CLOSE
iStock
iStock

How to Take a Dog Kayaking

iStock
iStock

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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Gophers and Groundhogs?
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
iStock

Gophers and groundhogs. Groundhogs and gophers. They're both deceptively cuddly woodland rodents that scurry through underground tunnels and chow down on plants. But whether you're a nature nerd, a Golden Gophers football fan, or planning a pre-spring trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you might want to know the difference between groundhogs and gophers.

Despite their similar appearances and burrowing habits, groundhogs and gophers don't have a whole lot in common—they don't even belong to the same family. For example, gophers belong to the family Geomyidae, a group that includes pocket gophers (sometimes referred to as "true" gophers), kangaroo rats, and pocket mice.

Groundhogs, meanwhile, are members of the Sciuridae (meaning shadow-tail) family and belong to the genus Marmota. Marmots are diurnal ground squirrels, Daniel Blumstein, a UCLA biologist and marmot expert, tells Mental Floss. "There are 15 species of marmot, and groundhogs are one of them," he explains.

Science aside, there are plenty of other visible differences between the two animals. Gophers, for example, have hairless tails, protruding yellow or brownish teeth, and fur-lined cheek pockets for storing food—all traits that make them different from groundhogs. The feet of gophers are often pink, while groundhogs have brown or black feet. And while the tiny gopher tends to weigh around two or so pounds, groundhogs can grow to around 13 pounds.

While both types of rodent eat mostly vegetation, gophers prefer roots and tubers (much to the dismay of gardeners trying to plant new specimens), while groundhogs like vegetation and fruits. This means that the former animals rarely emerge from their burrows, while the latter are more commonly seen out and about.

Groundhogs "have burrows underground they use for safety, and they hibernate in their burrows," Blumstein says. "They're active during the day above ground, eating a variety of plants and running back to their burrows to safety. If it's too hot, they'll go back into their burrow. If the weather gets crappy, they'll go back into their burrow during the day as well."

But that doesn't necessarily mean that gophers are the more reclusive of the two, as groundhogs famously hibernate during the winter. Gophers, on the other hand, remain active—and wreck lawns—year-round.

"What's really interesting is if you go to a place where there's gophers, in the spring, what you'll see are what is called eskers," or winding mounds of soil, Blumstein says [PDF]. "Basically, they dig all winter long through the earth, but then they tunnel through snow, and they leave dirt in these snow tunnels."

If all this rodent talk has you now thinking about woodchucks and other woodland creatures, know that groundhogs have plenty of nicknames, including "whistle-pig" and "woodchuck," while the only nicknames for gophers appear to be bitter monikers coined by Wisconsin Badgers fans.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Google
arrow
Animals
Watch Christmas Island’s Annual Crab Migration on Google Street View
Google
Google

Every year, the 45 million or so red crabs on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island migrate en masse from their forest burrows down to the ocean to mate, and so the female crabs can release their eggs into the sea to hatch. The migration starts during the fall, and the number of crabs on the beach often peaks in December. This year, you don’t have to be on Christmas Island to witness the spectacular crustacean event, as New Atlas reports. You can see it on Google Street View.

Watching the sheer density of crabs scuttling across roads, boardwalks, and beaches is a rare visual treat. According to the Google blog, this year’s crabtacular finale is forecasted for December 16, and Parks Australia crab expert Alasdair Grigg will be there with the Street View Trekker to capture it. That is likely to be the day when crab populations on the beaches will be at their peak, giving you the best view of the action.

Crabs scuttle across the forest floor while a man with a Google Street View Trekker walks behind them.
Google

Google Street View is already a repository for a number of armchair travel experiences. You can digitally explore remote locations in Antarctica, recreations of ancient cities, and even the International Space Station. You can essentially see the whole world without ever logging off your computer.

Sadly, because Street View isn’t live, you won’t be able to see the migration as it happens. The image collection won’t be available until sometime in early 2018. But it’ll be worth the wait, we promise. For a sneak preview, watch Parks Australia’s video of the 2012 event here.

[h/t New Atlas]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios