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K-9 Comfort Dogs

12 Photos of Therapy Dogs Providing Comfort After Tragedies

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K-9 Comfort Dogs

One of the most remarkable things about the recent Boston bombings was how kind people were during the crisis—but gentle words and hugs aren’t always enough to comfort the victims of this kind of disaster.

K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs via Facebook

That’s why the folks of K9 Parish Comfort Dogs and other organizations have brought their canine friends to help those who could use some unconditional love right now.

Jessica Testa/BuzzFeed

You can read more about the project and the dogs involved, as well as see more adorable pictures of the pups providing their service, over at BuzzFeed.

K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs via Facebook

But this certainly isn’t the first time dogs have helped disaster victims deal with their traumatic experiences. K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs also visited the young survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Two of the dogs even stayed behind with the kids at the school, although they both visited Boston with the Parish’s other dogs this week since Sandy Hook Elementary was on Spring Break.

Perhaps because many of the victims of the Newtown shooting were so young, the event attracted more therapy dogs than practically any other disaster. 

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Therapy dogs were also present at the streetside memorial held for the shooting victims, which made the services easier for the children who knew the victims. In fact, during the service itself, attendees of all ages were given plush toy dogs to cuddle and squeeze during the emotional event.

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Dogs were also brought in at the memorial for the Virginia Tech shooting in April of 2007. In this case, the dogs were provided with the help of Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response, who was specifically requested by the Red Cross.

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Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response was one of the many groups to provide therapy dogs to help survivors and emergency workers in the aftermath of 9/11.

Dogs also aided New York residents who were affected by the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) sent comfort dogs, like Ladle, to aid the preschoolers of St. Peter's Lutheran School, Brooklyn, N.Y.

John Moore/Getty Images

While the deaths might not have all occurred at once, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars took the lives of thousands of soldiers. To help 500 children and teen survivors of these veterans deal with their grief, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors put together a 'Good Grief Camp' that, along with counseling and other services, provided therapy dogs to aid in the healing process.

ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

While combat dogs may get more attention, the U.S. military also employs therapy dogs. Zeke here is a five year old labrador retriever who has a rank of Sergeant First Class for his services at the combat stress clinic on the Kandahar military base in southern Afghanistan. The government therapy dog program started in 2007 to help those serving in Iraq receive the psychological benefits that only animals can provide.

Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Therapy dogs can even help crime victims better cope with their trauma so they can testify more easily. That’s why Abby works right beside her owner Sandy Sylvester, a prosecutor at the Prince William County Courthouse in Virginia.

Eager to support these efforts? Well, if you’re in the Boston area and have a kind, well-behaved dog, you can always get him or her certified and bring your own pooch to comfort the survivors. But everyone else can help by donating to the K9 Parish Comfort Dog’s Boston travel expense fund or to HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response.

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Big Questions
Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?
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Even if you don’t have a dog, you probably know that they can’t eat chocolate; it’s one of the most well-known toxic substances for canines (and felines, for that matter). But just what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? Why can't dogs eat chocolate when we eat it all the time without incident?

It comes down to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that humans can metabolize easily, but dogs cannot. “They just can’t break it down as fast as humans and so therefore, when they consume it, it can cause illness,” Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss.

The toxic effects of this slow metabolization can range from a mild upset stomach to seizures, heart failure, and even death. If your dog does eat chocolate, they may get thirsty, have diarrhea, and become hyperactive and shaky. If things get really bad, that hyperactivity could turn into seizures, and they could develop an arrhythmia and have a heart attack.

While cats are even more sensitive to theobromine, they’re less likely to eat chocolate in the first place. They’re much more picky eaters, and some research has found that they can’t taste sweetness. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to sit at your feet with those big, mournful eyes begging for a taste of whatever you're eating, including chocolate. (They've also been known to just swipe it off the counter when you’re not looking.)

If your dog gets a hold of your favorite candy bar, it’s best to get them to the vet within two hours. The theobromine is metabolized slowly, “therefore, if we can get it out of the stomach there will be less there to metabolize,” Topper says. Your vet might be able to induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids can also help flush it out of your dog’s system before it becomes lethal.

The toxicity varies based on what kind of chocolate it is (milk chocolate has a lower dose of theobromine than dark chocolate, and baking chocolate has an especially concentrated dose), the size of your dog, and whether or not the dog has preexisting health problems, like kidney or heart issues. While any dog is going to get sick, a small, old, or unhealthy dog won't be able to handle the toxic effects as well as a large, young, healthy dog could. “A Great Dane who eats two Hershey’s kisses may not have the same [reaction] that a miniature Chihuahua that eats four Hershey’s kisses has,” Topper explains. The former might only get diarrhea, while the latter probably needs veterinary attention.

Even if you have a big dog, you shouldn’t just play it by ear, though. PetMD has a handy calculator to see just what risk levels your dog faces if he or she eats chocolate, based on the dog’s size and the amount eaten. But if your dog has already ingested chocolate, petMD shouldn’t be your go-to source. Call your vet's office, where they are already familiar with your dog’s size, age, and condition. They can give you the best advice on how toxic the dose might be and how urgent the situation is.

So if your dog eats chocolate, you’re better off paying a few hundred dollars at the vet to make your dog puke than waiting until it’s too late.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Elusive Butterfly Sighted in Scotland for the First Time in 133 Years

Conditions weren’t looking too promising for the white-letter hairstreak, an elusive butterfly that’s native to the UK. Threatened by habitat loss, the butterfly's numbers have dwindled by 96 percent since the 1970s, and the insect hasn’t even been spotted in Scotland since 1884. So you can imagine the surprise lepidopterists felt when a white-letter hairstreak was seen feeding in a field in Berwickshire, Scotland earlier in August, according to The Guardian.

A man named Iain Cowe noticed the butterfly and managed to capture it on camera. “It is not every day that something as special as this is found when out and about on a regular butterfly foray,” Cowe said in a statement provided by the UK's Butterfly Conservation. “It was a very ragged and worn individual found feeding on ragwort in the grassy edge of an arable field.”

The white-letter hairstreak is a small brown butterfly with a white “W”-shaped streak on the underside of its wings and a small orange spot on its hindwings. It’s not easily sighted, as it tends to spend most of its life feeding and breeding in treetops.

The butterfly’s preferred habitat is the elm tree, but an outbreak of Dutch elm disease—first noted the 1970s—forced the white-letter hairstreak to find new homes and food sources as millions of Britain's elm trees died. The threatened species has slowly spread north, and experts are now hopeful that Scotland could be a good home for the insect. (Dutch elm disease does exist in Scotland, but the nation also has a good amount of disease-resistant Wych elms.)

If a breeding colony is confirmed, the white-letter hairstreak will bump Scotland’s number of butterfly species that live and breed in the country up to 34. “We don’t have many butterfly species in Scotland so one more is very nice to have,” Paul Kirkland, director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said in a statement.

Prior to 1884, the only confirmed sighting of a white-letter hairstreak in Scotland was in 1859. However, the insect’s newfound presence in Scotland comes at a cost: The UK’s butterflies are moving north due to climate change, and the white-letter hairstreak’s arrival is “almost certainly due to the warming climate,” Kirkland said.

[h/t The Guardian]

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