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Oldest Gorilla on Earth Celebrates Birthday at Atlanta Zoo

Founded in 1989, Zoo Atlanta has served residents and visitors to the area with a front-row view of black bears, raccoons, jaguars, hyenas, lions, and even gorillas. Recently, the Zoo Atlanta was in the news thanks to a very special birthday celebrated by a Western Lowland Gorilla named Ozzie. Ozzie celebrated his 60th birthday and in doing so he would become the oldest male living gorilla on record, at least according to Zoo Atlanta!

The Western Lowland Gorilla

Ozzie belongs to a subspecies of the Western Gorilla, known as the Lowland Western Gorilla. This subspecies is the only known Gorilla subspecies to be kept in zoo enclosures. The most finite subspecies of gorilla, Ozzie, is considered a member of one of the stronger and larger subspecies. With jet black skin and no fur, it is easy to see how similar their hands are to humans.

Gorillas like Ozzie often walk erect and can stand up to 5’11 while weighing in at 600lbs. The male western lowland gorilla will typically weigh more while standing taller. Western Lowland gorillas can be social creatures and they often make bonds with members of both genders, across differing groups. Western lowland gorillas aren’t territorial and they tend to follow the lead of at least one adult male.

Thanks to their large hands and advanced thumbs, gorillas like Ozzie can work with tools while exhibiting real intelligence. Gorillas have been tracked using sticks to measure water depth, buckets to fill water, and tools to drink beverages while in captivity.

A Special Birthday Bash

As the oldest male gorilla on record, Ozzie was more than ready to celebrate in style with his friends, caretakers, and fellow animals at the Zoo Atlanta. To celebrate the occasion while marking a special moment for Ozzie, the staff at Zoo Atlanta would provide him with a multi-tiered cake filled with frozen fruits that had been carefully colored for decorative purposes.

According to Zoo Atlanta, Ozzie has enjoyed prolific success as a mate. Ozzie has 20 descendants spanning three generations, with many of those animals still living with Ozzie at the Zoo Atlanta. The gorillas that have been removed from captivity have been sent to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Ozzie presently lives in a habitat made specifically for senior gorillas. His roommates include females, Machi, Kuchi, and Choomba – ranging between 36 and 58 years old. According to most researchers, a gorilla is considered geriatric after they surpass the age of 40.

The Species on the Brink

While conservationists are doing their best to foster new growth within the western lowland gorilla species, they are facing an uphill battle. Primarily living in forests, brush, and lowland tropical forests, these gorillas are watching as their habitats face imminent destruction. Along with disease and hunting, multiple factors have coincided to push the western lowland gorillas to the brink of extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the western lowland gorilla as critically endangered.

A 1980 census of Africa found gorilla populations roughly equal to 100,000. Continued studies following the Ebola outbreak, bushmeat hunting, and famine, have all merged to create a potentially insurmountable barrier to recovery.

At the time of this writing, zoos around the world have 550 western lowland gorillas in captivity.

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Mum Thanks Sunderland Royal Hospital Team with Special Artwork for Caring for Her Son

Kelly Taylor

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Hannah Graham, a Sunderland mum, created a heartfelt drawing to express her gratitude to the “absolute treasure” of an anaesthetist and his team who helped her autistic five-year-old son, Peter, during his first general anaesthetic at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Peter, who has cerebral palsy and autism, was anxious about the procedure, which required anaesthesia. Consultant anaesthetist Will Green played an episode of the popular kids’ TV show Hey Duggee and even sang along to calm Peter.

To assist in keeping Peter entertained, Hannah, an illustrator, drew Will’s face on a rubber glove. She later incorporated this and other elements into a special picture, capturing the team present during Peter’s procedure as a way to thank them.

Hannah shared, “As an illustrator, I thought this would be the best way to show how much we appreciated what they did to help Peter. He was cared for in the hospital’s Neonatal Unit when he was born, so I used to draw to keep busy when he was very little. This was my way of saying the hugest thank you for the incredible experience we had. Peter has autism and cerebral palsy, and having a brilliant and proactive team made our journey so smooth.”

She highlighted the exceptional care provided by anaesthetist Will Green, saying, “He made so many proactive steps and showed sincere care, making reasonable adjustments to help Peter. F63 is such an attentive and happy team, they were all brilliant. They put on disco lights, and there’s the clickety-clack of the train in the Hey Duggee episode, so they’re in there too.”

Will Green expressed his emotional reaction to Hannah’s artwork, saying, “We were all lost for words when we saw the picture, it was rather emotional. I have a little boy named Henry, and enjoy Star Wars, superheroes, and Lego, which is all very helpful for my work in paediatrics. The illustration is absolutely beautiful, and we are all very touched that Hannah used her time and immense talent to give us some truly unique feedback. Hannah captured how the team comes together around a person, aiming not just to provide excellent medical care, but to create an individual and positive experience.”

He acknowledged the wonderful team he worked with, including Deb Hollins, Kelly Pearce, Ling Lee, Neil Gayares, Reny Chacko, and Ann Mallam, who all helped care for Peter. Will, who recently started as a consultant at the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust, works across both adult and children’s services. He hopes that Hannah’s picture will show that coming for surgery can be a “happy and exciting experience.”

Reflecting on their work with Peter, Will said, “Peter was good as gold. We did for Peter what we try to do for all our patients, adjusting our approach based on what the person in front of us needs. Come to F floor theatres and you might see bubbles, disco lights, nursery rhymes, even a rave or a rap—it just depends on what makes the individual most comfortable. The team is committed to creating a positive environment from pre-assessment to theatre, and I see staff making small changes that make a big difference to our patients.”

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Cat Accidentally Shipped 650 Miles in Amazon Box, Found Safe

Renee Yates

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Cats are known for their love of boxes, and Galena, a cat from Central Utah, is no exception. This adventurous feline found herself on an unplanned journey over 650 miles away in California after sneaking into an Amazon return package. Her owner, Carrie Stephens Clark from Lehi, Utah, realized Galena was missing on April 10 and immediately started a thorough search.

Clark shared on Facebook that after searching their home, the local area, and even the Jordan River Trail without any luck, they posted flyers and turned to social media. The situation looked bleak until an unexpected call changed everything a week later. A veterinarian in California contacted Clark to report that Galena had been found after her microchip was scanned near Riverside. The cat had unknowingly climbed into a shoebox that was being sent back to Amazon and ended up in a warehouse.

At the warehouse, an Amazon employee, Brandy Hunter, noticed Galena inside a sealed box among returned items. Despite being scared and a bit dehydrated, Galena was in good health, with no injuries apart from potential bruises. Hunter, moved by the cat’s condition, helped her receive veterinary care and coordinated with Clark for her return.

Clark and her husband flew to California to reunite with Galena, and the reunion was described as magical. The family then drove 1,400 miles back to Utah to bring Galena home. Clark expressed her gratitude for the microchip that helped locate Galena quickly and stressed the importance of microchipping pets. She also humorously advised pet owners to double-check their boxes before returning them to avoid similar surprises.

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Second Chance at Old Friends: Woman Finds Healing Among Senior Dogs

Renee Yates

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Kerry Gluck’s story is one of resilience and finding purpose in unexpected places. It’s a tale marked by anniversaries – a devastating tornado four years ago, overcoming long-haul COVID two years back, and now, celebrating two years working at a place that’s become her sanctuary: Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary.

Life wasn’t always easy for Kerry. A tornado ripped through her Mt. Juliet neighborhood four years ago, leaving their home in ruins. Then came a battle with COVID that left her barely able to walk. These challenges forced her to retire from her 27-year nursing career.

But hope arrived two years ago when Kerry started working at Old Friends. Funded by donations, the sanctuary provides a loving home for senior dogs with medical needs.

“The elderly dogs hold a big place in my heart,” Kerry says. “Every day is filled with activities for the dogs, both here and those fostered in homes.”

Kerry feels a deep connection with the dogs, having experienced her own struggles. “I know what it’s like to need help,” she confides. “I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for this job.”

The sanctuary recently celebrated its 12th anniversary with a unique event – a “Geezer Gala” dog prom! Dressed in their finest attire, the senior pups enjoyed the company of guests and each other.

“It’s a wholesome environment,” Kerry beams. “It just fills your heart with joy.”

Kerry reflects on her journey, acknowledging the hardships and the unexpected blessings. “My life is completely different now,” she says. “I celebrate with hundreds of friends, some with two feet and some with four.”

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A Heartwarming Tale of Kindness: Gaia the Dog and Her New Life

Kevin Wells

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In a touching story of kindness and companionship, a dog named Gaia and her owner, Lisa Kanarek, are spreading joy and comfort to those in need. The story began when Gaia’s original owner, Sandra, was hospitalized, leaving Gaia confined to a small backyard. Concerned for the husky’s well-being, next-door neighbor Lisa Kanarek offered to walk her.

“I walked in, and then Gaia came up to me very slowly,” Kanarek recalled. “And then I said, ‘Oh, hi.'” What started as a kind gesture turned into a regular routine, with Kanarek walking Gaia while Sandra’s health continued to decline.

In a twist of fate, two weeks before Sandra passed away, she asked Kanarek if she would like to take care of Gaia permanently. Kanarek’s response was an enthusiastic “Sure. I would love to.” After Sandra’s death, Kanarek officially welcomed Gaia into her home, providing her with more walks and attention.

Noticing Gaia’s gentle nature with neighborhood children, Kanarek enrolled her in a pet therapy program, which she passed with flying colors. “I can tell, when I put on her vest, she’s ready to go,” Kanarek said. Their first assignment was at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where Gaia brought comfort and joy to sick children.

Kanarek, who was finishing her training to be an end-of-life doula at the time, realized that Gaia was perfect for hospice therapy as well. Together, they now minister to the terminally ill, bringing solace and happiness in difficult times.

Asked whether she was doing this for Gaia’s benefit or for herself, Kanarek replied, “I think I’m doing this for both of us. I think it benefits both of us.” Gaia’s new life has brought her into the hearts of many, from the kids down the street to patients in hospitals. She provides laughter and levity, all with her tail wagging.

For Kanarek, life has also changed. Meeting dozens of people during their visits has brought out her extroverted tendencies, lost during the pandemic. “Before I knock on each patient’s door, I breathe in, then greet families with confidence,” she said.

As they walk through the halls of the children’s hospital, Kanarek thinks of Sandra and hopes she’s smiling, knowing how much joy Gaia brings to everyone she meets. “I’m trying not to cry,” Kanarek said, reflecting on her new life with Gaia. “It makes me happy; it makes me sad, because I wish I had known Sandra better, but I think this is the way that I’m helping keep her memory alive.”

Through their acts of kindness, Gaia and Kanarek are not only keeping Sandra’s memory alive but also making a positive impact on the lives of many.

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Frannie’s Remarkable Journey: From Overweight to Overjoyed

Kelly Taylor

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In a heartwarming story of transformation, a golden retriever named Frannie has captured the hearts of many. Once an overweight dog living a neglected life outdoors, Frannie’s journey to a healthier and happier life has inspired people around the world.

Frannie’s life took a turn for the better when Annika Bram, a 24-year-old second-year student at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, decided to foster her. Annika had recently lost her rescue dog, Georgia, who was also severely overweight when adopted. When Annika saw a video of Frannie, she immediately felt a connection.

“I think Georgia sent her to me,” Annika said, recalling how Frannie reminded her of Georgia. “Georgia is telling me I need to help this dog.”

Frannie weighed 125 pounds when she came into Annika’s care, which is about 65 pounds heavier than the average female golden retriever. Her weight was a result of a sedentary life, being fed table scraps, and untreated hypothyroidism. She never had proper vet care and was even found drinking out of a paint bucket.

The rescue operation was challenging, as it took four people to get Frannie into the back of a minivan. “She’s really been put through the wringer, and I think we got her just in time,” said Sydney Maleman, the president of the rescue group Rover’s Retreat.

Frannie was medically unstable when rescued, suffering from pneumonia and unable to hold her head up on her own. However, under Annika’s care, she has made remarkable progress. In less than three months, Frannie has lost 31 pounds, thanks to a strict weight-loss diet, thyroid medication, and increased exercise.

“Every day, her personality comes out more,” Annika said. “All that personality has been hidden away for so long.” Frannie now enjoys a bubbly nature and a sassy side, and Annika’s goal is to get her down to around 70 pounds.

The best part of Frannie’s transformation is seeing her enjoy life as a normal dog, with more autonomy and independence. Annika has now decided to adopt Frannie, giving her a forever home. “She’s not going anywhere,” Annika declared.

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