoo’s flock.

Despite having 24-hour security, the zoo didn’t discover the deaths until staff arrived for work Monday morning,  Phil Frost, zoo director, told The Advocate.

Zoo officials don’t know how the dogs got into the zoo, or through an additional fence and into the flamingo enclosure, but they said canine paw prints were detected.

Besides the 17 flamingos killed, one more bird was injured in the attack and was being treated at the zoo’s hospital, said Mary Wood, the zoo’s marketing director.

The remaining 30 members of the flock who survived were back on display Monday. Zoo officials aren’t sure how they managed to survive the attack.

Elephant treadmill will train Iditarod dogs

maggieWhat do you do with an ever-so-slightly used $100,000 elephant treadmill?

If you’re a zoo in Alaska, you do the same thing you did with your captive elephant – admit it was a mistake and find it a new home.

The Alaska Zoo had the treadmill custom made so that Maggie the elephant — fat, cold and lonely being the only elephant in Alaska — could get some exercise in her otherwise cramped quarters. When the zoo finally came to its senses and shipped Maggie to a sanctuary in northern California, that left them with a contraption that wasn’t in too great demand. Not the sort of thing you can put out at the yard sale. Though the zoo did try selling it on Craigslist.

While the zoo didn’t get paid for the treadmill, they did find a home for it: Iditarod musher Martin Buser has hauled it to his kennel to be used to train his dogs for the 1,150-mile race, the Alaska Dispatch reports.

While he won’t have it reassembled in time to train dogs for the coming race, Buser, a four-time Iditarod winner, expects to use it in the future. Built for an 8,000-pound elephant, it’s 10,000 pounds and 22 feet long, more than big enough to let a whole team of dogs run on at once.

elephant_treadmillAt Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels, he plans to use it to let his dogs run long distances while getting nowhere, invite scientists to use it to learn more about sled dogs, and possibly entertain tourists who want to see a team of dogs run long distances without getting anywhere — like the Iditarod, only without the freezing cold or the breathtaking scenery.

Maggie the elephant left the Alaska Zoo in 2007, after several years of controversy over whether she should ever have been brought there in the first place.

The treadmill was the zoo’s attempt to get Maggie exercising through Alaska’s long winters. It was one of the steps the zoo took to improve her controversial and cramped living conditions. Critics argued she should be in a warmer climate , with more open space, where she could walk outdoors year-round and be with other elephants.

But the zoo decided to try the treadmill experiment first. It didn’t work out, zoo officials admitted. Maggie would have nothing to do with the treadmill – an objection to which we can relate.

At that point, the zoo gave up and loaded Maggie on an Air Force C-17 for a flight to northern California, where, thanks in part to funding from animal activist/game show host Bob Barker, she’s living the rest of her life at ARK 2000, an animal sanctuary in San Andreas operated by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

After Maggie left town, Buser called the zoo and inquired about the machine. In exchange for the treadmill, Buser added the zoo to his list of official sponsors.

In addition to drawing tourists, Buser says the treadmill will allow for closer scientific research of his sled dogs. Instruments like oxygen consumption masks and heart rate monitors can yield valuable information, but can’t be used when the dogs are running outside.

Sled dogs cruise at 10 to 12 mph, the Swiss-born Buser said, but he’d like to get the treadmill up to 20 mph so he can put his dogs through some speed workouts. Buser said he probably won’t get his dogs on the treadmill until after the coming Iditarod, which has its ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 6.

Dog serving as mom for rare red panda cubs

Two red panda cubs abandoned by their mother at birth are thriving at a northern China zoo thanks to milk and loving care from a tiny dog serving as surrogate mother.

You can see a photo here.

The cubs, born June 25, were abandoned immediately by their mother after giving birth in front of a crowd of visitors at the Taiyuan Zoo in northern China’s Shanxi province, according to Ha Guojiang, a zoo employee quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

“No one knew she was pregnant. Her plump body and bushy hair disguised her protruding belly until the babies were born,” said Ha. “We hurriedly went about to find a wet nurse for them.”

The dog wet nurse, belonging to a farmer from a nearby suburb, was selected from two other candidates that had recently given birth, according to an Associated Press story.

The dog is now raising the two panda cubs like its own pups, sometimes even refusing to feed its own pup, said Ha.

At 3-weeks-old, the baby cubs have yet to open their eyes and have doubled in length to 8 inches, Xinhua reported.

Unlike the more well-known, giant pandas, red pandas resemble raccoons with long bushy tails. There are believed to be fewer than 2,500 adult red pandas in the world.

Abandoned dog finds home with elephants

A puppy dumped on the side of a road in Alvin, Texas, is now enjoying life with the elephants at a Houston Zoo.

It was Christmas Eve when Alicia Kemery’s neighbor saw someone in a truck dump the pup, a terrier mix only about two months old. The neighbor called Kemery, a keeper at the Houston Zoo, who provided the dog with shelter at her home. Two weeks later — already having five dogs of her own — Kemery sent a zoo-wide e-mail asking if anyone wanted to adopt the black-and-white pup.

Daryl Hoffman, large mammals curator, replied, saying he’d been thinking about adding a dog to the elephant barn — an increasingly popular practice at zoos. Max was an instant hit as soon as he walked into the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat.

Only a few of the elephants were a bit apprehensive when the dog first joined the keepers. “It was this new small thing around, and they didn’t really know what a dog was,” said Dan Calarco, part-time elephant keeper.

But since then Max has settled into a routine with the elephants, the Houston Chronicle reports. After breakfast, he sniffs around the compound until it’s time for the keepers to clean the elephant yard. That signals playtime for Max who loves to fetch, roll and chase the ball that keepers toss for him while they work.

And a Happy Valentine’s Day to You, Too

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? If you were like most Americans, your celebration probably included some flowers or candy, maybe a nice gift of jewelry, perhaps a quiet dinner for two. People in Battle Creek, Michigan and El Paso, Texas had wilder choices.

The Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek hosted a sellout adults-only crowd at their first Zoorotica program on Saturday afternoon. Couples paid $50 to attend  a guided tour of off-limits areas of the zoo where snow leopards, zebras, reptiles, primates, and giraffes are accorded the privacy and surroundings needed to do what comes naturally. According to the zoo’s Website, the three-hour tour (yes!) was led by experienced, unabashed staff members with expert knowledge of the “biting, clawing, scratching and mid-air acrobatics” that spice up the love lives of some of our animal friends. Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, and a souvenir DVD rounded out the event. They didn’t say what, if anything, the animals got for putting up with the visitors.

In case people were–well–overcome by the experience, a nearby Holiday Inn offered a specially-priced overnight getaway for participants. The package featured more conventionally human Valentine options like champagne, rose petals strewn on the bed, chocolates, and dinner for two. Other gift suggestions included one that made a lot of sense: Surprising your sweetie with the gift of a zoo animal adoption.

The citizens of El Paso had a more dramatic Valentines treat last Thursday. When you see a headline on a conventional news outlet that reads, “Half-Naked Women Make Out in Downtown For Animals,” you might suspect our good friends at PETA.  And you’d be right. The purpose of the event, which took place in an area of downtown frequented by families with kids, was to reinforce the idea that vegetarians have more fun because they’re healthier. According to PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne, the event was “a great way to show off what a healthy vegetarian body looks like.”

The event has garnered mixed reviews from the public. If you happened to be a parent with kids in tow, an animal owner, a person who eats meat, a member of the religious right, or just a person who appreciates good theatre, Thursday was probably a bad day to be in downtown El Paso. On the other hand, PETA supporters, slimmed-down vegetarians, and people with juvenile senses of humor had a terrific time.  KFOX TV has video of the demonstration.

Cheers,

Anne & Spencer

Snow leopards enjoy a quiet moment

Snow leopards enjoy a quiet moment

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