autism · behavior · children · health · Social

Dogs trained to help disabled kids lead more enriching lives

Your feel good story of the day, brought to you by the New York Times: a nonprofit organization trains dogs to help kids with all kinds of disorders, from autism to muscular dystrophy to seizures.

In October 1998, Shirk assembled a board and founded 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit corporation. She rescued Butler, a German shepherd mix, from a shelter; hired a trainer to prepare him for mobility work with the 12-year-old; and became a pioneer among service-dog agencies. “People started calling from all over to ask, Am I too young? Am I too old? Am I too disabled? Am I disabled enough?” she says. “I said, ‘If your life can be improved by a dog, and if you and your family can take good care of a dog, we’re going to give you a dog.’…” “We place dogs with kids in wheelchairs, kids on ventilators, kids with autism, kids with dwarfism, kids with seizure disorder and cognitive impairments; but if your dog does tricks, other kids want to meet you. Kids will ignore your disability if you’ve got a cool dog.”

Watch the video at the New York Times:

A trainer works with a dog on behavior modification techniques. Click the image to see the video.

It is also an amazing relationship dynamic to see occur between the children and their dogs, how the children with cognitive disabilities in particular are helped to see the world, in a way, through their dog’s eyes:

Alan M. Beck, the director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is among those intrigued by it. “There is a real bond between children and animals,” he told me. “The younger the child, the greater the suspension of disbelief about what an animal understands or doesn’t understand.” According to Beck, more than 70 percent of children confide in their dogs, and 48 percent of adults do. “The absolutely nonjudgmental responses from animals are especially important to children,” he says. “If your child with F.A.S.D. starts to misbehave, your face may show disapproval, but the dog doesn’t show disapproval. The performance anxiety this child may feel all the time is absent when he’s with his dog. Suddenly he’s relaxed, he’s with a peer who doesn’t criticize him.”

creativity · youtube

Superbowl ad actually encourages us to exercise (sorta)

Superbowl Sunday is almost upon us, and the Superbowl ads are already being released. Volkswagen has released an ad that features a dog getting in shape for his sport. While it’s obviously meant in jest, in some ways it’s great because it arguably sends the message that anyone can train for their personal goals, whether it’s chasing cars (and vaulting through trees), fitting through the doggie door, or whatever.
What are your goals? I’m participating in a 5k on Saturday, but what physical movement and enrichment do you hope to accomplish over the weekend?

community · education · emotion · happiness · hugs · mental health · Uncategorized

Yale law students can (maybe?) check out a dog for stress relief

For me, it is soooo one of those Fridays where everything is blowing up after a long week and you have a doctor’s appointment that took a month to schedule so you really don’t want to miss it, and the coffee’s worked a little TOO well this morning…

For days like this, I have my dog waiting for me at home (assuming I ever get home); for students away at school, they may not have that option.

There are now rumors circulating about Monty, a border terrier at Yale who is available for some quality time with Yale Law students who really need some good adorable animal therapy. While Yale has officially denied this, unofficially they announced he is available for therapy services.

The myth of Monty—short for “General Montgomery“—first surfaced last fall on the popular blog Above the Law. The border terrier was allegedly in a basket behind the circulation desk, but the school later issued a denial about Monty’s existence. Now New York Magazine’s reporting that Yale students have received a memo saying that, Monty is back and available for checkout.

It sounds like they’ve made Monty fully available to students now:

And, even though Monty is hypoallergenic, “visits will be confined to a dedicated non-public space in the library to eliminate potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns. Kauffman also says they’ll be looking for student feedback on whether to have therapy dogs available “during stressful periods of the semester, for example during examinations.”

My firs thought? Why don’t they have this instituted in MORE high-stress places like graduate school? I can understand businesses not wanting people to bring their dogs into work, but a fully vetted and therapy-trained dog for as-needed therapy? Brilliant!!!!


Latest news on female primates, of the human and non-human variety

The latest and the greatest about women primates!

1. hot climates tend to produce more girls

2. Márta Daróczi-Szabó, an archaeozoologist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, recently lead an archaeological dig that found up to 10 dogs sacrificed and buried near house foundations, apparently as a way to ward off evil. Dogs protecting the home, in a somewhat odd way.

3. And finally, the slightly annoying practice of my mother-in-law constantly stealing food from her son’s plate actually had an evolutionary reasoning behind it: by stealing food, female orangutans test the patience and hospitality of males to see if they’d be good mates. So all those years of stealing actually trained my husband to be a good mate. Thanks Judy!


The outer limits…of humans

I’ve been collecting some weird stuff that doesn’t necessarily correlate directly to humans and culture, but they all do in a roundabout, sideways, too-cool-to-not-mention sort of way.

For starters, some researchers have found evidence that humans have taste buds for calcium. I wonder if there is a difference between cultures who practically live off milk compared to those who don’t.

Also, there is a cool YouTube video about parasitic worms that can actually recreate or at least mimic the genes of their host insect to the extent that they can send messages to the insect’s “brain” and make the insects do what they want, including commit suicide by jumping into a body of water so the worm can escape, essentially turning the bug into a zombie. As the researcher mentions in the video, this has implications for human parasitic diseases (which I can’t remember right now but if you watch the video he will explain it better).

Getting back into the traditional “Anthropology” stuff, German anthropologists have been able to genetically trace bones from the Bronze Age to a pair of men living in a village nearby the cave where the bones were found, making this the longest family tree in history.

As a cool example of the power of motherhood and how much dogs have evolved to be co-habitants of humans, a dog in Argentina rescued a newborn baby abandoned in the ghettos/favelas. The dog was a new mother herself, and after the dog’s owner discovered the baby cuddled in with the pups, he alerted authorities and the baby’s 14-year-old mother came forward. Unfortunately the media attention is actually freaking the dog out a bit, so leave her alone!

Also, for all you star gazers out there, a Top 10 of ancient astronomy observatories throughout the world (interestingly, the Mayan pyramids made it on there, the Egyptian pyramids did not).

Finally, for all you visual or historical anthropologists, a cool article on the history of the daguerrotype, and links to other articles about cool photographic inventions.