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Lucy Lou/Facebook

7 Dogs and Cats with Unusual Jobs

Lucy Lou/Facebook
Lucy Lou/Facebook

From herding sheep to pulling sleds to bringing down criminals, dogs have worked for humans since they were domesticated a long time ago. It's a win-win situation, since the dog receives room and board for life, plus the satisfaction of pleasing his boss. That's not much of a factor for cats, who are mostly employed in pest control. Still, every once in a while we find a cat or dog who is gainfully employed in some activity that surprises us. Here are some of those hardworking dogs and cats.

1. Lucy Lou, the Small Town Mayor

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky achieved some notoriety in 1998 by electing a dog to be its mayor. Since then, all mayoral elections in the unincorporated village have been won by dogs, although cats, goats, and other animals have run for the office. Lucy Lou, the current mayor, is the third dog to hold the office. The border collie won a hotly-contested race in 2008 and spends her time in office at the town's General Store, posing for pictures, greeting visitors and "making sure they see all the sights." She also maintains a Facebook page

2. Millie the Security Guard

Dogs work as security guards all over the world, as can be seen in the the many "beware of dog" signs in private homes and businesses. But Millie is a cat. This feline guard works at Bandai’s toy warehouse in Southampton, England. Millie, a Bengal, was assigned the job because she was always on the factory floor anyway. The position comes with a tiny uniform (a t-shirt) and a lifetime supply of fish and cat food.

3. Misty, the Quarry Administrator

Misty is a 9-year-old border collie who is an administrator at Burlington Stone in Cumbria, UK. Elaine Prickett started bringing Misty to work with her as a puppy, and over the years the dog learned what goes on and how to do it. For the past five years, Misty greets customers and takes their orders -in her mouth- to the office. She also carries and returns credit cards and invoices, delivering them without a scratch, only an occasional bit of wetness. She was never formally trained to do the work, but picked it up herself from watching the human workers. Customers love Misty because she is eager to please and never has a bad word to say. See Misty in action on video

4. Virginia the Foster Mother

The Cattery Cat Shelter in Corpus Christi, Texas, gets litters of kittens in frequently, and finds homes for them. Then there is Virginia, the cat who works as their foster mother, watching, bathing, cuddling, and keeping the kittens out of trouble until they are adopted. When the kittens leave, there is always another litter to take care of. The job of foster mother is not all that rare for a cat, but Virginia is a special case, because of her disabilities.

Perhaps one day Virginia will find her forever home, but according to Person, it will take "a really special household." Virginia is disabled -- one of her rear legs has been amputated, and the other is paralyzed. Lacking control of her bladder and bowels, she also wears a diaper.

At the Cattery, homeless, abused, or abandoned cats live cage-free and are separated by age groups. Virginia cannot handle the occasionally rough play of cats her own age, so she lives with the kittens -- and she has embraced the role of adoptive mother. And until she finds that special home of her own, Person says, there's always room for her at the Cattery, which is a no-kill shelter.

The staff built a therapy cart for Virginia to help her strengthen and learn to use her remaining hind leg, and she has made some progress.

5. Lolo the Truffle Hunter

Lolo works for Toil and Truffle in Seattle as a truffle-sniffing dog. The highly-prized fungus hides in lush woodlands, but a dog's nose can find them with proper training. Lolo is a Lagotto Romagnolo, a breed traditionally associated with truffle-hunting, but she has co-workers that are mixed breeds who also find truffles. Toil and Truffle has quite a few trained dogs available for hire to landowners who want to find truffles.

6. Sable the Crossing Guard

The students at Enterprise Middle School in West Richland, Washington state, have extra help crossing the road. Sable is a black cat who worked his way into a job as crossing guard by being there every day as the children arrived in the morning and left school in the afternoon. Sable does it for the love of the kids, who give him plenty of attention and ear scratches. After he made the newspapers, owner Tamara Morrison got the cat an orange safety vest, and he was made an honorary member of the Enterprise Safety Patrol. That was last year. Recently, the Morrisons gave Sable to a teacher at the school because they are planning to move to Colorado. Sable went missing from his new owner's home just last week. Those involved believe he missed the crossing and tried to find his way back.

7. Tucker the Orca Poop Sniffer

Researchers study marine animals in more ways than just watching them. Analyzing the scat they leave behind can give them invaluable information about the animal's genes, diet, and health. Tucker is a black Labrador scat detection dog trained in finding orca droppings for the Center for Whale Research. Tucker was turned down for employment by law enforcement because he was too hyper, but life on a boat helps him focus on the job, because he's afraid of the water! His team says that other dogs were distracted because they wanted to swim, but Tucker goes to work, then is rewarded with his favorite activity -playing with a ball.

See more working dogs and cats in these previous posts:
10 Stories of Lifesaving Dogs
6 Remarkable Police Animals
Four Feline Photographers
10 Excellent Bookstore Cats
8 Library Cats
7 Heroic Dogs
10 of History's Most Power-Hungry Cats

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John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.

1. ELVIS

Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.

2. AND 3. TICH AND SAM

He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.

5. AND 6. MIMI AND BABAGHI

John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.

7. JESUS

As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

8. AND 9. MAJOR AND MINOR

In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.

10. AND 11. SALT AND PEPPER

John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.

12. AND 13. GERTRUDE AND ALICE

John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.

14., 15. AND 16. MISHA, SASHA, AND CHARO

In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.

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8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up to host a new Animal Planet series, Cat vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

Cat vs. Dog Airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet

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