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by Ian Fortey
They say not all heroes wear capes. For instance, Spider-Man and the person who invented ham are totally capeless. I hear the ham person was big on sweat pants. And you know who else doesn't wear a cape? Your dog ... unless you put one on him. And most other animals are pretty capeless, despite the fact they can be remarkably heroic when the need arises. In fact, there are a bunch of beasts out there right now making the world a better place for no reward greater than an ear scratch and maybe some treats.
Dogs Are Replanting Burned Out Forests
In 2017, there was an unprecedented amount of damage wrought throughout Chile, because wildfires are buttholes. We're talking over 100 separate fires destroying over a million acres of forest, which is as baffling as it is tragic. The destruction is estimated to have cost around $333 million, and worse than that, a number of lives. But with damage that extensive, how do you rebuild? You could buy new trees from Ikea, but often when you put them together they're little more than shrubs with some leftover pine cones. No, to really rebuild you send in the hounds!
Three Border Collies were trained for a very special job in the burned out regions of Chile's forests. Strapped with backpacks full of native plant seeds, the dogs were let loose to run about as their playful gallivanting flung the seeds from their pockets.
I shall call him ... "Seed Geyser".
Border Collies have a natural affinity for running about like nutters while not getting easily distracted by things like squirrels or raging infernos, which is good in a scorched forest. They're working dogs and genuinely enjoy when they have a task to do. If the task is just running around massive swaths of burned out forest land, so be it.
There's really no downside to using dogs for the task. Humans are limited by speed when it comes to a job like this -- they could likely only cover a few miles per day, whereas the dogs can easily cover 18. They're cheaper than using drones, and there are already visible results, proving what many of us already suspected: dogs are the most awesome animals, ever.
Our Nuclear Arsenal Is Protected In Part By Dolphins
Protecting a nuclear arsenal can't be an easy job. You have to worry about supervillains and terrorists and ... well, that's probably all. Still, that's more than enough to justify having high security. Who can handle such a burden? Highly trained soldiers? Robot guards? A really good padlock? Ha! Who needs 'em? The US Armed Forces have dolphins. Lots of dolphins.
One quarter of the US's massive nuclear arsenal is located at the Kitsap Naval base. Along with your run of the mill human soldiers, these weapons are protected by a small army of dolphins and sea lions. The waters are patrolled by the animals to look for any shady intruders, like Kevin Costner's Waterworld character. Because they can dive deeper and faster than humans, and do so multiple times, they're much better suited for the task of undersea lookout. Can you distract them with delicious tuna bribes? It's possible, but you probably shouldn't try to find out.
Now we just need to install chainsaws on their heads. We smell a movie idea.
There have been rumors for years that the US has trained dolphins to plant bombs or even take out enemy divers with needles, but they've been consistently denied. What they do admit to is that the dolphins will signal a handler if and when they find someone and then radio tag them. They can even disable the intruder by attaching a cuff to their leg that then deploys a flotation device, jerking them to the surface of the water. That stuff is still pretty impressive, even if no one is being dolphin murdered. And they're keeping us all safe from nuke-stealing villains, so good for them.
Wolverines Are Being Used To Dig Out Avalanche Victims
Hugh Jackman once shared the ridiculous story of how, when he was initially cast as Wolverine, he studied the mannerisms of wolves for the character. He did this because he actually didn't know a wolverine was a real thing and just assumed it was a word that meant "wolf-like" or some such. Let us all laugh now at Hugh Jackman. Hahahaha IDIOT! For real though, Logan is a great film.
Fact is, a wolverine is a very real, very scrappy, somewhat misunderstood beast. It's like a badger, but bigger and completely devoid of any emotion that isn't rage. When they eat their prey, they even eat the teeth. That's super messed up. But they are also scavengers, and that gives them skills more valuable than adamantium claws, which almost no real wolverines have.
Thanks to the wolverine's incredible ability to scavenge, Mike Miller from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center had a plan to use the wily critters for avalanche rescue. Miller says anything you can train a dog to do (and currently dogs are the go-to choice for avalanche rescue), a wolverine can do five times faster. Moreover, this is what they already do in the wild. People have seen wolverines, post-avalanche, digging through the snow to eat animals that were buried.
Smelling a body 20 feet below a mound of snow is simple work for a wolverine ... the only hurdle is getting enough people on board with training them. Miller says everyone thought training dogs to do this 100 years ago was crazy, too. But once they're trained and, you know, not looking to dig you up and eat you, the little fellas are surprisingly awesome at the job. Just like Hugh Jackman!
Giant Rats Are Being Used To Detect Tuberculosis
Rats get a bad rap because ... well, they're rats. Ew. But the thing is, rats are good for all kinds of stuff. They're basically more festive versions of mice -- they just have bad PR because of a plague that happened like a million years ago, and their penchant for trafficking in filth. But we've recently found that they're pretty good at sniffing out tuberculosis.
How does a rat do that? In the most adorable way possible: you give it a bunch of mucus samples, and when it suspects one is infected, it scratches at the ground. Their success rate could use some work (the link above claims, "only 25 percent of the samples the rats find suspicious are found to be positive for TB"), but the upside is that they're way cheaper and faster than our current detection machines. One trained rat can do 50 samples in 8 minutes. According to folks who do this for a living, a rat can accurately assess more samples in 10 minutes than a human lab tech can do in a day.
Plus, they make great elbow warmers.
If you're wondering why anyone cares about a disease that's been virtually eradicated in the US, you need to think outside of our borders. According to the CDC, one fourth of the world is infected with TB. In 2012, it killed 480,000 people in Africa alone. It's still a very big deal, and anything that can make treating it quicker, cheaper and more efficient is a great idea. If that means we have to stock hospitals with giant rats, so be it.
Dogs Are Being Trained To Bust Child Pornographers
Remember Jared Fogle from Subway? For a brief period, he was just a guy who had giant pants and claimed sandwiches made him skinny, and we were all fine with that. Then it turned out he was a pedophile, and we all wondered if it was still cool to eat sandwiches shilled by a monster. But how did they prove he was a worthless degenerate? You may be surprised to learn he was done in by a dog. Good boy!
Bear, who was actually named for Pedobear, is a black lab who works for the Seattle Police Department. Back in 2014, Bear was being trained by a firefighter named Todd Jordan who had an idea: What if you taught a dog to sniff out thumb drives and SD cards? That may sound weird, but some of Jordan's cop friends had mentioned that they had trouble finding storage devices, because they're so easy to hide. Could a dog actually be trained to find them?
Hey, idiot ... it's RIGHT THERE!
It turns out that the chemical makeup of whatever the hell goes into an SD card is unique enough that a dog can find one no matter where it's hidden. And that's just what Bear did when he was brought in to assist in searching Fogle's house. Bear found 3 hidden drives.
Now, there's a small army of dogs out there that do the same thing, tracking down electronic evidence that nefarious criminals thought they could squirrel away in cracks and crevices. Jordan has trained 17 of them himself. Is it only a matter of time before dogs are trained to smell your criminal conscience? Probably.
Like this article? Check out "5 'Harmless' Animals That Can Straight-Up Kill You" and "Viagra Cures Hamster Jet Lag: 5 WTF Scientific Findings".