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7 Shelter Dogs That Saved Lives

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Did you know October is National Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month? While the month-long celebration of adopted critters is nearly over, it’s never too late to take home a wonderful new dog from your local animal shelter. And if companionship and unquestionable love aren’t good enough reasons to adopt a new best friend, these pups show that taking in a shelter dog might even save your life.

1. Pearl

This black lab hasn’t just saved one person’s life—Pearl has saved many lives through her work as a search and rescue dog. Her heroic story started when she was surrendered to an animal shelter when she was 4 years old. Pearl was soon adopted by volunteers from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, who helped train and get her certified as a search dog. Soon, she was partnered with her new owner and handler, Ron Horetski.

As part of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Pearl almost certainly had some notable adventures in her first two years on the job. But she was also on the scene after a massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. Pearl and six other search and rescue dogs spent hours each day looking for victims trapped under the rubble—some buried up to four stories under the surface. The team managed to bring 12 people to safety.

After returning to the states, Pearl was celebrated as a hero and became the subject of a new book called A New Job for Pearl, written by teaching volunteer Allyn Lee and illustrated by second grade students at Rancho Romero Elementary. While there were plenty of heroic rescue dogs working in Haiti, Pearl was picked as the subject of the book because she came from an animal shelter and could have easily been euthanized instead of rescued. Proceeds from the $10 book were used to cover the cost of training new rescue dogs, which costs $10,000 per animal.

2. Rocky

This yellow lab had every reason not to trust humans—when members of an animal shelter finally caught the timid stray, they discovered he was malnourished and wounded by buckshot. Since his psychological issues meant he wasn’t a candidate for adoption, Lassen County Animal Shelter workers had two options: put him down, or enroll him in their Pups on Parole program. Hoping the abused dog might still be able to come out of his shell, he was enrolled in the program that pairs prison inmates with shelter dogs, allowing both to build confidence and trust.

Rocky was one of the many dogs to have his life turned around through the program. He came out of the experience relaxed and trusting of people. He had such a remarkable story that when one prison employee heard the tale, she immediately decided the dog would be a perfect addition to her family.

Dawn Tibbets knew her husband, Floyd, could use some company on his rock hunting trips in the local canyons. Only a month after Rocky’s adoption, he and Floyd were out in a remote canyon when Floyd's heart began to beat irregularly, which caused him to collapse and go in and out of consciousness. Every time he passed out, Rocky licked his hand until he woke up. Finally, Floyd was conscious enough to try to find his way out of the canyon, but he was disoriented and started walking in the wrong direction. But Rocky kept going the other way, and Floyd followed him. Eventually, the two made it back to the car, all thanks to Rocky’s sense of direction and dedication to the family who brought him home.

3. Duke

In the 6 years since the Brousseaus adopted the exceptionally well-behaved Duke, he had never jumped on the bed—which is exactly why they knew something was wrong when the mutt jumped on their bed in the middle of the night, trembling.

The new parents—their little girl had just been born 9 weeks before—immediately rushed into the child’s room to check on her, only to discover she was not breathing. The parents called 911 and emergency workers were able to rush her to the hospital in time to save her life.

Jenna Brousseau says Duke is the sole reason their baby survived; if he hadn’t woken them up in such a panic, they would have gone back to sleep. The couple is hoping that Duke’s story will inspire others to adopt shelter pets.

4. Bear

Like many large dogs, the aptly named Bear, a 100-pound Shiloh Shepherd, had a hard time finding a new owner when he was in a shelter four years ago. Eventually, though, Texan Debbie Zeisler fell in love with the massive pup and took him home.

Debbie’s decision may have saved her life. Since a bad horse riding accident at 18, Debbie had experienced seizures almost daily—and Bear, it seemed, could predict when they were going to happen, despite having no formal training whatsoever. Bear now leans on Debbie’s legs to warn her when an attack is coming so his master will have time to take her medication. While she has failed to heed the dog’s warnings a few times and fallen as a result, Debbie has been able to handle her condition much better since Bear has been in her life.

Last May, Debbie had a seizure and fell down on the front steps of her home, hitting her head and losing consciousness. Bear ran to neighboring homes and scratched on their doors. While no neighbors answered, an animal control officer spotted the dog and pulled over. As soon as she opened her door, the dog jumped in. The officer read Bear’s tags and saw that he was a seizure alert dog, so she followed him to his home, where she found Debbie semi-conscious and confused. The animal control officer called the paramedics and Bear accompanied Debbie in the ambulance to the hospital.

Bear was later honored with the Annual National Hero Dog Award from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Los Angeles. "This just goes to show how amazing shelter dogs can be," said SPCALA President Madeline Bernstein. "If Debbie had not adopted Bear, where would she and Bear be today? The bond between an animal and his human companion is powerful and life-saving."

5. Queen Sheba

This beautiful pup was passed over time and time again at the Indianapolis Humane Society, but eventually, John Green and his father fell in love with her and brought her home. Only a few months after the family adopted Queen Sheba, John had a heart attack and was unable to call out to his father for help or reach a phone to call paramedics. Fortunately, Sheba noticed that something was wrong and quickly sprang into action, licking John’s dad’s face to get his attention and lead him to the room John was in. Doctors said that John likely wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time if it weren’t for Queen Sheba.

6. Lilly

Boston Police Officer David Lanteigne knew his mother, Christine Spain, could use a therapy dog to help her deal with alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. So he adopted a pit bull named Lilly from the local shelter, and sure enough, the more Christine focused her energy and attention on Lilly, the better she felt and the less she drank. That alone could have saved Christine’s life, but years after her adoption, Lilly saved her owner’s life and sacrificed a part of herself in the process.

Three years after the dog's adoption, Christine was walking Lilly when she collapsed in the worst possible place—on railroad tracks. Fortunately, Lilly sprang into action and started to pull her off of the tracks, and continued working to save her master, even as a train approached at full speed. When the engineer saw the woman and her dog, he tried to stop, but it was too late: The train ran over the dog’s front right leg.

Christine survived the accident only because of Lilly’s actions and while the pup was hurt—her leg had to be amputated—she pulled through and has since been reunited with her family. Christine has since been charged with obstruction and danger on a railroad track, walking on a railroad track, and animal cruelty, but even if she does serve time, Christine’s son, David, will be happy to take care of the animal that saved his mother’s life, and Lilly will certainly be happy to see her master when she is released.

"We saved Lilly, and Lilly saved my mom's life," David said. "My hope is that this story is going to get out and show what pit bulls are truly about. I hope by Lilly going through this, it's going to get other dogs homes."

7. Mabeline

A 17-year-old volunteer at the Friends of Strays animal shelter was walking Mabeline on a path behind the building one day when a registered sex offender chased the girl down, grabbed her by the hair and then pinned her to the ground. While the girl struggled to get free, the 40 pound Rhodesian ridgeback took matters into her own paws, attacking the villain and scaring him off so the girl could escape.

While plenty of dogs have been known to step in to protect their owners, Mabeline’s actions are particularly impressive since the girl was only one of many volunteers at the shelter that helped care for the pup. Still, the ordinarily loving and sweet dog knew her friend was in danger and knew she had to protect her. The attacker has since been arrested.

While the victim of the attack couldn’t take Mabeline home because one of her family members has a severe allergy to dogs, the dog was soon adopted out anyway. Surprisingly, her new owner, Mary Callahan, had no idea that her pup was a hero until a news crew told her about the incident.

Are any of you Flossers the proud owners of dogs that once lived in an animal shelter? If so, have they ever done anything heroic to save you? Tell us in the comments!

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CDC Traces Infectious Disease Outbreak in Seven States to Pet-Store Puppies
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Campylobacter bacteria have infected 39 people in seven states, and puppies sold at one chain of pet stores in Ohio are likely to blame. As NPR reports, a federal investigation is currently underway as to the exact cause of the outbreak of the intestinal infection.

The symptoms of Campylobacter include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and in rare cases it can lead to death in victims with weakened immune systems. About 1.3 million people fall ill to it each year, but the bacteria can also infect animals like dogs.

Of those hit by the latest outbreak, 12 are employees of the national chain Petland in four states, according to the CDC. The other 27 have either bought a puppy from a Petland store recently or live with or visited someone who has. Eighteen cases have been reported in Ohio, and the rest have appeared in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. While no deaths have been reported, nine victims have been hospitalized.

Puppies, like humans babies, are more likely to get sick than full-grown dogs, which may explain how the Petland animals caught the illness in the first place. But even apparently healthy adult dogs may be harboring the bacteria and spreading it through their feces. To avoid catching it from your canine companion at home, the CDC recommends washing your hands whenever you make physical contact. This also applies when handling their food and especially when picking up and throwing away their poop (with disposable gloves of course).

For the small percentage of people who do contract the infection each year, the best course of action is to wait it out if you're healthy otherwise: Symptoms take about a week to clear up.

[h/t NPR]

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
12 Fascinating Facts About Ivan Pavlov
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Thanks to Ivan Pavlov, we’re all familiar with classical conditioning and the Pavlovian response (ring a bell before giving a dog a plate of food enough times, and he'll eventually begin to salivate at the sound of the bell rather than the sight of the meal). But if you want to know more about the man himself, from his side gig selling canine gastric juice to his couch-surfing days, it's time to examine these 12 drool-worthy facts about Ivan Pavlov.


Pavlov’s biographers point out that most people have misconceptions about the Russian physiologist. For example, instead of ringing a bell to train dogs, Pavlov actually used a variety of tools such as a metronome, buzzer, whistle, light, harmonium, and even electric shock. And Pavlov’s concept of the conditioned response is, in reality, not exactly what he pioneered. He discussed the conditional response, but a mistranslation of the original Russian word uslovnyi gave us the phrase conditioned response, which is still used today.


Pavlov was born in Ryazan, Russia in 1849. His father was a priest, and Pavlov enrolled in a theological seminary. But after reading the works of Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov, Pavlov decided to change course. In 1870, he left the seminary and enrolled at what is now known as St. Petersburg University to study natural science, physics, and math.


During Pavlov’s first year of university, one of the classes he took was inorganic chemistry. His professor, Dmitri Mendeleev, was a big deal in the world of science. In 1869, Mendeleev published the first periodic table of elements and is credited as the father of the periodic table. Not too shabby.


Wikimedia Commons

Throughout the 1870s and early 1880s, Pavlov studied the natural sciences and physiology, conducting research and working on his doctorate thesis. Specifically, he wrote about the function of the nerves in the pancreas and the heart. In 1890, Pavlov was asked to develop and direct a physiology department at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, where he studied the interplay between the nervous system and digestion.


Russian scientists worked in modest labs and were paid very little, so Pavlov struggled with finances. In 1887 he couldn’t afford his apartment anymore, so he spent a few months away from his wife Serafima (or Seraphima) Karchevskaya and young son. Pavlov crashed with friends or slept in his lab, and he took on extra jobs; he taught physiology and worked on a medical journal to earn more money.


Pavlov kept his physiology lab running by selling something that he had easy access to: canine gastric juice. While conducting experiments on dogs’ digestive systems, Pavlov collected gastric juice from hungry dogs that stared at a big bowl of meat all day. Pavlov paid an assistant to run the gastric juice collection operation, and he sold thousands of containers of the juice each year to people around Europe, who drank it daily to treat dyspepsia (indigestion). Yum!


If you think Pavlov and the Kardashians have nothing in common, think again. After the sudden death of their first child, Wirchik, at a very young age, the Pavlovs had four more children: three sons and a daughter, whom they named Vladimir, Victor, Vsevolod, and Vera.


Ivan Pavlov with students
Wellcome Images Gallery, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Although Pavlov’s best-known work—showing how an environmental stimulus can influence a behavioral response—was groundbreaking, he won a Nobel Prize in 1904 for something different. He earned the honor for his research into the animal digestive system. After surgically removing a dog’s esophagus, Pavlov fed the animal and observed how the process of digestion worked, measuring the digestive secretions of the stomach and pancreas.


In November 1927, science fiction writer H.G. Wells wrote an essay about Pavlov for The New York Times Magazine. Because Wells didn’t fully understand the science behind one of Pavlov’s articles about reflexes, he ignored the heavy-duty science and focused on Pavlov the man. Wells wrote about Pavlov’s "vastly heroic" nature and devotion to advancing science in the face of poverty, war, and revolution. After a 23-year-old B.F. Skinner read Wells’s article on Pavlov, he became a fan and grew up to be one of history’s most influential behavioral psychologists.


Ivan Pavlov
Wikimedia Commons

According to his biographer, Daniel Todes, Pavlov had issues with anger management. Beginning in childhood, his mood could change suddenly, and as an adult, he hit aggressive dogs in his lab and was known for his uncontrollable outbursts of anger. Pavlov himself described his angry outbursts as “morbid, spontaneous paroxysms.”


In 1921, Vladimir Lenin publicly praised Pavlov for his scientific contributions, and the Soviet government funded his research and offered him increased food rations (he didn’t accept). But Pavlov spoke out against communism, requesting in 1922 that he be allowed to move his lab to another country. Lenin refused. Pavlov said, “For the kind of social experiment that you are making, I would not sacrifice a frog’s hind legs!” Pavlov also decried his government’s persecution of political dissidents and clergymen; in a letter, Pavlov told Joseph Stalin that he was "ashamed to be called a Russian." Pavlov wasn’t killed for his contrarian views because the government determined that his scientific work was too valuable for Russia.


Pavlov’s estate in Ryazan, Russia is now a museum where visitors can explore his life and achievements. If you visit, be prepared to see stuffed dogs (and even a monkey) that Pavlov used in his experiments. And if you find yourself in St. Petersburg, you can check out The Pavlov Memorial Museum, where Pavlov lived for almost two decades before he died on February 27, 1936.


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