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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Dog Lover in Your Life

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Even if you're not a dog lover yourself, you probably know a few people who would appreciate some canine-inspired gifts this holiday season. Here are 11 creative gift ideas any dog enthusiast would go barking mad for.


1. DOG BLUEPRINT PILLOWS; $95

We all know at least one person whose bumper stickers, t-shirts, and even salt and pepper shakers all announce their favorite breed of dog to the world. Add to their collection with these hand-screen-printed pillows that feature one of 52 breeds and include insightful details about each variety’s history and physical characteristics.

Find it: Uncommon Goods


2. FITBARK DOG ACTIVITY MONITOR: $94

We use devices to measure our activity levels throughout the day, so why shouldn't dogs do the same? The FitBark attaches to a dog’s collar and monitors their daily behavior and sleeping patterns, allowing owners to track how active their pup is, notice any concerning patterns, set health goals, and even share memorable moments with family and friends.

Find it: Amazon


3. THE DOGIST: PHOTOGRAPHIC ENCOUNTERS WITH 1000 DOGS; $16

If you aren't able to meet 1000 dogs in person, browsing through a photo compilation of four-legged friends of all shapes and sizes is probably the next best thing. The New York Times bestseller from photojournalist Elias Weiss Friedman (and of the famous Instagram thedogist) features special categories like Beards, Working Dogs, Dogs in Fancy Outfits, and Cones of Shame.

Find it: Amazon


4. CHUCKIT! LAUNCHERS; $11

Any human-canine duo who uses this hands-free tool to up their fetch game will be the envy of the dog park. With just the flick of a wrist, the user can toss a ball up to three times as far as they normally would without the hassle-free toy. Cue a happy, healthy dog and a grateful owner who no longer has to touch those slobbery balls.

Find it: Amazon


5. DOG BOWTIE; $36 for 3

Unlike most canine fashion accessories, these doggie bowties are as stylish as they are dignified. The handmade bows loop comfortably around the dog’s collar for a look that’s dapper beyond compare. Choose from six collections: The New Orleans, The Georgian, The New Yorker, The Floridian, The Cali, and The Minnesotan.

Find it: Etsy


6. BAKE-A-BONE: THE ORIGINAL DOG TREAT MAKER; $29

For dog owners who keep their pets on a gluten, preservative-free, or GMO-free diet, the Bake-A-Bone offers ultimate control over what’s going into their canine's treats. Users can follow the recipes that are included in the kit or they can channel their inner dog-food pastry chefs and get creative.

Find it: Amazon


7. DACHSHUND CUTTING BOARD; $26

Nothing pairs better with cheese than some wiener (dog). This handmade cutting board is made from real timber and is treated with food safe oil to ensure a long lifespan. At 25 inches from front to end—or nose to tail, rather—this board makes the perfect vehicle for even the most ambitious cheese platter.

Find it: Etsy


8. GOURMET DOG TREATS: CHRISTMAS ASSORTMENT; $25

Dogs appreciate seasonal snacks around the holidays just as much as anyone else. These grain-free peanut butter treats are handmade from garbanzo flour and yogurt frosting. And they’ll keep dogs distracted from any other cookies that may be lying around the house. Each order contains 12 treats, and with a shelf life of up to four weeks they'll last dog owners through the new year.

Find it: Etsy


9. THE PUPCUP KIT; $17

The PupCup Kit ensures that your loved one's four-legged hiking companion will never have to drink from their owner's cap again. When it's not being used, the PupCup fits snugly onto the bottom of a 32-ounce Nalgene water bottle, which comes included with the purchase. The cup is available in Ruh Roh Red, Hello Yellow, Growler Green, and Big Toe Blue.

Find it: The Original PupCup


10. BAD DOG WISDOM DINER MUGS; $35 for 4

Every dog lover knows that dogs are endless wells of wisdom. This set of ceramic, kitschy mugs offers important life advice inspired by our canine counterparts.

Find it: Uncommon Goods


11. BARK & CO'S WINTRY MIX BOX; $35

If you’re having trouble deciding on just one dog-inspired gift, this package from BarkShop includes an assortment of five toys and treats, which could include "droolers" dog snacks and seasonal plush animals. There’s no better way for a dog to spend the holidays than by ripping into a penguin chew toy.

Find it: BarkShop


BONUS: MAKE A DONATION TO THE ASPCA

Not every dog is fortunate enough to have a family to show them love around the holidays. According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.9 million dogs enter American shelters each year. For people who truly love dogs, no gift will do more to warm their hearts than a donation made in their name.

Find it: ASPCA

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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.)
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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.

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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]

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