Cat Person: the short story that launched a thousand theories

Kristen Roupenians 4,000-word tale about a stilted romance sent the internet into meltdown this week. Heres the lowdown on the battle lines that formed

After inspiring a cacophony of venom on Twitter, an exhausting avalanche of hot takes and a chasm of opinion between those who think it is a work of genius and those who consider it misandrist drivel, is there anyone left who is still a Cat Person person? The New Yorker short fiction by Kristen Roupenian follows the stilted romance of Margot and Robert, whose ultimately unfulfilling relationship is fuelled only by the power of text message banter.

The 4,000 word story has provoked, at the time of counting: a BBC short story written from the perspective of Robert; a Twitter account that only tweeted responses from bewildered men, to the scornful laughter of quite a few more women; and responses from approximately 10,000 millennials, who recounted their own slightly sad dating experiences. It is perhaps the most talked about short story ever, apart from maybe Annie Proulxs Brokeback Mountain (also published in the New Yorker, in 1997) or The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (which graced the magazines pages in 1948).

Annie
Spared the internet sleuthing … Brokeback Mountain author Annie Proulx. Photograph: Patrick Kehoe for the Observer

It is now easier to read about Cat People than the story itself, with Proulx and Jackson spared the intense internet sleuthing to which Roupenian and her story have been subject. Irate readers have determined to win arguments about a creative work that is arguably subjective, like all art before it, and can be what anyone wants it to be. Here are some of the battle lines.

Is it fat shaming or slut shaming?

When they finally make fairly rewardless love, Margot is dismayed by Robert and his belly, thick and soft and covered with hair, but they have sex regardless; she decides that saying no would make her seem spoiled and capricious. Robert, meanwhile, obsesses over Margots sexual history, invents imaginary men to compete with for her time and ends the story (spoiler alert) by calling her a whore. So, maybe it is both. Maybe it is neither. Based on the haunted reactions of many women to the story, the pertinent questions to ask are: why do women try to please even when they hate it? And do men truly not notice this?

Is Roupenian Margot? Is Robert real?

Roupenian told the New Yorker that the story was inspired by a small but nasty encounter I had with a person I met online. So, arguably yes to both.

Is it fiction or is it an essay?

Falling as it does in this era of sexual anxiety and #MeToo, some people have claimed that Roupenians story is a polemical essay on modern sexual politics, as though fiction cant tackle contemporary events and New Yorker editors dont rush out stories to fall in the middle of relevant public conversations (surprise: that is what they did).

Does Robert even have cats?

No way.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Nicolas Cage, the cat and the magic mushrooms

The financially challenged actor was on particularly good form on Letterman this week

Feline-based hallucinogen news, now, as we are given another glimpse into the world of cinema’s Nicolas Cage. The genuinely nice thing about the Con Air star is that he does seem to regard being an actor as a bit of a joke somewhat aptly, in his case and is all the more lovable a screen presence for that.

Anyway, when last we caught up with Nicolas, you’ll recall, he was in the process of divesting himself of some of his 15 residences, after the taxman had finally tired of his failure to meet tax demands. He’d already bid farewell to a Bavarian schloss, had put a Bahamian island up for sale, was on the point of doing the same with a trefoil-shaped castle near Bath, and was in a bate about the fact that four of his other mansions were being foreclosed upon. The fate of a flotilla of yachts, 22 luxury automobiles and a $276,000 dinosaur skull he’d purchased after a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio were uncertain.

Whether Nicolas has turned a financial corner we cannot say, but he was certainly singing for his supper on a US chatshow this week, barely settling into his seat before telling David Letterman how his cat Lewis had just adored the bag of magic mushrooms he’d kept in his fridge back in the day.

“He ate them voraciously,” Cage explained gamely to Letterman. “It was like cat-nip to him. So I thought what the heck, I’d better do it with him.”

Well, it’s only sociable, isn’t it?

“I remember lying in my bed for hours,” he went on, “and Lewis was on the desk across from the bed for hours, staring at each other . . . not moving. But he would stare at me,” Nicolas concluded sagely, “and I had no doubt that he was my brother.”

Truly, he adds to the gaiety of every nation in which he owns a hopelessly mortgaged home.

All that remains, meanwhile, is to remind you of Lost in Showbiz’s official policy as far as frothing emails and indeed comments from animal rights posters are concerned. All such missives are printed out and fed to actual animals so once again you must decide whether you want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The owners putting pets on vegan diets: ‘We feed our animals without exploiting others’

Veganism is on the rise, and not just among humans. But is the trend safe especially when it comes to carnivorous cats?

The owners putting pets on vegan diets: ‘We feed our animals without exploiting others’

Veganism is on the rise, and not just among humans. But is the trend safe especially when it comes to carnivorous cats?

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Experience: my dog rescues cats

We needed a quick learner; one small enough to fit into the nooks and crannies cats hide in. Mostly, we needed a dog with no desire whatsoever to chase cats

Molly is the worlds first trained cat detection dog. Her job is to rescue missing moggies. We had been looking for a dog with a particular temperament and intelligence to join our team of pet detectives for 18 months. We had scouts out and had spoken to the countrys top breeders.

We needed a quick learner; one small enough to fit into the nooks and crannies cats hide in. Mostly, we needed a dog with no desire whatsoever to chase cats.

I came up with the idea in 2014. Ihad been doing the job for 20 years and my business, Pet Detectives, was getting around 30 calls a week about missing cats. When cats go to ground, they go into a comatose-like state and if they are not found quickly, within a fortnight, they often dont survive after being rescued.

One particular couple who called me had bought their cat after struggling to have children. We found it in a neighbours garden shed, but it later died. Seeing them so bereft was a tipping point for me.

I worked in the police as adetective inspector for many years, and had seen dogs search for drugs and bombs and help with murder investigations. I figured, if a dog can be trained to find amphetamines, then it can be trained to find cats.

We found Molly, an 18-month-old black-haired cocker spaniel, on Gumtree. She was a giveaway. The ad said: Needs a good home, cannot cope. If cocker spaniels are not stimulated they become uncontrollable. She had been passed from pillar to post and had three owners in under two years.

I first met her in February 2016, at the home of Medical Detection Dogs, the charity that would help train her. We had already rejected 12 dogs without seeing them. Three others didnt make it through initial training: one was too timid, one got car sick and the other was too inclined to chase.

At first, Molly was anxious. But she had intelligent eyes and was a problem-solver. She was also hyper and fixated on catching tennis balls. She had the right temperament: abright working dog from a breed with a natural disposition to search for game. We just had to channel that instinct into finding cats.

She had to be cat-tested, so we took her to a farm with a dozen cats to see if she would chase them. She didnt even bark. Her focus was on interacting with her handler.

Her training took nine months with experts, including two doctors of canine behaviour. This had never been done before. She was aquick learner. The first phase was lab training, where we taught her to isolate scents. She then worked with a behavioural specialist who taught her to understand signals and commands. The final stage was teaching us to work together.

On assignments, Molly is trained to pick up cats scents from their bedding. When she finds the missing cat, she lies down to signal success, so as not to scare them, but you can see her trembling with excitement. She gets rewarded with her super-treat: black pudding.

Her first success was in February this year. A tri-coloured moggy had been sighted six miles from home on the roof of a garden shed. Molly quickly picked up her scent on the grass. I sent her across the back of 30 gardens until she started clawing at a fence. She charged across the lawn to a summer house and lay down. The cat was inside. The owners were over the moon and quite amazed by her.

Molly has helped to rescue 11 cats so far, and our search success has increased by a third. She wears afluorescent harness and has her own abseiling kit, which we once used to lower her over a 10ft wall. Were getting special boots made to protect her feet in outbuildings where there may be nails or glass.

Many people said that training a dog to rescue cats was crazy; that all dogs chased cats and it couldnt be done. Nothing has felt quite so rewarding as seeing it work. People are fascinated when they watch Molly at work, but shes not fussed. She still doesnt know that those things with four legs that she searches for are called cats. To her, itis just her favourite game.

As told to Deborah Linton

Do you have an experience to share? Email experience@theguardian.com

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Experience: my cat saved me from a fire

A firefighter emerged with Tink draped over his arm. I assumed she was dead. He put an oxygen mask on her and incredibly, she took a breath and coughed

Early one morning last February, I felt the thud of my cat Tinks paws as she landed on my legs. Iwas fast asleep and she woke me up, which had never happened before. It was completely uncharacteristic: she sleeps downstairs and never comes into the bedroom.

I sat up feeling groggy because Idbeen out the night before, but Isoon realised something was very wrong. The room was half-filled with a layer of white smoke, eerie and alarming, hanging in the air about three feet deep like a bank of white cloud.

I woke up my partner, Russ, in apanic and we jumped out of bed. As we waded through the thick smoke, I was still trying to process exactly what was going on, and the danger only really hit me whenIwent out on to thelanding.

Our son Jake, 19, had woken up, too, and as he opened his brother Scotts door, black smoke billowed out. The smoke from Scotts room curled up to the ceiling; it was only then that the smoke alarm was triggered. Scott, 22, emerged, shouting above the racket that he was struggling to breathe. I phoned the fire brigade, who told us to leave the house as quickly as wecould.

It was a massive wrench, leaving all of our belongings behind, but we knew we had no choice. We assumed Tink had slipped out of thehouse, too.

Within minutes, six fire engines arrived. As I stood blearily in the road, I looked at our house and realised that the source of the fire was actually our next-door neighbours flames were licking the front of her house. She had also managed to get out and was later taken to hospital for smoke inhalation. I dreaded to think what was happening in our house as the smoke poured out of the windows. Icouldnt bear to look.

For half an hour, our two houses were drenched with water until the firefighters were satisfied that the blaze was out. By now, however, our assumption that Tink was safe began to falter. We assumed she hadmanaged to escape, but there was no sign of her. Russ told a firefighter and, even though he wasnt meant to, he went back into our house to look for her.

After a few moments he emerged with Tink, completely limp and draped over his arm. She wasnt breathing and her tongue was hanging out. He had found her behind a cupboard in Jakes room. We assumed she was dead, and Ifelt heartbroken; she had saved us but died in the process. Then the firefighter put an oxygen mask on her and incredibly she took a breath and coughed. She was alive. Groggy and stinking of smoke, but alive. She had an anti-inflammatory injection at the vets later that day and was lively enough to show her displeasure at having the soot washed from her fur.

As our house was drenched and smoke-damaged, we had nowhere to live, so Tink went to my daughter Lesleys while we stayed in a hotel for a month. It took weeks to recover from the trauma of what had happened. One corner of our house had been burnt and all our belongings were ruined. Iwas especially devastated to lose all my photographs and couldnt bear to open a cupboard to see what was salvageable. It all felt dreadful, but at least we were alive.

When we went to visit my daughter, it was clear that Tink had been traumatised, too. She was clingy and timid, refusing to leave my lap when I tried to get up. We have moved into rented accommodation while our house isrenovated and Tink has finally come back to us.

The source of the fire was electrical forensics are gauging exactly what and the smoke had seeped through the vents between our terraced houses. The firefighters told us we would have had six minutes to get out before we died inthe fire, so Tinks sixth sense saved us. She could have deserted us, but she came up to the most dangerous smoke-filled area to warn us. Generally cats arent known for their altruism, but she is the exception.

As told to Emily Cunningham.

Do you have an experience to share? Email experience@theguardian.com

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Margaret Atwood: women will bear brunt of dystopian climate future

Booker prize-winning author predicts climate reality will not be far from scenarios imagined in her post-apocalyptic fiction

Climate change will bring a dystopian future reminiscent of one of her speculative fictions, with women bearing the brunt of brutal repression, hunger and war, the Booker prize-winning author Margaret Atwood is to warn.

This isnt climate change its everything change, she will tell an audience at the British Library this week. Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.

The author, whose landmark novel The Handmaids Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series depicting a dystopian future in which women are deprived of all rights and turned into breeding machines for men, predicts conflict, hardship and an increasing struggle for survival for women as climate change takes hold.

More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food, she explained before the event. Less food will mean that women and children get less, as the remaining food supplies will be unevenly distributed, even more than they are.

The results she predicts bear a strong similarity to some of the futures she imagines in her fiction, including the post-apocalyptic novel Oryx and Crake, in which the treatment of women in conflict-ridden societies is a strong theme. She went on: [Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms. Women do badly in wars worse than in peacetime.

The
The Handmaids Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series. Photograph: MGM/Hulu

Under Her Eye the title is taken from The Handmaids Tale will bring together prominent figures from the arts, politics and science in a two-day festival devoted to exploring womens futures under climate change and environmental damage, and proposals for avoiding the worst effects of global warming, some of which are already locked in because of our failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as scientists have advised.

Alice Sharp, director of the arts and science organisation Invisible Dust, which is curating the festival, told the Guardian she hoped the event would be the first of many. We think this is the first time that the arts, sciences and politics of climate change have been brought together under one roof with a focus on women, she said. Womens voices are too rarely heard in discussions of climate change.

One of the leading women speaking at the conference is Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, who oversaw the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015. She said: Climate change remains one of the greatest threats to achieving sustainable development and its effects fall hardest on women.

But she sounded a note of hope, acknowledging the activism of women on environmental issues. Countering this reality is the gritty determination, boundless energy and unwavering spirit of women across the world, whose knowledge, skills and leadership are being harnessed in delivering solutions. Climate change is one area in which women have decisively contributed to the progress we are making.

The two-day event will take place on Friday and Saturday at the British Library, as part of the 2018 centenary of womens suffrage, and will feature screenings, performances, talks and debates. Among the 40 speakers will be Prof Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute, one of the worlds leading centres on climate policy and science; former Nasa science editor Laura Tenenbaum; Kate Raworth, self-styled renegade economist and author of Doughnut Economics; and New Zealand artist Ahilapalapa Rands.

Womens lives, particularly in developing countries, are likely to be more affected by climate change than those of men, because they are so reliant on agriculture, and bear the burden of work such as fetching scarce water and firewood, and have fewer options than men, who tend to be more mobile. Women and children are also worst affected by indoor air pollution, caused by smoky cooking fires.

Yet the annual meetings on climate change held by the UN have few forums for discussing the particular problems faced by women, and women make up only a minority of the delegates.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the UKs Green party, who will also take part, said: We know that women in the arts give a unique perspective when it comes to climate change, and that they will have an important role to play in the future. There is a rich history of women guarding our environment, which is why they should be front and central to efforts aiming to counteract climate change.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The year 2050: robot sex, talking pets and immortality

A futurologist has made a series of startling predictions about life in 34 years time. But how far can we trust his forecast?

Name: The year 2050.

Age: -34.

Appearance: Whatever your augmented-reality contact lenses show you. In general: shiny.

How do you know all this stuff about 2050? Do you have a special guessing machine? Yes. I call it Dr Ian Pearson.

One of the lesser-known Time Lords? No. A futurologist, which means hes an expert on how technology is going to change the world.

I see. It must be quite easy to be an expert in something that doesnt exist yet. Its not easy to be right, and Pearsons new report on the home of 2050 predicts some quite startling things. Mainly that youll be able to stop cleaning and tidying altogether.

Already there, man. Yes, but in 2050 there will be miniature robots to do it for you. And your cooking. Plus your clothes will be made of special fabric that cleans itself, drones will fly around killing bacteria and your furniture will wrap around you when you sit down.

How comfortable yet terrifying. Pearson reckons it will be lovely. Well have a nicer lifestyle with more time for relaxation, he says.

And just a soupon of catastrophic climate change? Maybe, although he also thinks that nuclear fusion and renewable energy will have done away with fossil fuels by 2050. And your pets will be able to talk and youll have most of your sex with machines.

That sounds like a challenge! Special sex robots, he means, not household appliances.

Oh. And youll be immortal.

Eh? By uploading your mind to a computer, it will be possible to stay alive for ever. Of course, that might mean living in the Matrix.

How seriously should I take all this stuff? I mean, its fun and everything, but is Pearson always right? I have demonstrated about 85% accuracy when looking 10-15 years ahead, he says.

Do you know how he got that figure? I do not. But in 1999, he promised artificial eyes by 2020 almost as good as the real thing, maybe even as good as the real thing.

There are three and a half years left. Give it time. He also said: We think well achieve man-machine equivalence in a computer by about 2015.

Im not sure that happened. I suppose it depends which man.

Do say: Immortality gets a bit dull after the first thousand years.

Dont say: Wheres my jet pack?

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Elena Ferrante: The cat brought in a snake and left it under my bed. Screaming, I chased it out

The novelist on learning to accept fear

Elena Ferrante: The cat brought in a snake and left it under my bed. Screaming, I chased it out

The novelist on learning to accept fear

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Queen makes dogs’ dinner of corgi hierarchy

Animal psychologist reveals Queens feeding rituals for favourite pets, including homeopathic and herbal remedies

The Queens corgis, which have been described as a moving carpet preceding her as she walks round her royal residences, have become almost as emblematic of the British crown as their famous owner.

So few will be surprised to learn that Her Majesty likes to treat them like royalty, dispensing succulent dishes of steak, rabbit or chicken from individual menus and served from silver and porcelain borne by a liveried servant.

A stickler for protocol, she employs a rigid pecking order, with each receiving their dishes in order of seniority.

The fascinating secrets of her corgis daily dinner ritual is revealed by animal psychologist Dr Roger Mugford in a forthcoming special edition of Town & Country, dedicated to the Queens 90th birthday on 21 April. Having worked for the royal household for decades, Mugford has long observed the sovereign and her cherished pets at close quarters.

At feeding times, each dog had an individually designed menu, including an array of homeopathic and herbal remedies. Their food was served by a butler in an eclectic collection of battered silver and porcelain dishes, he writes.

As I watched, the Queen got the corgis to sit in a semi-circle around her, and then fed them one by one, in order of seniority. The others just sat and patiently waited their turn.

She has owned about 30 of the dogs during her long reign, breeding them from her first, Susan, given to her as an 18th birthday present by her father, George VI, and mother, Queen Elizabeth. They have since become a non-negotiable part of her life, though Prince Philip has been heard to exclaim: Bloody dogs. Why do you have so many?

When young princesses, she and sister Margaret, invented the dorgi, by cross breeding her corgi, Tiny, with Margarets dachshund, Pipkin. At the time, the Kennel Club snootily observed: The dachshund was evolved to chase badgers down holes, and the corgis to round up cattle. If anyone loses a herd of cattle down a badger hole, then these are just the dogs to get them out.

Princess

Princess Elizabeth with her first pet corgi, Susan, at Windsor Castle in 1944. Photograph: Getty

The corgis have featured in portraits, official photographs and on a golden jubilee Royal Mint crown. They have their own Wikipedia page, and the question What are the names of the Queens corgis? consistently ranks among the top 10 most asked questions on the British monarchys official website.

When Monty, 13, died shortly after starring in the James Bond/Daniel Craig sketch of a parachuting Queen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, obituaries praised his on-screen tummy roll.

The Queen made a decision to stop breeding her dogs in recent years, so their numbers have declined. She now has just two corgis, Willow and Holly, and two dorgis, Candy and Vulcan.

Mugford told how the monarch showed deep compassion for her pets and was dismayed by any cruelty to animals, and took a dim view of US President Lyndon Johnson, who picked his dogs up by the ears.

When shes talking about her dogs or her horses, you see a completely different side to her: she relaxes. Dogs are great levellers, and theyre not influenced by social status, which must be a great relief to her. No wonder she enjoys being around them, he writes in the spring issue of Town & Country, which goes on sale on Thursday.

Royal staff have been known to take a less indulgent view of the dogs as they frequently tripped over them while forced to roam her palaces and castles armed with blotting paper and a soda siphon to clear up any little accidents. A few have also been on the receiving end of a sharp nip to the ankles.

One footman, in revenge, was once reportedly said to have spiked the dogs food with gin and whisky then watched them teetering tipsily around the palace gardens before his crime was discovered and he was dismissed.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Pot-loving dogs: why cannabis extract is the new trend for our pets

Advocates say CBD, a cannabis extract, can be used as medical marijuana for ill or anxious dogs

High summer is hell for my goldendoodle, Monty. At the park, grass seeds and burrs catch in his woolly mop of black fur. The pollen and dust set off his skin allergies.

The heat more severe every year in the Pacific north-west cuts fetch time in half. Worst of all, in our hometown of Portland, Oregon, July is the month of fireworks. Monty is usually affable and calm. But in the weeks around the 4th, and even sometimes into early August, hes regularly sent skittering down the stairs to the garage by the pop of a rocket or the sizzle of a fountain of sparks. Sometimes hell stay down there in the dark for hours, resisting treats even bacon.

At my local bar, where Monty is allowed on the patio, one of the staff told me months ago that she fed her pomeranian treats made from CBD, an extract from cannabis plants. She used them around the 4th to calm him down and beat the heat.

No stranger to the products of Oregons burgeoning pot industry myself, I wondered if her prescription might work with a rather larger dog.

Internet searches seemed promising. Advocates, entrepreneurs and even scientists have advocated CBD as a treatment for a wide range of canine and feline maladies from allergies to anxiety. There are widely-repeated industry claims that the pet market for CBD doubled between 2008 and 2014, with further projections of 3-5% annual growth in the market.

CBD is not psychoactive in humans, unlike THC, the compound that gets people and other animals high.

Max
Max Daddy ponders the big questions. Photograph: Jason Wilson for The Guardian

But like THC and other compounds in cannabis plants, CBD interacts with the human and mammalian endocannabinoid system. The precise effects of CBD on our bodies are a matter of extensive ongoing research, but advocates of marijuana as a medicine have long held that CBD can treat epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety and other maladies.

A selection of recent findings suggest that it may be useful for humans in treating problems like PTSD, chronic pain and the psychological effects of long-term cannabis use.

CBD also supposedly moderates the effect of THC, so it has been deliberately cultivated in certain strains and introduced into extracts on the theory that it creates a smoother high. (Informal testing supports this view.)

I wanted to find out more about how CBD could help Monty. My first port of call was with another Portland resident an English bulldog named Max Daddy, who is the face of a newly launched range of CBD remedies.

Max Daddy is no stranger to commerce, and this is not his first brush with fame. He is the live-in associate of another English bulldog, Zelda, who may be one of the best-known dogs in the country.

The current Zelda is the third in a line of dogs with the same name owned by Carol Gardner, a serial entrepreneur, author and former advertising executive. She started a company called Zelda Wisdom in 2000, which put pictures of Zelda the first in costume on greeting cards.

Hallmark sells 75m [Zelda] greeting cards every year, Gardner says at her home in Portlands west hills.

Zeldas fame has made her a hometown hero a statue of Zelda dressed as a Beefeater sits at the entrance of Portlands upscale Heathman hotel.

When Zelda the third came along, Gardner added a male rescue bulldog, Otis. When he died, Gardner says, Zelda was devastated. So they rescued a second male, Max Daddy, who had previously been imprisoned at a puppy mill.

He was kept in a cage for his first five years. He was kept for breeding, all they wanted from him was money.

Max
Max Daddy studies a spot on the floor intensely. Photograph: Jason Wilson for The Guardian

Max Daddys health issues were worse than Gardner realized. He had severe joint problems and significant pain. His patellas are not really attached to anything, Gardner says.

When she picked him up in Illinois, he came with a fistful of drugs, from Prozac to painkillers. Gardner thought there had to be a better way.

She started researching CBD and tried it out on Max Daddy. It was natural, it didnt have the side effects of drugs, she says.

She liked the results but found the products inconsistent. She decided to hire chemists and develop her own line. Now, she says, Max Daddy is off his prescription meds and seemingly doing well. Zelda also takes it, and Gardner says it has reduced her anxiety.

When I met Max Daddy, he certainly seemed relaxed. He cheerfully submitted to yet another photo session, then jumped on the couch and drifted into a snore-filled sleep. Gardner credits it all to the CBD.

This year, Gardner and her business partners started selling the treats she has developed at fireworks stands in the Pacific north-west ahead of the 4th.

We have been amazed by the results, Gardner says. She plans to go national with a treatment she says is a near-panacea.

But what does the science say? At Colorado State University, the veterinary school has the wheels turning on a long-term study of the effects of CBD on pets, including any therapeutic benefits. So far, the results are encouraging.

A team led by Dr Stephanie McGrath found an 89% reduction in epileptic seizures for dogs treated with CBD. They are moving on to study CBD as a treatment for osteoarthritis in dogs, and are recruiting for a larger epilepsy study.

When I got home I tried Max Daddys treats on Monty. (Although Gardner says they offer a more consistent dose than other products, the treats, made with organic ingredients, are still very minimal doses for a 55lb pet.)

Although no fireworks have exploded recently, I did notice that Montys preternatural chill seemed to deepen after taking them. When we went to the park to play fetch, he didnt drag me in the way he usually does. A beloved visitor was not jumped on in the way the visitor usually is. Monty stopped scratching as much.

Max
Max Daddy becomes inexplicably hungry. Photograph: Jason Wilson for The Guardian

While the jury is still out on the stronger claims of the CBD sellers, for now it appears that the treats do little harm, and there is emerging evidence that they may well do some good for certain conditions.

There is still, however, the delicate matter of the law.

Although marijuana has been legalized in the west coast states, Colorado and elsewhere, it is still illegal under federal law; as a consequence, pot products cannot be carried across state lines, and weed businesses still have problems with banking.

Many people in the burgeoning medical industry think CBD is different, based on their interpretations of the Drug Enforcement Administrations public advisories on the matter. The DEA says otherwise. A DEA spokesman, Special Agent Wade Sparks, says: CBD is a schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning as far as the federal government is concerned CBD remains in the same legal category as meth or heroin.

If there is limited enforcement, its because of the varying prosecutorial stances of federal prosecutors, especially in states where pot is legal, and the priorities forced on the DEA by epidemics of meth and opioid use.

I think reasonable taxpayers understand that we devote our resources to the most pressing issues in the community, Sparks says.

Although CBD products are widely available even in states where pot is not legal, people possessing or using it, as well as anyone shipping it across a state line, are taking a calculated legal risk.

Nevertheless, CBD has long been used in medical marijuana for humans. The legalization of recreational and medical pot up and down the western seaboard of the US, and now in Canada, means that it has become a key product of a massive international growth industry.

Urban dog owners ask a lot of the animals who live with them. Our environments are full of objects and situations that stress dogs out.

Our schedules dont always match up with our dogs needs for affection, attention and exercise. And our neighborhoods are full of humans who, for reasons best known to themselves, enjoy explosions. All of these things are a source of anxiety for our animals.

If CBD is proven to be as useful as its advocates believe it is, it may be revolutionary. In the meantime, it could at least be a salve for owners who, like me, cant stand to see their dogs in distress.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

I have a loving husband and thought I was secure. Then a cat came into my life

Philippa Perry on her struggle with total devotion to her cat, Kevin

Pets can highlight your mental health issues. Ask my late dad how he was, he would tell you, Fine. If you wanted more information, it was best to ask him how the dog was. Oh, the dog is depressed. My dad was doing what Freud described as projection. This is when you split off a part of you that is too shameful for you to own and project it on to someone else and you believe your stuff is their stuff. My father could not own his vulnerability, but he could dump it on his dog. I hope I would be far too self-aware to project on to my pet. Id hate to think I was that dotty, but the magazine has just asked if they can send a photographer round. Kevin isnt too keen on photos, I said.

Our cat Kevin had been a stray and came to us from Battersea two years ago when he was around six months old. His body was the size of a can of extra-strong lager. That tubular torso would press against me all night, sometimes stretched alongside me, sometimes curled up in my armpit. In the evening, he would start on a lap but his thin body would elongate itself from your ankles to your thighs like a furry tube. He was playful, affectionate and excellent at being a cat.

We followed the Battersea instructions of keeping him indoors for a month and then only let him out accompanied until he knew where to come back to. When he was ready for unaccompanied roaming, I tried to get a collar on him, but however tight I made it, he could spring it off. Even if he left the house with a collar on, he came back without it. Then one day he did not come back at all. The first time he went missing, he turned up at the Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker, a gastro pub half a mile from our house. He was returned to us swiftly by the landlord, who had taken him to the vet to get his microchip read. Getting Kevin microchipped was a very good idea. My fantasy is that he had chased the pubs resident cat all the way home and then did not know how to get back.

How to describe how you fall in love with a cat? First, the softness of their fur and their choice of your ankles to rub around makes you melt a bit. Secondly, you get used to their presence in your home and come to rely on it for company; and thirdly I think we project our love for ourselves on to our animals and believe it is coming back our way. I like to think Kevin really does love me. Whether he does or not, I love him. For most of my adult life I have lived with a cat, sometimes two, and once I lived with three. I came to appreciate their individual characters and the different ways they kept me company, amused and comforted. But my love for Kevin seems more intense.

There is a type of interaction adopted by cults and abusers when they want total devotion from you, called intermittent positive reinforcement. They start the relationship by heaping praise and appreciations on to you and then gradually begin to mock you, or ignore you, or dish out other types of cruelty so you try harder to win back that approval that you became addicted to. Kevin, having got me smitten, now occasionally ignored me, or bit me if his food bowl got as low as half-empty. Oh, sorry Kevin, Id say, and do his bidding. People who are susceptible to intermittent positive reinforcement tend to be those who have an insecure attachment style. This means they feel insecure in their relationships and compelled to work extra hard at adapting, being too nice or too paranoid, and check up on their significant other as they cannot assume, like a secure person does, that their partner will not stray.

I have been in a loving and stable relationship for 30 years I believed myself cured; thought I was now secure. My unhappy youth, when romantic attachment was about the pain of longing rather than the joy of love, was, I thought, truly behind me, yet Kevin had reignited the feeling of longing.

Philippa
Kevin reignited the feeling of longing. Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer

After the pub incident, I tended to check up on Kevin more. If he had owned a mobile phone, I would have broken into it. I followed him about. I may have scared away the wildlife he was stalking and he may have got irritated with me. People with an insecure attachment style can be annoying. He strayed again, this time he got himself stuck in a rear light well the other side of the square and was not discovered for two nights. His absences made me long for him more.

Kevin loved it when we went to the country. We followed the Battersea code again of not letting him out alone until he knew where to come back and where his food was and all was good. Well, it was fine for me not so much for the local rodent population but I love Kevin so much that even watching him crunch up the heads of mice, upsetting though it is, is wonderful because I am in his presence. Those with an insecure attachment style can feel they are nothing without their love object. I overheard my husband telling someone, Philippas mental health depends on where the cat is. He was probably not projecting either.

My daughter had taken a weeks holiday to spend with me in the country. On the morning of her arrival Kevin had still not returned from a night out. We were supposed to be enjoying a time of picnics, bike rides and swims but here was I miserable and ruining my daughters break. She and I asked everyone within a miles radius but no one had seen him. There was only one house we did not visit because the owners were on holiday. They came back the day my daughter was leaving. When they opened their front door, a speedy Kevin shot out and came straight back home. He was remarkably fit after his week living off flies and toilet water but I was a wreck. Next time, I told myself, I wont worry: a difficult resolution to keep because when he sees an open door he shoots through it into anyones house, shed or car. I have a dread of supermarket delivery vans those are his favourite.

A year later, hes missing again in London. I go to the pub, they havent seen him. I trudge about calling him. Days pass, nothing. My entire life is Operation Kevin. We tweet about his disappearance and the London Evening Standard picks it up. Hes on the front page (slow news day); I do posters; house-to-house enquiries; leaflets through letterboxes. Eventually the phone rings. Kevin had been spotted, stuck on a flat roof by someone who had a leaflet put through her door who had not realised he was trapped. I wept with relief. On getting him home we saw he had a nasty bite on his tail and required antibiotics for that to heal. Keep him in for a week, said Dale, our vet. Music to my ears. I hoped Stockholm syndrome would make Kevin love me. Stockholm syndrome is where a hostage develops a bond with their captor. Humans are pack animals and naturally create attachments and they may do it with whoever is around even when that someone is holding them prisoner.

Perhaps Stockholm syndrome is relevant to cats as well. To some extent, it seems to work: I am the recipient of many friendly head butts and sitting-on-lap sessions during his captivity. Can I keep him in for ever? I asked Dale when it was time for a check-up. That would be cruel, I am told. He is a wild animal that chooses to live with you. So Mr Kinky Tail, aka Bonzo Boots, aka Kevin (one cat can attract a lot of names) once more roams free.

Since the flat-roof episode, he has been relatively good. It is not that he is a reformed character, he will still make a dash for any open door. But Im delighted because in the night it is me he chooses to wake up so that I can admire his latest kill; it is my feet he wants to practise his biting on, and its my lap he needs to stretch out his tube-like body on when he is soaking wet. I weaned myself off indifferent men in my 20s and found a loving one, but a cat I adore whose affection and approval I must work for is a force I cannot resist. Now if youll excuse me, I must get the chicken livers to room temperature in case he comes home for lunch.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Bird flu hits French foie gras industry at busiest time of year

Thousands of birds slaughtered and export ban extended as France is put on high alert following outbreak in south-west

French foie gras producers have been forced to slaughter thousands of birds being prepared for the lucrative Christmas market to prevent the spread of a virulent strain of bird flu.

The agriculture ministry raised the risk level of the virus spreading from moderate to high on Tuesday across the country, at a crucial time for the industry.

The increased alert came after an outbreak of a particularly severe form of bird flu, the H5N8 virus, was reported at a duck farm in the south-west of the country, prompting fears it could spread throughout the region.

This virus has never been detected in humans, unlike other strains, but millions of farm birds were slaughtered in Asia in 2014 before it arrived in Europe.

French officials and farmers insist the virus poses no danger to humans and the birds remain fit for consumption.

The latest outbreaks come as French foie gras producers approach the busiest time of year ; foie gras, made from the engorged livers of force-fed ducks and geese, is a traditional staple of le reveillon, the Christmas Eve meal, and accounts for about one-third of annual sales.

While considered a delicacy in France, the process of pumping grain directly into each birds stomach via a metal tube pushed down the throat, forcing the liver to bloat, is considered cruel by animal campaigners.

In 2015, an outbreak of bird flu that hit producers in the same region led to a drop of 25% in production and losses of an estimated 500m (422m) for the industry.

French producers had hoped to recover their bird-flu free status on 3 December, but the new outbreak means the country will not be cleared for at least 90 days. While most French-produced foie gras is consumed in France, the resurgence of the virus means it cannot be exported outside the European Union. In 2015 France exported almost 5,000 tonnes out of 19,200 tonnes produced to Japan.

Marie-Pierre P, from the foie gras producers group Cifog, warned prices could be 10% higher this Christmas.

The new, more aggressive H5N8 avian flu virus was first detected at the end of November in northern France. It is thought to have been spread from neighbouring European countries by wild ducks.

So far, about 7,000 contaminated ducks are reported to have been killed and another 4,500 have died suddenly from the virus in the Tarn. Thousands more have been killed or died in neighbouring areas and farms have been quarantined.

In January the French government announced 130m extra subsidies for foie gras producers.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Cat calendar featuring Russian orthodox priests goes viral

Bearded clerics make rare foray into pop culture to pose with their pets for a glossy 2016 calendar

A calendar featuring Russian Orthodox priests posing at home with their feline pets has gone viral in Russia.

Priest + Cat is published by an association of Christian artists, who commissioned a photographer to capture 12 smiling clerics in traditional robes.

Aimed at promoting modern Orthodox culture, the calendar starts with archpriest Oleg Batov and his cat Apelsin. Mr February archpriest Pyotr Dynnikov, who also runs an animal shelter is photographed with his two pets Angola and Vasik.

An Orthodox priest poses with his cat for glossy calendar. Photograph: Anna Galperina/AFP/Getty Images

While the latest issue of the famous Pirelli Calendar might have signalled a cultural shift by foregoing its usual provocative nudes, the makers of Priest + Cat hope to challenge the idea that traditional Orthodox calendars must depict saints and icons.

The projects coordinator, Xenia Loutchenko of Pravmir religious news website, said Priest + Cat should be considered as the Russian Orthodox answer to the annual Italian Calendario Romano, featuring handsome Catholic priests, and the I gatti di Roma calendar, featuring Romes city cats.

Loutchenko says the casting process for the calendar was spontaneous: It was whoever had a cat and was ready to pose for a photo, she said.

She said the calendar is not officially supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, and was inspired by a photography book about the everyday lives of Russian clergy.

I dont see a big sin here, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said of the calendar. Priests have cats, cats have priests, sometimes cats even live in a church. I wouldnt put such a calendar up on my wall though.

The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. Photograph: Anna Galperina/AFP/Getty Images

Popularity

While the reaction to the calendar was mostly positive, some Russian internet users said they thought project was kitsch.

I got some comments from those who are far from the church, [who said] Nothing can help these priests, their image cant be improved even with cats! Loutchenko told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Users commenting on the religious website Pravmir, where Loutchenko works, also had varying reactions to the project.

One anonymous user wrote: The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. The priests are not pop stars to be depicted on a calendar. Neither are they close relatives. It is possible that someone orders a calendar featuring their relatives. But this one is a strange enterprise.

User Elena Gatchinskaya countered the criticism. Whats the issue here? This is a normal calendar for an upcoming year. The priests will remind you of Christ, and the cats are anti-stress. And they will also remind you of Christ.

The Priest + Cat calendar had an initial print run of 1,000 copies but now looks set to print more as demand surges.

A version of this article first appeared on Global Voices

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Chloe the missing cat reunited with owner after six years

Tabby and white cat went missing in 2010 after jumping from a pet carrier when Rebecca Lee took her to a vet in Caerphilly

A missing cat has finally returned home six years after it vanished.

Chloe, a tabby and white cat, went missing in 2010 after she jumped from a pet carrier when her owner Rebecca Lee was taking her to the vet in Caerphilly, south Wales.

After living as a stray and being cared for by an elderly woman just over a mile away from her owners home, Chloe was eventually handed into Cats Protections adoption centre in Bridgend, where a routine scan of her microchip meant she could finally be reunited with her owner.

Lee, who thought Chloe had died in a road accident, said she was overjoyed to be able to have her back.

It was a real shock, but lovely news to hear that Chloe had been found and was alive and well after so many years, she said.

Chloe had jumped from the pet carrier in the car park and we never saw her again.

I put up posters and placed adverts and shortly after got a call to say a cat matching her description had been found dead by the roadside.

I was devastated but came to terms with her death. Unbeknown to me at the time, it seems she had wandered as a stray before eventually finding an elderly lady who had taken her in.

Molly Hughes, the deputy manager at the Bridgend adoption centre, said Chloe had been brought in by the family of the elderly woman, who had become too frail to care for her.

We scanned Chloe, which is routine for all cats coming into our care, and our receptionist noticed she was registered to a different owner and address, she said.

We managed to get hold of Rebecca, Chloes original owner, who was shocked to hear from us that Chloe was in our care.

Chloe was nervous with us but she was very happy to see Rebecca and started rolling over and purring when she saw her.

Its great to have been able to reunite Chloe with her family, and it was touching to see them together.

Chloes story goes to show why microchipping is so important and how effective it is. However, just as important as having your cat microchipped is keeping the details up to date.

We often have microchipped cats come into our care and are sadly unable to reunite them with their owners because the contact details on the database are incorrect.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Meet the dogs of Chernobyl the abandoned pets that formed their own canine community

Hundreds of stray dogs have learned to survive in the woods around the exclusion zone mainly descendants of those left behind after the nuclear disaster, when residents were banned from taking their beloved pets to safety

We are in the woods behind the Chernobyl plant when the dog runs at us. It is thin, with brindle fur and yellow eyes. Igor, our guide, makes a lunge and clamps his hands over its snout. They wrestle in the snow and icy water shakes from the trees. The dogs eyes flash as Igor grabs a stick and throws it into the trees. Distracted, the animal chases it and our little group is free to move. But the dog reappears and drops the stick at Igors foot. He throws it again. The dog brings it back. I almost laugh with relief.

Igor, who, it turns out, is very familiar with the dog, throws a few snowballs, which it tries to catch and chew.This isTarzan, says Igor. Hes a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. Hes only a baby, really

The
The abandoned dogs at Chernobyl endure harsh Ukrainian winters. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Tarzan isnt alone. There are approximately 300 stray dogs in the 2,600km zone. They live among the moose and lynx, the hares and wolves that have also found a home here. But while the Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears were recently introduced to the area, and other animals have come in as opportunists, the dogs are native.

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages. Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: Dont kill our Zhulka. Shes a good dog. There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

The
The dogs often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

But its not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zones checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.

Nadezhda Starodub, a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, says the visitors (there are no tourists in the zone) love the dogs. Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs. There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray. Some guides are afraid of complaints, she says, so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.

The
The strays are helped by the Clean Futures Fund, which has set up veterinary clinics in the area. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

While the dogs get some food and play from the visitors, their health needs are met by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organisation that helps communities affected by industrial accidents, which has set up three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant. The clinics treat emergencies and issue vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. They are also neutering the dogs. Lucas Hixson, the funds co-founder, says: I dont think well ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. This makes Chernobyl safer for the dogs, but also for the workers and visitors.

The Chernobyl plant has recently been sealed under a new sarcophagus designed and built by a multinational group of experts, and similar cooperation can be seen with the dogs. In the woods behind Chernobyl I look again at yellow-eyed Tarzan and see, not a wild animal, but a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.

We
We want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

British couple celebrate after birth of first cloned puppy of its kind

West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000

A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.

In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.

Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.

The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.

The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.

Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.

Dylan,

Dylan, who died in June this year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.

After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.

Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.

The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.

I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.

Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.

Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.

David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.

There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.

Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.

The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.

Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.

Key dates in the cloning of Dylan

11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.

30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.

1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.

2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.

4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.

5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.

6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.

7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.

10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.

11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.

21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.

23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.

24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.

26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.

29 December: Second puppy due.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

A man raped me, another tried to. They were not animals. They were men | Amy Remeikis

What happened to me had nothing to do with where I walked or what I wore, and everything to do with the actions of two men

The first time it happened, I refused to believe it for a very long time.

He had grabbed me from behind, around my neck. I never saw his face. Just smelt the rum and Coke, wet across my cheek, a scent that still makes my insides clench and my throat close in terror.

I tried to fight. I was overpowered. Pulled into a dark grassed space and violated while my eyes fixated on a church steeple in the distance, left wondering how this could be allowed to happen.

He lifted his body from mine, swore and kicked me. I had stopped moving. Stopped screaming into the hand closed around my mouth so hard I would be staring at the purple shadows of his fingertips on my cheeks more than a week later. Breath came in broken staccato shakes.

I lay there for seasons, before picking myself up, trying to repair the fastener of my pants and remember why I had been there.

Toilet paper. Id been walking to the 24-hour shop to buy toilet paper. Just a 10-minute walk from my flat, in a neighbourhood so safe children walked to shops alone.

The self-flagellation started immediately. I was a policemans daughter. I knew better than to be walking around the streets late at night.

I berated myself all the way home, and then back out into the night again, because I had been wearing my flatmates shoes and I suddenly became obsessed with finding the one I had left behind.

Maybe, I thought, if I could fix this one thing, put the shoes back where I found them, it would be as though the night had never happened.

I came across it, discarded on the grass, marking where Id become a different person. I carried it home, still bleeding, then sat in the shower until the hot water ran cold and the cold ran numb.

I was too ashamed to report it. Im still ashamed I didnt. I hadnt seen his face. I was barely out of school. Id only just set out on my own and I had failed. Id been walking alone at night. What did I think would happen?

A hesitant attempt to talk about it with friends confirmed it. Why were you walking so late? Its a well-meaning refrain. And I know now that it comes from a place of needing to feel safe: What did you do wrong, so this wont happen to me?

But asked while I was still so raw it hurt to sit, it only planted a seed of rage. It wasnt my fault and yet my actions were under review. I shoved it as far back in my mind as I could, buried it under bad decisions and denial, until the avalanche swamped me and, sinking, I chose help.

When it happened a second time, more than a decade later, the question slipped back under my skin.

This time, I had done everything right. I was walking down one of the most populated streets in the city. It was well-lit. What the CCTV cameras didnt cover, the staffed shopfronts did.

But he saw me as he left a club, and he followed me as I strode, with purpose, phone in hand and keys at the ready, the last few steps to my home.

I crossed the street. He crossed with me. I crossed back. There he was. I went to run, but the traffic was against me, and he grabbed me, in full view of the intersection, yelling that he loved my hair, my face, and why wouldnt I just let him kiss me?

I didnt recognise the creature who made the guttural sound that emerged from my mouth. Who clawed, and fought, and jammed fingers into soft, vulnerable spaces. Who still hesitated to cause permanent damage, because even while lying on my back, fighting for my life, maiming another human seemed wrong.

It felt as though my cheekbone exploded under the first slap. The second, third, fourth made my face feel like soup.

But worse was when another man stopped at traffic lights made eye contact with me, as my attacker began dragging me, my knees scraping along the gravel towards darkness, then looked away.

A couple driving past had also looked away, they later told me, thinking it was a domestic, until one of them asked: What if it was our daughter?

They drove on to the footpath as I strained with every fibre of my being to stay in the light. My attacker ran and I went straight to the police.

I gave a statement worthy of a detectives daughter and there was DNA under my fingernails. He was found within half an hour.

He was charged with attempted rape but, before we went to court, it was downgraded to assault under a plea arrangement and we never went to trial.

And when I talked about it, again, the questions came. Why were you out walking so late? How were you walking? What were you wearing? Did you smile at him?

And again they meant: What did you do wrong, so we can avoid the same mistake? What action did you take, so this wont happen to me? How do I help my loved one stay safe? How can I stay safe?

I wrote as much in my victim impact statement to the court, asking the judge why must the conversation immediately turn to my actions, instead of the most obvious one why are men attacking women in the street? In their homes? In parks, and on public transport, and in taxis and on doctors examining tables?

A friend told me its because he thought they were not men. That they were animals. How do you even begin to reason with an animal like that?

But hes wrong. They are men.

They are sons and brothers, and fathers and boyfriends and husbands and friends and co-workers and the guys around you in the cafe.

We know they are, because the few who face the justice system get character references about how they are good guys, who are good sons and brothers and fathers and boyfriends and husbands and friends and co-workers who made a mistake.

How that action isnt the person they are. How they were drunk. And how it wasnt rape, the girl was complicit.

Theyre not monsters but its so much easier to paint the few who are charged as such. Because we know how to look out for the bogeyman. Weve been training for it our whole lives. Weve been checking under our beds when, so many times, they are in them.

Theyre not monsters. Theyre human. And thinking of them as anything but only adds more distance between what was done and who did it.

A man raped me. Another man attempted to. And it had nothing to do with how I walked, or when I walked, or what I wore as I walked, and everything to do with the actions they took.

It has nothing to do with living in a fantasy land, where the word no acts as a shield, and everything to do with how we teach those little boys who become men about those little girls who become women.

I know Im lucky. Im not dead. There have been no vigils in my name, no candles lit in my memory. Because whatever quirk of fate led a rapist on to my path, it didnt also make him a killer.

And yet every time I hear the questions about the length of skirts, the layers of makeup or the routes that are taken, I rage. For the women. For the girl I was. For the people who ask those questions because they just want to know how to stay safe. I mourn for them all.

Amy Remeikis is a Guardian Australia political reporter

  • In Australia, the national rape and domestic violence hotline is 1800 RESPECT (737 732) and the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org
  • The comments on this article are being pre-moderated

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

A nice bit of squirrel: should we chow down a diet of invasive species?

Last year, the Shambala festival made headlines by going meat-free. This year, it relaxed the rules for a feast of grey squirrel skewers and crayfish. Should the rest of us follow suit?

At Shambala festival, during the hottest bank holiday on record, peace and love is about to turn sour. I am standing next to author Louise Gray, who is here to talk about wild alternatives to mass-produced meat. The cricket brownies are baked; we have been skinning squirrels and marinating them in satay, then decided to unwind by checking out a punk-reggae band in a nearby tent. That is when the singer announces his feelings about her presence there. Last year this festival was 100% meat- and fish-free. Now theyre saying we should eat pests and squirrels, he spits. Its 2017. If youre still eating the dead bodies of animals, you need to check your fucking privilege. The crowd cheers. I am worried we are about to be ethically eaten alive.

In the wake of The Ethical Carnivore, her award-winning account of the year she spent eating roadkill and animals she had killed herself, and investigating abattoirs, Gray received death threats and abuse. Images spring to mind of balaclava-clad activists chucking red paint and righteous invective. If it comes down to it, I am not with you, I tell her, gallantly.

If
If we want to eat meat, the argument to get it from animals such as grey squirrels is persuasive. Photograph: Dan Farrell

The friction is hardly surprising. Shambala is a hippy sort of place, with as many recycling points as there are naked people painted blue, which is a lot. Ravers have to carry their own cups, and food stalls are entirely vegetarian. On the festivals Facebook page, protests over Grays talk quickly escalated into an argument about speciesism, human immigration and genocide. Onstage at the Garden o Feeden the festivals food and debate tent the edginess is palpable.

Lets hear her out and fight afterwards, the host pleads. In a craven attempt to fit in, I am wearing a full-length dress and Carmen Miranda fruit hat; Gray has nowhere to hide.

The debate around eating meat is hard to progress intellectually you either believe on some level that it is a natural part of the cycle of life, or an unnecessary moral wrong. Gray, the daughter of a farmer, is here to argue for an ecological, flexitarian position between the two.

Our current production model is energy-intensive, wasteful, cruel and unsustainable. We should be eating far less meat, and thinking more about it. Her book describes the year she spent eating only animals she had killed herself a common, if hypothetical, answer to the abstraction and scale of the mostly invisible meat industry. She cried after killing the first rabbit, and talks about her ambivalence at stalking and shooting a red stag. The responsibility of taking an animals life bears an emotional cost, she tells the crowd. Its pretty intense. It is also not something one can practically do in a city (unless you maybe fancy the urban equivalent of turducken, eating a fox that recently swallowed a pigeon, which last dined on KFC).

Yet there is a lesser explored alternative to factory meat, besides insects, roadkill or hunting your own: a diet of invasive species. I know whats coming: backstage I watched Gray skinning a bag of grey squirrels, carefully stripping pelts from flesh, cleaning out shot and slicing meat from bone. Several vegan chefs walked past, all of them fascinated, though one declared: Bit Hunger Games, innit? Or Winters Bone. Something with Jennifer Lawrence. Christ, I wish I hadnt seen that. She means the flayed legs of the skinned critter in front of her, rather than the film.

Out front, Grays cousin has been standing sidestage to provide security/hand out brownies. She presents us with a plate of grilled sticky squirrel skewers, which are passed around. I try one, then a few. Surprisingly, many others in the crowd do the same. The plates disappear. The flavour is potently gamey, not a bad accompaniment to the zesty lime and creamy satay. I have certainly eaten worse on a cheap pizza. The hair that sticks to my teeth is off-putting, though.

These squirrels are from Dumfries and Galloway, home to one of the few surviving red squirrel populations in the country, maintained by controlling greys. If we want to eat meat, the argument to get it from animals such as grey squirrels is persuasive. They are wild, organic and definitely free range. As with insects, the ick factor might just be something we have to get past.

This is the part of the message Crayfish Bob Ring has been trying to get out. A grizzled trapper of 15 years experience, I met him earlier at a picnic table outside the tent, smoking a roll-up pensively and squinting like Captain Quint. His passion is removing American crayfish from British waters and selling them at his restaurant pop-ups. The lobster-like signal crayfish were introduced in the 1970s to be a lucrative export to the Scandinavian market (which was soon dominated by cheaper imports of Chinese crayfish). The collapse of the scheme saw them escaping the fisheries, passing a deadly plague on to smaller, native white-clawed crayfish and destroying their numbers. The voracious predators eat fish and amphibian eggs, out-compete other species for habitat and burrow into river banks, causing their erosion and collapse. Crayfish Bob describes how they travel the country using the waterways, by hanging on to barges. I feel very conscious Im wearing a tutu.

Ive gone into this business with the objective of going bust due to lack of stock, he says vehemently. I would get so much satisfaction from getting rid of them. Neither Gray nor Crayfish Bob think eating grey squirrels or signal crayfish would make a dent in their numbers the species are here to stay, and their realistic concern is to level the ecological balance. The EU list 37 alien invasive species, including muntjack deer, Ruddy duck and Siberian chipmunk. Legally, the crayfish have to be controlled anyway, Ring reminds me, so are not being bred or killed primarily to be eaten. After he realised the scale of the problem, he founded the National Institute of Crayfish Trappers, and became Crayfish Bob, selling gumbos and crawfish boil. Ive had vegetarians come up to me and say: What you are doing challenges all the reasons I became vegetarian. They see it as a way they can eat some fish.

In
In a craven attempt to fit in, I am wearing a full-length dress and Carmen Miranda fruit hat; Gray has nowhere to hide. Photograph: Dan Farrell

Of course, vegetarians who feel killing animals for any reason is wrong wont be convinced. Back in the tent, Dr Amelia Roberts, a member of Animal Aid and an animal rights advocate, is pushing back on a number of Grays points. Like many, she believes the American grey has been scape-squirreled. She cites evidence that the decline of their red cousins is mostly due to loss of habitat, a problem caused by people. And the fact is all invasive species were brought here by humans, something the rhetoric of the argument tends to obscure. Nonetheless, she says she agrees with 90% of what Gray has been saying, which seems positive.

After a lot of whoops and applause, Gray is relieved the talk has gone down well, like the satay. I am surprised when she announces that the festival should be totally vegan next year Its the most inspiring thing they could do.

She is all for people eating better meat, speaking to livestock farmers and being more conscientious. But she wryly acknowledges the difficulty in being an ethical meat-eater, especially in a market-led society that makes it difficult. You cant poke around peoples houses when you go around for dinner, or ask them to pick the label out of the bin. It is probably easier to just be vegetarian.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Should we stop keeping pets? Why more and more ethicists say yes

Ninety per cent of Britons think of their pet as part of the family 16% even included them on the last census. But recent research into animals emotional lives has cast doubt on the ethics of petkeeping

It was a Tupperware tub of live baby rats that made Dr Jessica Pierce start to question the idea of pet ownership. She was at her local branch of PetSmart, a pet store chain in the US, buying crickets for her daughters gecko. The baby rats, squeaking in their plastic container, were brought in by a man she believed was offering to sell them to the store as pets or as food for the resident snakes. She didnt ask. But Pierce, a bioethicist, was troubled.

Rats have a sense of empathy and there has been a lot of research on what happens when you take babies away from a mother rat not surprisingly, they experience profound distress, she says. It was a slap in the face how can we do this to animals?

Pierce went on to write Run, Spot, Run, which outlines the case against pet ownership, in 2015. From the animals that become dog and cat food and the puppy farms churning out increasingly unhealthy purebred canines, to the goldfish sold by the bag and the crickets by the box, pet ownership is problematic because it denies animals the right of self-determination. Ultimately, we bring them into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they eat, where they live, how they behave, how they look, even whether they get to keep their sex organs.

Treating animals as commodities isnt new or shocking; humans have been meat-eaters and animal-skin-wearers for millennia. However, this is at odds with how we say we feel about our pets. The British pet industry is worth about 10.6bn; Americans spent more than $66bn (50bn) on their pets in 2016. A survey earlier this year found that many British pet owners love their pet more than they love their partner (12%), their children (9%) or their best friend (24%). According to another study, 90% of pet-owning Britons think of their pet as a member of their family, with 16% listing their animals in the 2011 census.

Domestic
In the US, 1.5m shelter animals are euthanised each year. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is morally problematic, because more people are thinking of pets as people They consider them part of their family, they think of them as their best friend, they wouldnt sell them for a million dollars, says Dr Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and one of the founders of the budding field of anthrozoology, which examines human-animal relations. At the same time, research is revealing that the emotional lives of animals, even relatively simple animals such as goldfish, are far more complex and rich than we once thought (dogs are people, too, according to a 2013 New York Times comment piece by the neuroscientist Gregory Berns). The logical consequence is that the more we attribute them with these characteristics, the less right we have to control every single aspect of their lives, says Herzog.

Does this mean that, in 50 years or 100 years, we wont have pets? Institutions that exploit animals, such as the circus, are shutting down animal rights activists claimed a significant victory this year with the closure of Ringling Bros circus and there are calls to end, or at least rethink, zoos. Meanwhile, the number of Britons who profess to be vegan is on the rise, skyrocketing 350% between 2006 and 2016.

Widespread petkeeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 19th century, most animals owned by households were working animals that lived alongside humans and were regarded unsentimentally. In 1698, for example, a Dorset farmer recorded in his diary: My old dog Quon was killed and baked for his grease, which yielded 11lb. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, animals began to feature less in our increasingly urban environments and, as disposable income grew, pets became more desirable. Even as people began to dote on their pets, though, animal life was not attributed any intrinsic value. In Run, Spot, Run, Pierce reports that, in 1877, the city of New York rounded up 762 stray dogs and drowned them in the East River, shoving them into iron crates and lifting the crates by crane into the water. Veterinarian turned philosopher Bernard Rollin recalls pet owners in the 1960s putting their dog to sleep before going on holiday, reasoning that it was cheaper to get a new dog when they returned than to board the one they had.

Maine
Nine per cent of British pet owners love their animal more than their children. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More recently, however, several countries have moved to change the legal status of animals. In 2015, the governments of Canada and New Zealand recognised animals as sentient beings, effectively declaring them no longer property (how this squares with New Zealands recent war on possums is unclear). While pets remain property in the UK, the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 stipulates that pet owners must provide a basic level of care for their animals. Pets are also property in the US, but 32 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington DC, now include provisions for pets under domestic violence protection orders. In 2001, Rhode Island changed its legislation to describe pet owners as guardians, a move that some animal rights advocates lauded (and others criticised for being nothing more than a change in name).

Before we congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, consider that 1.5m shelter animals including 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats are euthanised each year in the US. The number of stray dogs euthanised annually in the UK is far lower 3,463 but the RSCPA says investigations into animal cruelty cases increased 5% year on year in 2016, to 400 calls a day.

Can I stick my dog in a car and take him to the vet and say: I dont want him any more, kill him, or take him to a city shelter and say: I cant keep him any more, I hope you can find a home for him, good luck? says Gary Francione, a professor at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey and an animal rights advocate. If you can still do that, if you still have the right to do that, then they are still property.

Crucially, our animals cant tell us whether they are happy being pets. There is an illusion now that pets have more voice than in the past but it is maybe more that we are putting words into their mouth, Pierce says, pointing to the abundance of pets on social media plastered with witty projections written by their parents. Maybe we are humanising them in a way that actually makes them invisible.

If you accept the argument that pet ownership is morally questionable, how do you put the brakes on such a vast industry? While he was writing his 2010 book, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, Herzog was studying the motivations of animal rights activists and whether it was emotion or intellect that pushed them towards activism. One of the subjects, Herzog says, was very, very logical. After he had become a vegan, eschewed leather shoes and convinced his girlfriend to go vegan, he considered his pet cockatiel. I remember; he looked up wistfully. He said he got the bird, took it outside, let it loose and it flew up, Herzog recalls. He said: I knew she wouldnt survive, that she probably starved. I guess I was doing it more for myself than for her.

Although Pierce and Francione agree that pet ownership is wrong, both of them have pets: Pierce has two dogs and a cat; Francione has six rescue dogs, whom he considers refugees. For now, the argument over whether we should own animals is largely theoretical: we do have pets and giving them up might cause more harm than good. Moreover, as Francione suggests, caring for pets seems to many people to be the one area where we can actually do right by animals; convincing people of the opposite is a hard sell.

Tim Wass, the chair of the Pet Charity, an animal welfare consultant and a former chief officer at the RSPCA, agrees. It has already been decided by market forces and human nature the reality is people have pets in the millions. The question is: how can we help them care for them correctly and appropriately?

If the short history of pet ownership tells us anything, it is that our attitude towards animals is prone to change. You see these rises and falls in our relationships with pets, says Herzog. In the long haul, I think petkeeping might fall out of fashion; I think it is possible that robots will take their place, or maybe pet owning will be for small numbers of people. Cultural trends come and go. The more we think of pets as people, the less ethical it is to keep them.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Woof! Watching Isle of Dogs with a cinema full of canines

They were howling in delight at a pooch-friendly screening of Wes Andersons new film in Edinburgh

Scruffy, a sociable yellow labrador, enjoys lying on the couch watching westerns (because of the horses) and Match of the Day (because of the ball), but is only now, at the age of 10, making his debut trip to the cinema. The reason? To attend a pooch-friendly preview of Wes Andersons Isle of Dogs at the Cameo in Edinburgh.

Im hoping that he will behave, says Scruffys human, Rory, adding, as if in reassurance: Hes well house-trained.

Id
Id give it a canine. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

This sold-out screening is a first in the city (Picturehouse had a run of dog-friendly showings around the UK on Sunday). The cinema has laid on water bowls and blankets. There is not much of a queue for popcorn; when the picture begins, biscuits and dried pig ears will be brought out from bags.

In the foyer, gazing up at the chandelier, is Gordon Kanye Westie, a west highland terrier, shortbread-tin cute in a tartan bow tie. He is here with Fiona, a teacher, who uses the Dugs app on her phone to identify which pubs and other businesses are dog-friendly. She has been lobbying the Cameo to hold these screenings. When Gordon was a puppy I was basically housebound, she recalls. It was like having a newborn baby, and I was missing loads of films.

Kennel
Kennel of you be quiet? Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Within the auditorium are dogs of every sort. The largest, a newfoundland called Luna, seated front and centre, is the approximate size of the MGM lion. The smallest, a terrier cross called Pedro, has enjoyed a Hollywood ending of his own. The heart-shaped white mark on his forehead is apt; Wendy and Rhona, an Edinburgh couple, discovered him as a starving stray while visiting the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite in Cyprus, and brought him back to live with them in Scotland where he enjoys climbing mountains and, now, attending the cinema.

The lights go down. The ears perk up. Isle of Dogs is a gorgeous stop-motion animation with a cast of impeccable pedigree: Bryan Cranston is a blue-eyed mongrel; Tilda Swinton a visionary pug. Whenever an animal howls or growls on screen, which is often, there is an answering bark from the audience. Mostly, the dogs behave. Some seem bored. The phlegmy pant of a French bulldog soon becomes a phlegmy snore.

Whos
Whos playing the lead? Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

As the film ends there is barking and applause. Wagged tails bang the backs of seats. Satisfied customers include Tobermory, an eight-year-old lab, named for the whisky not the Womble. I had wondered, while perusing Tobermorys Facebook page like a sort of Canine Analytica whether this really was his first trip to the cinema. Records show that he went to see Murder on the Orient Express on 5 November last year, and considered it to be mince. This, however, turns out to be the opinion of Bob, a barman and waiter who updates the page and whom the dog has brought along for company.

I thought this film was fantastic, says Bob. And Tobermory? He had a bit of a sleep.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Pet dogs are the new must-have accessory at the smarter office

Companies are using animal magnetism to reduce stress in the workplace and hang on to staff

After a half-hour walk to work each morning, Joy likes to grab a drink and head to her desk where she promptly curls up underneath it and has a nap.

Joy is an eight-month-old golden retriever and she goes to the office with her owner, Carol DuPuis. These days, especially at tech companies, youre as likely to find a dog in the office as you are a pot plant or watercooler. For startups particularly, allowing dogs is an easy, cheap way of attracting and retaining millennials, on top of the free snacks, pinball machines and gym membership.

The Google code of conduct states affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in reception desks are stocked with biscuits, some water fountains are set at dog height, and theres an off-leash park also open to the public where staff can exercise their pets.

DuPuis is a partnerships manager at ReachNow, a US car-sharing app. My favourite part about bringing Joy into the office is the joy she brings to my colleagues pun intended. Its tough not to love the puppy energy, it just feels so nice, she said. Joy spends part of her day sleeping, but she also joins DuPuis for meetings and likes to sniff around for bits of peanut butter pretzel that have fallen on the floor.

Gemma Huckle, head of content and culture at London brands agency Rooster Punk, knows all about the pleasure dogs can bring. Her French bulldog, Amelie, has changed the mood in the office since her arrival two years ago.

Dogs
Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazons headquarters in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Huckle said: Shes made it feel like a home from home: the atmosphere is warmer and more sociable. If someones feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed out, they usually come and see the dog. Just five minutes pampering or playing with her seems to perk everyone up. Having the dog is also great for our physical health, as it gives everyone an excuse to get out of the office and get some air.

Amelie was crowned StartPup 2016 after Rooster Punk shot a video of her in the office and entered her in the worlds first competition to find the best dog belonging to a startup. Huckle recommends having dogs at work. It helps staff bond and I think it reinforces positive work behaviours people seem to be more friendly and approachable.

Around 8% of US and UK employers allow dogs at work. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88% think pets at work improve morale and 86% say they reduce stress.

Laura Wolf, global content manager at digital creative agency Possible, based in Seattle, said her chihuahua-dachshund mix, Boomer, is a real morale booster. She also helps break the ice with new colleagues. You get to know people through your dog, people stop to cuddle her. Shell sit on my lap during meetings; sleep next to my desk while Im working; visit colleagues she knows wholl give her a treat.

Being able to take dogs to work was a major perk, Wolf said. Younger people are getting married way later and choosing to have a pet instead of a child early on. Doggy daycare is expensive and its great to have that flexibility of being able to take your dog around with you.

Its beneficial to the company as well. The likelihood of people having to leave to get home to their dog or come in late because theyre walking their dog is much less.

Companies have rules to ensure workplaces are safe, especially for staff or clients with allergies. At Possible, for example, dogs must be vaccinated, they cant be aggressive or run around off-leash, and they are asked not to return if they foul the office more than three times.

Amelie
Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk.

In the UK, dogs have long been going into offices in the pet sector, such as Pets at Home, Mars Petcare and the charity Blue Cross, and they are becoming welcome at other types of businesses too, for example model agency Next Management and online retailer Firebox.

In the US firms such as Ben & Jerrys and Build-a-Bear Workshop allow dogs, and the idea is spreading to the public sector. The department of the interior is to trial take-your-dog-to-work days, the first federal government office to do so. Dogs are also becoming more common in places such as dental surgeries, boutiques and hair salons.

Dentist Cameron Garrett and his wife Debra, a hygienist, take their elderly rescue dog, Karma, to their practice in Corte Madera, California. Debra said: Some of our patients are dental-phobic and say that having Karma on their lap makes all the difference and many more just like dogs.

Karma keeps me calm too and makes my day feel that much nicer. Im dental-phobic myself. I needed a filling recently and bought Karma with me and it does help. I know from both sides of the chair.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Old pets are like sad, beautiful music. Is it selfish to enjoy them? | David Ferguson

The more they age, the more you have to ask: when is our desire to hold on to them outweighed by the magnitude of their suffering?

For the last 17 years, my most perfect companion has been a seal-point Siamese cat named Juan Carlos I, a blue-eyed, magically soft cross between a toy baby seal and a teddy bear. He has been my crying-towel on more occasions than I care to think about, my best listener, my face to come home to at night and, on some days, the only reason I could convince myself to get out of bed and keep going.

Jobs and apartments have come and gone, relationships have crashed and burned and been left behind, but every night since 1999, I have fallen asleep with my arms around Juan, even if nowadays I have to reach around my boyfriend to do it since both of them want to be the little spoon, of course.

I call Juan our houses goodwill ambassador. He is always the first cat we have four, dont judge me to greet guests. Hes never scratched or bitten a soul. Hes completely pliable and makes a coo-ing dove-like sound when he purrs, which he will do whether you cradle him upside-down like a baby or drape him over your shoulders like a scarf or fireman-carry him from room to room over your shoulder. Hes just happy youre holding him and wants to be your friend.

Siamese cats are like that. I tell people theyre the Pablo Picassos and Zelda Fitzgeralds of the cat kingdom; big personalities, burning curiosity. They tend to go one of two ways, total lovers like Juan or snarling, spitting, arm-shredding demons.

Personally, I think people who end up with bad Siamese cats just dont understand what a fierce little intellect theyre dealing with. Theyre, like, Aw, isnt that sweet? Its like it has its own little personality. Meanwhile, the cat frustrated to the point of rage with its humans total inability to understand it goes rogue in fits of shredding your shirt or knocking over the garbage can.

After years of robust health, we noticed Juan was losing weight a few months back. In November he started drooling down his front in his sleep. At first we just chalked it up to his advanced age.

In late January, though, he took an abrupt turn for the worse. His breath never exactly a bed of roses turned foul. His bones became sharp through his skin. His normally assertive personality we did name him after the king of Spain, after all turned withdrawn. It was clear he was in pain and needed help.

Three different veterinarians tried round after round of antibiotics and steroids to clear up the clusters of angry red sores that had appeared on his gums. Each time he would get some temporary relief, only to relapse again when the antibiotics wore off and the gingivitis and stomatitis returned.

On Monday, our newest vet dubbed Distractingly Handsome Dr Ginger in my journal said that his immune system is attacking the teeth themselves and that most of them would have to come out. I struggled with this. Would he be able to eat? Would he be defenseless if he managed to get out of the house? What would his quality of life be like?

An old animal is like sad, beautiful music. Everyone who has loved one ultimately comes up against the same big, hard question: has the time come when our selfish desire to keep them is outweighed by the magnitude of their suffering?

Fortunately, this time, it looks like Juan Carlos is going to be OK. He proved to be healthy enough for anesthesia and two days ago, had surgery to take out all of his teeth except the bottom two canines. Dr G said that domestic cats do fine without their teeth.

Have you ever seen what they throw up? he said. They dont really chew their food very much.

My partner and I took shifts watching to make sure Juan didnt claw at his oral sutures. Hed whipped his neck right out of the Cone of Shame collar before we were even halfway home. Im giving him pain medicine at six-hour intervals. So far, he seems stoned and a little shellshocked, but hes eating and drinking and purring when we hold him.

When I think about the world and the suffering people are going through in war zones or living under crushingly oppressive rulers, I suppose my sick cat is just a little pain, certainly nothing that will stop the planet from turning. And yet, for me, so much happiness hinges on the wellbeing of this warm, purring little creature. I know the time will come someday when we have to say goodbye, but its not today.

Thank you to all the gods in the universe, its not today.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Royal Mail threatens to halt deliveries to home of mail-snatching cat

Couple receive letter telling them to restrain Bella, who has been putting postmans fingers at risk of injury

A couple have been told to restrain their cat or face having their mail deliveries suspended.

Matthew Sampson said he was notified by the Royal Mail last week of a potential hazard at his home in Patchway, near Bristol, which was affecting deliveries. According to a letter sent to Sampson by the Royal Mail, four-year-old Bella was a threat to staff.

In the letter, the Royal Mail said it had been experiencing difficulties in delivering mail to Sampsons home because of the actions of a cat. The postman had reported that when he pushed mail through the letterbox, a black and white cat snatches the mail and puts his fingers at risk of injury.

The couple have been advised to restrain their cat at all times or provide an alternative safe post box, or deliveries would be suspended.

Sampson told the BBC: Weve noticed over the last couple of days that the postman is very hesitant at putting the letters in, and Bella thinks its a game that hes trying to play.

I havent seen her put her paws all the way through, but I think its fair what theyre saying its just how theyve worded the letter. As to restraining the cat, Id no way dare.

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: If we feel that there is a risk from a dog, or any other animal, at an individual address, we are committed to working with the customer to agree simple steps to ensure we can continue to deliver the mail safely.

In this case we have appealed to the owner to keep their pet under control when the postman calls and we have invited the customer to contact the delivery office manager to discuss this in more detail.

This could be done just by making sure the pet is kept safely away from the letterbox, or by installing a cage inside the letterbox to reduce the risk of fingers being bitten or scratched.

Our postmen and women also use posting pegs which they use to deliver mail safely to properties where there are animals present.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Paddles, First Cat of New Zealand and social media star, dies after being hit by car

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister, writes of her sadness after her pet was killed shortly after moving into the PMs home in Auckland.

The first ever First Cat of New Zealand has died after being hit by a car near the prime ministers home in Auckland.

When Jacinda Ardern became New Zealands new prime minister last month she also brought with her a polydactyl cat, named Paddles.

The cat had opposable thumbs and quickly became a social media presence.

Its @FirstCatofNZ Twitter account was started just days after Ardern was declared the prime minister-elect on 19 October. The cats Twitter bio read: Have thumbs, will tweet.

Paddles (@FirstCatofNZ)

Hi, I’m Paddles and I am the First Cat of New Zealand. I have opposable thumbs, I’m purrty special. pic.twitter.com/MPkxdhWCRu

October 21, 2017

Paddles was also responsible for nearly derailing Arderns first phone call with US President Donald Trump when the cat came into the lounge meowing loudly.

A spokesman for the prime minister said the ginger cat, adopted from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), was hit by a car near Arderns Point Chevalier home and killed on Tuesday.

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Jacinda Ardern on Paddles the cat’s opposable thumbs – archive video

The driver of the car told a local who then took the cat to a vet, the New Zealand Herald reported. The vet declared the cat dead.

Adern wrote on Facebook: To anyone who has ever lost a pet, youll know how sad we feel. Paddles was much loved, and not just by us.

Thanks for everyones thoughts. And on behalf of Paddles, please be kind to the SPCA. They found her before we did, and we will always be grateful for that.

The person manning Paddles Twitter account said the cats father, Arderns partner Clarke Gayford, wanted gifts of condolences to be made in the form of a donation to the SPCA.

Paddles (@FirstCatofNZ)

Just spoke w Paddles Dad, @NZClarke. If you would like to remember Paddles you are most welcome and encouraged to donate to the NZ SPCA.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Connections, community and cute-ass cats: in praise of real-life bodegas

As the inventors of Bodega learned yesterday, real corner shops actually matter to cities in a way supermarket chains and automated cabinets never can

The Saturday before Christmas 1971, my grandparents worked like crazy making enough corned starch for hundreds of friends in East Oakland. Together theyd invented a secret cornmeal masa recipe to sell at their corner store, El Progreso, in order to make the tastiest tortillas and tamales in the region. Dozens lined up when the store opened, some coming from way out of town, and the whole weekend was a lively scene of people from the community buying, commiserating, gossiping, and laughing. My mother, Irma, remembers families even bringing them food.

By late evening on Sunday, she had to announce to friends still waiting that they were out of masa. Though sad she couldnt give them what they were looking for, she and my grandmother Isabel were amazed at their good fortune, sweating from a full day of honest work as my grandfather Anastasio drank beer in the back room to celebrate with his bakers.

Years earlier, the scene had not been so joyful. When my grandparents bought a small corner store and the surrounding property from an Italian immigrant, their ticket to prosperity seemed unlikely. They eked out a living: raising three children, working multiple jobs, and learning about market pricing and budgeting. The first day they opened the store, they only made $12.43 (9.30). They often went to bed wondering if their purchase had been worth it.

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A publicity shot for Bodega, a Silicon Valley startup that sparked Twitter uproar with its stated desire to make real bodegas obsolete. Photograph: Ellian Raffoul for Moanalani Jeffrey Photography

But hard work, innovation and a deep connection to their Oakland community eventually made the store more than a modest success. Towards the end of their near 25-year run, they were known for having the best Mexican bread and the cosiest customer service in town. Years after the store closed, my familys connection to the community remained strong, far beyond racial or other tribal boundaries which, if you know anything about radically open-minded Oakland, makes perfect sense. To this day, my mother is constantly stopped on the street by people of all races who remember her when she worked at the store as a child.

I know what youre thinking. If El Progreso was so successful and beloved by the community, it would still be around. But truth is complicated. The rise of the ruthless efficiency curves of supermarkets and the one-click shopping of the internet has diminished the role of the corner stores, no question. But theyre not gone. And neither is the publics love and concern for them.

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A 1920s grocery store. Corner stores have been run by successions of immigrants. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Yesterday a couple of young entrepreneurs launched a new business called Bodega: small, automated cabinets that sell a variety of goods in public places, and which can track items sold and send orders for restocking. The Twitter backlash was immediate, particularly due to the name, which many considered offensive as it appeared to appropriate a type of establishment that had thrived under Spanish-speaking immigrants, like my grandparents, while apparently contriving to put those very establishments out of business.

One Oakland resident, Kathryn Walters, put it succinctly:

[In NYC], if I had a day where I really didnt want to go anywhere or see anyone I still made time to go to my corner bodega cause those dudes were *rad* and their cat was cute as fuck. Highly doubt youd get a cute ass cat stuffed in a cabinet to simulate that authentic bodega experience. I predict/hope for failure.

The reaction to Bodega might seem harsh, but its understandable. Technological changes happen so fast now, and often so brazenly without regard to community, that the most human reaction is: Will you stop to think about what youre doing? Seen in the larger scope of peoples growing understanding of techs rattling effect on important institutions (See: democracy, Facebook, Russian ads, Trump), any wish for real, cute, Bodega-creeping cats is expected.

Convenience
Convenience store owner Ephrame Kassay talks with a customer outside his shop in southeast Washington DC. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Ann Satterthwaite, an author and city planner, has argued that community backlash against new projects that affect places of gathering such as corner stores and beer halls are driven not by Nimbyism or fear of the future, but by a desire to understand the effect. They dont want to impede progress or return to a sentimental dream of the past, only to, as Satterthwaite writes, realistically and comprehensively [understand] the options for retailing as they relate to the long-term national goals of providing vital communities.

Corner stores do exactly that. And above all, they help immigrants get a leg up. Today, most bodegas in the US and by no means is this a uniquely American phenomenon are run by immigrant families of Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian descent, who followed in the footsteps of the Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants who preceded them. Bodegas offer something chain stores or robot cabinets cant: real, friendly, localised service, not to mention ethnic specialities and connections with people who might not be like you.

Times change. But people are angry. Maybe its the lack of understanding that it takes real people and real sweat to make the products we buy. Most of the time, we cant see the real people many of them immigrants, or in another country entirely who are breaking their backs to give us something extra. We know humans are working hard putting together those iPhone Xs, but does it really sink in? In a corner shop, however, you see it: hardworking immigrants building a world for themselves by selling you what you need for yours.

My grandparents worked from before dawn to the far end of dusk. There was heavy lifting. There was attention to detail and social graces, and an unforgiving, hour-by-hour accounting of their life. People could see their work on their faces, every day, and appreciated them for it. I dont know the future of the corner store. All I have are my familys memories. But, whatever the future, if it involves the startup tech world, I would urge them to begin at the place where all of us, it appears, want and need to: in a community. Maybe that means stop asking how to automate away an institution, and start thinking about how to help them.

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Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The owners putting pets on vegan diets: ‘We feed our animals without exploiting others’

Veganism is on the rise, and not just among humans. But is the trend safe especially when it comes to carnivorous cats?

The owners putting pets on vegan diets: ‘We feed our animals without exploiting others’

Veganism is on the rise, and not just among humans. But is the trend safe especially when it comes to carnivorous cats?

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Bento the Keyboard Cat, internet sensation and YouTube star, dies

The beloved feline star of the popular meme has died age nine. But does this really mean the end?

Tonight hes jamming with Kurt and Jimi. Keyboard Cat, the internet meme that bookended a thousand pratfalls, is dead.

In April 2009, thanks in part to a single tweet by Ashton Kutcher, videos of a cat playing a junky little Casio riff became the de rigeur way to play out any footage of, say, a man falling down an escalator in a wheelchair, a singing woman collapsing a table, or just a mortar round misfiring.

The cats owner, Charlie Schmidt, posted the news on Keyboard Cats Facebook page, with its 820,000 followers.

The original Keyboard Cat.

Only, that isnt quite the story. Schmidts original clip of a musical cat the one youre most likely to have seen was shot in 1984. Hence the grainy VHS quality, which made the vaporwave-obsessed internet of 2009 fall in love with it. The cat in that video was called Fatso. He died in 1987.

The recently deceased Bento, born in April 2009, just as the Keyboard Cat phenomenon was hitting its peak, was already a remix. It seems that Keyboard Cats can spontaneously regenerate whenever a few million dollars are dangled in front of them.

Schmidt used Bento to make a second Keyboard Cat video, plus any number of side adventures: a parody of Miley Cyruss Wrecking Ball, an ad for Wonderful Pistachios, all the way up to a spoof on Banksys Exit Through The Pet Shop.

Bento taking on the starring role of Keyboard Cat.

You can hardly blame Schmidt for needing a physical product. Grumpy Cat is reputed to have a net worth of $100m. Within days of the first post to a Reddit thread, Grumpy Cats Red Lobster waitress owner was able to quit her job and go full-time. She shares a manager with Keyboard Cat, and with fellow celebrity felis catus, Lil Bub, and with animated cat meme Nyan Cat. Lil Bub generates enough that owner Mike Bridavsky can give away $200,000 a year to animal charities.

Hamilton, the moustache-toting Hipster Cat, had a web series, appeared in commercials, and had his own calendar line. Henri, a black cat, who appears, subtitled, in black-and-white, in French, like a cat Sartre, earns a $1,000 a week just from his online store. Appearance fees can be far greater. Maru, a Japanese-owned Scottish Fold, is the most watched cat of all time, with 325m YouTube views of him doing very basic cat stuff, like getting slightly freaked out by boxes.

Keyboard Cats spoof on Banksys Exit Through The Pet Shop.

The internet cat-industrial complex is vast. Cat food company Friskies flew Grumpy Cat, real name Tardar Sauce, first class, to South by Southwest. They paid for a chauffeur, a personal assistant, and unlimited food. At a conference with Al Gore and Elon Musk, she was the star. The 2013 documentary Lil Bub and Friendz began when the makers witnessed 10,000 people turn out to the Internet Cat Video Film Festival.

How do you make a smash like Keyboard Cat? You start with $850 of cat piano lessons, Schmidt once quipped. Certainly, it helps if the cat has bodily issues. Keyboard Cat is notable among the truly great cats of the internet for being just a standard moggy, who had to work his way up on his boogie-woogie skills alone. Grumpy Cat has an underbite and feline dwarfism. Lil Bub a short lower jaw, toothlessness and osteopetrosis. Pop Tart Cat (Nyan Cat) has a pop tart for a body. Hipster Cat has a strange white moustache.

Bentos generation is getting long in the tooth. Perhaps not for nothing has Marus owner adopted and begun showcasing a second cat in addition to the 10 year old. The death of a cat is a private tragedy. The death of an internet cat is an economic catastrophe.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The Secret Life of Pets? Forget the movie, here’s what it’s really like

What do our beloved animals get up to all day while were out? For too many it means insufficient exercise or social interaction: they are lonely and bored

The main character in the new film The Secret Life of Pets is a white and tan terrier named Max. As the movie opens, Max gushes about how wonderful his life is with his beloved owner, Katie, in their Manhattan apartment. There is only one problem, he tells the audience: She leaves! Indeed, the opening scene is a series of doors slamming in pets faces.

For a split second, the pets appear bereft and lonely, but they quickly shake it off and the fun begins. They open cage doors, climb through windows and gather in apartments and on sidewalks. They have parties, with butt-sniffing and bowls of biscuits; they rock out to heavy metal music and, on the day in question, have wild and unexpected adventures involving deranged alley cats, dog catchers, and the Revolutionary Army of Flushed Pets who are plotting revenge against the humans who abandoned them.

It is a story repeated from home to home across the country: the door slams and the pet is left alone. But what really happens when owners leave for the day? I happen to know quite well what my two dogs do for the first 15 minutes. The evidence of their work is usually all over the kitchen floor, and when I forget something and have to run back in after leaving I often catch them in flagrante delicto. First they counter surf, to see if weve been neglectful enough to leave anything within reach. Loaves of bread, bags of cookies, pretzels all are fair game. Next, they check whether there is any cat food to be stolen. After this, Im not sure.

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The Secret Life of Pets: what really happens when owners leave for the day? Photograph: Universal

The Secret Life of Pets was written to entertain, not to provide social commentary on the state of pet-keeping in America. But in addition to providing some clean summer fun, the movie offers an opportunity for serious reflection upon this most bizarre human cultural ritual. And some reflection is in order, since the wellbeing of millions of animals is at stake.

The popularity of keeping pets is at an all-time high, and the number of pet animals living in our homes has mushroomed over the past four decades such that pets now outnumber people. The pet industry eagerly fuels this hobby and rakes in billions of dollars each year on the sale of pet animals and their paraphernalia. What does the secret life of pets look like from the animals point of view?

A YouTube video called What my dog does when I leave has several million views, probably because it taps into a curiosity and concern many of us share. A man straps a GoPro to his dog to capture what a day for him is like on his own. You can almost feel the dogs desperation as his owner shuts the door. The dog howls, he runs around the house, looking into every crevice to see if his human might be there. He sniffs the mans clothes. He whines. And he waits. What I find most striking about the video is that the dog doesnt sleep. He is anxiously alert all day, ears pricked for the slightest sound.

GoPro videos notwithstanding, our animals lives when we leave them home are mostly invisible to us. Looking at several objective measures, however, we can surmise that the secret lives of our pets are often boring, frustrating and lonely. At least 40% of dogs in US homes are thought to suffer from anxiety, and these are just the cases that have been identified by veterinarians. Since at least a quarter of all dogs and a third of all cats never see a veterinarian during their lifetime, pathological levels of anxiety are probably much higher than reported.

Emotional suffering often manifests in behavioral problems which are promptly blamed on the pets themselves. But the roots of these problems are almost certainly to be found in the living conditions of our pets. Many are housebound, and spend much of each day alone with nothing to do. By one accounting, the average pet owner spends only 40 minutes a day really interacting with his or her animal. Pets have few opportunities to interact with others of their own kind, leaving them in a state of constant social starvation. Rates of morbid obesity are even higher in dogs and cats than they are in humans unmistakable evidence that our animals are not getting the physical exercise they desperately need.

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We can surmise that the secret lives of our pets are often boring, frustrating and lonely. Photograph: Tricia Shay Photography/Getty Images

We can understand what pet animals need by looking, for a moment, at animals in zoos. Welfare researchers agree that the welfare of zoo animals can be profoundly compromised when they dont have opportunities to procure their own food, solve problems in their environment, or engage with others of their kind. When animals lack appropriate physical, mental and social stimulation, they can develop what are called stereotypies, repetitive behavior patterns such as pacing or weaving which are indicative of severe psychological suffering. Just as animals in zoos can suffer from having nothing to do, so can our pets.

For all our rhapsodizing about the human-animal bond, the relationship remains tenuous for many pets. Often the bond becomes strained when owners fail to provide what animals really need. In a sad twist, behaviors such as destroying furniture, compulsive barking, and soiling in the house are often a manifestation of the frustration and boredom of being left alone too much, with not enough to do. Yet rather than see our own role in driving our animals crazy, we blame it on them on bad wiring or bad attitude and off they go to join the Army of Flushed Pets.

Secret Life reminds us that animals do have complex worlds of their own worlds which interlock with ours. We can do our best to help them have interesting lives, have some independence from us, and have opportunities to engage in the behaviors for which they have evolved and which they still need to perform. This is especially important in places like New York City which, however exciting and vibrant for humans, is not really designed for animals. It is incumbent upon us as responsible guardians to make sure the secret lives of our pets are fulfilling and happy.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Experience: my dog rescues cats

We needed a quick learner; one small enough to fit into the nooks and crannies cats hide in. Mostly, we needed a dog with no desire whatsoever to chase cats

Molly is the worlds first trained cat detection dog. Her job is to rescue missing moggies. We had been looking for a dog with a particular temperament and intelligence to join our team of pet detectives for 18 months. We had scouts out and had spoken to the countrys top breeders.

We needed a quick learner; one small enough to fit into the nooks and crannies cats hide in. Mostly, we needed a dog with no desire whatsoever to chase cats.

I came up with the idea in 2014. Ihad been doing the job for 20 years and my business, Pet Detectives, was getting around 30 calls a week about missing cats. When cats go to ground, they go into a comatose-like state and if they are not found quickly, within a fortnight, they often dont survive after being rescued.

One particular couple who called me had bought their cat after struggling to have children. We found it in a neighbours garden shed, but it later died. Seeing them so bereft was a tipping point for me.

I worked in the police as adetective inspector for many years, and had seen dogs search for drugs and bombs and help with murder investigations. I figured, if a dog can be trained to find amphetamines, then it can be trained to find cats.

We found Molly, an 18-month-old black-haired cocker spaniel, on Gumtree. She was a giveaway. The ad said: Needs a good home, cannot cope. If cocker spaniels are not stimulated they become uncontrollable. She had been passed from pillar to post and had three owners in under two years.

I first met her in February 2016, at the home of Medical Detection Dogs, the charity that would help train her. We had already rejected 12 dogs without seeing them. Three others didnt make it through initial training: one was too timid, one got car sick and the other was too inclined to chase.

At first, Molly was anxious. But she had intelligent eyes and was a problem-solver. She was also hyper and fixated on catching tennis balls. She had the right temperament: abright working dog from a breed with a natural disposition to search for game. We just had to channel that instinct into finding cats.

She had to be cat-tested, so we took her to a farm with a dozen cats to see if she would chase them. She didnt even bark. Her focus was on interacting with her handler.

Her training took nine months with experts, including two doctors of canine behaviour. This had never been done before. She was aquick learner. The first phase was lab training, where we taught her to isolate scents. She then worked with a behavioural specialist who taught her to understand signals and commands. The final stage was teaching us to work together.

On assignments, Molly is trained to pick up cats scents from their bedding. When she finds the missing cat, she lies down to signal success, so as not to scare them, but you can see her trembling with excitement. She gets rewarded with her super-treat: black pudding.

Her first success was in February this year. A tri-coloured moggy had been sighted six miles from home on the roof of a garden shed. Molly quickly picked up her scent on the grass. I sent her across the back of 30 gardens until she started clawing at a fence. She charged across the lawn to a summer house and lay down. The cat was inside. The owners were over the moon and quite amazed by her.

Molly has helped to rescue 11 cats so far, and our search success has increased by a third. She wears afluorescent harness and has her own abseiling kit, which we once used to lower her over a 10ft wall. Were getting special boots made to protect her feet in outbuildings where there may be nails or glass.

Many people said that training a dog to rescue cats was crazy; that all dogs chased cats and it couldnt be done. Nothing has felt quite so rewarding as seeing it work. People are fascinated when they watch Molly at work, but shes not fussed. She still doesnt know that those things with four legs that she searches for are called cats. To her, itis just her favourite game.

As told to Deborah Linton

Do you have an experience to share? Email experience@theguardian.com

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

I have a loving husband and thought I was secure. Then a cat came into my life

Philippa Perry on her struggle with total devotion to her cat, Kevin

Pets can highlight your mental health issues. Ask my late dad how he was, he would tell you, Fine. If you wanted more information, it was best to ask him how the dog was. Oh, the dog is depressed. My dad was doing what Freud described as projection. This is when you split off a part of you that is too shameful for you to own and project it on to someone else and you believe your stuff is their stuff. My father could not own his vulnerability, but he could dump it on his dog. I hope I would be far too self-aware to project on to my pet. Id hate to think I was that dotty, but the magazine has just asked if they can send a photographer round. Kevin isnt too keen on photos, I said.

Our cat Kevin had been a stray and came to us from Battersea two years ago when he was around six months old. His body was the size of a can of extra-strong lager. That tubular torso would press against me all night, sometimes stretched alongside me, sometimes curled up in my armpit. In the evening, he would start on a lap but his thin body would elongate itself from your ankles to your thighs like a furry tube. He was playful, affectionate and excellent at being a cat.

We followed the Battersea instructions of keeping him indoors for a month and then only let him out accompanied until he knew where to come back to. When he was ready for unaccompanied roaming, I tried to get a collar on him, but however tight I made it, he could spring it off. Even if he left the house with a collar on, he came back without it. Then one day he did not come back at all. The first time he went missing, he turned up at the Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker, a gastro pub half a mile from our house. He was returned to us swiftly by the landlord, who had taken him to the vet to get his microchip read. Getting Kevin microchipped was a very good idea. My fantasy is that he had chased the pubs resident cat all the way home and then did not know how to get back.

How to describe how you fall in love with a cat? First, the softness of their fur and their choice of your ankles to rub around makes you melt a bit. Secondly, you get used to their presence in your home and come to rely on it for company; and thirdly I think we project our love for ourselves on to our animals and believe it is coming back our way. I like to think Kevin really does love me. Whether he does or not, I love him. For most of my adult life I have lived with a cat, sometimes two, and once I lived with three. I came to appreciate their individual characters and the different ways they kept me company, amused and comforted. But my love for Kevin seems more intense.

There is a type of interaction adopted by cults and abusers when they want total devotion from you, called intermittent positive reinforcement. They start the relationship by heaping praise and appreciations on to you and then gradually begin to mock you, or ignore you, or dish out other types of cruelty so you try harder to win back that approval that you became addicted to. Kevin, having got me smitten, now occasionally ignored me, or bit me if his food bowl got as low as half-empty. Oh, sorry Kevin, Id say, and do his bidding. People who are susceptible to intermittent positive reinforcement tend to be those who have an insecure attachment style. This means they feel insecure in their relationships and compelled to work extra hard at adapting, being too nice or too paranoid, and check up on their significant other as they cannot assume, like a secure person does, that their partner will not stray.

I have been in a loving and stable relationship for 30 years I believed myself cured; thought I was now secure. My unhappy youth, when romantic attachment was about the pain of longing rather than the joy of love, was, I thought, truly behind me, yet Kevin had reignited the feeling of longing.

Philippa
Kevin reignited the feeling of longing. Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer

After the pub incident, I tended to check up on Kevin more. If he had owned a mobile phone, I would have broken into it. I followed him about. I may have scared away the wildlife he was stalking and he may have got irritated with me. People with an insecure attachment style can be annoying. He strayed again, this time he got himself stuck in a rear light well the other side of the square and was not discovered for two nights. His absences made me long for him more.

Kevin loved it when we went to the country. We followed the Battersea code again of not letting him out alone until he knew where to come back and where his food was and all was good. Well, it was fine for me not so much for the local rodent population but I love Kevin so much that even watching him crunch up the heads of mice, upsetting though it is, is wonderful because I am in his presence. Those with an insecure attachment style can feel they are nothing without their love object. I overheard my husband telling someone, Philippas mental health depends on where the cat is. He was probably not projecting either.

My daughter had taken a weeks holiday to spend with me in the country. On the morning of her arrival Kevin had still not returned from a night out. We were supposed to be enjoying a time of picnics, bike rides and swims but here was I miserable and ruining my daughters break. She and I asked everyone within a miles radius but no one had seen him. There was only one house we did not visit because the owners were on holiday. They came back the day my daughter was leaving. When they opened their front door, a speedy Kevin shot out and came straight back home. He was remarkably fit after his week living off flies and toilet water but I was a wreck. Next time, I told myself, I wont worry: a difficult resolution to keep because when he sees an open door he shoots through it into anyones house, shed or car. I have a dread of supermarket delivery vans those are his favourite.

A year later, hes missing again in London. I go to the pub, they havent seen him. I trudge about calling him. Days pass, nothing. My entire life is Operation Kevin. We tweet about his disappearance and the London Evening Standard picks it up. Hes on the front page (slow news day); I do posters; house-to-house enquiries; leaflets through letterboxes. Eventually the phone rings. Kevin had been spotted, stuck on a flat roof by someone who had a leaflet put through her door who had not realised he was trapped. I wept with relief. On getting him home we saw he had a nasty bite on his tail and required antibiotics for that to heal. Keep him in for a week, said Dale, our vet. Music to my ears. I hoped Stockholm syndrome would make Kevin love me. Stockholm syndrome is where a hostage develops a bond with their captor. Humans are pack animals and naturally create attachments and they may do it with whoever is around even when that someone is holding them prisoner.

Perhaps Stockholm syndrome is relevant to cats as well. To some extent, it seems to work: I am the recipient of many friendly head butts and sitting-on-lap sessions during his captivity. Can I keep him in for ever? I asked Dale when it was time for a check-up. That would be cruel, I am told. He is a wild animal that chooses to live with you. So Mr Kinky Tail, aka Bonzo Boots, aka Kevin (one cat can attract a lot of names) once more roams free.

Since the flat-roof episode, he has been relatively good. It is not that he is a reformed character, he will still make a dash for any open door. But Im delighted because in the night it is me he chooses to wake up so that I can admire his latest kill; it is my feet he wants to practise his biting on, and its my lap he needs to stretch out his tube-like body on when he is soaking wet. I weaned myself off indifferent men in my 20s and found a loving one, but a cat I adore whose affection and approval I must work for is a force I cannot resist. Now if youll excuse me, I must get the chicken livers to room temperature in case he comes home for lunch.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

‘They are like animals’: French shoppers brawl over cut-price Nutella

Hefty discount on chocolate hazelnut spread causes chaos at supermarkets across country

‘They are like animals’: French shoppers brawl over cut-price Nutella

Hefty discount on chocolate hazelnut spread causes chaos at supermarkets across country

France has seen nothing like it: supermarket aisles of brawling customers throwing punches, pulling hair and shoving the elderly out of the way.

A decision by the Intermarch store chain to offer a hefty discount on jars of Nutella Frances favourite chocolate spread caused near riots in shops around the country.

Police were reportedly called as fights broke out among swarming customers grabbing 950g jars of Nutella reduced from 4.50 to 1.41, a 70% discount.

In one store, a member of staff was punched in the eye while trying to separate warring customers. In another, shoppers cleared shelves in 15 minutes.

They are like animals. One woman had her hair pulled. An elderly lady took a box on her head. Another had a bloody hand, one customer said.

Queues had formed outside many Intermarch supermarkets on Thursday, reminiscent of the first days of the sales, and customers were limited to three pots each.

In one Intermarch in the Moselle in eastern France, a member of staff reported: People were piling in, they knocked everything over and broke stuff. It was an orgy we were on the point of calling the police.

In another store, staff said they had sold in one go the number of Nutella jars normally sold in three months. They were fighting over it at the tills there was only Nutella, one told Le Progrs newspaper.

Until now, this type of hysterical behaviour has been viewed in France as a mostly American Black Friday phenomenon and evidence of the perils of rampant free-market consumerism.

Nutella was created by the Ferrero family in Italy in the 1940s. About 365m kg of the hazelnut chocolate spread are consumed around the world every year.

The company said it regretted the promotion and its consequences, blaming Intermarch for the chaos.

In a statement, the supermarket chain said it was surprised the offer had caused battle scenes in its stores and was sorry for the disagreeable events customers suffered.

Sophie Chevalier, a French anthropologist and specialist in customer behaviour, said the scenes were incredible.

These are unusual in France, except when theres a particularly exceptional sale, and more what we see in developing countries or where theres a regular shortage of essential products, Chevalier told Le Parisien.

Would there be the same reaction to jars of pickles? Certainly not. Its a question of the kind of product that explains this. Nutella is pure pleasure for children and to offer it at a bargain price obviously attracts lots of customers.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Meet the dogs of Chernobyl the abandoned pets that formed their own canine community

Hundreds of stray dogs have learned to survive in the woods around the exclusion zone mainly descendants of those left behind after the nuclear disaster, when residents were banned from taking their beloved pets to safety

We are in the woods behind the Chernobyl plant when the dog runs at us. It is thin, with brindle fur and yellow eyes. Igor, our guide, makes a lunge and clamps his hands over its snout. They wrestle in the snow and icy water shakes from the trees. The dogs eyes flash as Igor grabs a stick and throws it into the trees. Distracted, the animal chases it and our little group is free to move. But the dog reappears and drops the stick at Igors foot. He throws it again. The dog brings it back. I almost laugh with relief.

Igor, who, it turns out, is very familiar with the dog, throws a few snowballs, which it tries to catch and chew.This isTarzan, says Igor. Hes a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. Hes only a baby, really

The
The abandoned dogs at Chernobyl endure harsh Ukrainian winters. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Tarzan isnt alone. There are approximately 300 stray dogs in the 2,600km zone. They live among the moose and lynx, the hares and wolves that have also found a home here. But while the Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears were recently introduced to the area, and other animals have come in as opportunists, the dogs are native.

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages. Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: Dont kill our Zhulka. Shes a good dog. There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

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The dogs often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

But its not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zones checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.

Nadezhda Starodub, a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, says the visitors (there are no tourists in the zone) love the dogs. Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs. There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray. Some guides are afraid of complaints, she says, so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.

The
The strays are helped by the Clean Futures Fund, which has set up veterinary clinics in the area. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

While the dogs get some food and play from the visitors, their health needs are met by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organisation that helps communities affected by industrial accidents, which has set up three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant. The clinics treat emergencies and issue vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. They are also neutering the dogs. Lucas Hixson, the funds co-founder, says: I dont think well ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. This makes Chernobyl safer for the dogs, but also for the workers and visitors.

The Chernobyl plant has recently been sealed under a new sarcophagus designed and built by a multinational group of experts, and similar cooperation can be seen with the dogs. In the woods behind Chernobyl I look again at yellow-eyed Tarzan and see, not a wild animal, but a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.

We
We want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

A nice bit of squirrel: should we chow down a diet of invasive species?

Last year, the Shambala festival made headlines by going meat-free. This year, it relaxed the rules for a feast of grey squirrel skewers and crayfish. Should the rest of us follow suit?

At Shambala festival, during the hottest bank holiday on record, peace and love is about to turn sour. I am standing next to author Louise Gray, who is here to talk about wild alternatives to mass-produced meat. The cricket brownies are baked; we have been skinning squirrels and marinating them in satay, then decided to unwind by checking out a punk-reggae band in a nearby tent. That is when the singer announces his feelings about her presence there. Last year this festival was 100% meat- and fish-free. Now theyre saying we should eat pests and squirrels, he spits. Its 2017. If youre still eating the dead bodies of animals, you need to check your fucking privilege. The crowd cheers. I am worried we are about to be ethically eaten alive.

In the wake of The Ethical Carnivore, her award-winning account of the year she spent eating roadkill and animals she had killed herself, and investigating abattoirs, Gray received death threats and abuse. Images spring to mind of balaclava-clad activists chucking red paint and righteous invective. If it comes down to it, I am not with you, I tell her, gallantly.

If
If we want to eat meat, the argument to get it from animals such as grey squirrels is persuasive. Photograph: Dan Farrell

The friction is hardly surprising. Shambala is a hippy sort of place, with as many recycling points as there are naked people painted blue, which is a lot. Ravers have to carry their own cups, and food stalls are entirely vegetarian. On the festivals Facebook page, protests over Grays talk quickly escalated into an argument about speciesism, human immigration and genocide. Onstage at the Garden o Feeden the festivals food and debate tent the edginess is palpable.

Lets hear her out and fight afterwards, the host pleads. In a craven attempt to fit in, I am wearing a full-length dress and Carmen Miranda fruit hat; Gray has nowhere to hide.

The debate around eating meat is hard to progress intellectually you either believe on some level that it is a natural part of the cycle of life, or an unnecessary moral wrong. Gray, the daughter of a farmer, is here to argue for an ecological, flexitarian position between the two.

Our current production model is energy-intensive, wasteful, cruel and unsustainable. We should be eating far less meat, and thinking more about it. Her book describes the year she spent eating only animals she had killed herself a common, if hypothetical, answer to the abstraction and scale of the mostly invisible meat industry. She cried after killing the first rabbit, and talks about her ambivalence at stalking and shooting a red stag. The responsibility of taking an animals life bears an emotional cost, she tells the crowd. Its pretty intense. It is also not something one can practically do in a city (unless you maybe fancy the urban equivalent of turducken, eating a fox that recently swallowed a pigeon, which last dined on KFC).

Yet there is a lesser explored alternative to factory meat, besides insects, roadkill or hunting your own: a diet of invasive species. I know whats coming: backstage I watched Gray skinning a bag of grey squirrels, carefully stripping pelts from flesh, cleaning out shot and slicing meat from bone. Several vegan chefs walked past, all of them fascinated, though one declared: Bit Hunger Games, innit? Or Winters Bone. Something with Jennifer Lawrence. Christ, I wish I hadnt seen that. She means the flayed legs of the skinned critter in front of her, rather than the film.

Out front, Grays cousin has been standing sidestage to provide security/hand out brownies. She presents us with a plate of grilled sticky squirrel skewers, which are passed around. I try one, then a few. Surprisingly, many others in the crowd do the same. The plates disappear. The flavour is potently gamey, not a bad accompaniment to the zesty lime and creamy satay. I have certainly eaten worse on a cheap pizza. The hair that sticks to my teeth is off-putting, though.

These squirrels are from Dumfries and Galloway, home to one of the few surviving red squirrel populations in the country, maintained by controlling greys. If we want to eat meat, the argument to get it from animals such as grey squirrels is persuasive. They are wild, organic and definitely free range. As with insects, the ick factor might just be something we have to get past.

This is the part of the message Crayfish Bob Ring has been trying to get out. A grizzled trapper of 15 years experience, I met him earlier at a picnic table outside the tent, smoking a roll-up pensively and squinting like Captain Quint. His passion is removing American crayfish from British waters and selling them at his restaurant pop-ups. The lobster-like signal crayfish were introduced in the 1970s to be a lucrative export to the Scandinavian market (which was soon dominated by cheaper imports of Chinese crayfish). The collapse of the scheme saw them escaping the fisheries, passing a deadly plague on to smaller, native white-clawed crayfish and destroying their numbers. The voracious predators eat fish and amphibian eggs, out-compete other species for habitat and burrow into river banks, causing their erosion and collapse. Crayfish Bob describes how they travel the country using the waterways, by hanging on to barges. I feel very conscious Im wearing a tutu.

Ive gone into this business with the objective of going bust due to lack of stock, he says vehemently. I would get so much satisfaction from getting rid of them. Neither Gray nor Crayfish Bob think eating grey squirrels or signal crayfish would make a dent in their numbers the species are here to stay, and their realistic concern is to level the ecological balance. The EU list 37 alien invasive species, including muntjack deer, Ruddy duck and Siberian chipmunk. Legally, the crayfish have to be controlled anyway, Ring reminds me, so are not being bred or killed primarily to be eaten. After he realised the scale of the problem, he founded the National Institute of Crayfish Trappers, and became Crayfish Bob, selling gumbos and crawfish boil. Ive had vegetarians come up to me and say: What you are doing challenges all the reasons I became vegetarian. They see it as a way they can eat some fish.

In
In a craven attempt to fit in, I am wearing a full-length dress and Carmen Miranda fruit hat; Gray has nowhere to hide. Photograph: Dan Farrell

Of course, vegetarians who feel killing animals for any reason is wrong wont be convinced. Back in the tent, Dr Amelia Roberts, a member of Animal Aid and an animal rights advocate, is pushing back on a number of Grays points. Like many, she believes the American grey has been scape-squirreled. She cites evidence that the decline of their red cousins is mostly due to loss of habitat, a problem caused by people. And the fact is all invasive species were brought here by humans, something the rhetoric of the argument tends to obscure. Nonetheless, she says she agrees with 90% of what Gray has been saying, which seems positive.

After a lot of whoops and applause, Gray is relieved the talk has gone down well, like the satay. I am surprised when she announces that the festival should be totally vegan next year Its the most inspiring thing they could do.

She is all for people eating better meat, speaking to livestock farmers and being more conscientious. But she wryly acknowledges the difficulty in being an ethical meat-eater, especially in a market-led society that makes it difficult. You cant poke around peoples houses when you go around for dinner, or ask them to pick the label out of the bin. It is probably easier to just be vegetarian.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

British couple celebrate after birth of first cloned puppy of its kind

West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000

A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.

In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.

Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.

The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.

The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.

Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.

Dylan,

Dylan, who died in June this year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.

After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.

Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.

The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.

I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.

Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.

Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.

David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.

There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.

Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.

The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.

Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.

Key dates in the cloning of Dylan

11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.

30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.

1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.

2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.

4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.

5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.

6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.

7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.

10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.

11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.

21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.

23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.

24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.

26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.

29 December: Second puppy due.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Claws out! Why pop culture clings to the crazy cat lady

For years, women with cats have been portrayed as lonely, sexless and eccentric but why does this stereotype endure? And can millennial ailurophiles reclaim the purr-jorative?

Did you hear the story about the old woman from Ohio who was arrested for training her 65 cats to steal her neighbours stuff? The Columbus police department found thousands of dollars worth of jewellery in the 83-year-old ladys house and discovered she taught the cats to bring back anything that shined.

The news story went viral at the end of last year. How do you picture her? Unkempt hair, dressing gown and slippers, living alone, rarely leaving the house? The crazy cat lady, in other words. In fact, the story was fiction on a satirical website, but people bought it and shared the story thinking it was real.

The crazy cat lady is a common, recognisable trope in contemporary culture: think of Eleanor Abernathy in The Simpsons. After a promising career in medicine and law, she experiences burnout, starts drinking and gets a cat. Next minute, shes talking gibberish, looking dishevelled and throwing her army of felines around. Then theres Robert De Niros predictably bonkers elderly Christmas cat lady in a 2004 Saturday Night Live skit: she had dreams and then she was kicked by a horse and now she has cats. The end!

The younger version of the stereotype is usually associated with being single, kooky and weird; after her relationship with Carol Burnett comes to a head, 30 Rocks Liz Lemon acquires a cat. I can fit Emily Dickinsons whole head in my mouth, she tells a concerned Jack Donaghy. You can even buy a Crazy Cat Lady action figure online, complete with deranged, staring eyes.

Robert
Robert De Niros Christmas with the Cat Lady sketch on Saturday Night Live.
Photograph: NBC/NBC via Getty Images

To understand why this trope exists and why it may be on its last legs lets scoot back to the middle ages and the earliest perceptions of women and their cats. Even before witch-hunts, cats had a bad rep in the western world with associations with heretical sects and the devil. Medieval types conflated feline sex lives with lustful, sinful, female sexuality: cats were seen as lecherous animals that actively wheedled the males on to sexual congress, according to the historian James Serpell. Although, in recent pop culture, cat lady has evolved into shorthand for a lonely, sad, sexless woman. Too sexy, not sexy enough: cant please em.

An
An illustration showing hostile treatment of a suspected witch with a walking stick and a black cat. Photograph: Interim Archives/Getty Images

The earliest cat ladies in the west were, of course, witches. In Malleus Maleficarum, the landmark medieval treatise on witchcraft, a 13th-century folk story is recounted, whereby three witches turned themselves into cats, attacked a man on the street and accused him of assault in court, showing the marks on their bodies. From then on, witches were believed to have cats as familiars, or to change into felines at night.

Upper
Upper portion of a bronze figure of Bastet holding a cat aegis. From the late period. Dated 600 BC. Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Why would cats get such a satanic rep? We can only guess. Cats are mysterious. They come and go. Unlike dogs, they refuse to obey and be domesticated. Theyre nocturnal. The Ancient Egyptians worshipped Bastet, a woman with a head of a cat. Although the Bible does not specifically mention cats, early Christian pilgrims were highly suspicious of other religions, and they deemed the black cat to be so demonic that being seen with one could be punishable by death.

Although the 18th century saw people beginning to question superstitions such as the belief that a womans wart was a teat suckled by Satan negative connotations of the relationship between cats and women remained. The Victorians switched witches for old-maid stereotypes for single women without children: Old maids and cats have long been proverbially associated together, and, rightly or wrongly, these creatures have been looked upon with a certain degree of suspicion and aversion by a large proportion of the human race, wrote a journalist in the Dundee Courier in 1880. The Old Maid card game was often illustrated with a dour woman and her cat, the friend of the friendless, as it was described at the time. In the 1900s, anti-suffragette propaganda used images of cats to portray women as silly, useless, catty and ridiculous in their attempt to enter political life.

Vintage
Vintage illustration of a witch and her black cat on a broom on Halloween. Photograph: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

The inception of the crazy moniker is harder to pin down, but its connotations of hysteria are an old gender stereotype. Added to this, the extreme end of the modern crazy cat lady stereotype has more than a few cats, which is unusual. Eleanor Abernathy, for example, has cats dripping off her: she is, essentially, portrayed as a mentally ill, alcoholic, compulsive hoarder.

There may be some truth in the idea that animal hoarding is more common in women. A study in Brazil found that, while generalised hoarding disorder affects men and women equally, nearly three-quarters of animal hoarders were women. Since 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies compulsive hoarding as a psychiatric disorder, with animal hoarding as a subtype.

Another recent theory is to do with a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. This tiny critter infects rats and mice and changes their behaviour by, scientists believe, creating an attraction to cat urine, so it can wind up in the stomach of a cat, where it reproduces. It also infects between 30% and 60% cent of people. Scientists are exploring evidence that toxoplasmosis could create behavioural changes in people, leading to lots of excited articles wondering if the parasite is a clue to explaining the phenomenon of crazy cat lady. The parasite contains an enzyme that creates dopamine, which is associated with risky and impulsive behaviour, among other things, but so far the data is inconclusive.

But, really, the concept of the crazy cat lady tells us more about societal perceptions of women than anything else. It has long been a pejorative term and a device for transferring shame and judgment on women who challenged traditional roles, or were hard to domesticate and keep in line. Here is the co-creator of Batman, Bob Kane, explaining his creation of Cat Woman: I felt that women were feline creatures and men were more like dogs. While dogs are faithful and friendly, cats are cool, detached and unreliable cats are as hard to understand as women are, he said. You always need to keep women at arms length. We dont want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that.

Katy
Katy Perry in the 2012 documentary film Katy Perry: Part of Me. Photograph: Allstar/MTV Films

But millennial ailurophiles have had enough. Over the last few years, there have been multivalent efforts to debunk the crazy cat lady stereotype and project a positive view of women and their cats. Pussy is striking back.

Taylor
Taylor Swift out with her cat in New York. Photograph: Broadimage/Rex/Shutterstock

From glossy fashion magazines celebrating the feline-human relationship Cat People, Puss Puss to Taylor Swift and Katy Perrys unashamed adoration of their feline pets, the stereotype is being recalibrated. CatCon Worldwide, a new conference celebrating cat culture, has, as its core value, the desire to change the negative perception of the crazy cat lady and prove that it is possible to be hip, stylish, and have a cat.

The book Cat Lady Chic (2012) offered elegant images of cat-owners Audrey Hepburn, Georgia OKeeffe, Diana Ross and Zelda Fitzgerald as an antidote to the Eleanor Abernathy archetype. And Girls & Their Cats, a sophisticated series of photographs of women and their feline companions, was created by Brooklyn-based fashion photographer BriAnne Wills to help dismantle the stereotype.It just wasnt representative of any of the cat ladies I personally knew, who are all independent, cool, career-driven women who really love their cats, she said. Also, there are more than a million cats euthanised each year so if women (and men) are afraid to adopt because of negative stereotypes it definitely hurts cats in the long run.

Audrey
Audrey Hepburn with Cat in Breakfast At Tiffanys. Photograph: Howell Conant/Paramount/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

In the memorable short story Cat Person (2017), Kristen Roupenian inverts the cat lady trope by giving her male protagonist, Robert, a couple of pet cats. She employs the presence of Roberts felines as a symbol that Margot uses to construct her image of him. We decide that it means something that a person likes cats instead of dogs, said Roupenian in an interview. But there is something sinister going on. Margot never sees the cats, and wonders if Robert has lied about them. So what is it about pretending to have cats that might endear Margot to him in a sexual setting? Is he using his cats to lure her in?

But perhaps the moment the crazy cat lady motif truly jumped the shark was with the song Buttload of Cats on an episode of the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend earlier this year. Rebecca Bunch walks herself down to the Lonely Lady Cat Store. The smell is overwhelming inside / This is the future smell of my house / Its the smell of my dreams that have died, she sings. When youre a permanent bachelorette / Its mandatory that you go out and get / A buttload of cats / Oh, yeah!

The song made a mockery of the hysteria projected on women who own cats. So is the notion of the crazy cat lady over? Wills believes there is still work to be done to change perceptions, but she hopes that her photography project will help. It is 2018, she says, and women are tired of defending themselves. And their love for their cats.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Smile! Grumpy Cat wins 500,000 over copyright breach

Owners of internet sensation with permanently gloomy face win payout from US coffee group

Smile! Grumpy Cat wins 500,000 over copyright breach

Owners of internet favourite with permanently gloomy face win payout from US coffee group

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Cat got your tongue? Study to examine if pets adopt owner’s accent

Swedish researchers will use recordings to find out if a miaow sounds different depending on how felines are spoken to

Scientists in Sweden have launched a study to answer the pressing question of whether pet cats adopt their owners accent.

From recordings of animals across the country, the researchers hope to work out whether a miaow in Stockholm sounds the same as one south of the Swedish capital.

The work is part of a broader effort to understand feline communication and whether the animals respond differently depending on how they are spoken to.

Susanne Schtz, who studies phonetics at Lund University and owns three cats herself, said while cats used visual and vocal signals to communicate with humans, they needed to make sounds miaows to get our attention. But when a pet and a human have been together for a long time, the way they converse may become more complex.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Should we stop keeping pets? Why more and more ethicists say yes

Ninety per cent of Britons think of their pet as part of the family 16% even included them on the last census. But recent research into animals emotional lives has cast doubt on the ethics of petkeeping

It was a Tupperware tub of live baby rats that made Dr Jessica Pierce start to question the idea of pet ownership. She was at her local branch of PetSmart, a pet store chain in the US, buying crickets for her daughters gecko. The baby rats, squeaking in their plastic container, were brought in by a man she believed was offering to sell them to the store as pets or as food for the resident snakes. She didnt ask. But Pierce, a bioethicist, was troubled.

Rats have a sense of empathy and there has been a lot of research on what happens when you take babies away from a mother rat not surprisingly, they experience profound distress, she says. It was a slap in the face how can we do this to animals?

Pierce went on to write Run, Spot, Run, which outlines the case against pet ownership, in 2015. From the animals that become dog and cat food and the puppy farms churning out increasingly unhealthy purebred canines, to the goldfish sold by the bag and the crickets by the box, pet ownership is problematic because it denies animals the right of self-determination. Ultimately, we bring them into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they eat, where they live, how they behave, how they look, even whether they get to keep their sex organs.

Treating animals as commodities isnt new or shocking; humans have been meat-eaters and animal-skin-wearers for millennia. However, this is at odds with how we say we feel about our pets. The British pet industry is worth about 10.6bn; Americans spent more than $66bn (50bn) on their pets in 2016. A survey earlier this year found that many British pet owners love their pet more than they love their partner (12%), their children (9%) or their best friend (24%). According to another study, 90% of pet-owning Britons think of their pet as a member of their family, with 16% listing their animals in the 2011 census.

Domestic
In the US, 1.5m shelter animals are euthanised each year. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is morally problematic, because more people are thinking of pets as people They consider them part of their family, they think of them as their best friend, they wouldnt sell them for a million dollars, says Dr Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and one of the founders of the budding field of anthrozoology, which examines human-animal relations. At the same time, research is revealing that the emotional lives of animals, even relatively simple animals such as goldfish, are far more complex and rich than we once thought (dogs are people, too, according to a 2013 New York Times comment piece by the neuroscientist Gregory Berns). The logical consequence is that the more we attribute them with these characteristics, the less right we have to control every single aspect of their lives, says Herzog.

Does this mean that, in 50 years or 100 years, we wont have pets? Institutions that exploit animals, such as the circus, are shutting down animal rights activists claimed a significant victory this year with the closure of Ringling Bros circus and there are calls to end, or at least rethink, zoos. Meanwhile, the number of Britons who profess to be vegan is on the rise, skyrocketing 350% between 2006 and 2016.

Widespread petkeeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 19th century, most animals owned by households were working animals that lived alongside humans and were regarded unsentimentally. In 1698, for example, a Dorset farmer recorded in his diary: My old dog Quon was killed and baked for his grease, which yielded 11lb. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, animals began to feature less in our increasingly urban environments and, as disposable income grew, pets became more desirable. Even as people began to dote on their pets, though, animal life was not attributed any intrinsic value. In Run, Spot, Run, Pierce reports that, in 1877, the city of New York rounded up 762 stray dogs and drowned them in the East River, shoving them into iron crates and lifting the crates by crane into the water. Veterinarian turned philosopher Bernard Rollin recalls pet owners in the 1960s putting their dog to sleep before going on holiday, reasoning that it was cheaper to get a new dog when they returned than to board the one they had.

Maine
Nine per cent of British pet owners love their animal more than their children. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More recently, however, several countries have moved to change the legal status of animals. In 2015, the governments of Canada and New Zealand recognised animals as sentient beings, effectively declaring them no longer property (how this squares with New Zealands recent war on possums is unclear). While pets remain property in the UK, the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 stipulates that pet owners must provide a basic level of care for their animals. Pets are also property in the US, but 32 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington DC, now include provisions for pets under domestic violence protection orders. In 2001, Rhode Island changed its legislation to describe pet owners as guardians, a move that some animal rights advocates lauded (and others criticised for being nothing more than a change in name).

Before we congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, consider that 1.5m shelter animals including 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats are euthanised each year in the US. The number of stray dogs euthanised annually in the UK is far lower 3,463 but the RSCPA says investigations into animal cruelty cases increased 5% year on year in 2016, to 400 calls a day.

Can I stick my dog in a car and take him to the vet and say: I dont want him any more, kill him, or take him to a city shelter and say: I cant keep him any more, I hope you can find a home for him, good luck? says Gary Francione, a professor at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey and an animal rights advocate. If you can still do that, if you still have the right to do that, then they are still property.

Crucially, our animals cant tell us whether they are happy being pets. There is an illusion now that pets have more voice than in the past but it is maybe more that we are putting words into their mouth, Pierce says, pointing to the abundance of pets on social media plastered with witty projections written by their parents. Maybe we are humanising them in a way that actually makes them invisible.

If you accept the argument that pet ownership is morally questionable, how do you put the brakes on such a vast industry? While he was writing his 2010 book, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, Herzog was studying the motivations of animal rights activists and whether it was emotion or intellect that pushed them towards activism. One of the subjects, Herzog says, was very, very logical. After he had become a vegan, eschewed leather shoes and convinced his girlfriend to go vegan, he considered his pet cockatiel. I remember; he looked up wistfully. He said he got the bird, took it outside, let it loose and it flew up, Herzog recalls. He said: I knew she wouldnt survive, that she probably starved. I guess I was doing it more for myself than for her.

Although Pierce and Francione agree that pet ownership is wrong, both of them have pets: Pierce has two dogs and a cat; Francione has six rescue dogs, whom he considers refugees. For now, the argument over whether we should own animals is largely theoretical: we do have pets and giving them up might cause more harm than good. Moreover, as Francione suggests, caring for pets seems to many people to be the one area where we can actually do right by animals; convincing people of the opposite is a hard sell.

Tim Wass, the chair of the Pet Charity, an animal welfare consultant and a former chief officer at the RSPCA, agrees. It has already been decided by market forces and human nature the reality is people have pets in the millions. The question is: how can we help them care for them correctly and appropriately?

If the short history of pet ownership tells us anything, it is that our attitude towards animals is prone to change. You see these rises and falls in our relationships with pets, says Herzog. In the long haul, I think petkeeping might fall out of fashion; I think it is possible that robots will take their place, or maybe pet owning will be for small numbers of people. Cultural trends come and go. The more we think of pets as people, the less ethical it is to keep them.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

From ‘guard cats’ to monkeys who shop: our favourite urban animal stories

More than two years after the launch of Guardian Cities, it seems high time for a round-up of all the animal-related stories that have kept us amused along the way. Heres our top 10 now tell us yours

Four feral cats, named after the original Ghostbusters, are being employed in a Chicago brewery to guard the grain from rats. In exchange, they are paid a daily rate in the only currency they understand: dry cat food.

As Medill Reports Chicago explains, the owners of the Empirical brewery in Chicago decided to employ these cats, rather than pest control companies, because they are both cheaper and, to quote verbatim, adorable.

The programme is part of a wider strategy to release 3,500 feral cats to deal with Chicagos unaccountably virulent rat problem. Chicago is apparently the rattiest city in the US.

That same charity, Tree House, is also raising funds to build a cat house: a large apartment building in which 200 cats would live alongside a vet and other feline-specific facilities. Naturally, Tree House has produced a reality TV show to drum up cash for this initiative mainly featuring cats behaving cattily towards each other.

Fur flies during the Real Tree House Cats of Chicago

If all this makes you think that Chicago is undergoing a kind of collective delusion brought on by those parasites that supposedly live in cat litter and embed themselves into the brain stems of their hosts, to slowly shift human behaviour over time in pro-cat ways, all we can observe is that its not just Chicago, or cats. Increasingly, wild animals are making their mark on urban environments in a host of new and inventive ways. Behold …

Pigeons with backpacks

In London, pigeons have been equipped with little backpacks to measure air pollution. The ones over Victoria Park wear Fjallraven. No, not really.

Vultures with Go-Pros

Lima, Peru has a rubbish dumping problem so topographically dynamic that it actually needs to be mapped aerially. So what better animal to track garbage mounds from the skies (caw!) than a vulture?

Limas black vultures, or gallinazo, are also large enough to wear Go-Pro video cameras, and well-trained enough by Alfredo Correa at Limas Huachipa zoo to return with said cameras.

Rats who clean

This little guy became a viral sensation in 2015. He even earned a clever nickname: Pizza Rat. This, then, would be the trade-off Chicago has made by hiring all those cats: more pizza on the streets. (And a skyrocketing avian murder rate.)

The plot, however, thickened like the fat congealing on the slice. Last year was full of rat-related viral videos, such as the rat who took a selfie, the rat who fought a pigeon and the rat who carried a donut through the subway. Wait a second that sounds suspiciously familiar to Pizza Rat, doesnt it? Well, Gothamist reports that Eric Yearwood, an actor, says he was paid $200 to star in Selfie Rat by an anonymous artist, casting doubt across the reliability of the entire rat-based internet video continuum. Was the whole thing an obscure art stunt? Dare we call the artist Ratsy? Animal internet stories are a hall of mirrors in which identity itself is but a kaleidoscope.

Monkeys who shop

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I come for the Malm but I stay for the bananas. Photograph: Bronwyn Page/AP

Tiny Monkey in Posh Coat Pays a Visit to Toronto Ikea remains the best headline of the new millennium.

Dogs who ride the subway

In America, you ride subway. In Russia, dog rides subway!

An ABC news report on the commuter dogs of Moscow, Russia.

Moscows city workers are nominally meant to keep the citys commuter dogs out of the citys metro system. In practice, however, staff allow the citys strays free rein to hop on the trains, scavenge for food and cop a few winks.

The New Yorker reports that the deregulation and new wealth of the post-Soviet era were perfect conditions for the spread of stray dogs. So why do they ride the trains in Moscow in particular? Its cold in Moscow, thats why.

More intriguingly, the dogs are learning new behaviour, such as riding the escalator, which, chances are, your pet dog cannot do. Moscows dogs might not be smart smart, but theyre street smart.

Raccoons who ride the subway

In Canada, it is raccoons who ride the subway. (Canada is a country next to the US.)

Dead raccoons who bring people together

While were on the subject of raccoons in Canada, the death of one critter last summer prompted a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy from emotionally available residents who, shocked at city officials delay in collecting the corpse, created a makeshift memorial that eventually attracted the attention of politicians. BuzzFeed Canada had the whole story.

Like failed London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, raccoons might eat our garbage but they still deserve our respect: cities have apparently made raccoons smarter

Crows who use passing car traffic to crack nuts

As the dog is to Moscow and the raccoon is to Toronto, so the crow is to Tokyo: a perfectly adapted urban creature, sharpened into a hyper-competent uber-species by the whetstone of the city streets. (Crows are also vain.)

A black pig called El Chata who roams Mexico City

We crowdsourced his location during Guardian Mexico City Week. Whoever says citizen journalism doesnt work is badly misinformed.

That squirrel can waterski

No.

What are your favourite examples of animals adapting to urban environments? Share your stories, photographs and videos and well feature the best

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

No more monkey business: why primates should never be pets

About 4,500 primates are in private hands in the UK many of them suffering poor conditions. Is it time for a ban?

Primate owner Laura was scanning the internet adverts for monkeys she could try to rescue when she spotted one from a man in the Cotswolds who was clearly finding caring for two common marmosets extremely difficult. This is a common problem: primates are wild animals and keeping them is complex, expensive anddemanding.

She contacted the man and agreed to collect the two adult monkeys one male and one female. They had been kept in a tiny shed in his garden and were in a terrible condition. Hed fed them almost entirely on porridge, baby food and fish fingers. When I asked if he had given them any fruit or vegetables, he remembered that hed occasionally fed them grapes. Neither monkey had ever been seen by a vet. The male had severe dental problems and his tail was a mixture of matted hair and bald patches.

Like many of us, Laura (not her real name) grew up fascinated and enthralled by monkeys, and although she had never intended to keep primates, she found herself rescuing the two marmosets. She soon realised that the female was pregnant and, two weeks later, twin males were born. Soon after, the adult male was booked in for surgery to fix his tail and teeth. While the marmoset was under anaesthetic, the vet discovered that his tiny body was riddled with metabolic bone disease caused by poor nutrition and insufficient light. Sadly the male died during the operation though, with his twisted bones and body bloated by gas, it seemed a slight blessing when his heart finally stopped.

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A common marmoset in the Atlantic rainforest, Brazil. Photograph: Alamy

This sad story doesnt stop there. Before he died, hed managed to get the female pregnant again and soon another three tiny males were born. Laura then rescued another adult male (this time from Luton), and what had started out as a single pair now turned into a family of seven with the new male acting as a surrogate father.

They all now live in at her family home in Lincolnshire in a specially made enclosure with specialist heating,specific lighting, indoor and outdoor runs and an ever-changing regime of feeding and behavioural enrichment. A contraceptive implant has ensured no more little monkeys have since arrived on the scene and now, finally, both the monkeys and keeper are happy.

But Laura admits that primates make awful pets: They urinate on everything to mark their territory and smell terribly; they need constant care and easily cost thousands of pounds every year to keep. People have this idea that they can touch and cuddle them but I never touch mine as theyre not tame. If I did, Id expect to be bitten. Even with my most relaxed animal, I wouldnt dream of it as it would stress him out too much. Its such a selfish thing to have them as pets. Get a dog or have a baby just dont get a monkey!

Welcome to the world of primate ownership: the legal position is complex, the ethics troublesome, and even the owners themselves have conflicted feelings about keeping monkeys at home. Id tried contacting several other primate owners but, with this one exception, none would speak to me. I got a sense that they knew it was wrong at some level and were uncomfortable talking about it.

I am a primatologist and have worked with chimpanzees in Africa, orangutans in Indonesia and green monkeys in the Caribbean. I love primates and have dedicated years to working with them, but there is not a chance I would want one as a pet.

Squirrel
Squirrel monkeys are on the dangerous animals list. Photograph: Alamy

But there are people who want to an estimated 4,500 primates (which covers apes, monkeys and lemurs, bushbabies and lorises) are privately owned in the UK. While some of these are owned by trained experts and represent specialist breeding groups, the vast majority are pets, living in peoples homes. Often owned by individuals with nothing more than good intentions and the misguided desire to own a cool pet, it is clear that there are very few privately owned captive primates in the UK in such a lucky situation as the ones Laura rescued.

Dr Sharon Redrobe a veterinary surgeon and the CEO of Twycross Zoo, Warwicks knows first-hand just how hard primate husbandry is. By definition, a pet is an animal we touch and play with in our homes and in no way is it in a primates best interest to be constantly touched and played with by people. They need their own social groups, are extremely hard to care for and often grow up to be aggressive and impossible to control. Owners then take them to a vet, expecting them to be magically fixed. Theyre wild animals and, in that respect, no different to tigers. You wouldnt keep a tiger at home, so dont keep a monkey.

Redrobe is quick to point out that in the past keeping pet primates was far more socially acceptable and that places such as Twycross were actually founded by people who liked to keep pet monkeys themselves, but she says times have moved on.

The world has changed hugely since the 1950s and 60s. We didnt know any better then; now we do. If you really love monkeys, let them be monkeys. Maybe help them by sponsoring one in a zoo or sanctuary.

Despite such complicated care needs, high welfare concerns and the serious risks associated with the spread of certain diseases between people and non-human primates, it is still legal to keep primates as pets in the UK regardless of how endangered they are or how dangerous they may be.

The care of primates is covered by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 and Defras Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Primates (the primate code) of 2010. The act, which states that animal owners must prevent unnecessary suffering and must take all reasonable steps to meet their animals needs, is hard to enforce as most pet primates in the UK are kept in secret.

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The young capuchin monkey that German authorities confiscated from Justin Bieber in 2013. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP

The primate code is primarily to explain the welfare and management needs of the animals and a breach of its provisions is not actually an offence though it could be used as evidence in court in animal welfare cases. The code, which applies to everything from gorillas to lemurs, is further weakened as it is subject to broad interpretation specific groups are not covered in any real detail.

The keeping of some primate species, such as capuchins, is thankfully restricted under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (1976), but many, including marmosets are not listed. A 2014 RSPCA report found that 81% of pet primates in the UK belonged to the marmoset group originally from South America.

Other primates, such as cotton-top tamarins, are critically endangered and should receive the highest level of legal protection from international trade.

With little awareness surrounding laws and a general lack of consequences for those failing to comply with regulations, many feel that the law should change and that a total ban on the keeping of pet primates in the UK should be introduced.

Rachel Hevesi, the director of Wild Futures, a primate sanctuary in Looe, Cornwall, knows all too well just how weak the current legislation is. Weve had over 150 primates come to us over the years and, without exception, every single one has had physical or psychological problems or, in many cases, both, she says.

Hervesi wants to see a full ban on keeping primates as pets and sees success lying in a positive list style of legislation, where any specific primate species allowed to be kept as pets would be listed. With no species being proposed as being suitable, this blanket, prohibition-type law means that there would be little room for misinterpretation. Such legislation is already present in Belgium and several other European countries and has led to not only a reduction in the overall number of primates being kept as pets, but also to an increase in members of the public reporting illicit pet owners.

Primatologist
Primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall. Photograph: Diana Sanchez/AFP

Hevesi is hopeful that the British government will bring a ban into force in the near future. When the primate code was introduced in 2010, it was agreed that the government would review its success after a five-year period. Defra failed to hold that review in 2015, but has since promised to reassess the legislation this year.

Key stakeholders including the Primate Society of Great Britain, the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza), Born Free and Four Paws all support a ban on pet primates and are gathering evidence and data for the government review.

Hevesi says: The trade relies on the ignorance of the buyer and the greed of the breeders. Weve never met a keeper who has deliberately set out to harm their primate pet; its a lack of awareness and skills.

The image of primates as clever and interactive little human-like animals that can live alongside and play with us may seem appealing and a recent batch of unthinking celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Beyonc and the Kardashians posing with primates has only added to the problem but without exception, every expert, academic, welfare officer and zoo keeper agrees that primates are wholly inappropriate as pets.

Whereas dogs and cats have been specially bred for generations as pets to a point where we have selected specific behavioural and physical traits that make them perfect companions most primates bred as pets are only the result of two or three generations in captivity and are, in most respects, still wild and untamed animals.

Renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr Jane Goodall has worked with wild and captive primates for decades and knows them better than anyone. Every primate belongs in an environment that is as close to a wild setting as possible. They are beautiful and intelligent animals, but highly complex with very specific needs. They simply do not belong in our homes as pets.

With such strong opposition to the UK primate pet trade, it is hoped that a ban can soon be drafted and introduced to protect the needs and welfare of these highly intelligent, though difficult to keep, wild animals.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The owners putting pets on vegan diets: ‘We feed our animals without exploiting others’

Veganism is on the rise, and not just among humans. But is the trend safe especially when it comes to carnivorous cats?

The owners putting pets on vegan diets: ‘We feed our animals without exploiting others’

Veganism is on the rise, and not just among humans. But is the trend safe especially when it comes to carnivorous cats?

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Woof! Watching Isle of Dogs with a cinema full of canines

They were howling in delight at a pooch-friendly screening of Wes Andersons new film in Edinburgh

Scruffy, a sociable yellow labrador, enjoys lying on the couch watching westerns (because of the horses) and Match of the Day (because of the ball), but is only now, at the age of 10, making his debut trip to the cinema. The reason? To attend a pooch-friendly preview of Wes Andersons Isle of Dogs at the Cameo in Edinburgh.

Im hoping that he will behave, says Scruffys human, Rory, adding, as if in reassurance: Hes well house-trained.

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Id give it a canine. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

This sold-out screening is a first in the city (Picturehouse had a run of dog-friendly showings around the UK on Sunday). The cinema has laid on water bowls and blankets. There is not much of a queue for popcorn; when the picture begins, biscuits and dried pig ears will be brought out from bags.

In the foyer, gazing up at the chandelier, is Gordon Kanye Westie, a west highland terrier, shortbread-tin cute in a tartan bow tie. He is here with Fiona, a teacher, who uses the Dugs app on her phone to identify which pubs and other businesses are dog-friendly. She has been lobbying the Cameo to hold these screenings. When Gordon was a puppy I was basically housebound, she recalls. It was like having a newborn baby, and I was missing loads of films.

Kennel
Kennel of you be quiet? Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Within the auditorium are dogs of every sort. The largest, a newfoundland called Luna, seated front and centre, is the approximate size of the MGM lion. The smallest, a terrier cross called Pedro, has enjoyed a Hollywood ending of his own. The heart-shaped white mark on his forehead is apt; Wendy and Rhona, an Edinburgh couple, discovered him as a starving stray while visiting the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite in Cyprus, and brought him back to live with them in Scotland where he enjoys climbing mountains and, now, attending the cinema.

The lights go down. The ears perk up. Isle of Dogs is a gorgeous stop-motion animation with a cast of impeccable pedigree: Bryan Cranston is a blue-eyed mongrel; Tilda Swinton a visionary pug. Whenever an animal howls or growls on screen, which is often, there is an answering bark from the audience. Mostly, the dogs behave. Some seem bored. The phlegmy pant of a French bulldog soon becomes a phlegmy snore.

Whos
Whos playing the lead? Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

As the film ends there is barking and applause. Wagged tails bang the backs of seats. Satisfied customers include Tobermory, an eight-year-old lab, named for the whisky not the Womble. I had wondered, while perusing Tobermorys Facebook page like a sort of Canine Analytica whether this really was his first trip to the cinema. Records show that he went to see Murder on the Orient Express on 5 November last year, and considered it to be mince. This, however, turns out to be the opinion of Bob, a barman and waiter who updates the page and whom the dog has brought along for company.

I thought this film was fantastic, says Bob. And Tobermory? He had a bit of a sleep.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Cat calendar featuring Russian orthodox priests goes viral

Bearded clerics make rare foray into pop culture to pose with their pets for a glossy 2016 calendar

A calendar featuring Russian Orthodox priests posing at home with their feline pets has gone viral in Russia.

Priest + Cat is published by an association of Christian artists, who commissioned a photographer to capture 12 smiling clerics in traditional robes.

Aimed at promoting modern Orthodox culture, the calendar starts with archpriest Oleg Batov and his cat Apelsin. Mr February archpriest Pyotr Dynnikov, who also runs an animal shelter is photographed with his two pets Angola and Vasik.

An Orthodox priest poses with his cat for glossy calendar. Photograph: Anna Galperina/AFP/Getty Images

While the latest issue of the famous Pirelli Calendar might have signalled a cultural shift by foregoing its usual provocative nudes, the makers of Priest + Cat hope to challenge the idea that traditional Orthodox calendars must depict saints and icons.

The projects coordinator, Xenia Loutchenko of Pravmir religious news website, said Priest + Cat should be considered as the Russian Orthodox answer to the annual Italian Calendario Romano, featuring handsome Catholic priests, and the I gatti di Roma calendar, featuring Romes city cats.

Loutchenko says the casting process for the calendar was spontaneous: It was whoever had a cat and was ready to pose for a photo, she said.

She said the calendar is not officially supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, and was inspired by a photography book about the everyday lives of Russian clergy.

I dont see a big sin here, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said of the calendar. Priests have cats, cats have priests, sometimes cats even live in a church. I wouldnt put such a calendar up on my wall though.

The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. Photograph: Anna Galperina/AFP/Getty Images

Popularity

While the reaction to the calendar was mostly positive, some Russian internet users said they thought project was kitsch.

I got some comments from those who are far from the church, [who said] Nothing can help these priests, their image cant be improved even with cats! Loutchenko told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Users commenting on the religious website Pravmir, where Loutchenko works, also had varying reactions to the project.

One anonymous user wrote: The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. The priests are not pop stars to be depicted on a calendar. Neither are they close relatives. It is possible that someone orders a calendar featuring their relatives. But this one is a strange enterprise.

User Elena Gatchinskaya countered the criticism. Whats the issue here? This is a normal calendar for an upcoming year. The priests will remind you of Christ, and the cats are anti-stress. And they will also remind you of Christ.

The Priest + Cat calendar had an initial print run of 1,000 copies but now looks set to print more as demand surges.

A version of this article first appeared on Global Voices

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Connections, community and cute-ass cats: in praise of real-life bodegas

As the inventors of Bodega learned yesterday, real corner shops actually matter to cities in a way supermarket chains and automated cabinets never can

The Saturday before Christmas 1971, my grandparents worked like crazy making enough corned starch for hundreds of friends in East Oakland. Together theyd invented a secret cornmeal masa recipe to sell at their corner store, El Progreso, in order to make the tastiest tortillas and tamales in the region. Dozens lined up when the store opened, some coming from way out of town, and the whole weekend was a lively scene of people from the community buying, commiserating, gossiping, and laughing. My mother, Irma, remembers families even bringing them food.

By late evening on Sunday, she had to announce to friends still waiting that they were out of masa. Though sad she couldnt give them what they were looking for, she and my grandmother Isabel were amazed at their good fortune, sweating from a full day of honest work as my grandfather Anastasio drank beer in the back room to celebrate with his bakers.

Years earlier, the scene had not been so joyful. When my grandparents bought a small corner store and the surrounding property from an Italian immigrant, their ticket to prosperity seemed unlikely. They eked out a living: raising three children, working multiple jobs, and learning about market pricing and budgeting. The first day they opened the store, they only made $12.43 (9.30). They often went to bed wondering if their purchase had been worth it.

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A publicity shot for Bodega, a Silicon Valley startup that sparked Twitter uproar with its stated desire to make real bodegas obsolete. Photograph: Ellian Raffoul for Moanalani Jeffrey Photography

But hard work, innovation and a deep connection to their Oakland community eventually made the store more than a modest success. Towards the end of their near 25-year run, they were known for having the best Mexican bread and the cosiest customer service in town. Years after the store closed, my familys connection to the community remained strong, far beyond racial or other tribal boundaries which, if you know anything about radically open-minded Oakland, makes perfect sense. To this day, my mother is constantly stopped on the street by people of all races who remember her when she worked at the store as a child.

I know what youre thinking. If El Progreso was so successful and beloved by the community, it would still be around. But truth is complicated. The rise of the ruthless efficiency curves of supermarkets and the one-click shopping of the internet has diminished the role of the corner stores, no question. But theyre not gone. And neither is the publics love and concern for them.

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A 1920s grocery store. Corner stores have been run by successions of immigrants. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Yesterday a couple of young entrepreneurs launched a new business called Bodega: small, automated cabinets that sell a variety of goods in public places, and which can track items sold and send orders for restocking. The Twitter backlash was immediate, particularly due to the name, which many considered offensive as it appeared to appropriate a type of establishment that had thrived under Spanish-speaking immigrants, like my grandparents, while apparently contriving to put those very establishments out of business.

One Oakland resident, Kathryn Walters, put it succinctly:

[In NYC], if I had a day where I really didnt want to go anywhere or see anyone I still made time to go to my corner bodega cause those dudes were *rad* and their cat was cute as fuck. Highly doubt youd get a cute ass cat stuffed in a cabinet to simulate that authentic bodega experience. I predict/hope for failure.

The reaction to Bodega might seem harsh, but its understandable. Technological changes happen so fast now, and often so brazenly without regard to community, that the most human reaction is: Will you stop to think about what youre doing? Seen in the larger scope of peoples growing understanding of techs rattling effect on important institutions (See: democracy, Facebook, Russian ads, Trump), any wish for real, cute, Bodega-creeping cats is expected.

Convenience
Convenience store owner Ephrame Kassay talks with a customer outside his shop in southeast Washington DC. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Ann Satterthwaite, an author and city planner, has argued that community backlash against new projects that affect places of gathering such as corner stores and beer halls are driven not by Nimbyism or fear of the future, but by a desire to understand the effect. They dont want to impede progress or return to a sentimental dream of the past, only to, as Satterthwaite writes, realistically and comprehensively [understand] the options for retailing as they relate to the long-term national goals of providing vital communities.

Corner stores do exactly that. And above all, they help immigrants get a leg up. Today, most bodegas in the US and by no means is this a uniquely American phenomenon are run by immigrant families of Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian descent, who followed in the footsteps of the Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants who preceded them. Bodegas offer something chain stores or robot cabinets cant: real, friendly, localised service, not to mention ethnic specialities and connections with people who might not be like you.

Times change. But people are angry. Maybe its the lack of understanding that it takes real people and real sweat to make the products we buy. Most of the time, we cant see the real people many of them immigrants, or in another country entirely who are breaking their backs to give us something extra. We know humans are working hard putting together those iPhone Xs, but does it really sink in? In a corner shop, however, you see it: hardworking immigrants building a world for themselves by selling you what you need for yours.

My grandparents worked from before dawn to the far end of dusk. There was heavy lifting. There was attention to detail and social graces, and an unforgiving, hour-by-hour accounting of their life. People could see their work on their faces, every day, and appreciated them for it. I dont know the future of the corner store. All I have are my familys memories. But, whatever the future, if it involves the startup tech world, I would urge them to begin at the place where all of us, it appears, want and need to: in a community. Maybe that means stop asking how to automate away an institution, and start thinking about how to help them.

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Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Experience: my dog rescues cats

We needed a quick learner; one small enough to fit into the nooks and crannies cats hide in. Mostly, we needed a dog with no desire whatsoever to chase cats

Molly is the worlds first trained cat detection dog. Her job is to rescue missing moggies. We had been looking for a dog with a particular temperament and intelligence to join our team of pet detectives for 18 months. We had scouts out and had spoken to the countrys top breeders.

We needed a quick learner; one small enough to fit into the nooks and crannies cats hide in. Mostly, we needed a dog with no desire whatsoever to chase cats.

I came up with the idea in 2014. Ihad been doing the job for 20 years and my business, Pet Detectives, was getting around 30 calls a week about missing cats. When cats go to ground, they go into a comatose-like state and if they are not found quickly, within a fortnight, they often dont survive after being rescued.

One particular couple who called me had bought their cat after struggling to have children. We found it in a neighbours garden shed, but it later died. Seeing them so bereft was a tipping point for me.

I worked in the police as adetective inspector for many years, and had seen dogs search for drugs and bombs and help with murder investigations. I figured, if a dog can be trained to find amphetamines, then it can be trained to find cats.

We found Molly, an 18-month-old black-haired cocker spaniel, on Gumtree. She was a giveaway. The ad said: Needs a good home, cannot cope. If cocker spaniels are not stimulated they become uncontrollable. She had been passed from pillar to post and had three owners in under two years.

I first met her in February 2016, at the home of Medical Detection Dogs, the charity that would help train her. We had already rejected 12 dogs without seeing them. Three others didnt make it through initial training: one was too timid, one got car sick and the other was too inclined to chase.

At first, Molly was anxious. But she had intelligent eyes and was a problem-solver. She was also hyper and fixated on catching tennis balls. She had the right temperament: abright working dog from a breed with a natural disposition to search for game. We just had to channel that instinct into finding cats.

She had to be cat-tested, so we took her to a farm with a dozen cats to see if she would chase them. She didnt even bark. Her focus was on interacting with her handler.

Her training took nine months with experts, including two doctors of canine behaviour. This had never been done before. She was aquick learner. The first phase was lab training, where we taught her to isolate scents. She then worked with a behavioural specialist who taught her to understand signals and commands. The final stage was teaching us to work together.

On assignments, Molly is trained to pick up cats scents from their bedding. When she finds the missing cat, she lies down to signal success, so as not to scare them, but you can see her trembling with excitement. She gets rewarded with her super-treat: black pudding.

Her first success was in February this year. A tri-coloured moggy had been sighted six miles from home on the roof of a garden shed. Molly quickly picked up her scent on the grass. I sent her across the back of 30 gardens until she started clawing at a fence. She charged across the lawn to a summer house and lay down. The cat was inside. The owners were over the moon and quite amazed by her.

Molly has helped to rescue 11 cats so far, and our search success has increased by a third. She wears afluorescent harness and has her own abseiling kit, which we once used to lower her over a 10ft wall. Were getting special boots made to protect her feet in outbuildings where there may be nails or glass.

Many people said that training a dog to rescue cats was crazy; that all dogs chased cats and it couldnt be done. Nothing has felt quite so rewarding as seeing it work. People are fascinated when they watch Molly at work, but shes not fussed. She still doesnt know that those things with four legs that she searches for are called cats. To her, itis just her favourite game.

As told to Deborah Linton

Do you have an experience to share? Email experience@theguardian.com

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Paddles, First Cat of New Zealand and social media star, dies after being hit by car

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister, writes of her sadness after her pet was killed shortly after moving into the PMs home in Auckland.

The first ever First Cat of New Zealand has died after being hit by a car near the prime ministers home in Auckland.

When Jacinda Ardern became New Zealands new prime minister last month she also brought with her a polydactyl cat, named Paddles.

The cat had opposable thumbs and quickly became a social media presence.

Its @FirstCatofNZ Twitter account was started just days after Ardern was declared the prime minister-elect on 19 October. The cats Twitter bio read: Have thumbs, will tweet.

Paddles (@FirstCatofNZ)

Hi, I’m Paddles and I am the First Cat of New Zealand. I have opposable thumbs, I’m purrty special. pic.twitter.com/MPkxdhWCRu

October 21, 2017

Paddles was also responsible for nearly derailing Arderns first phone call with US President Donald Trump when the cat came into the lounge meowing loudly.

A spokesman for the prime minister said the ginger cat, adopted from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), was hit by a car near Arderns Point Chevalier home and killed on Tuesday.

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Jacinda Ardern on Paddles the cat’s opposable thumbs – archive video

The driver of the car told a local who then took the cat to a vet, the New Zealand Herald reported. The vet declared the cat dead.

Adern wrote on Facebook: To anyone who has ever lost a pet, youll know how sad we feel. Paddles was much loved, and not just by us.

Thanks for everyones thoughts. And on behalf of Paddles, please be kind to the SPCA. They found her before we did, and we will always be grateful for that.

The person manning Paddles Twitter account said the cats father, Arderns partner Clarke Gayford, wanted gifts of condolences to be made in the form of a donation to the SPCA.

Paddles (@FirstCatofNZ)

Just spoke w Paddles Dad, @NZClarke. If you would like to remember Paddles you are most welcome and encouraged to donate to the NZ SPCA.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Meet the dogs of Chernobyl the abandoned pets that formed their own canine community

Hundreds of stray dogs have learned to survive in the woods around the exclusion zone mainly descendants of those left behind after the nuclear disaster, when residents were banned from taking their beloved pets to safety

We are in the woods behind the Chernobyl plant when the dog runs at us. It is thin, with brindle fur and yellow eyes. Igor, our guide, makes a lunge and clamps his hands over its snout. They wrestle in the snow and icy water shakes from the trees. The dogs eyes flash as Igor grabs a stick and throws it into the trees. Distracted, the animal chases it and our little group is free to move. But the dog reappears and drops the stick at Igors foot. He throws it again. The dog brings it back. I almost laugh with relief.

Igor, who, it turns out, is very familiar with the dog, throws a few snowballs, which it tries to catch and chew.This isTarzan, says Igor. Hes a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. Hes only a baby, really

The
The abandoned dogs at Chernobyl endure harsh Ukrainian winters. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Tarzan isnt alone. There are approximately 300 stray dogs in the 2,600km zone. They live among the moose and lynx, the hares and wolves that have also found a home here. But while the Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears were recently introduced to the area, and other animals have come in as opportunists, the dogs are native.

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages. Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: Dont kill our Zhulka. Shes a good dog. There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

The
The dogs often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

But its not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zones checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.

Nadezhda Starodub, a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, says the visitors (there are no tourists in the zone) love the dogs. Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs. There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray. Some guides are afraid of complaints, she says, so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.

The
The strays are helped by the Clean Futures Fund, which has set up veterinary clinics in the area. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

While the dogs get some food and play from the visitors, their health needs are met by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organisation that helps communities affected by industrial accidents, which has set up three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant. The clinics treat emergencies and issue vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. They are also neutering the dogs. Lucas Hixson, the funds co-founder, says: I dont think well ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. This makes Chernobyl safer for the dogs, but also for the workers and visitors.

The Chernobyl plant has recently been sealed under a new sarcophagus designed and built by a multinational group of experts, and similar cooperation can be seen with the dogs. In the woods behind Chernobyl I look again at yellow-eyed Tarzan and see, not a wild animal, but a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.

We
We want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Bento the Keyboard Cat, internet sensation and YouTube star, dies

The beloved feline star of the popular meme has died age nine. But does this really mean the end?

Tonight hes jamming with Kurt and Jimi. Keyboard Cat, the internet meme that bookended a thousand pratfalls, is dead.

In April 2009, thanks in part to a single tweet by Ashton Kutcher, videos of a cat playing a junky little Casio riff became the de rigeur way to play out any footage of, say, a man falling down an escalator in a wheelchair, a singing woman collapsing a table, or just a mortar round misfiring.

The cats owner, Charlie Schmidt, posted the news on Keyboard Cats Facebook page, with its 820,000 followers.

The original Keyboard Cat.

Only, that isnt quite the story. Schmidts original clip of a musical cat the one youre most likely to have seen was shot in 1984. Hence the grainy VHS quality, which made the vaporwave-obsessed internet of 2009 fall in love with it. The cat in that video was called Fatso. He died in 1987.

The recently deceased Bento, born in April 2009, just as the Keyboard Cat phenomenon was hitting its peak, was already a remix. It seems that Keyboard Cats can spontaneously regenerate whenever a few million dollars are dangled in front of them.

Schmidt used Bento to make a second Keyboard Cat video, plus any number of side adventures: a parody of Miley Cyruss Wrecking Ball, an ad for Wonderful Pistachios, all the way up to a spoof on Banksys Exit Through The Pet Shop.

Bento taking on the starring role of Keyboard Cat.

You can hardly blame Schmidt for needing a physical product. Grumpy Cat is reputed to have a net worth of $100m. Within days of the first post to a Reddit thread, Grumpy Cats Red Lobster waitress owner was able to quit her job and go full-time. She shares a manager with Keyboard Cat, and with fellow celebrity felis catus, Lil Bub, and with animated cat meme Nyan Cat. Lil Bub generates enough that owner Mike Bridavsky can give away $200,000 a year to animal charities.

Hamilton, the moustache-toting Hipster Cat, had a web series, appeared in commercials, and had his own calendar line. Henri, a black cat, who appears, subtitled, in black-and-white, in French, like a cat Sartre, earns a $1,000 a week just from his online store. Appearance fees can be far greater. Maru, a Japanese-owned Scottish Fold, is the most watched cat of all time, with 325m YouTube views of him doing very basic cat stuff, like getting slightly freaked out by boxes.

Keyboard Cats spoof on Banksys Exit Through The Pet Shop.

The internet cat-industrial complex is vast. Cat food company Friskies flew Grumpy Cat, real name Tardar Sauce, first class, to South by Southwest. They paid for a chauffeur, a personal assistant, and unlimited food. At a conference with Al Gore and Elon Musk, she was the star. The 2013 documentary Lil Bub and Friendz began when the makers witnessed 10,000 people turn out to the Internet Cat Video Film Festival.

How do you make a smash like Keyboard Cat? You start with $850 of cat piano lessons, Schmidt once quipped. Certainly, it helps if the cat has bodily issues. Keyboard Cat is notable among the truly great cats of the internet for being just a standard moggy, who had to work his way up on his boogie-woogie skills alone. Grumpy Cat has an underbite and feline dwarfism. Lil Bub a short lower jaw, toothlessness and osteopetrosis. Pop Tart Cat (Nyan Cat) has a pop tart for a body. Hipster Cat has a strange white moustache.

Bentos generation is getting long in the tooth. Perhaps not for nothing has Marus owner adopted and begun showcasing a second cat in addition to the 10 year old. The death of a cat is a private tragedy. The death of an internet cat is an economic catastrophe.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

I have a loving husband and thought I was secure. Then a cat came into my life

Philippa Perry on her struggle with total devotion to her cat, Kevin

Pets can highlight your mental health issues. Ask my late dad how he was, he would tell you, Fine. If you wanted more information, it was best to ask him how the dog was. Oh, the dog is depressed. My dad was doing what Freud described as projection. This is when you split off a part of you that is too shameful for you to own and project it on to someone else and you believe your stuff is their stuff. My father could not own his vulnerability, but he could dump it on his dog. I hope I would be far too self-aware to project on to my pet. Id hate to think I was that dotty, but the magazine has just asked if they can send a photographer round. Kevin isnt too keen on photos, I said.

Our cat Kevin had been a stray and came to us from Battersea two years ago when he was around six months old. His body was the size of a can of extra-strong lager. That tubular torso would press against me all night, sometimes stretched alongside me, sometimes curled up in my armpit. In the evening, he would start on a lap but his thin body would elongate itself from your ankles to your thighs like a furry tube. He was playful, affectionate and excellent at being a cat.

We followed the Battersea instructions of keeping him indoors for a month and then only let him out accompanied until he knew where to come back to. When he was ready for unaccompanied roaming, I tried to get a collar on him, but however tight I made it, he could spring it off. Even if he left the house with a collar on, he came back without it. Then one day he did not come back at all. The first time he went missing, he turned up at the Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker, a gastro pub half a mile from our house. He was returned to us swiftly by the landlord, who had taken him to the vet to get his microchip read. Getting Kevin microchipped was a very good idea. My fantasy is that he had chased the pubs resident cat all the way home and then did not know how to get back.

How to describe how you fall in love with a cat? First, the softness of their fur and their choice of your ankles to rub around makes you melt a bit. Secondly, you get used to their presence in your home and come to rely on it for company; and thirdly I think we project our love for ourselves on to our animals and believe it is coming back our way. I like to think Kevin really does love me. Whether he does or not, I love him. For most of my adult life I have lived with a cat, sometimes two, and once I lived with three. I came to appreciate their individual characters and the different ways they kept me company, amused and comforted. But my love for Kevin seems more intense.

There is a type of interaction adopted by cults and abusers when they want total devotion from you, called intermittent positive reinforcement. They start the relationship by heaping praise and appreciations on to you and then gradually begin to mock you, or ignore you, or dish out other types of cruelty so you try harder to win back that approval that you became addicted to. Kevin, having got me smitten, now occasionally ignored me, or bit me if his food bowl got as low as half-empty. Oh, sorry Kevin, Id say, and do his bidding. People who are susceptible to intermittent positive reinforcement tend to be those who have an insecure attachment style. This means they feel insecure in their relationships and compelled to work extra hard at adapting, being too nice or too paranoid, and check up on their significant other as they cannot assume, like a secure person does, that their partner will not stray.

I have been in a loving and stable relationship for 30 years I believed myself cured; thought I was now secure. My unhappy youth, when romantic attachment was about the pain of longing rather than the joy of love, was, I thought, truly behind me, yet Kevin had reignited the feeling of longing.

Philippa
Kevin reignited the feeling of longing. Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer

After the pub incident, I tended to check up on Kevin more. If he had owned a mobile phone, I would have broken into it. I followed him about. I may have scared away the wildlife he was stalking and he may have got irritated with me. People with an insecure attachment style can be annoying. He strayed again, this time he got himself stuck in a rear light well the other side of the square and was not discovered for two nights. His absences made me long for him more.

Kevin loved it when we went to the country. We followed the Battersea code again of not letting him out alone until he knew where to come back and where his food was and all was good. Well, it was fine for me not so much for the local rodent population but I love Kevin so much that even watching him crunch up the heads of mice, upsetting though it is, is wonderful because I am in his presence. Those with an insecure attachment style can feel they are nothing without their love object. I overheard my husband telling someone, Philippas mental health depends on where the cat is. He was probably not projecting either.

My daughter had taken a weeks holiday to spend with me in the country. On the morning of her arrival Kevin had still not returned from a night out. We were supposed to be enjoying a time of picnics, bike rides and swims but here was I miserable and ruining my daughters break. She and I asked everyone within a miles radius but no one had seen him. There was only one house we did not visit because the owners were on holiday. They came back the day my daughter was leaving. When they opened their front door, a speedy Kevin shot out and came straight back home. He was remarkably fit after his week living off flies and toilet water but I was a wreck. Next time, I told myself, I wont worry: a difficult resolution to keep because when he sees an open door he shoots through it into anyones house, shed or car. I have a dread of supermarket delivery vans those are his favourite.

A year later, hes missing again in London. I go to the pub, they havent seen him. I trudge about calling him. Days pass, nothing. My entire life is Operation Kevin. We tweet about his disappearance and the London Evening Standard picks it up. Hes on the front page (slow news day); I do posters; house-to-house enquiries; leaflets through letterboxes. Eventually the phone rings. Kevin had been spotted, stuck on a flat roof by someone who had a leaflet put through her door who had not realised he was trapped. I wept with relief. On getting him home we saw he had a nasty bite on his tail and required antibiotics for that to heal. Keep him in for a week, said Dale, our vet. Music to my ears. I hoped Stockholm syndrome would make Kevin love me. Stockholm syndrome is where a hostage develops a bond with their captor. Humans are pack animals and naturally create attachments and they may do it with whoever is around even when that someone is holding them prisoner.

Perhaps Stockholm syndrome is relevant to cats as well. To some extent, it seems to work: I am the recipient of many friendly head butts and sitting-on-lap sessions during his captivity. Can I keep him in for ever? I asked Dale when it was time for a check-up. That would be cruel, I am told. He is a wild animal that chooses to live with you. So Mr Kinky Tail, aka Bonzo Boots, aka Kevin (one cat can attract a lot of names) once more roams free.

Since the flat-roof episode, he has been relatively good. It is not that he is a reformed character, he will still make a dash for any open door. But Im delighted because in the night it is me he chooses to wake up so that I can admire his latest kill; it is my feet he wants to practise his biting on, and its my lap he needs to stretch out his tube-like body on when he is soaking wet. I weaned myself off indifferent men in my 20s and found a loving one, but a cat I adore whose affection and approval I must work for is a force I cannot resist. Now if youll excuse me, I must get the chicken livers to room temperature in case he comes home for lunch.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us