Chernobyl Puppies are Making Their Way to the U.S. and Canada to Find Their Forever Homes

A veterinarian working for The Dogs of Chernobyl initiative bathes a stray puppy in Chernobyl.
A veterinarian working for The Dogs of Chernobyl initiative bathes a stray puppy in Chernobyl.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

For the first time ever, a group of puppies that were born in Chernobyl, Ukraine, have been removed from the exclusion zone surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant whose reactor exploded in 1986, causing one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has ever seen. As BuzzFeed reports, some of the descendants of dogs that survived the environmental catastrophe have been cleared of radiation and brought to the U.S. and Canada to start new lives.

Until 2018, it was illegal for animals to be removed from the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and it’s still illegal for people to live in Chernobyl City for more than three weeks at a time. When local authorities decided to make an exception for puppies last year, an organization called the Clean Futures Fund launched an adoption program to find new homes for healthy pups.

“You can’t bring anything out of the exclusion zone," Christine Anderson, who adopted one of the rescued dogs, told CBS Sacramento last December. "These puppies are the first things to ever make it out.” Her 8-month-old Chernobyl pup, named Persik, seems happy and healthy, aside from a few quirky habits that likely stem from trying to survive in a harsh environment.

“She really likes to hide underneath things ... and she builds nests,” Anderson says. “She’ll take shoes, take clothes, anything she could find and make a little barrier around herself. I think it makes her feel safe.”

Although some have warned of the dangers of petting the dogs in Chernobyl, Clean Futures Fund co-founder Lucas Hixson says it’s extremely rare to find traces of radiation among the animals. Nonetheless, all of the dogs are tested for radiation, and blood samples are taken as well. In an attempt to reduce the stray dog population, older dogs are spayed and neutered, while puppies are treated and taken to the nearby town of Slavutych to receive training.

More than 40 puppies are eligible for adoption, and over a dozen have already been brought to the U.S. Fourteen puppies were sent to New York. Persik wound up in Northern California. And a pair of siblings found forever homes in Ohio, where a video posted to Instagram shows the two pups being reunited.

In addition to the puppy adoption program, the Clean Futures Fund also continues to raise funds to help spay, neuter, and vaccinate the hundreds of stray dogs in Chernobyl, and you can learn more about their efforts in the video below.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

100 Dachshunds Competed in Cincinnati’s Annual ‘Running of the Wieners’

NORRIE3699/iStock via Getty Images
NORRIE3699/iStock via Getty Images

Every year, to kick off Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, 100 dachshunds compete in heats to decide who the fastest dachshund in the Midwest is. This year marks the 43rd annual Oktoberfest—one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany (more than 500,000 people attend the three-day event).

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 19, 100 wiener dogs (and their owners and handlers) gathered in downtown Cincinnati for the 2019 "Running of the Wieners." The dogs, dressed in hot dog costumes, ran 10 heats, which lasted 75 feet or five seconds each. The winner of each heat advanced to the final round, where the top three finishers were decided.

Maple, a long-haired, one-year-old dachshund, ran his way into first place—and into our hearts.

Maple’s owner, Jake Sander, told WCPO that Maple is one of five dachshunds in the family, and that he learned to run fast by chasing his brother around. Leo and Bucky, two other doxies, placed second and third, respectively.

Besides the Running of the Wieners, Zinzinnati also hosts the World’s Largest Chicken Dance. However, the wiener dogs are more fun to watch.

Photographer Captures Polka-Dotted Zebra Foal in Kenya

Frank Liu
Frank Liu

Zebras are known for their eye-catching patterns, but this polka-dotted foal recently photographed in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve really stands out from the herd. As National Geographic reports, the zebra baby likely has pseudomelanism, a rare pigment condition that's been observed in the wild just a handful of times.

Nature photographer Frank Liu saw the zebra foal while looking for rhinos in the savannah wilderness preserve. After initially confusing the specimen for a different type of animal, he realized upon closer inspection that it was actually a plains zebra born with spots instead of stripes. The newborn foal was named Tira after the Maasai guide Antony Tira who first pointed him out.

Zebra foal with spots walking with mother.
Frank Liu

Zebra foal with spots.
Frank Liu

A typical zebra pattern is the result of pigment cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for the black base coat, and melanin, which gives the animal its white stripes. (So if you've ever wondered if zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes, the answer is the latter). In Tira and other zebras with pseudomelanism, the melanocytes are fully expressed, but a genetic mutation causes the melanin to appear as dots rather than unbroken stripes.


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Though rare, this isn't the only time a zebra with pseudomelanism has been documented in nature. Pseudomelanistic zebras have also been spotted in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, but Liu believes this could be the first time one was found in the Masai Mara preserve.

Zebra stripes aren't just for decoration. The distinct pattern may act as camouflage, bug repellant, and a built-in temperature regulation system. Without these evolutionary benefits, Tira has a lower chance of making it to adulthood: Pseudomelanistic zebra adults are rarely observed for this reason. But as Liu's photographs show, the foal has the protection and acceptance of his herd on his side.

[h/t National Geographic]

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