Helpful Cats Hope To Win Top Award

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by Bethany Meissner

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Photo credit: Cats Protection, www.cats.org.uk

Everyone knows that pets can be a great comfort to their people, but three special British cats are finalists for a top award due to their abilities to comfort and help children in their lives.

Houdini, a two-year-old gray cat with warm golden eyes is one of the finalists for the “Cat of the Year 2016” award in the “Furr-ever Friends” category at the Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards in August.

According to the Stoke Sentinel, Harri began suffering anxiety attacks after his mom, Kielo, broke her back. Kielo told Cats Protection that “the sound of his [Houdini’s] purr and the smell of his fur have a huge calming effect on Harri.” In fact, the family calls Houdini a therapy cat because of how much he helps Harri!

Before Houdini came into his life, Harri had trouble being alone, but now Houdini helps him. Kielo said that “Houdini seems to know when Harri’s had a bad day at school, or when everything is getting too much for him, and will sit with him.”

Houdini isn’t the only finalist in the Furr-ever Friends category helping a child with autism. Mr. Miffy is another finalist. He helps twelve-year-old Jessica who used to suffer meltdowns and have daily struggles. Her mom told Cats Protection that when they got Mr. Miffy “it was the turning point.” Jessica stays calmer and “believes that he truly understands her.”

The other finalist in the category is Blue. Blue lives with eight-year-old Lilly Ruskin who struggled due to her older brother Flynn’s neurological problems. Although Lilly and Flynn both love Blue, their mom, Joanna, told Cats Protection that Blue makes “things so much easier for Lilly…when things get too much for her, she will go to Blue for comfort, fun, and support.”

Regardless of whichever cat wins the award, all three families are already winners to have such fantastic felines in their homes.

Family Dog Saves Owner From Fire

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by Bethany Meissner

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Photo credit: Robert Bova

If your home were on fire, what would you do? For Bailey, a family dog in Guilford, Connecticut, that question isn’t a hypothetical. She saved her owner’s life.

According to The Dodo, when a fire spread through her home, Bailey barked at the door of 27 year-old-Randy Bova until he opened it and saw the danger. Randy then grabbed Bailey and raced out of the house to safety.

Robert Bova, Randy’s brother, told The Dodo that he believes they would have lost Randy due to how quickly the fire spread. Randy was the only human member of the family home that afternoon. He didn’t know about the fire until he heard Bailey barking. He was cleaning his room and listening to music, completely unaware of the danger.

It was a near escape. According to Robert, “When [Randy] went out our back door, he looked at the side of the house, and the entire thing was engulfed in flames.” It’s thanks to Bailey’s barking that no lives were lost to the fire.

On the family’s GoFundMe page, Robert calls Bailey a “superhero dog.” Bailey has been with the Bova family for four years. Robert said that Bailey “means the world to us. She brought me, my brother, and my mother closer together as a family. Once we got this dog, she was the centerpiece of our family’s relationship.”

Although the fire was devastating, the family is grateful to Bailey, “a very special and bright dog,” for keeping Randy safe. Bailey and her family are mourning what was lost, but staying upbeat. Bailey has gotten used to hotel living after the fire and is cherished by her family. Randy wrote in an update, “I’ve always loved her, but now I owe my life to her as well.”

Dogs Improve Airport Security

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by Bethany Meissner

Fable
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Photo credit: Michael Wilson, TSA

The next time you’re at the airport, you might see an adorable dog keeping you safe!

This June, reporters got to meet Fable, an explosive-sniffing black Lab, at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for a demonstration. According to the Charlotte Observer, there are around 230 dogs working at 42 airports in the United States.

The dogs work in different parts of the airport, using their sensitive noses to sniff out chemicals that can be used as part of explosives. However, since April of this year, TSA has started using dogs in passenger screening lines to keep people safe even before they reach the scanners. You can see dogs like Fable at airports in Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Nashville, Salt Lake City, San Jose, and San Juan.

Fable and her coworkers work 3-4 hour shifts, mostly during peak travel times. According to Forbes, their sniffing abilities will both improve security and speed up lines. Passengers who the dogs check will have a faster screening, similar to passengers with PreCheck. They’ll still send their bags through an x-ray, but the people can skip the body scanners and leave their shoes on.

On their website, the TSA writes that according to one canine handler, “dogs are another level of risk-based security. We can screen travelers much faster.”

Fable lives with her handler, Lisa Washington, a Marine Corps veteran and TSA explosive detection canine handler. The two met at Auborn University in 2012 when they were enrolled in a TSA training program. Forbes noted that Washington said that being a mom helped prepare her for working with Fable. When Fable “finds something in training, I hoot and holler and throw her the ball. I’m a good motivator,” says Washington.

At work, Fable wears a “Do Not Pet” sash to alert passengers that she is a working dog. During the demonstration at Charlotte, a dozen passengers walked by Fable with just a little sniffing from the eager dog. However, when a man carrying a brown bag walked by, Fable immediately got up and followed him. She jumped on his bag and found exactly where there were trace amounts of an explosive chemical.

Washington immediately dropped a red toy for Fable as her reward. The Charlotte Observer noted that Washington says Fable, “works so hard because she wants to please me and get her toy.” Forbes wrote that, in the words of her handler, Fable is “the best work partner in the world.”

Stray Kitten Steals the Show on Live Newscast

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by Caroline Golon

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Photo credit: WXYZ-TV

You never know what you’re going to see on live television, including an adorable stray kitten crashing a newscast!

According to Buzzfeed, that’s just what happened in Detroit one Monday morning when WXYZ-TV Channel 7 reporter and anchor Nima Shaffe was wrapping up a segment in front of the local sheriff’s office.

Shaffe was surprised to look down and see a tiny marmalade and white cat boldly approach him and begin meowing incessantly. “She was scurrying about underneath cars and meowing really loud,” Shaffe told Buzzfeed.

Shaffe reached down and picked up the little cat and became instantly smitten with the active roly-poly girl they named Lucky Seven. “She likes to talk,” Shaffe told Buzzfeed. “She likes to tell people her life story.”

Within minutes of the cat making her debut on live TV, she became a local social media celebrity with fans tweeting and commenting on the cute kitty.

Shaffe and his team then called the sheriff’s department to come and retrieve the sweet little stray.

Lucky Seven is now in the care of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, getting shots and ensuring she’s healthy enough to be adopted. “First she has to go to foster care to gain some weight before they can microchip her and give her some more TLC,” Shaffe explained to Buzzfeed. “So it could be anywhere from a month or two before she’s available for adoption.”

There won’t be any shortage of loving families wanting to adopt Lucky Seven. In fact, Shaffe himself might even put in an application. Lucky Seven is definitely the right name for her!

Therapy Dogs Help at U.S. Swimming Trials

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by Caroline Golon

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Photo credit:
USA Swimming

At the recent U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb., the athletes employed all types of tactics to keep calm and perform at their best, including snugging with friendly dogs!

According to NY Daily News, this year, USA Swimming brought in 30 therapy dogs to help swimmers de-stress before their races. The group partnered with Domesti-PUPS, which is a Lincoln, Nebraska-based nonprofit organization that provides therapy dogs for a variety of organizations and events.

At the trials, the stress was high for the nearly 1,700 swimmers from across the nation. The high-stakes event determined the American team for the Rio Olympic games but also gave other top swimmers a chance to experience the highly competitive atmosphere of the trials.

Morgan Weinberg, program and services manager for USA Swimming told NY Daily News that she was looking for something to help the swimmers while they were there. A dog lover herself, she immediately thought of relaxation in the form of wagging tails and soft bellies.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done it,” she explained. “I like dogs, I thought about dogs, and it just kind of evolved into therapy dogs.”

Domesti-PUPS set up at the athletes lounge at CenturyLink Center, where the dogs were happily available to cuddle, play or simply sit and be petted by the swimmers.

The program was a big success!

One swimmer who spent 20 minutes with a dog right before her race, returned later to report that she’d just had the best swim she’d ever had because she was so relaxed when she jumped in the pool.

Kacey Oberlander, who will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall, agrees that the dogs make a difference. “It’s nice to see the happy puppy dogs running around when everything is so intense and everyone’s so serious,” she told NY Daily News. “The dogs are very happy all the time. It makes me calm.”

Many swimmers, like Oberlander, miss their own dogs. The therapy dogs, for a few days at least, filled in the fluffy void. Oberlander told NY Daily News how much she missed her miniature dachshunds, Biscuit and Bella. “I miss them soooo much,” Oberlander said. “When I come in here and see the dogs, it’s just like home.”

Two Bonded Senior Cats Find Forever Home – Together

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by Caroline Golon

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Photo by
Amanda Smith @camelliathecat

Things didn’t look good for Pepa and Meli, two 21-year-old cats in the care of West LA Animal Services in Los Angeles. Their owner had passed away and too often, senior cats don’t fare well in a shelter setting. But, thanks to a family with a soft spot for senior kitties, these two will live out the rest of their lives happy and loved.

According to Love Meow, when the bonded pair arrived at the shelter, workers knew their chances of adoption were slim. Senior cats are hard to adopt and a pair of senior cats is even harder. So the shelter put a plea out to their network for help.

When Amanda Smith of San Diego learned about the cats, she knew she had to help. “A bonded pair of super seniors. I think we all know what the odds are there. To make matters worse, Meli had been moved off the adoption floor due to fearful and aggressive behavior. Being guardian to a previously terrified girl I knew I had to get them both out of there.”

Smith had already adopted Camellia, a 16-year-old deaf and blind cat, from West LA Animal Services so she was well aware of the challenges – and blessings – a senior cat brings.

So Smith’s husband set out on the 4-hour round trip to retrieve the cats and bring them back to their forever home.

“When we adopted them we found that Pepa was emaciated, had severe dental problems, and was severely matted. She is also the most friendly, brave, loving cat I’ve ever known. Of all the cats I have loved, none has nose booped me at every greeting the way she does,” Smith says.

Meli, on the other hand, is taking longer to come out of her shell. “Though it’s so easy to want instant results, we know that scared cats take time and patience,” Smith says. “We will give her all the time she needs. That’s what family does.”

The Smiths don’t shy away from the responsibility of senior cat care, or the emotionally painful reality that the cats might not live for very long.

“No matter how long they are in our care, we can say with confidence when the time comes, that we have loved them the best we could ever single day they were with us,” explains Smith. “We gave them a new end to their story. Instead of dying alone, scared, and abandoned in a shelter they pass in a comfortable home surrounded by love.”

And while it’s clear this family is performing an incredible kindness, they know they are the lucky ones.

“We are honored these beautiful souls bless us with their presence for their twilight years. There is nothing quite like a senior cat.”

Blind Dog and His Guide Dog Adopted Together

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by Caroline Golon

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Photo by Salem Dogs

What could have been a bad situation for an abandoned blind dachshund has a happy ending thanks to the dog’s own guide dog and a kind couple who fell in love with them both.

According to the Statesman Journal, three dachshunds were heartlessly abandoned in Salem, Ore. A kindhearted man took the dogs to the Marion County Dog Services shelter, who immediately contacted Diane Young and Salem Dogs, a local dog rescue. 

One of the dogs was put up for adoption right away and found a home quickly. The other two, Hilda and Herbie, however, had a few quirks.

The staff at Salem Dogs noticed right away that Herbie, a smooth-coated, dappled boy, had vision problems. “It’s not uncommon for dappled-colored dogs of any breed to have vision and hearing problems, and when I and the shelter staff saw Herbie walk into walls, it was obvious he couldn’t see much,” Young told the Statesman Journal.

Soon it was also clear that Hilda, a long-haired female, was Herbie’s protector and guide. “Hilda shepherds him around and protects him, and we knew immediately they needed to be adopted as a pair,” Young explained.

The two would need to go to a special home. It turns out, however, that special home was ready and waiting for the right dog – or dogs – to come along.

Retirees John and Dorothy Sinnar of Yakima, Washington, were looking for a new dog. Sadly, in April, their 16-year-old dachshund Annabelle passed away, and they were ready to open up their hearts and their home again.

“I’d been Googling dachshunds and knew we wanted a rescue because we’d rescued Annabelle from a puppy mill in La Pine years ago, and I somehow got onto a Salem site and saw Hilda and Herbie,” John Sinnar told the Statesman Journal. “I told Dorothy that ‘I think these are our dogs’ and I knew immediately that we had to go see them.”

After a five-hour drive, the couple arrived in Salem to meet the dogs. The connection was instant. Hilda and Herbie had found their forever home – together.