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The Quick 10: Dr. Fido - 10 Ways Dogs Help in the Medical Community

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It's no secret that I love dogs. And that I like to work pictures of my dogs into my posts if there's even the tiniest shred of linkage between the post and canines. Like so:


But they're more than just companions "“ dogs can be trained to do so much these days (I mean, not mine. Mine are beyond hope. Other dogs.) Here are just 10 of the ways dogs are contributing to society.

1. By smelling out peanuts. For kids (and adults) with severe peanut allergies, this is a life-saver "“ literally. Some dogs can now be trained to detect anything with a peanut scent "“ so it's not as if the dog will only do good if you have an open can of Planters on the counter. Among other things, peanut oil is used for cooking and peanut shells are often used in potting soil. I'm sure those of you with peanut allergies can tell us a hundred other ways peanuts cause you grief in unexpected ways.

2. By serving autistic people. Sometimes autistic people can get overwhelmed by a situation with a lot of stimuli, and a service dog can help them understand what should be prioritized. For instance, if the phone was ringing and the smoke alarm was going off, some autistic people may decide to answer the phone. A dog trained to help that person would help them get outside as soon as possible.

3. By helping when their owner has a seizure. A person prone to seizures can get a dog that is trained to get help, by trying to get the person to come back around if they have passed out and by keeping the person from walking into things or falling (some big dogs are actually trained to "throw" themselves under a person's head when they are fainting). And some dogs actually detect a seizure before it happens based on the human's change of behavior and scent "“ but this isn't a trainable thing, according to National Geographic. It's an innate ability based on the dog's level of awareness.

4. By detecting low or high blood sugar levels. If diabetics don't know their blood sugar is low, they can get a dog that can smell the change in sugar levels. The dog then alerts the diabetic (often by barking), which triggers the diabetic to test their sugar and act accordingly.

5. By helping people with psychiatric problems. Some dogs can even be trained to help people with problems like paranoia, schizophrenia or posttraumatic stress disorder. They can't really do much to stop delusions, but they can help stop behavior that causes the person to injure themselves, or, like diabetics, dogs can help "remind" the person that they need to take their medication. They can also guide the person out of a situation they perceive to be causing stress, or help steady the person if they get dizzy.

6. By detecting cancer. Yep "“ studies have shown that dogs can smell bladder cancer in urine. In fact, during one study, the dogs actually proved the researchers wrong. Researchers were given a urine sample that they were assured was cancer-free to be used in a test against other samples. When dog after dog continued to select the cancer-free sample, researchers got frustrated and started to become convinced that preliminary tests had been wrong; that dogs actually couldn't detect bladder cancer. Then, on a whim, they sent the cancer-free urine sample in for a test. It turned out that the person who provided the sample did have cancer "“ bladder cancer.

bedbugs7. By sniffing out bed bugs! Worried about that questionable hotel room? In certain parts of the country, you can hire dogs to come in and smell for pests. Right now, bed bug-sniffing dogs are used mostly by Housing Authority-type places to ensure that apartments and public housing units are up to par, but they are starting to be employed for private use as well.

8. By helping the hearing or seeing impaired. Of course, dogs that do this are probably the most well-known type of service dog. They're trained to answer to sounds their owners can't hear, obviously "“ doorbells, smoke alarms, alarm clocks - or help guide them. But they're also trained to ignore their masters, which is a tricky task. Not always, but if their owner urges them to walk ahead and there's danger looming (such as traffic), the dog knows to refuse to obey until their owner understands what's going on.

9. By sniffing out drugs"¦ on teens. You've seen drug-sniffing dogs at airports, but now they're being turned on the bedrooms of teenagers in some states. In Ohio and New Jersey, suspicious parents can hire a drug-sniffing dog for $200 an hour to scour their kids' bedrooms for illegal substances. It might be a stretch as far as the "medical community" is concerned, but I bet a parent who could have prevented an overdose would be grateful for the saved emergency room trip.

10. Dogs that can smell pregnancy. Yep "“ your dog probably knows you're pregnant before you do. It might not know that you're pregnant, exactly, but it can smell hormone and pheromone changes, which can often result in your dog becoming more protective (or more possessive of the coveted spot on your lap). It can swing the other way, too "“ your dog might decide that the guy in the house is a much better person to be around for nine months. While pregnancy detection may not exactly be the benefit to society that cancer and low blood sugar detection are, I find it pretty interesting nonetheless.

Has anyone experienced any of these personally? I'd love to hear about it!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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