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9 Dedicated Dogs with Amazing Jobs

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Dogs live to please us, and some are bred to love work. Give them a job helping people, and the rewards go both ways. Here are nine dogs who do amazing work every day.

1. GANDER

Veteran Lon Hodge suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after his military service and was declared 100% disabled. Hodge was paired with a Labradoodle service dog trained through Freedom Service Dogs of America, an organization that rescues dogs from shelters and custom-trains them for veterans with differing needs. Gander was slated to be euthanized when he was taken for training. Now he is Hodge's constant companion, trained to intervene when his voice changes or when there's too much noise.

Gander can also open doors, pick up objects, help Hodge rise from the floor, and about a hundred other tasks. Hodge was so inspired that he and Gander now travel the country, advocating for service dog programs that help other veterans. Gander won the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards for top service dog. He also has his own Facebook page.

2. AND 3. DENVER AND ANNA

Denver and Anna are full-time hospital dogs. They go to work every day at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, where they interact with the young patients. The two golden retrievers (Denver also has some Labrador in him) provide a bit of normalcy for children going through scary procedures who may be a long way from their homes and their own pets. Denver and Anna were specially trained to behave themselves, show affection, and calm and soothe anxious patients. Both Denver and Anna came from Canine Assistants, an organization in Milton, Georgia that trains dogs to help people with disabilities or special needs.

4. AXLE

Milk-Bone

Axle is a therapy dog that belongs to Tom Meli, but he is open to helping a number of people with his calm, comforting demeanor. Axle and Tom visit schools, hospitals, and senior centers to share the love. Axle provides stress relief for people with epilepsy and sits with children while they learn to read. He's become quite an ambassador for therapy dogs! Axle was also trained by Canine Assistants.

5. EGGROLL

Milk-Bone

Eggroll is Elizabeth's service dog. He helps her control her epilepsy by providing a calming influence, opening the refrigerator door, fetching medication when needed, and has even learned to dial 911 when he sees an emergency. Eggroll's help means that Elizabeth can safely live on her own.

6. PIPER

Milk-Bone

Piper combines fierce loyalty to her human with willingness to help whole classes of children. Kaitlin Miller has epilepsy, which Piper is very aware of. She can fetch medication when Miller needs it, and calms her through seizures. Miller conducts horse riding lessons for children with special needs at her riding stable, and Piper has become an integral part of the class, by showing gentleness, stress relief, and infinite patience for the students. Piper, Eggroll, and Axle have all been named to Milk-Bone's third-annual list of “Dogs Who Changed the World.”

7. FARLEY

Farley is still a puppy, but she recently got her first full-time job at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee. At seven months old, Farley is undergoing a six-week training course, after which she will be the hospital's first full-time facility support dog.

The children's hospital has used part-time volunteer therapy dogs for their young patients before. One patient, 16-year-old Kristyn Farley, loved the therapy dogs so much that she suggested the hospital take one on full-time. Kristyn did not survive her cancer, and the new puppy Farley is named in her honor. Farley was purchased through a grant from PetSmart Charities.

8. ANGUS

Angus the springer spaniel has a hospital job, but he's not a therapy dog. Instead, Angus is an inspector, trained to sniff out the highly contagious bacteria Clostridium difficile, commonly called C. diff, the scourge of modern hospitals. Dog trainer Teresa Zurberg almost died from a C. diff infection a few years ago. Her husband, who is a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital, suggested she train a dog to detect the bacteria. Zurberg did so, using the same methods she already used to train dogs to sniff out drugs and explosives.

Angus began learning as a puppy, and was deployed last summer to work at Vancouver General. He identifies areas where C. diff is growing so that the hospital can do a targeted cleaning and ultraviolet disinfection. Angus is doing so well in his job that Zurberg is kept busy training dogs for other hospitals. In fact, he's been so impressive, the Vancouver hospital is adding a second C. diff-detecting dog. You can keep up with Angus through his Facebook page.

9. JUDGE

Chief Lee Laubach of the Allentown, Pennsylvania, Fire Department took on a trained arson investigation dog in 2011. Judge is a Labrador retriever who can recognize the scents of many different accelerants commonly used in arson cases. He's investigated hundreds of suspicious fires, leading to quite a few arrests and a substantial drop in arson cases in Allentown. Judge is also a public relations dog, accompanying Chief Laubach to schools to teach children about fire safety. Judge won the arson dog category in last year's American Humane Hero Dog Awards. Judge has his own Facebook page.

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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
Audible Launches 'Audible for Dogs' to Help Pet Parents Calm Their Stressed Canines
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In addition to a mutual love of hamburgers and lazy sunny afternoons in the backyard, dog owners can now share their affinity for audiobooks with their furry friends. As Fast Company reports, Audible has launched Audible for Dogs, a new service designed to keep canines relaxed while their owners are away from home.

Some people play music for lonely dogs, but according to an Audible press release, a 2015 academic study revealed that audiobooks worked better than tunes to calm stressed-out pets. To investigate the phenomenon further, Audible teamed up with Cesar Millan, the dog behaviorist who’s better known as the "Dog Whisperer." Their own research—which they conducted with 100 dogs, in partnership with Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, California—found that 76 percent of participating dog owners noticed that audiobooks helped their pets chill out.

Dog owners can play Cesar Millan’s new Guide to Audiobooks for Dogs—which is both written and narrated by Millan—for initiation purposes, along with a curated rotating selection of dog-focused audiobook titles including Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, performed by Trevor Noah; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, performed by Rosamund Pike; and W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose, performed by William Dufris. Each title features a special video introduction by Millan, in which he explains why the book is suited for doggy ears. (Pro tip: According to Audible’s research, dogs prefer narrators of the same gender as their primary owners, and books played at normal volume on an in-home listening device.)

Don’t have an Audible subscription, but want to see if your dog succumbs to the purportedly calming magic of audiobooks? New listeners can listen to one free Audible for Dogs selection with a 30-day membership trial.

[h/t Fast Company]

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