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8 Sports Your Dog Can Play

If movies have taught us nothing else, it's that animals have great potential as athletes. In movies, golden retrievers can play basketball, mules can kick field goals, and chimps can play hockey. Unfortunately, when you try to recreate any of these scenarios with your own pets, it's inevitably disappointing. Don't give up yet, though. Dogs can be pretty stellar athletes in the right context. So why don't you and your dog try a sport a little more suited to their four-legged abilities? Like, for instance, one of these:

1. Flyball

Any old mutt can run around. Being a teammate is tougher, though. Flyball seeks to build this sort of fellowship. It's a relay for teams of four pooches to test their speed and catching abilities. Teams of four dogs are lined up at a start line, and when the first dog is released, he dashes down the 51-foot course, clearing four hurdles along the way, and hits a spring-loaded "flyball box." The box shoots a tennis ball into the air. The dog jumps up and catches the ball, then runs back down the course to the starting line, where the next pooch takes off. The first team to get all four members through the course wins, but penalties are assigned for dropping the ball or starting before the previous dog crosses the finish line.

Flyball originated in southern California in the 1960's and received a serious boost when Herbert Wagner invented the spring-loaded ball-launching box. According to the North American Flyball Association, the sport's popularity has advanced to the point where timing and scoring is done electronically. The team Spring Loaded holds the world record for the event; all four dogs completed the course in 15.22 seconds combined.

2. Musical Canine Freestyle

Your dog can sit, stay, and roll over, but can he dance? Musical canine freestyle lets pooches get down to their favorite tunes. In the event, dogs and their handlers pick a song and choreograph a dance routine, and then they boogie. The sport, which originated around 1989, showcases a dog's obedience and athleticism while also building teamwork between dog and handler. Each dog-handler pair's routine is then judged on its artistic and technical merit. Really, you should just watch this fantastic video of a routine straight out of Grease.

3. Bikejoring

Have you ever gone out for a bike ride, only to wish someone could just pull you along? That's where bikejoring and your dog come into the picture. Like its cold-weather relative skijoring, bikejoring involves having a team of harnessed dogs pull a biker. Any type of dog that could be used for mushing and pulling can be used for bikejoring. The sport encourages communication and teamwork between the dog and the rider; otherwise the cyclist is likely to end up in a ditch. The dogs seem to love it, and it makes some impressive videos like this one possible.

4. Earthdog Trial

When you see a dachsund or a miniature schnauzer, you probably don't think, "Ah! That's a vicious killing machine!" If you were a rat, though, you'd probably see things a little differently. For years these kinds of small dogs, along with many breeds of terriers, were prized for their abilities to control rodents. Their diminutive statures allowed them to slip into underground tunnels and nests to catch rats and other pests that hid in dens.

This sort of work has been largely outsourced to exterminators, but some owners still want to know how deft their dogs are as hunters. Earthdog trials offer dogs a chance to navigate courses of underground tunnels while trying to find rodent quarry, typically a rat or rabbit. The American Kennel Club's earthdog trials test dogs on three criteria: ability to find a scent, willingness to enter a dark tunnel, and willingness to find the quarry. When the dog finds the quarry in the tunnels, it must then "work" it by barking, scratching, or pawing at it. Don't worry too much about the rats, though; they're protected in boxes and aren't harmed. Here's a look at a terrier doing some earthdog tunneling.

5. Dog Pulling

Many breeds are meant to be workers and can get lazy or out of shape if they spend all of their time loafing on the couch. The International Weight Pull Association seeks to find a constructive outlet for these pups by having them pull weighted sleds or carts across 16-foot tracks. The organization describes the event as a tractor pull, but with dogs in place of the tractors. Canine competitors are divided into weight classes, and whichever dog can pull the most weight across the course wins. Handlers aren't allowed to touch the dogs or give them treats once the pull starts, so the onus is on the pooch to pull away. Typical breeds for the sport include huskies, rottweilers, and pit bulls, all of which were originally working breeds and can use pulling as a nonviolent outlet for their energy.

6. Disc Dog

Throwing and catching a Frisbee-type flying disc is a great way to let your pet run around and get some exercise. To many people, though, it's also a competitive event. The term "disc dog" encompasses several types of competitive disc events. In toss and fetch competitions, the dog and owner have sixty seconds to complete as many catches as they can on a marked field. Each catch earns points, with longer catches being more valuable. Bonuses are also rewarded for mid-air catches.

In freestyle competition, dogs and their handlers perform choreographed catching routines involving jumps, spins, and other tricks. Judges then score routines based on their flair, execution, and degree of difficulty. Not surprisingly, these events are pretty visually impressive, and if YouTube is any indication, seem to be quite popular in Asia.

7. Belgian Ring

Belgian ring is a specific example of the larger genre of protection sports, or events that test how well a dog can protect himself and his master. Belgian ring (also known as "Belgian Ringsport") originated in (surprise) Belgium in the early 20th-century as a way to test the country's working police dogs, notably Belgian shepherds. Formal ringsports were first held in 1908, testing a dog's abilities in fairly standard obedience events like walking without a leash, jumping, and retrieving items. Unlike other obedience competitions, though, the program tested dogs' protective mettle. They guarded items that belonged to their handler, defended their handler from attackers, and attacked protective-suit-clad assailants.

These competitions remain popular for shepherd and rottweiler owners throughout Europe and the U.S., as do defense sport variants like French Ring and Germany's Schutzhund. While the dogs may look fierce while protecting their owners, they must have fairly even temperaments and be willing to stop attacking on command.

8. Lure Coursing

If greyhound racing and rabbit hunting came together, the resulting hybrid might look a little like lure coursing. In the event, purebred sighthounds (think greyhounds, Irish wolfhounds, salukis, etc.) chase a mechanical lure through a field course. The lure moves and turns through the course to simulate a running hare. Under the American Sighthound Field Association rules, each dog is graded on its speed, endurance, agility, follow, and enthusiasm.

The sport originated in the early 1970s in California. Lyle Gillette and his sighthound-fancying friends who enjoyed rabbit hunting with their dogs. However, barbed wire fencing and other obstacles in the fields made it somewhat dangerous for the dogs, so they created a sport in which the course was controlled but the dogs still get the exercise and stimulation of tracking rabbits.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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