Friday 24 November 2017

Hero hound has his day!

November is the month for remembrance, and giving thanks to all those who have served our country – including our four-legged friends! So, it's fitting that today we bring you this story: Mali, receiver of the Dickin medal!

Dogs who help rescue others in any capacity are truly wonderful – just see our post on Frida from the beginning of last month – but Mali is a member of the armed forces who has gone above and beyond in the line of duty. Awarded the Dickin medal for saving the lives of Special Boat Service troops during an military operation in 2012, the accolade has been likened to the Victoria Cross – which is the UK's highest hour for gallantry – for stature. The PDSA has described Mali, a Belgian Malinois, as an "incredibly worthy recipient" of the medal, as it recognises the vital role he played within the force that day.

Photo: PDSA
The story is incredible. Mali was sent through direct fire twice – with two explosions causing injuries to his chest and legs – and was hoisted up outside of the multi-storey building several times to gain entry, in order to assist the British troops in securing this enemy stronghold. A third explosion detonated close to his face, causing him to lose one of his front teeth and suffer damage to his ear. But this didn't stop Mali, as he pushed forward, and was able to determine the locations of enemy fighters, giving the British forces time to react in close-quarters combat.

Lt Col Abby DuBaree, from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) to which Mali is attached, says the medal, which was first introduced by PDSA founder Maria Dickin in 1943, is "extremely well deserved" in Mali's case, and that stories similar to his are "sobering to read and help to demonstrate the key role that animals continue to play in our armed forces."

"As long as we've had soldiers, we've had animals, and I think we always will have them," says Brig Roly Walker, colonel commandant of the RAVC. He goes on to add that the award was in recognition of the unique bond that soldiers have with service animals. And it's true: all bonds with animals should be recognised and celebrated, whether they are domestic or service, each animal's bond with a human is something to be cherished. And treating animals as our equals is something close to our hearts here at Hubble and Hattie, so you can see why this story is such a hit with us!

"Mali has displayed a truly awesome ability and determination to seek out explosives and insurgents during a key operation," says PDSA director general Jan McLouhlin. "To achieve this while exposed to close combat and such intense enemy attack, makes him an incredibly worthy recipient of the PDSA Dickin medal."

If ever there was a dog worthy of the Dickin medal, I can think of none more deserving than Mali! Maybe this post has whetted your appetite for more heroic pet stores, if so, make sure you check out our book Partners – everyday working dogs being heroes every day, by Nan Walton. 


Friday 10 November 2017

Oobe Doo, I really am like you!

We are all well aware of how closely humans are related to chimpanzees – we share a total of 99% DNA! – but latest research has shed even more light on the subject: chimpanzees have distinct and stable personalities that develop as they age, just like us!

This new study, carried out by the University of Edinburgh, and published in the journal Scientific Data, provides fresh insight, suggesting that, over time, chimpanzee personalities become stable. Like humans, a chimpanzee might have playful, nurturing, affectionate or aggressive traits. As they get older they appear to become less extrovert, and a little neurotic, but also become more conscientious and agreeable – similar to how our personalities develop and change as we grow older. 

The study built upon the research of Dr Jane Goodall. Back in the 1970s, the British primatologist conducted some ground-breaking research with the wild chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, in which she was able to establish that the apes had unique personalities. Furthermore, she found that female chimpanzees tended to be more trustful, timid or depressed, whilst the males tended to be more aggressive and sociable. This kind of research into animal personalities was ahead of its time, with a scientific interest in this field only taking hold at the turn of the millennium.

Going back to the same group of chimps from Dr Goodall's original study, the Edinburgh university researchers discovered that their personalities had remained stable, whilst developing over time. Lead researcher Dr Alexander Weiss and his team collected more than 11,000 survey responses from those who had been observing the park's chimpanzees for 35 years, applied their own ratings system to their findings, and then compared their results to Dr Goodall's older Emotions Profile Index (EPI) questionnaire ... and found a distinct correlation.

Long-time studies of chimpanzees in the wild can ultimately be a highly beneficial source of insight into the evolution of human personality and behaviour. The stability of the chimpanzees' personalities could help scientists test how different personalities affect reproductive success, and other life outcomes in humans. Dr Weiss added: "Chimpanzees very likely differ as much from one another as we do as humans."

This research only begins to scratch the surface of the similarities between humans and chimpanzees, and opens up new possibilities for further exploration. It seems that Disney's King Louie had the right idea after all ...

Friday 3 November 2017

Remember, remember your pets this November!

It's that time of year again when we all enjoy a good fireworks display, but not everyone finds it as enjoyable as us humans. Remember to look out for your furry friends at this time of year!

Did you know that approximately 60% of pets become scared or stressed upon hearing fireworks? There are a number of ways in which animals can show that they are anxious, and that includes, but is not limited to: trembling, cowering, refusing to eat, pacing, soiling, and destructive behaviour. Here, we have compiled a number of handy tips and tricks to help you take care of your pets this weekend. 

Birds, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, and rabbits

When taking your smallest pets into account, the first thing to consider doing is, if possible, to bring hutches and enclosures inside to a quiet room, whether that's actually inside the house, or in a garage or shed. If that isn't possible, at least make sure to change the direction the enclosure is facing, so it doesn't look out onto an open garden. For your furry little friends, make sure to provide lots of extra bedding that is perfect for burrowing into. And for your feathered friends, make sure to cover aviaries with a thick blanket to block out the sight and sound of fireworks, whilst still allowing enough ventilation – this is a good idea for all enclosed pets!

Cats and dogs

The main point to remember with our cats and canines is to always keep them inside when fireworks are being let off! Make sure your dog has been walked during daylight hours, and that once inside
for the night, all windows, doors, and cat flaps are secure, to prevent your pet venturing out. As an extra precaution ensure that your pet is wearing some form of easy-to-read ID; we don't all have microchip scanners!
If they're used to the noise of a TV, keep that on, to help normalise the situation. Normality is key: the calmer you are, the calmer they will be. This also includes not making a fuss of them on the off chance that they will be frightened; let them pace, meow, whine and hide. Create a den for them where they can shoot off to if they need it; if they hide, do not try to coax them out; they feel that that is where they are safest, with all that noise going on outside! 
Lastly, even if you think your pet is a zen master when it comes to fireworks, think again: you should ideally never leave them home alone, and you should most certainly not take your dog to a fireworks display!

Horses and ponies

As a general rule, fireworks must not be set off anywhere near livestock or horses. If you do keep your horse in a field, it would be worth contacting the local council for information on any firework displays that may be taking place nearby. If this is the case, make sure the organisers are aware, and
ask them to set off the fireworks in the opposite direction, so as not to startle your horse.
As with all animals, keeping to a routine as much as possible will aide them in staying calm. If you can, ensure that you or an experienced person is on-hand to observe the horse's behaviour, responding as necessary, and to safeguard them against harm. If you have to leave your horse in the care of someone else, give them clear instructions and contact details for yourself and your vet. If you know that your horse reacts badly to loud noises, consider moving them for the night of the event. 
And last, but by no means least, be careful yourself! Try not to get in the way if your horse becomes startled, as this may result in you getting injured. 

Here's to a fantastic and safe Bonfire Night! Suppose this means that Christmas is just around the corner ...