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Owner Finds Stray Dog after 8 Years of Searching

Renee Yates




Sophia Hanson let her two large dogs, Laila, and Blake into the yard in 2009. A little later, she went outside to discover that they had vanished. Hanson told The Dodo that she is still unsure if they were stolen since no doors were left open and both disappeared.

After one year of searching, Hanson and her husband saw a post on Craigslist that someone within close proximity to their San Antonio home was selling a pit bull for $500. The dog looked suspiciously like Blake. Naturally, they were pretending like they were going to purchase a dog with money in hand. Hanson noted that when they went to the seller’s house, they confirmed it was him and he was wearing the largest chain they had ever seen.

Sadly, the treatment of Blake caused major issues for him. Blake had to go through an entire rehabilitation process which has made him a giant teddy bear once again. Seeing this type of treatment of Blake made the Hansons fear the treatment of Laila, who was still missing. Hanson continued checking the local shelters for many years.
Thankfully, Laila had a guardian angel looking out for her. In 2018, Janice Rackley spotted Laila alone in a field, severely malnourished; not more than skin-and-bones. By her appearance, it was clear that she had been alone, uncared for and unloved for a long time. Rackley knew she had to take action quickly.

Rackley told The Dodo that the dog needed medical attention and nobody was going to help her get the proper treatment. Rackley further noted that she felt she found the dog for a reason and it was to help her. Laila was entirely dependent on Rackley for assistance.

Each day following, Rackley drove out to the field with heavy jugs of water and dog food. Initially, the dog was so frightened that she would run in the opposite direction as soon as Rackley approached. Eventually, Rackley had earned her trust.

After around six-months, Laila began to come closer and closer until she finally let Rackley pet her. Rackley then thought that maybe she could put a leash on her while eating. However, whenever Laila saw the leash, she would become frightened and run in the other direction.

Finally, as New Year’s Eve approached and the weather became cold, Rackley determined that it was the last chance to rescue the dog so she picked up Laila, tossed her over her shoulder and brought the dog to her car. Surprisingly, Laila was calm and very sweet about the entire situation. For the one-month following, Laila would not leave Rackley’s home.

Once her personality revealed itself, Rackley learned that the dog’s past had many secrets. Laila knew how to sit, shake and lay down indicating that this dog had been well-trained so someone had to be missing her. Rackley brought Laila to animal control to be scanned for a microchip which had all of her information.

Meanwhile, 40-miles away, Hanson and her husband were ending their evening in the home. Just before they turned off their light in bed, they received a call from Rackley and could not believe what they were hearing. Hanson immediately jumped in the car as she could not wait another moment to see Laila. There was an emotional reunion when Laila and Hanson could not believe it was the other.

Hanson noticed that Laila had changed in many ways but Laila still remembered her past life. They previously nicknamed her Scooby Doo because of the sounds she made. When Hanson’s husband yelled out, “Scooby-Doo! Scooby-Doo!” Laila made the same sounds once again. Today, Laila is home with three senior rescue dogs, including Blake and is adjusting to her old life. While she is still wary of her new siblings, she is so happy and grateful to be home with mom and dad.



The Champion Taco-Eating Pit Bull

Kelly Taylor



My neighbor Jose had just adopted a special pit bull from the local rescue shelter. It had been the faithful companion for five years of Jose’s elderly friend who had passed away a few months earlier. Because pit bulls have a bad rap, nobody wanted the dog, so the shelter planned to put it to sleep. When my neighbor learned that his friend’s faithful companion was about to be killed, he immediately adopted the dog. I don’t know about cats having nine lives, but that dog definitely got a second life.

That dog went everywhere with Jose. The dog’s name was Lucky, but Jose made a point of calling him something like “Lu-key.” Jose even got that large pooch service-dog certified, which meant he could take that dog into the supermarkets and even into the county fair.

Last July, I was assigned to judge the taco eating contest. A few months later the county fair started. Somehow Jose managed to get Lucky into the fair on my judgment day. According to him, the ticket office at first refused to let Lucky the service dog go in, because of all the other animals there. So Jose was sent to the exhibitor’s entrance, where the fair’s president was. After the president argued with Jose a bit, he was left at the gate with Lucky while the fair officials argued about what to do. During that time, exhibitors with other dogs, cats, pigs, and birds of all kinds, came into the fair through that same gate. Lucky looked at those other animals but did not budge from Jose’s side. Not a sound came from him, though other animals sometimes made a racket. The president noticed that and then decided to let Jose and Lucky conditionally come in; Lucky was in no way to disturb the other animals, children, or people.

A local guy named Walt came to the taco eating contest as a participant, not letting his wife know. We had TV-like tables set up with fifteen Mama Juanita’s Taqueria soft-shelled chicken tacos on each one, the best tacos for hundreds of miles. The contestant who at them the fastest won the contest. It happened that Jose and Lucky were the closest to Walt’s table.

Well, no sooner had I blown the start whistle than Walt’s wife screamed out his name, “Walter Higgins! Get over here!” At that shout, he jumped up and bumped over his table filled with tacos, in front of Lucky. Walt then bolted away from that area as fast as a rooster with its tail feathers aflame. Well, Lucky apparently felt lucky, so he jumped the few feet needed to get at all those tacos on the ground in front of him and started gobbling them down. It wasn’t long before all the contest spectators were watching Lucky, some aiming their Instagram-linked iPhone cameras at him. It was only later we discovered that CNN also had a cameraman at that event. Not only did Lucky eat all the tacos, but he was also the first to finish them as well!

Since the top two human taco eating contest champions were state-level champs, it didn’t take the local folk much time to declare, over the protest of those two guys, Lucky the 2015 taco eating contest winner. CNN national news and its website showed scenes of Lucky gobbling up the last of the tacos. The fair’s Facebook page ended up with the greatest number of views in local history. The social media sensation Lucky would become the “picture boy” for the next state fair.

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The Day I Met a Baby Gray Whale

Kevin Wells



In addition to being one of the most curious and intelligent creatures in Earth’s oceans, due to their great size and the fact that they travel vast distances, gray whales are also host to a wealth of scientific data about the health of our oceans. Gray whales have a long history of unique interactions with humans. Most of the time they appear indifferent to us. Sometimes they behave in a friendly way. But during a few points in history, in a small number of locations, legends of gray whales flipping small boats and dragging men beneath the waves have cropped up.

But gray whales can even be dangerous when they do not mean to be. Weighing in at nearly 40 tons, with massive flippers and a huge, powerful tail, gray whales have downed many small boats either accidentally or otherwise. But these fascinating creatures still have a powerful draw for us. They are mysterious, massive, and have eyes which reflect a strangely familiar intelligence.

So when Cheryl and David Kipling set out in hopes of meetings these creatures face to face, it was no small task overcoming their trepidation. Cheryl and David are biologists and run a lab where they study the remains of whales that have been killed prematurely by the actions of humans.

Cheryl explained, “I’ve autopsied the brains of half a dozen gray whales and the one thing that stands out is the size and sophistication of their limbic brain.”

We asked for more clarification on why having a big limbic brain is such a big deal.

She replied, “The limbic brain, in mammals, is the part of the brain that renders emotions. It’s sandwiched between the fore-brain- which is big in humans, and the hindbrain- which controls all of our cravings and reflex instincts. The limbic brain motivates us with feelings. When you look at a puppy and say ‘ahh’ at his big brown eyes, or when you miss a loved one and want to see them, that’s the limbic brain. Judging by the size of their’s, these animals are deeply emotional. They are primarily emotional, in fact- whereas people might be said to be primarily intellect oriented. That’s why it’s such a crime to keep orcas in captivity, separate them from their pods- their families. They suffer intensely.”

Equipped with this new and strange knowledge, going out with Dave and Cheryl to meet the whales felt all the more momentous. Getting out on the water to the right spot where the whale sightings were happening took most of the day. But the weather was beautiful, the water was calm, and we would have been happy even if no whales had shown up. But they did.

The couple spotted a mother and calf breaching the surface some distance off. They were headed in our direction. For several minutes, wonder, anticipation, and- we’ll admit, a little bit of dread were palpable. All I could think about is what I would do if one of these animals accidentally flipped our boat.

But eventually, the mother and calf reached us. They were careening off to the south. But then the baby spotted us and approached our boat. It came right up to the boat and held its long snout out of the water right next to the boat. It just sort of “stood” there. Cheryl and David reached out and stroked the animal’s nose while the mother looked on.

The baby whale turned and looked us over with its oddly small eye, calmly, almost serenely as Cheryl and David stroked her. Then the whales passed as quietly as they came. I’ll never forget the lucidity and the depth of feeling in the eye of that baby whale.

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Looking Back at an Eventful Summer for Snowflake the Albino Alligator

Kevin Wells



The past few months have been quite eventful for one particular albino alligator.

In case you missed it, an albino alligator named Snowflake generated more than a few headlines in recent months.

Back in May, Snowflake was welcomed as a kind of guest of honor after arriving at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. It’s easy to see why Snowflake caused a stir when she first made her way to the Brookfield Zoo.

Due to her albinism, Snowflake can stand out easily even amongst a crowded congregation of alligators. She possesses noticeably white skin that can be likened very much to the look of ivory and her eyes also have a pinkish hue. Those characteristics are typical of an albino alligator.

It is worth noting that Snowflake is also significantly shorter than many of the other alligators that you may be able to see in zoos or swamps. Per ABC 7 Chicago, Snowflake measures about 7 feet long. An average adult female American alligator measures about 8.2 feet tall, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.

While Snowflake was enjoying the attention from visitors at the Brookfield Zoo, an important and exciting discovery was made back at her home.

Snowflake Is Going to be a Mother

In June, Wild Florida announced that the caretakers of Snowflake and another albino alligator named Blizzard found eggs at the pair’s shelter. A total of 19 eggs were found at Snowflake and Blizzard’s exhibit, WFTV 9 reported.

Upon spotting the eggs, the caretakers acted fast to collect and move them to a more secure location.

Wild Florida co-founder and co-owner Dan Munns explained that moving the eggs out of the shelter was a necessary step due to some of the difficulties that the pair of albino alligators may encounter as parents. Munns explained that while alligators typically make for great mothers, Snowflake may not be as capable as some of her counterparts because of the blindness brought about by her albinism.

By securing the eggs themselves, the caretakers can shield them from any predators that may come snooping around. The eggs are being kept in an incubator in order so that they can be cared for in a more controlled environment. The caretakers mentioned that keeping the eggs in an environment where the temperature can remain at a stable level is essential to successful hatching.

Additional Facts about Albino Alligators

The fact that the eggs came from parents exhibiting albinism could very well turn out to be good news for the albino alligator population. Typically, albino alligators are born as a result of two normal alligators who carry the recessive gene for albinism mating, according to Safari Ltd. Since both Snowflake and Blizzard are albino alligators, the chances for them producing offspring that feature the same physical traits could be higher.

The albino alligator population could certainly use a boost. At present, biologists estimate that only around 100 albino alligators could be alive across the entire world.

Albino alligators are rare not just because they are the offspring of parents carrying some uncommon genes. It is also difficult for albino alligators to survive precisely because of their unique appearance.

Unlike the alligators that feature a more common skin color, albino alligators find it incredibly difficult to disguise themselves. That makes them easy prey for predators especially when they are younger.

Because of those struggles they could potentially face in the wild, you will often find zoos and farms caring for albino alligators to ensure that they can live out long and happy lives. While it’s still unclear what kind of offspring Snowflake and Blizzard will produce, there is certainly a fair amount of optimism that they will bring more albino alligators into the world.

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If You See a Lemonade Stand, Stop & Get a Drink





In America many kids get their first exposure to running a business and making a sale by the time-honored attempt at running a lemonade stand for a day. Typically attempted in the spring or summer when it’s warmer, the neighborhood lemonade stand has been around for decades, and every generation can remember someone who made a run for it.

So, when Annie McAveeney decided to set up a lemonade stand in her neighborhood, it was not out of the ordinary or a big surprise. She was just going down the same path many other kids had walked before her. However, what was unique about Annie’s venture was that she was running the operation specifically to help other children. It was not your typical business motivation for a childhood entrepreneur.

At her school, Annie became part of an organization named Fill a Heart 4 Kids. The goal is simple – raise money for children so they can obtain school supplies and study normally like many other kids who are able to take such provisions for granted. Every child realizes a need for back-to-school supplies every school year. Whether it be a backpack, pens and pencils, notepads, paper or binders, school supplies are the bread and butter tools kids use regularly to help them learn in school. Unfortunately, many children come from households where every dollar and penny goes toward food or the rent, so there’s nothing left for their school supplies.

The Heart 4 Kids program is intended to fix the missing school supplies problem. And in Annie’s school, it was implemented through the lemonade challenge, an approach that allowed children to be involved versus spectators and help directly themselves. But Annie’s role was more than just setting up her own lemonade stand. She was also assigned to be a proselytizer, distributing powdered lemonade all over her neighborhood in Chicago, encouraging others to sell lemonade for the cause as well. In this way, one child became the catalyst for the action of many children, encouraging adults to get in on the act as well.

The combined effort in Annie’s Chicago area was exponential. Because so many people got involved with such a simple venture, 30,000 new tools, supplies and bags were able to be purchased for needy kids so they can engage with school. It was a sizable success. And the difference versus the generic government help program for the same was that the community was involved with the Heart 4 Kids program. They became involved in helping their neighbors. And the winners were the schoolchildren who were able to benefit from the effort, pick the supplies they needed, and go to school with a fully-equipped backpack for class.

So the next time you see a lemonade stand manned by some kids hollering for you to stop and buy a drink, do it. You never know whom you might be supporting with that simple lemonade drink on that hot day.

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Your Older Brother Meets You Everday After School …In a Different Costume.

Kelly Taylor



Siblings have been well known for doing weird things to each other. It’s the kind of experience that can shape memories and their opinions of each other for a lifetime and be brought up well into their senior years with either laughter, anger or both. So, it’s no surprise that Noah Tingle, as an older brother, would likely leave an impression on his younger sibling. However, it’s the way that Noah went about this time-honored behavior between brothers that stands out as so different.

The fact is, Noah is a persistent fellow. And he wanted to make an impression on his younger brother, Max, that would last a lifetime. This intentional act took planning, and a lot of different resources. Because, as Noah figured out, it takes a lot of creativity to stay with the program that he came up with.

The first day Noah’s plan went into effect, his younger brother had no idea what was in store for him. It was a normal day of going to school, getting on the bus, sitting all day in class, yearning for those midday breaks, and then the bus ride home. Except that’s where things went different. When Max got off the schoolbus at his stop only to find his older brother standing at the stop waiting for him, in a full costume, his senses went into def-con 5 mode.  The 12-year-old didn’t know whether to laugh or get back on the bus. Worse, the costumed goof came running at him with arms wide open for a big hug. Scary!

This wonderful, crazy, insane, scary, funny experience continued every school day. And while Noah’s younger brother got used to the idea of his older sibling waiting for him, each day was a new costume. From the obvious and easy ones like Santa Claus, a football player and a dinosaur to the more complicated ones like Star Wars’ Chewbacca, Noah was diligently at the bus stop to make his brother’s day.

Not only did Noah completely make his brother embarrassed by the whole affair, he also made Max the talk of his own school. The younger brother wasn’t the only kid on the bus every afternoon, after all. So Along with Max, every other kid on the bus got to see the costumes as well, something the younger brother wasn’t going to live down anytime soon. And, over time, Max started looking forward to the surprise each day and what new costume Noah could come up with a day’s time.

Their mom got in on the act and began posting photos of the outfits on social media. No surprise, it gained a quick audience and big following, making Max’s “ordeal” now a bit of a national even and story of life on the Internet. Folks even got in on the act helping Noah out by sending him costumes they came up with or procured, so the older brother would haven’t to be entirely on his own keeping the gig going. There have been some real knock-outs as a result, enough to be contenders for a future Burning Man trip probably.

Once Noah goes away to college the costume parade will end, but Max’s memory of the entire affair won’t. It’s the kind of thing siblings talk about for decades to come. And that’s what Noah wanted for his brother to remember him by.

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