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.

Fossilized Fat Shows 550-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature May Have Been the World's First Animal

Ilya Bobrovskiy, the Australian National University
Ilya Bobrovskiy, the Australian National University

A bizarre sea creature whose fossils look like a cross between a leaf and a fingerprint may be Earth's oldest known animal, dating back 558 million years.

As New Scientist reports, researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) made a fortunate find in a remote region of Russia: a Dickinsonia fossil with fat molecules still attached. These odd, oval-shaped creatures were soft-bodied, had rib structures running down their sides, and grew about 4.5 feet long. They were as “strange as life on another planet,” researchers wrote in the abstract of a new paper published in the journal Science.

Another variety of fossil
Ilya Bobrovskiy, the Australian National University

Although Dickinsonia fossils were first discovered in South Australia in 1946, researchers lacked the organic matter needed to classify this creature. "Scientists have been fighting for more than 75 years over what Dickinsonia and other bizarre fossils of the Edicaran biota were: giant single-celled amoeba, lichen, failed experiments of evolution, or the earliest animals on Earth,” senior author Jochen Brocks, an associate professor at ANU, said in a statement.

With the discovery of cholesterol molecules—which are found in almost all animals, but not in other organisms like bacteria and amoebas—scientists can say that Dickinsonia were animals. The creatures swam the seas during the Ediacaran Period, 635 million to 542 million years ago. More complex organisms like mollusks, worms, and sponges didn’t emerge until 20 million years later.

The fossil with fat molecules was found on cliffs near the White Sea in an area of northwest Russia that was so remote that researchers had to take a helicopter to get there. Collecting the samples was a death-defying feat, too.

“I had to hang over the edge of a cliff on ropes and dig out huge blocks of sandstone, throw them down, wash the sandstone, and repeat this process until I found the fossils I was after,” lead author Ilya Bobrovskiy of ANU said. Considering that this find could change our understanding of Earth’s earliest life forms, it seems the risk was worth it.

[h/t New Scientist]

Cats Take Turns Napping With the 75-Year-Old Star Volunteer at This Animal Shelter

iStock
iStock

The star volunteer at Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary in Wisconsin doesn't have to do much to make a cat's day. According to Huffington Post, Terry Lauerman, a 75-year-old from Green Bay, visits his local shelter every day to take a cat nap with the residents.

Safe Haven is a cage-free, no-kill animal shelter that gives a home to special needs cats at risk of being put down. When Lauerman first showed up at Safe Haven earlier this year, he didn't talk to the shelter employees about becoming a volunteer—instead, he waltzed in and started grooming the cats with a brush he had brought himself. After this continued for a while, the shelter decided to make his volunteer status official.

Lauerman has since settled into a daily routine. After brushing the cats, he tends to fall asleep with them, and after an hour or so he wakes up and finds a different cat to nod off with. Safe Haven recently shared his story on their Facebook page: "We are so lucky to have a human like Terry," the post reads. "He brushes all of the cats, and can tell you about all of their likes and dislikes. He also accidentally falls asleep most days. We don't mind—Cats need this!"

The post has since been liked by over 68,000 people and shared more than 18,000 times. Safe Haven wrote in the comments, "When Terry comes in today, I'm going to have to tell him that he's famous. I can almost guarantee he'll just laugh and say "Oh, really?"...shake his head...and then go back to brushing cats." Lauerman is also encouraging fans of the viral post to show their appreciation by donating to the shelter, which ends up with more medical bills than many shelters that don't have cats with disabilities. You can contribute cash here or make a donation through the shelter's Amazon wish list.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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