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How to Take a Dog Kayaking

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While the main point of a vacation is to get away from everyday life, one of its downsides can be leaving behind any beloved pets that just aren’t suited for particular types of getaway—say, cats who might get bored touring WWII battlefields, or hamsters who might not get along with the beach. Rather than giving his precious dog a firm command to sit and stay, however, retired orthopedic surgeon David Bahnson came up with a way to indulge his love of kayaking while taking his golden retriever, Susie, along for the ride. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that Susie herself came up with the idea. According to The Dodo, after Bahnson had finished constructing the craft from a standard kayak-building kit, Susie found her way into the baggage compartment, and Bahnson realized she fit perfectly into the space.

In order to make the kayak more dog-friendly, Bahnson added a section of "coaming," a raised border around the prebuilt compartment’s opening, to prevent water from splashing into Susie’s space. After that, off the pair went.

When another dog, Ginger, joined the family, Bahnson simply added another hole to the kayak, perfectly balancing the boat with one dog in front and one dog behind. It’s a preferable setup to what most kayaking dog owners, or dog-owning kayakers, use: keeping the dog in the same cockpit as the paddler makes for increased intimacy but decreased mobility. “That’s kind of awkward,” Bahnson told The Dodo. His custom-built vessel allows both Susie and Ginger to settle into their own compartments.

Bahnson’s story isn’t so unusual—plenty of pet owners choose to take their dogs out on the water with them—but the purpose-built kayak is unique. Bahnson stresses that both Susie and Ginger had previously accompanied him and his wife on other forms of transportation normally reserved for humans, including cars and planes. They were also aquatically inclined, happily accompanying him on kayaking trips (and even going windsurfing once), but there’s no guarantee all dogs will feel as comfortable. Age is one consideration, since it’s true that old dogs don’t always want to learn new tricks—especially if those tricks involve getting wet. A dog that doesn’t want to sit on land is almost guaranteed to rock the boat, and no one wants to deal with the smell of a wet dog. 

For any aspiring dog-kayakers, there’s such a thing as Dog Scout Camp, which helps pets and their owners learn various water safety skills. While it would be helpful for the dog to know how to swim, there’s something even more essential: a personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a doggy life preserver. Just as it’s important to keep safety first in mind for humans, the same goes for dogs. Plus, just think how cute your pup will look in neon orange.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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