Gavel, the Vice-Regal Dog
After trainers at the Queensland Police Service decided that Gavel’s sweet nature was not ideal for chasing down crooks, his charming personality helped him land an even bigger job. The German shepherd was named Vice-Regal Dog of the Government House in Brisbane, Australia. Today, Gavel lives at the Queensland governor’s official residence and fulfills his distinguished duties of welcoming visitors and attending ceremonies.
Miniature Guide Horses
The Guide Horse Foundation has been training miniature horses (those standing 34 inches or less) as assistance animals for the visually impaired since 1999. Miniature horses are ideal service animals for people who are allergic to dogs or who want a guide animal with a longer life span. The horses typically live from 30 to 40 years.
Ferrets Working Underground
When it comes to underground wiring, ferrets can be an electrician’s right-hand animal. These industrious and energetic creatures have helped with electrical work for decades because they are small and smart enough to carry wires or cables through conduits that humans can’t fit in. A ferret helped run wires through 40-foot-long conduits at the U.S. Space Command’s missile-warning center in Colorado. Others ran TV cables under Buckingham Palace to broadcast the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Where Canine Mayors Rule
The town of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, has had some unusually hirsute mayors over the past 20 years. Since 1998, four dogs have been elected to the position by the population of about 315. Pit bull Brynneth Pawltro, or Brynn for short, currently holds the seat. According to the town’s official website, “The people of Rabbit Hash generally elect mayors based on the candidate’s willingness to have their belly scratched.” Follow Brynn on Facebook @brynneth.pawltro.
Wild Birds Show Us the Honey!
In Africa, greater honeyguide birds respond to human calls to lead people to honey—what scientists describe as a mutualistic interaction, or one that benefits both creatures. The birds flutter in front of people, tweet and fly from tree to tree to guide honey seekers to hidden bee nests, typically inside hollow trees. It’s a win-win situation for both the birds and the honey hunters—humans hack open the trees to find honey, and the birds can dine on beeswax, their favorite food.
If the trifecta of cats, food and mixology strikes your fancy, you’ll be delighted to learn there are many cats mousing and mingling in America’s distilleries, breweries, vineyards, bars and pubs. These busy felines, who keep the establishments rodent-free and offer friendly twitch-of-the-tail hellos to human visitors, are featured in the new book Distillery Cats by Brad Thomas Parsons. Follow these felines on Instagram @distillerycats.
Pups Sniff Out Ovarian Cancer
Paws down, dogs have an excellent sense of smell, which is why the folks at Penn Vet Working Dog Center are training pups to identify the scent of ovarian cancer using tissue and blood samples from people who are afflicted with the disease. The scientists hope to develop a way for dogs to screen samples first, then perform follow-up testing on the samples the dogs flagged—a system for detecting ovarian cancer in its early stages.
Meet the Masseur Snake
Having a snake wrapped around your neck isn’t necessarily what you’d envision for a visit to the salon. But Monty, a 13-year-old python who belongs to the owner of Haar Mode Team salon in Dresden, Germany, has been helping customers relax with neck massages. Herpetologists say it’s unlikely he was trained to do the job and is just pulsating like any other snake would when draped around a person’s neck. Regardless, this unique masseur books out a few weeks in advance.