Four Things I've Learned From Fostering A SDIT

Four Things I've Learned From Fostering A SDIT

I know I'm supposed to be teaching him, but he's been doing most of the teaching.
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I have been given such an incredible opportunity to foster and socialize a service dog in training (SDIT) through 4 Paws for Ability. 4 Paws is a nonprofit which provides service dogs to children and veterans with disabilities. They have a university program, where college kids like me are able to foster their puppies and socialize them to anything we can think of -- fire trucks, malls, libraries and classrooms, and anything else you can think of.

My first foster is my current foster -- he is a ten-month golden doodle named Luther, and he has been the brightest spot in my life since my co-handler and I brought him home at the end of August. For all the things Maggie and I have taught him (he knows how to hit the handicapped buttons on doors!), being his mom has taught me so many things I never thought I could learn from a small horse.

1. Dogs are way smarter than we give them credit for

Maggie and I have had the easiest time teaching Luther his basic commands -- sit, down, hit it, leave it, roll over, nuzzle, etc. He picks things up so quickly and easily, I can't believe I ever thought that dogs weren't crazy smart. That being said, teaching a puppy commands does take a lot of hard work, both from us and from him, but Luther is always happy to learn new things, especially because he gets beef treats when he does something really well!!

2. They are crazy intuitive

Luther always knows when Maggie or I am having a bad day, and sometimes that means extra snuggles from our favorite small horse (if you can't tell, he is gigantic, and still getting bigger). He is intuitive even of people he has never met or barely knows. This is why dogs are such good therapy animals; they can tell how we're feeling. And it isn't even just sadness or frustration -- he knows when we're upset with him, or when we're really proud of him.

3. Dogs are just tiny people who can't talk

Luther goes through moods as often as I do, and he makes those moods abundantly clear. He has a very distinct personality -- he's silly, he's loving, and he's very attached to me and Maggie. He is very expressive with his facial expressions, something I never noticed on my dog at home. Maggie and I have learned his facial expressions and have nicknames for them. My favorite is the "dufus" face, which usually means he has to go potty.

4. Having him around has made me a better person

I am socializing this puppy to someday be the right-hand-man for a child with a disability. There is no way to do that massive job and not find yourself becoming better, albeit slowly. I have learned patience and love from this big bundle of fluff, and he reminds me every day of the blessing I've been given in helping him on his journey to being a service dog.

Cover Image Credit: Kate Marlette

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20 Of The Coolest Animal Species In The World

Animals that almost seem imaginary.
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The world is full of amazing animals. So amazing, that narrowing them down to 20 felt nearly impossible. To determine who made the cut for this list, I used very important factors such as, cuteness and how much some of them looked like Pokémon . I know, very official. So here are some of the coolest animals in the world.

1. Pink Fairy Armadillo

The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest and cutest species of armadillo. It is on the list of threatened species and is found in the sandy plains, dunes, and grasslands of Argentina. The pink fairy armadillo is a nocturnal creature that survives mostly on insects and plants.


2. Okapi

The okapi is an animal native to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Although the stripes make many people believe okapi are related to zebra, they are actually closer to giraffe. Okapi are solitary creatures and come together to breed. They are herbivores, mostly eating leaves, grass, and other plants.


3. Glaucus Atlanticus or "the Blue Dragon"

These little dragon-like creatures are often only about a few inches long and can be found in the Indian Pacific Oceans. The blue dragon floats upside down in order to blend the blue side of them with the water, and the silver side with the surface of the ocean. This tiny dragon feeds on creatures like the man o' war and can even deliver a sting similar to it.


4. The Maned Wolf

The maned wolf is often found in the grasslands of south, central-west, and southeastern parts of Brazil. It is neither related to wolves nor foxes despite its appearance and name, but is actually closer to dogs. The maned wolf hunts alone and primarily eats both meat and plants (about 50% of its diet).


5. Fossa

The fossa is a carnivorous animal located in Madagascar. Despite having many traits similar to cats, it is more closely related to the Mongoose. The fossa is only found in forest habitats and can hunt in either daytime or night. Over 50 percent of its diet happens to be lemurs.


6. Japanese Spider Crab

As the name suggestions, the Japanese spider crab inhabits the waters surrounding Japan. In many parts of Japan, this crab can be considered a delicacy but can be considerably difficult to catch. The Japanese spider crab can grow to 12 feet long from claw to claw. There is only one sea creature-- amongst similar species (aka crustaceans)-- that beats the weight of a Japanese spider crab: the American Lobster.


7. Pacu Fish

Look closely at the teeth, do they look familiar? This fish is found in the waters of South America. This fish, while related to the piranha, can actually grow much larger. They can also be found in rivers like the Amazon and is an aid to the fishing industry. Unlike the piranha, pacu mostly only eat seeds and nuts, though can still create nasty injuries to other animals if need be.


8. Slow Loris

The slow loris is a nocturnal creature found in Southeast Asia. While very adorable, the loris's teeth are actually quite venomous. The toxin on their teeth can also be applied to fur through grooming to protect its babies from predators. Often times these creatures forage and spend time alone, although can on occasion be seen with other slow lorises. Apart from their toxic teeth, the slow lorises have another defense mechanism, in which they move nearly completely silently in order to prevent discovery.


9. Angora Rabbit

These cute, fluffy rabbits are among the hairiest breeds of rabbit of both wild and domestic types. These rabbits originated in Turkey although managed to spread throughout Europe and was even brought to the United States in the 20th century. These rabbits are often bred for their soft wool which can be made into clothing, and often get rid of their own coats every 3-4 months.


10. Axolotl

The axolotl or "Mexican salamander" (who looks like a Pokémon , if you ask me) is often spotted in lakes in various places around Mexico. These little salamanders are amphibious although often spend their adult lives strictly in the water. However, the population of these cute creatures is dwindling due to non-native predators and the continued urbanization of Mexico. The axolotl eats small worms, insects, and fish in order to survive.


11. Liger

The liger, however made up it sounds, is a real (and cute) animal created by a lion and a tiger mating. Ligers only seem to exist in captivity or zoos because the lion and tiger don't share the same habitat in the wild. Unfortunately, these animals don't live very long or are sterile despite being bigger than both the lion and the tiger. While these animals are cool and unique, they are not strictly natural or sustainable.


12. Bearded Vulture

I don't know about you all, but this vulture reminds me of a phoenix which was initially why I looked into the creature. These vultures inhabit a range of places from southern Europe to the Indian subcontinent, to Tibet. This vulture, like other vultures, typically eats dead animals, although it has been documented that the bearded vulture will attack live prey more often than other vultures.


13. Goblin Shark


This unusual shark is also known as a "living fossil" because they are the last representative of sharks that lived about 125 million years ago. It is a deep sea shark that can grow between 10-13 feet if not longer. The goblin shark has been caught accidentally in every major ocean. The goblin shark is not a fast swimmer and relies on ambushing its prey.


14. Red Panda

This cute, small panda lives in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. The red panda is rather small, only about the same size as most domestic cats. Its eating habits range from bamboo, to eggs, to insects, and several other small mammals. The red panda is primarily sedentary during the day and at night or in the morning does whatever hunting it needs to do.


15. Blobfish

This blobfish is, in a way, so ugly that it is cute (although reminds me of a certain Pokémon ) This fish lives in the deep waters of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The blobfish has a density only sightly above that of water. The fish primarily hunts by just floating along and letting creatures wander into its mouth, rather than expending any energy.


16. Leaf Deer

The leaf deer is usually found in dense forests in the northwest region of Putao. The adult leaf deer only stands at about 20 inches high and the males and females are nearly identical except for an inch long horn on the males. It is called a leaf deer because hunters could wrap the deer in a single large leaf.


17. Tiger

While tigers are a more common animal than many others on this list, it is still one of the coolest animals in the world. Tigers are the largest of all cats and once ranged from Russia, to Turkey, to parts of Asia — almost all over the world. These animals are fierce, powerful creatures, although they are on the endangered species list.


18. Narwhals

Narwhals are a species of whale that live in the waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. The narwhal's diet changes depending on the time of year: in the spring the narwhal will eat cod, while in the winter the narwhal will eat flatfish. Narwhals can live up to 50 years and most frequently die of suffocation from being trapped under the ice.


19. Cheetah

Cheetahs, while more commonly heard of then some of the other animals on this list, are still incredibly cool. They often inhabit many parts of Africa and Iran. These amazing cats can reach up to 60 miles per hour in three seconds and use their tails to make quick and sudden turns. These amazing cats also have semi-retractable claws which helps with speed. The cheetah, however, doesn't have much besides speed to defend itself.


And finally....


20. Superb Bird of Paradise

This GIF demonstrates the mating dance used by male superb birds of paradise. Typically females reject about 20 mates before selecting one they want to mate with. They are often found in New Guinea although it is unsure just how many of these birds there are. As far as scientists know, the population has remained stable.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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If You Would Just Stop Using Plastic Straws, You Could Save The Planet

The environment truly depends on it.
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Did you know? Plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. We use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. We want to encourage people to stop using plastic straws for good. If we don't act now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

People have come to expect plastic straws in every drink, in an example of extreme waste being generated for minimal convenience. We use straws for around twenty minutes before we toss them away, which is an astonishingly quick lifespan for an item that will be on the planet forever. These short-lived tools are usually dropped into a garbage can with no further thought, instantly becoming a source of plastic pollution.

Why are plastic straws so bad for the environment?

Of the eight million tons of plastic trash that flow every year into the world's oceans, the plastic drinking straw is a top contributor to all that tonnage.

It can be hard to see how using one measly plastic straw is going to cause huge amounts of damage to the environment, but let me put into context for you. Recently a team of scientists in Costa Rica came across an endangered species of sea turtle with what they thought was a parasitic worm blocking its airway. They realized it was actually a plastic straw. Hours from veterinary help, the scientists successfully dislodged the straw themselves and released the turtle back into the ocean.

An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50% mortality rate. What would our oceans be without marine life?

What's equally as bad, perhaps even worse is that when plastic does make it into the ocean it breaks down into smaller and smaller known as "microplastics" rather than biodegrading or dissolving, which poses great threats to marine life including fish.

You make think that you can recycle plastic straws, but that is not true.

Most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials and are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed of as garbage.

Plastic straws are made from polypropylene, which is a byproduct of petroleum, a fossil fuel that requires an incredible amount of energy and natural resources to extract and refine. Polypropylene is identifiable by the resin identification code 5 and is commonly recyclable, just often not in drinking straw format. Size is the biggest barrier to straw recycling. As plastic travels down conveyor belts while being sorted, small items like bottle caps and straws fall through the cracks and end up being sent to the landfill.

As of right now, there aren't many (if any) special straw-recycling facilities either, which means when you use a straw, you know that plastic will sit in a landfill for years to come. Most straws are used in a restaurant setting, and it's unlikely you are taking the straw home with you. That means you're relying on either the restaurant to provide a recycling solution for its straws, or your office janitorial staff if you're bringing a soda back to work.

Small and lightweight, straws often never make it into recycling bins; the evidence of this failure is clearly visible on any beach. And although straws amount to a tiny fraction of ocean plastic, their size makes them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish.

Yes, some people need a straw! Anyone who has had a stroke has autism, MS or other life-changing physical issue needs a straw and there are different alternatives instead of a plastic straw, such as a metal straw.

What can you do?

Educating your friends and family about how silly straws truly are will help motivate them to make the switch to straw-free. I'll admit it; I've used the line "that straw could end up in a turtles nose!" more times than I can count.

It's simple. It's easy. Refuse the straw.

For more information visit these websites:

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-...

https://thelastplasticstraw.org

Cover Image Credit: Dustan Woodhouse

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