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10 Fancy Facts About Poodles

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There’s a lot you might not know about France’s national dog. 

1. They’re actually from Germany.

Despite their French reputation, poodles hail from Germany, where they were called pudel, which is German for “puddle.” 

2. They were historically great at their jobs. 

What do poodles have to do with puddles? While poodles today have connotations of wealth and luxury, they were bred to work. The athletic dogs are excellent swimmers and were used by hunters to retrieve ducks and other birds from the water. They even have a “soft mouth,” so they can gently pick up wounded or dead game. In France, the dogs were called caniche, or “duck dog.” 

3. The fancy ‘do has a purpose. 

Since these dogs were jumping into freezing cold water, they needed protection. Too much wet fur would weigh them down, so hunters would strategically shear their hair. The pattern was meant to protect vital areas from cold waters.

4. Poodles come in three varieties.

The poodle is the only dog that comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. These terms only describe the dogs’ size, and the American Kennel Club considers them all the same breed. 

5. The Iditarod Dog Sled Race once had a standard poodle team. 

In 1988, a musher named John Suter entered the race with an all-poodle sled team. They didn't do so well: Thanks to matted fur and cold paws, many of the dogs had to be dropped off at checkpoints. This struggle led to a new rule that dictated only northern breeds like Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes are allowed to race. This measure ensures the safety of breeds that aren’t cut out for the extreme cold.

6. Poodle fur never stops growing.

Unlike dogs that shed, the poodle will grow fur continuously. As a result, they need regular grooming. If left ungroomed, their fur will become matted and dreadlock-like. On the upside, they’re hypoallergenic and generally odorless.

7. This special fur has led to some crossbreeds. 

The poodle has been bred with other popular dogs like Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, and wheaten terriers to make more hypoallergenic breeds. 

8. Elvis loved them. 

The King loved dogs and had quite a collection at Graceland. When he was stationed in Germany, he had a poodle named Champagne. He also gave away many poodles to the women he loved: A toy poodle named "Little Bit" went to a girlfriend, and he gave a poodle named "Honey" to his wife Priscilla. 

9. They’re super smart. 

Poodles are one of the smartest breeds, second only to the border collie in rankings of canine intelligence. Their smarts make them extremely easy to train and a favorite of circuses. In the 1800s, they were often dressed in miniature human clothing and trained to act out elaborate scenes. 

10. One toy poodle knows how to work an elevator. 

Nala the teacup poodle was never trained to operate an elevator, but she somehow figured it out and uses it to visit the residents at a local nursing home where her owner works. The small dog can navigate the hallways all by herself and bring comfort to those around her. "She'd rather ride it alone than with people, because she knows where she's going," her owner said. "If she could, she would push the button herself."

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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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