There is a massive swathe of land surrounding the site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Explosion. This area consists of the abandoned cities, villages, and natural areas adjacent to Chernobyl and within sight of its danger.
Enter the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Walking into the closest approximation of a post-apocalyptic setting on earth can be a jarring moment, especially for visitors to the region not really understanding what they are stepping into. For one group of people, the workers and security guards of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, this apocalyptic setting would transform into something akin to a home thanks to newfound friends of the furry sort, dogs.
Stray Dogs of Chernobyl and the Guards Who Love Them
Consider your day-to-day operations at the office. No matter what you feel about your day or your duties, you likely aren’t surrounded by the remains of a giant nuclear wasteland. Working in the Exclusion Zone surrounding the infamous Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is more than just a job, it’s a way of life and one that is being studied by the University of Cambridge.
Jonathon Turnbull is a PhD Candidate for the Department of Geography at Cambridge. For his project, he would give disposable cameras to checkpoint guards working throughout the Exclusion Zone, as well as various workers running shops and convenience stores in the area. Turnbull’s goal was simple, to allow these people to capture their daily life and to reflect upon it during an interview at a later date.
Turnbull lives in Kyiv where he operates as a geographer, studying human and animal relations emerging from the CEZ. Turnbull’s work would lead him to utilize photovoice and photo-elicitation techniques, inviting his subjects to tell their stories while photographs are carefully inserted into the conversation to evoke more information, deeper memories, and stronger feelings.
Meet the Chernobyl Puppies
In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, an area covering roughly,4200km2 between Ukraine and Belarus has been reclaimed by nature. A wildlife haven according to some researchers, this Exclusion Zone would become a haven for stray dogs known as the Chernobyl Puppies. These domestic animals were largely left behind by soldiers to prevent contamination during the initial event, instead left to their own devices to breed in the wild.
Chernobyl Puppies have an average lifespan of just five years and this is due to a few surprising consequences. First and foremost, hunger and thirst are the leading causes of death for these dogs followed by the harsh and cold winters of Ukraine. Radiation is last on the list. At the time of this writing, Turnbull’s study suggests that there are more than 500 dogs throughout the Zone, considered descendants of the dogs left behind on the infamous date in 1986.
While the dogs that can be found around the Power Plant are easy enough to label as strays, the guards of Chernobyl wouldn’t dare to call them as such. Turnbull noted that his interviews left him with the impression that the guards felt a sense of ‘ownership’ over the dogs, including feeling compelled to care for them with food, medicine, and human contact. In return, Turnbull suggests that the dogs provide entertainment, protection, and comfort of their own. One guard said, “We pull out ticks and even buy injections for rabies.”
As the guards and puppies of Chernobyl grow more comfortable with one another, they provide a stark counterpoint to the longevity of damage that Chernobyl has caused. While dogs and humans have begun to come together in the area, the land within the Zone will remain uninhabitable for more than 20,000 years.
Love, Laughter, and 75 Years Together: Gene and Virginia Nelson’s Remarkable Anniversary
Gene and Virginia Nelson of Canby, Oregon, have a relationship that showcases love’s enduring power. The couple recently celebrated an incredible 75 years of marriage, a milestone that very few can claim to have reached. When asked the secret to their lasting love, they attribute it to patience, trust, and a good sense of humor.
Gene, at 95, and Virginia, at 92, have seen a lifetime of changes and challenges, but their love has remained steadfast. When questioned about their enduring bond, Virginia simply replied, “We were just meant to be together!” Gene chimed in, “Have patience through the good times and the bad, try to be honest and faithful.”
Their journey began 75 years ago on August 8 when they decided to elope from Brownsville, Oregon, in Linn County. They hopped on a bus to Reno and got married, a move that still brings a giggle to Virginia’s lips as she recalls how they outfoxed their parents. At the time, Virginia was just 17, and Gene was 20, with Gene humorously adding, “I was 20 and five months, lacked 2 days, and she was 17 years and 25 days.”
According to their grandson, Cody Westphal, their sharp minds are one of the reasons behind their enduring relationship. He said, “Just actively trying to exercise your mind is how it stays sharp.”
The couple has three children and seven grandchildren, with the youngest being 29 years old. Gene recalled what made him know that Virginia was the one, saying, “She was a sweet girlfriend, and I hadn’t found out any of her faults yet when we were young,” which elicited laughter from both of them.
Judy, their daughter, expressed her pride in her parents’ long-lasting love. She said, “It takes a lot to make it 75 years and not give up, and they never gave up.”
Their sense of humor remains a cornerstone of their relationship, as Judy shared, “They both have a really good sense of humor.” Gene and Virginia often engage in friendly banter, and even if they have disagreements during the day, they never go to bed angry.
The couple’s thrifty nature is another shared trait. They still have the refrigerator they purchased right after their wedding from Sears Roebucks, and it’s still in working condition. Just like their marriage, it has stood the test of time. Gene proudly mentioned, “Never had a service charge, and it’s still working! We’ve always been thrifty.”
Their light-hearted arguments, thrifty habits, and enduring love have earned them the nickname “the Bickersons” among family members. Cody noted, “Even if they fight all day, they don’t go to bed angry. I think that’s why they wake up the next day, and they’re still the Bickersons!”
In the twilight of their lives, Gene and Virginia continue to cherish their partnership. As Gene put it, “We’re in our waning days. I hope she outlives me because I don’t want to outlive her.” Their story is a heartwarming reminder that love, patience, and a good sense of humor can make a marriage truly timeless.
Jacksonville Man Spreads Love and Positivity at the Beach
In Jacksonville, Florida, a man has been making waves of positivity and spreading kindness at the Beach Boulevard and San Pablo Road South intersection. With handmade signs that read, “Have a wonderful Day!! I Love You” and “You are Relevant,” this man is on a mission to uplift the spirits of those who pass by. His heartwarming gestures have not gone unnoticed, and his actions are especially poignant during National Suicide Prevention Month.
Rika, a local resident, had a unique encounter with this compassionate individual. She was on her way to pick up her lunch when she saw a man standing in the median of the road, holding these uplifting signs. Most of us would just glance and continue on our way, but Rika decided to take a closer look. As she stopped at a red light, she took a few pictures to capture the moment. To her surprise, the man approached her car and handed her a sunflower.
“So picture this… you’re out going to pick up your lunch, and there’s this random guy walking by with a handmade sign,” Rika recounted. “I’m sure like most of us, we’d glance and keep it moving, but I decided to read his sign since I was at a stop light. I snapped a few pictures because why not, but as I was doing this, he approached my car door to hand me a sunflower! Don’t forget to appreciate the small things.”
This simple act of kindness had a profound impact on Rika, as it has on many others who have encountered this man and his signs. His message of love and importance reminds us all to appreciate the small joys in life and to acknowledge our worth.
The man’s efforts are not just a random act of kindness; they hold special significance during National Suicide Prevention Month. September is a time when people and organizations across the country work to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. This Jacksonville man’s compassionate actions align perfectly with the spirit of this month, as he strives to remind people that they matter and that there is goodness in the world.
Arizona Family Finds Missing Dog After 12 Years
In the warm and sunny state of Arizona, a touching story of a lost dog named Minion recently unfolded. After an astonishing 12 years apart, Minion was finally reunited with his loving family thanks to the magic of a tiny microchip.
It all began when a compassionate officer from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) picked up a dog wandering the streets. The senior dog, with a demeanor that seemed a bit reserved and melancholic, had never wagged his tail during his time at the shelter. Little did they know that this seemingly lost and lonely dog held a remarkable secret.
Upon routine scanning of the dog’s microchip, a heartwarming discovery was made. The microchip revealed the dog’s name – Minion – and even more astonishingly, it provided a link to his family. The family had experienced the heartache of losing their beloved furry friend 12 long years ago, all because a maintenance worker had accidentally left the back gate open in 2011.
With the information obtained from the microchip, MCACC embarked on a mission to reunite Minion with his long-lost family. This heartwarming tale took a poignant turn as a field officer drove 15-year-old Minion back to his home. The officer took the time to explain to the owner that Minion had aged over the years and was no longer the sprightly pup they had known. However, the moment of reunion was sure to be a special one.
As the kennel door swung open and Minion laid eyes on his family, something extraordinary happened. Despite his age and the passage of time, Minion’s tail began to wag furiously, and his eyes sparkled with unmistakable joy. It was clear that he recognized his family and was overjoyed to be back in their loving embrace.
While the details of where Minion had been for the past 12 years remain a mystery, this heartwarming reunion serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of microchipping our pets. Microchips are tiny devices implanted under a pet’s skin that contain important identification information. In Minion’s case, this small chip was the key to reuniting him with his family after more than a decade apart.
Orphaned Puma Cubs, Elbroch and Olympia, Find a New Home in Pennsylvania
Two brave puma cubs, Elbroch and Olympia, have begun a new chapter of their lives in Pennsylvania after a heartbreaking start. These sibling cubs, a boy and a girl, tragically lost their mother when she was shot by a farmer. Now, at 21 weeks old, they are finding comfort and care in a new home at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Maggie Morse, the curator of carnivores and ungulates, shared, “Our keepers have been working hard to help the puma siblings adjust to their new home. We are dedicated to ensuring their well-being and helping them settle in.” The cubs are in good hands with the zoo’s keeper and veterinary teams, who are providing them with the best care possible.
Elbroch, the male cub, is named after Mark Elbroch, a leading puma researcher at Panthera, a conservation organization devoted to protecting wild cats worldwide. On the other hand, Olympia, the female cub, gets her name from the state capital of Washington. The zookeepers can tell the cubs apart by their sizes, with Elbroch being the bigger and more confident of the two. He loves to explore and is not afraid to venture into new territories.
Although the public will have to wait until fall to see these adorable cubs, their arrival is a result of collaboration between the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Philadelphia Zoo. Rachel Metz, the zoo’s vice president of animal well-being, emphasized the importance of this placement, explaining that without intervention, these cubs would likely struggle to survive without their mother.
Philadelphia Zoo sees the cubs as ambassadors for their mission of wildlife protection. They aim to educate visitors about the vital role of apex predators and the complex interactions between humans and predators in the wild.
Pumas, also known as mountain lions or cougars, possess the largest hind legs among feline species. This unique feature enables them to leap impressive distances while hunting. With the ability to jump more than 20 feet horizontally and 18 feet vertically, they are formidable hunters. From moose to mice, pumas can catch a wide range of prey, showcasing their exceptional hunting skills.
As Elbroch and Olympia begin their journey in their new home, their story serves as a reminder of the challenges wild animals face and the important role that zoos play in conservation efforts. These cubs are more than just adorable faces; they are symbols of hope and a call to action to protect and appreciate the beauty and significance of apex predators like pumas.
The Healing Power of Petting Dogs: Boosting Your Health One Pat at a Time
There’s something undeniably heartwarming and joyful about interacting with a furry, four-legged friend. Whether you’re a dog owner or simply passing by a friendly pup on your daily stroll, those short interactions can have a surprisingly positive impact on your health. Recent research suggests that petting other people’s dogs can be more than just a heartwarming gesture – it can actually boost your mental and physical well-being in remarkable ways.
We all know that spending time with our own beloved pets can bring a sense of comfort and happiness, but what about those fleeting moments when we stop to pet a stranger’s dog? Can these brief interactions truly have an impact on our health? According to experts, the answer is a resounding yes.
Nancy Gee, a distinguished professor of psychiatry and the director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, sheds light on the remarkable benefits of these short interactions. “Absolutely. I think it is safe to say that animals are beneficial to our mental and physical health,” she affirms. The evidence is piling up, revealing that even a mere 5 to 20 minutes spent interacting with a dog – even if it’s not your own – can lead to significant health improvements.
One of the key physiological changes observed during these interactions is the drop in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Just a few moments spent petting a dog can lead to a noticeable reduction in stress and anxiety. It’s as if the simple act of running your fingers through a dog’s soft fur has the power to melt away your worries.
But the benefits don’t stop there. The magic touch of a dog’s paw also triggers the release of oxytocin – often referred to as the “bonding hormone” or the “feel-good hormone.” This hormone is responsible for fostering feelings of connection, trust, and happiness. So, when you pet a dog, your body responds by flooding your system with oxytocin, creating a sense of warmth and positivity.
Interestingly, it’s not just humans that experience these remarkable changes. Dogs, too, reap the rewards of these short but meaningful interactions. “What I love about this research is that it’s a two-way street,” Nancy Gee points out. Dogs also experience an increase in oxytocin levels when they interact with humans. This mutual exchange of positive feelings contributes to the unique and special bond shared between humans and their canine companions.
So, whether you’re a dog owner or someone who simply enjoys taking a moment to connect with a furry friend on the street, rest assured that those short interactions are far more than just passing moments. They are potent doses of health and happiness that have the power to lower your stress, boost your mood, and create a heartwarming connection with both dogs and their owners.
In a world that can often feel overwhelming, the simple act of petting a dog can remind us of the beauty of these small, joyful moments. Next time you find yourself reaching out to pat a pup, remember that you’re not only spreading happiness to the dog – you’re also nurturing your own well-being, one pat at a time.
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