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Horses Befriending Goats

It may look like an odd coupling, but race horses and goats have been befriending each other for centuries. For whatever reason, the goats seem to have a greatly calming effect on race horses, who are often extremely temperamental. Even Australia's top horse, Black Caviar, has a billy goat friend (appropriately named Billy). Trainer Peter Clarke says the bond was "instrumental" in the horse's unbeatable form:

"He's always up for a rumble and he rears up and rolls on his back and she rears up and spins around and he'll rear up and buck away. But when she's out of the paddock, he just stands at the gate and waits for her to come back. It seems to me that he knows she is special and he's always looking out for her."

There's even a rumor that the expression "get your goat" started being used at the track where thieves would steal the goat of a favored horse in order to make the horse perform poorly. While the tale might be a fiction, its proliferation shows just how strong the bond between horses and goats can be.

[Image courtesy of Meir Jacob's Flickr stream]

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Animals
Orlando Animal Shelter Sorts Dogs Into Hogwarts Houses

Harry is a Gryffindor. Draco is a Slytherin. But what is Fido? An Orlando, Florida animal shelter’s sorting ceremony will decide. As The Dodo alerts us, the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando has started sorting its adoptable dogs into Hogwarts houses to make it easier for potential adopters to get a sense of their personalities.

For lack of a magic hat, the shelter came up with a test to sort dogs based on their behavior. According to the Pet Alliance:

For example, a dog who takes to learning obedience cues or quickly figures out a puzzle has the KNOWLEDGE of a Ravenclaw. A small dog who has the determination to climb the agility A-Frame possesses the AMBITION of Slytherin house. Our affectionate happy-to-know-you dogs embody the FRIENDLINESS of a Hufflepuff, and a dog who embraces change and new things has the BRAVERY known to all Gryffindors.

A banner labelled “Pawgwarts” shows the Hogwarts houses’ arms with dog silhouettes on them.

Once they’re sorted, the dogs get a banner for their cage that announces their respective house. (Not a lot of dogs are Ravenclaws, which I guess means that puzzle toy is really hard.) The fun promotion has brought in plenty of adopters looking to add a new canine wizard to their own house.

"For many guests visiting our shelter, there is an instant recognition for our 'Pawgwarts Houses,' based on the overwhelming popularity of the book series," Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando communications manager Stephen O'Neal tells Mental Floss. "People come in knowing what their personal house is and are so enthusiastic about our Potter-inspired sorting process." The sorting quiz on the shelter's website has been taken more than 30,000 times, he says.

A sign with a badger printed on it reads "Hufflepuff House Values."

Besides being a very social media-friendly way to advertise dogs, the sorting is a helpful way to show off a dog’s personality traits while avoiding any talk of breed. Since DNA research shows that a huge number of dogs in shelters are labeled as the wrong breed—particularly dogs labeled as pit bulls—the Pet Alliance has stopped listing breeds altogether. And Hogwarts houses describe how a dog acts instead of what its parents looked like, making them far more useful for finding the perfect new pet. At least for Harry Potter fans.

Most of the shelter's cats haven't been sorted (probably because most cats refuse to wear cute clothes) but Cody, at least, deigned to wear his Hufflepuff scarf.

[h/t The Dodo]

All images by Art Faulkner, courtesy Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.

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Food
This Couple Has Spent the Past 30 Years Visiting Every Cracker Barrel in the U.S.

Ray and Wilma Yoder are probably America's foremost amateur experts on Cracker Barrel restaurants. As Eater reports, the Indiana couple is on a 30-year quest to eat at every single Cracker Barrel in the U.S. And they’ve almost completed it.

Ray Yoder of Goshen, Indiana, first started going to Cracker Barrel regularly when he worked delivering RVs across the country. Soon, Wilma was coming along, too, and the couple began hunting down Cracker Barrel locations in earnest, a pastime they’ve pursued for the past three decades.

Cracker Barrel got its start in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1969, and according to Ray, visiting the restaurants while on the road felt like being at home. “It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly,” he told the Lebanon Democrat. He told the paper that stopping at Cracker Barrels helped relieve boredom when he was on the road.

Ray and Wilma Yoder stand in front of two RVs outside a Cracker Barrel.

Now, he and Wilma are celebrities to those in the Cracker Barrel know. Cracker Barrel’s corporate leadership invites them to opening day at new stores. Employees know of them, and sometimes they receive gift baskets when they come in to cross a new Cracker Barrel off their list. People ask to take their picture when they visit.

The 80-year-olds have just two rules for their visits: At each location, they always buy something, even if it’s just a cup of coffee, and leave a tip. There’s no limit on how many Cracker Barrels they’ll go to in a single day, though. They once visited 10 different locations on a drive along the East Coast. Overall, their Cracker Barrel adventure has taken them more than 5 million miles across 44 states.

The Yoders recently visited their 644th Cracker Barrel, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new location in Lavonia, Georgia, in early July. They’re hoping to hit up the last Cracker Barrel on their list—until the next one opens, that is—by heading to Tualatin, Oregon, sometime later this year.

Update: Portland news station KGW reports that the Yoders have now completed their quest, stopping in at the Tualatin Cracker Barrel on August 28. The company flew them to Oregon for the occasion, which marked the end of their 645-restaurant journey. For now, at least.

[h/t Eater]

All images courtesy Cracker Barrel

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