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Jamaica Junction

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6 animals with pets of their own

April 11th 2013 6:32 am
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By Bryan Nelson -
Fri, Mar 29 2013 at 6:51 AM

For many of us, pets aren't just casual companions. They are cherished members of the family. Sometimes it even feels like we're the pets, and our pets are the masters. So it’s worth asking: Are humans the only animals that keep pets? Or do other animals also keep pets and form deep companionships with other species?

The answer might surprise you. Not only do some animals display a great capacity to look after and bond with a member of another species, they also appear to form these bonds for no reason other than companionship. To prove it, here's our list of animals with pets of their own.

Koko the gorilla and her cats
Koko the gorilla is best known for being a sign-language speaking ape, believed by her handlers to know more than 1,000 signs. But perhaps her most humanizing characteristic has been the love and affection she has demonstrated toward her pet cats.

Koko was first allowed a pet cat in 1985 after she specially requested one for her birthday. She was even allowed to choose a kitten from a litter; a gray male Manx that she named "All Ball." Koko's gentle care and affection for All Ball was astounding to those on the outside who had never seen another animal treat another species as a pet before, but to Koko's handlers, who knew her well, it wasn't surprising at all.

Tragically, later that same year All Ball was struck by a car and killed while exploring the world outside of Koko's enclosure. Koko's mourning process after being told of the cat's death showed just how deep her emotional bond to the cat was. The following year, Koko was given two kittens. She named them "Lipstick" and "Smokey."

Tarra the elephant and her pet dog Bella
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has been home to one of nature's most unexpected odd couples: Tarra the elephant and her pet dog, Bella. The two first bonded several years ago when a stray dog wandered onto the Sanctuary's property. Rather than scare off the intruder, one elephant in particular, Tarra, immediately welcomed the stray with open arms. Before long, the two became inseparable. In fact, Tarra seemed to spend more time with Bella than she did with other elephants.

The bond became especially apparent when Bella suffered a spinal cord injury and lost the use of her legs. Caretakers took her indoors to receive medical assistance. For three weeks Bella was bed-bound, and for the entire three weeks Tarra stood just outside the building holding vigil, refusing to leave Bella's side. When the two were finally reunited, their embrace made it clear to everyone involved just how special their bond was.

It goes to show that even a giant animal like an elephant can have a gentle heart.

Amy the deer and her pet dog
This PBS report about animal odd couples showcases many touching stories of animal bonds that cross the species barrier, but perhaps none are as astounding as the story of Amy the deer and her pet dog, named Ransom. The tale takes place at an animal rehabilitation center in Oklahoma, Wild Heart Ranch, which cares for thousands of animals every year.

Though many of the animals at Wild Heart are released back into the wild, Amy is a permanent resident since she is a non-native species to the region. She's a welcome resident, however, because of her strong mothering instinct, as she assists in raising many of the orphaned deer that the ranch takes in. But her mothering skills go beyond other deer.

When the ranch took in Ransom, a golden retriever born blind, Amy immediately took to raising him as well. She regularly grooms the dog, plays with him and has demonstrated remarkable patience and compassion in helping Ransom adapt to a world he cannot see. Meanwhile, Ransom is bonded to Amy in a way indistinguishable from the way a pet dog bonds to its human companions. It's truly a touching and inspiring story!

Capuchins and their pet marmosets
This remarkable story has even gotten the attention of those who are skeptical of reports about animals and their pets. A group of capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been witnessed adopting and caring for a baby marmoset, another type of monkey entirely. The baby marmoset was raised as a regular member of the capuchin family, though the capuchins seemed to understand that the marmoset (named Fortunata) was not a member of their own species. For instance, when they played together, the capuchins treated the marmoset gently, as if they comprehended that she was more delicate than members of their own ilk.

This case of animals keeping pets is particularly astute because it occurred among animals that were all living in the wild. Also, the marmoset that was kept as a pet was not a human-domesticated animal.

A crow and its pet cat
This remarkable story of a crow that apparently raised a pet kitten shows that its not just mammals that can keep pets. (You may have to see the video for yourself to believe it.) According to the report, the kitten was a stray that probably couldn't have cared for itself without assistance. But the only assistance it could have received was from a mysterious crow that never left the kitten's side. Before long, local witnesses got their proof: the crow was seen regularly feeding the cat with worms and other prey that it had collected.

The two animals would often play together innocently, and the crow would protect its pet from dangers (it would even squawk so that the kitten wouldn't wander into the road).

It's a remarkable story that shows how other animals can display a compassion and bond toward other species in a way that many researchers never believed possible before.

Tonda the orangutan and her pet cat
Koko isn't the only great ape that has shown the capacity to care for a pet. Tonda, an organgutan that lived at ZooWorld in Florida, took in a stray cat named T.K. (for "Tonda's kitten"), and kept it as a pet and companion animal. The bond between the two was particularly special because T.K. was a true stray that had to be fostered gently by Tonda over time before the cat opened up to the concept. Meanwhile, zookeepers credit Tonda's relationship with the cat as reason why the organgutan was able to live to such an old age.

The bond between ape and cat was also noteworthy as a contrast to Koko's relationship with her cats because Tonda was not taught to sign. So it goes to prove that the bond between pet and pet owner runs deeper than what can be communicated through language.


A Birthday to Celebrate!

April 9th 2013 6:06 am
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Grandpa is turning 75 this April. The Family decided to do something special to celebrate and booked some rooms at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Unfortunately, Pepper could not be included in those plans. She stayed home and watched the house. It was Pepper's first time being left behind for two nights. She did a great job and the house was fine upon the family's return. She was well cared for by GoodNeighborFriendLady. I know because as an earthly dog I was a recipient of that care many a time.


Dogs befriend cheetahs to aid cats' survival

March 28th 2013 6:38 am
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By Laura Moss -
Thu, Mar 21 2013 at 1:16 PM

Dogs may have a reputation as man’s best friend, but at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, it’s the cats that are best buds with the dogs.

Since the 1980s, the zoo and its safari park have paired cheetahs with companion dogs to provide the cats with guidance and help them feel more comfortable. For endangered felines that don’t breed easily, a canine companion can make a world of difference.

“A dominant dog is very helpful because cheetahs are quite shy instinctively, and you can’t breed that out of them,” said Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “When you pair them, the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and learns to model their behavior. It’s about getting them to read that calm, happy-go-lucky vibe from the dog.”

This relationship relaxes the cheetahs and helps them better respond to each other, so they can reproduce and rebuild their endangered species.

The cats are difficult to breed because they’re not social animals. They live independently, and females don't go into heat like other cats — they have to be brought into estrus by a male cheetah.

A century ago, there were 100,000 cheetahs in the wild — fewer than 12,000 remain today. But thanks, in part, to its dog companion program, the San Diego Zoo leads the world in breeding the cats. In the past 40 years, 135 cheetahs have been born at its breeding facility.

Finding the perfect pups
The dogs are typically rescued from shelters, and Rose-Hinostroza looks for puppies that want to be a buddy. While most of the dogs are mutts, the zoo does have one purebred Anatolian shepherd dog whose name is Yeti.

“We love to go to the pound and find a dog that needs a home, but we wanted to get an Anatolian shepherd because they’re such a great conservation story to share with the public,” Rose-Hinostroza said.

Decades ago, cheetahs were being shot and trapped by ranchers in Namibia who were trying to protect their goat herds. Concerned for the wild cats’ fate, Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, trained Anatolian shepherd dogs to protect the herds, and since then, the cheetahs’ numbers have rebounded.

Yeti is the zoo’s largest dog, but Rose-Hinostroza says it’s not size or strength that matters when selecting a dog to pair with a cheetah.

“My favorite dog is Hopper because we found him at a kill shelter and he’s just 40 pounds, but he lives with Amara, who’s our toughest cheetah by far. It’s not about strength or overpowering. It’s about developing a positive relationship where the cheetah takes her cues from the dog.”

Cat meets dog
Cheetah cubs are generally introduced to their canine companions when they’re about 3 or 4 months old once they’ve had all of their vaccinations.

“We’re very protective of our cheetahs, so the introduction is a painfully slow process but a lot of fun,” Rose-Hinostroza said.

The cheetah’s first encounter with the dog is through the fence of its enclosure. A keeper walks the dog past the habitat to help the cat get used to seeing a different animal. Once the cub is comfortable at the sight of the dog, the two are taken to a neutral location for their first playdate, but kept on leashes.

“There are lots of toys and distractions, and they’re like two cute little kids who desperately want to play. But cheetahs are instinctively hardwired to feel uneasy so you have to wait and let the cat make the first move,” Rose-Hinostroza said.

Once the animals are comfortable playing off-leash, they move into a shared habitat and spend almost all their time together. The only times they’re separated are when the canines take time off to play with their fellow companion dogs and during feeding times — filet mignon for the cheetahs and kibble for the dogs.

“The dog is the dominant in the relationship, so if we didn’t separate them, the dog would eat all the cheetah’s food and we’d have a really skinny cheetah and a really chubby dog,” Rose-Hinostroza said.


Golden Retriever Helps Rescuers Find Missing Dog

March 19th 2013 6:09 am
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By Caroline Golon,

When Katie, a German shepherd, went missing from her home, her family searched for her for nearly 30 hours. But it was the family’s other dog, Bojangles, who eventually found her – stuck in a drainpipe.

Katie disappeared from home on a Friday afternoon. Because she rarely left the yard, the family was immediately concerned. For the next day-and-a-half, the family searched for Katie in the dense woods on their 40-acre property, calling her name and covering as much ground as they could.

On Saturday afternoon, exhausted from a day of searching, the family’s kids took their other dog, Bojangles, on a final walk of the day. According to the Huffington Post, the kids and the Golden Retriever walked through the woods and out onto a nearby road. Suddenly, Bojangles ran to a drainage pipe and began barking. Katie was stuck inside the pipe!

Katie had apparently crawled into the pipe but couldn’t get out because the other end was collapsed.

The family had searched the area near the drainpipe numerous times, unaware that Katie was trapped inside.

It took rescue workers an hour to get Katie out of the 25-foot pipe she’d crawled into. Ultimately, they had to cut open the pipe to free her.

Aside from being hungry and thirsty, Katie was just fine and is now back at home, snuggling up to her best bud – and hero – Bojangles.


Harley Goes Home

March 13th 2013 6:07 am
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When Midnight, a six-year-old Labrador Retriever mix, came to us, he suffered from severe skin disease and ear infections and looked emaciated. He underwent treatment at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital and slowly began to recover. When he was ready, Midnight stayed for months in our Adoption Center, waiting patiently for someone to take him home.

In February, Victoria D'Asto and Michael Pisula did just that, giving Midnight a new life as part of their family.

“My husband and I waited a year and a half after the passing of our last dog before visiting the ASPCA in Manhattan,” Victoria says. “After looking at all the dogs and meeting several of them, we settled on Midnight, now known as Harley.”

Harley has come a long way, but he still suffers from chronic ear infections. With medication and TLC, Harley’s ear infections are manageable.

“Even with his health issues and difficult past, we felt that he would be a great addition to our family,” Victoria says.

And they were right. Harley is thriving in his new home.

“It turns out that we really lucked out—Harley is so well trained and sweet with everyone he meets,” Victoria says. “He seems to enjoy his new diet and exercise program as he gains those last five pounds to bring him back up to a healthy weight.”

Victoria tells us that Harley loves to go for walks in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, on shopping trips, and enjoys romping around at Victoria and Michael’s country home on the weekends.

“He loves destroying his toys, fighting for the peanut butter in his new Kong toy and lounging by the fireplace,” she says. “It's been almost two weeks, and he's already become our best friend! Thanks, ASPCA!”


Resident Cats Comfort Injured Shelter Dog

March 12th 2013 5:54 am
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By Caroline Golon -

Cat cuddles are the best medicine! Just ask Nellie, a senior dog who was rescued by Animal Friends of Japan back in November.

According to the organization’s Facebook page, Nellie had been lying by the side of the road for two days before she was found and rescued. “We gave her a bath and discovered she had badly infected wounds on her leg and stomach. We think she was hit by a car,” the page explains.

Shelter vets went about working on Nellie’s wounds and nursing her back to health. But some other new friends also felt they needed to assist in her recovery. A couple of resident cats at the shelter took it upon themselves to snuggle up to Nellie, giving her some much needed comfort.

Apparently some other cats didn’t want to be left out and also joined the snuggle fest. Soon there was always several different cats cuddled up with Nellie!

The shelter reported that Nellie was well on her way to recovery and, even better, on her way to her forever home with a couple happy and willing to take in the sweet senior dog.


Man reunited with dog a decade later

February 28th 2013 5:37 am
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By Laura Moss,
Mon, Feb 25 2013 at 3:16 PM

Jamie Carpentier, of Nashua, N.H., told himself “no more dogs” after his boxer died on Christmas Eve. But in January he found himself browsing the Humane Society of Greater Nashua’s website, where he was shocked to find a listing for a 13-year-old basset hound named Ginger.

There were no photos of the dog, but her description read, "I have the longest ears and the biggest heart of any dog you will ever meet! I am an older girl, but I still have a lot of spunk left."

"It can't be her," Carpentier recounted to The Nashua Telegraph. "It's been so long."

Carpentier lost his 3-year-old dog Ginger in 2003 when he and his wife divorced. Then, without his knowledge, his wife gave the basset hound to the Nashua shelter, where an older couple adopted her.

But in October — almost 10 years later — the couple returned Ginger to the shelter because they were unable to care for her any longer.

Curious if the dog could actually be his Ginger, Carpentier emailed the Humane Society to ask for a photo of the dog. He compared the shelter’s photo with the puppy pictures he’d saved, and saw that the markings were the same. Ginger was his dog.

Carpentier visited the shelter on Jan. 21 and Ginger immediately recognized him.

"She heard my voice. I walked up to her and she kind of gave me a couple of licks or kisses. And I was like, ‘She knows who I am. She remembers my voice,'" he said.

After that, Carpentier changed his mind about the no-more-dogs policy, and he and his fiancée and daughter adopted Ginger on the spot.

"She's going to live with me 'til the end," Carpentier told ABC affiliate WMUR-TV. "I just want her to be happy and live a good dog life."


Rescue Kitty Saves Family From Fire

February 26th 2013 5:43 am
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By Caroline Golon,

A rescue cat who was taken in by a Jones County, Ga. family, returned the favor by saving the family’s home from going up in flames.

According to the Macon Telegraph, seven-year-old Brendon Rinauro begged his parents to let him keep Mr. Meowy, a sweet white cat from animal rescue group Macon Purrs ‘N Paws. Brendon’s parents, Kayti and Sal, weren’t convinced they wanted to adopt a cat, but reluctantly agreed to foster Mr. Meowy temporarily.

The next day, the family left their home to go out for the evening. As she was leaving, Kayti ran back inside to turn on a light for Mr. Meowy. That’s when she heard the cat meowing loudly from Brendon’s bedroom.

Since Mr. Meowy had been extremely quiet since he’d come to stay with them, Kayti wondered why he was suddenly making so much noise and decided to check on him. When she did, she discovered what the cat was meowing so loudly about: a pillow had fallen on a nightlight in Brendon’s room and was starting to burn.

Luckily, Kayti was able to extinguish the smoking pillow before it burst into flames. She has no doubt that, without Mr. Meowy’s help, she would have left the house again, not realizing there was a smoldering fire in the bedroom. “Everything would have been gone, no question,” said her husband, Sal. “This is literally everything we have.”

Now, the family has no more doubts that Mr. Meowy belongs with him. “We were just going to foster him for a little while,” Kayti told the Telegraph. “Now, he’s not going anywhere.


Stolen Service Dog Returned to Owner

February 22nd 2013 5:57 am
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By Ricardo Navarro -

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- It was love at first sight for Ernestina Saldana and her dog, Honey.

"The way she looks at you is very sweet, its like she can see right through you," said Saldana.

Saldana rescued Honey 3 years ago. But Saldana needed Honey more than Honey needed her. Saldana is a paraplegic, and she also has a pinched nerve which makes it even more difficult to move.

"At that time I had shared custody so I didn't have my daughters with me all the time and I started relying on Honey a lot," said Saldana.

Honey quickly learned and helped her get out of bed, turn on lights and even open the fridge, among other tasks.

Two weeks ago all of that was taken away. It was outside the Bagelrey on Maple and Cedar Street in Santa Cruz, where Saldana said Honey was taken. She said she was in the bagel shop for 15 minutes and when she came out, her car door was wide open and Honey was no where to be found.

"I'm not planning on pressing charges, I'm not planning to pursue anybody. I want my dog is my only thing," said Saldana.

The more time that went by the more Saldana cried for her dog.

"She was there for me, Honey is more than just a service dog for me," said Saldana.

However, Tuesday afternoon Saldana got the news she was waiting for. Saldana said someone turned Honey in to Police and the animal shelter. Someone had in fact stolen Honey.

Now, Saldana is crying tears of joy. Honey is back in service.

The training that Honey went through is valued at almost $10,000. The person who turned Honey in, will not face any charges, as promised.


Good news for Iraq war vet's service dog

February 5th 2013 3:10 pm
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By Kimberly White
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Biopsy shows tumor is benign

SANTA CRUZ -- An Iraq War veteran has received a slew of good fortune during the past few days -- learning late Monday morning that the tumor removed from her four-legged, steadfast companion last week is benign.

Devon, a 7-year-old golden retriever, underwent surgery early Friday morning to have the mass removed from his left front paw. It was shipped to a lab for further testing, and if the results showed a malignancy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments likely would have been needed.

Dr. David Shuman, who operates the Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital, donated his services to remove the growth, and when the lab learned of Santa Cruz resident Tori Stitt's story, "they donated their services and put 'STAT' all over it," he said Monday.

Meanwhile, when the community learned the invaluable services Devon provides to help Stitt cope with post-traumatic stress disorder -- including licking her awake to interrupt persistent nightmares -- they eagerly opened their wallets, donating about $8,000.

Shuman and Stitt both expressed their appreciation for the outpouring of support.

"It's amazing to see how the community will come together to support someone like me," Stitt said. "The cards, the checks -- it's like, wow."

Devon entered Stitt's life in 2009, not long after the former Navy lieutenant returned from a yearlong deployment to northern Iraq. During her time there, she trained staff members how to defuse improvised explosive devices and witnessed many of her trainees injured and killed while working in the field.

Plagued by recurring nightmares, and increasingly isolating herself from society, she sought help from the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to disabled veterans.

Ever since, Stitt has become more outgoing and involved in the community, befriending such staunch supporters as Santa Cruz resident Rachel Boyd, who cares for Devon while his owner works. He was back in Shuman's care Monday, getting his sutures removed and paw rebandaged.

"As soon as the skin heals and we make sure everything's covered over, it's a done deal," Shuman said.

Meanwhile, the funds donated over the weekend have been set aside in a client account.

"He should be a very well cared for dog for the rest of his life," Shuman said.

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