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New Program Trains Children to Read to Anxious Shelter Dogs

The Humane Society of Missouri recently launched the Book Buddies Shelter Pet Reading Program, an initiative that directly benefits shelter dogs and local children, according to The Dodo.

Kids, ages 6 to 14, who signed up for the program online are invited to the HSMO's headquarters, where—after a 10-hour training session—they read out loud to shelter dogs that have been identified as anxious. The organization hopes that the reading sessions will help the pups cope as well as make it easier for them to find new homes.

"What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through,” Jo Klepacki, the program's director, told The Dodo. “They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering."

The program began as a one-off last Christmas and was recently expanded to once a month. So far, it has been a huge success, both for the shelter (the February session sold out) and for the kids.

"It's encouraging children to develop empathy with animals,” Klepacki said. “They're seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have. It encourages them to look at things from an animal's perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives."

If Book Buddies continues to be effective, Klepacki hopes to expand it to other shelters in the state and, maybe, let cats in on the action as well.

For more about the program, check out the Humane Society of Missouri's webpage here or take a look the group's video above.

Image via the Humane Society

[h/t The Dodo]

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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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