Tag Archives: animals

Happy National Hug Day!

“I have learned that there is more power in a good strong hug than in a thousand meaningful words.”  – Ann Hood

Created on January 21, 1986 in Clio, Michigan, National Hug Day is all about encouraging that warm embrace. Whether you hug your parents, your friends, or a complete stranger, a quick body squeeze has the power to make everything better.

And we definitely don’t want to leave out our pets on National Hug Day! Because there really is nothing better than a mouthful of fur, and being wrapped up in four dirty paws.

Photo Via: Google Images

However, make your hugs quick, because a hug may mean something completely different for our furry friends. Pets, especially dogs, don’t necessarily like hugs. Biologically, a hug among dogs would be the equivalent of mounting or “standing over” – putting a leg over another dog’s shoulder. This behavior is seen as dominance and trying to gain control.

This may seem cute, but this is a common sign of dominance among dogs.

So, watch your dog’s body language if you embrace them today. If they pull or try to squirm away, let go. Instead, a pat under the chin will do just fine. And don’t feel bad. Your dog still loves you! They just wish to “hug” on their own terms in the form of wet kisses and warm cuddles.

So, enjoy National Hug Day and spread the love! And in the meantime, enjoy this video of animals who do want to be hugged!

*Sources: Mnn.com*
*Note: The article above was written by © Kalie Lyn, 2016*

We Have a Dream [Celebrating MLK the Animal Culture Way]

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., who, because of his non-violent activism, played a crucial role in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. His peaceful stances and engaging speeches left a mark on this world forever, and by breaking the silence he was able to have a dream and help make it come true.

Here at Animal Culture we have a dream of our own.

We dream that animals and humans will be able to live in peace with one another, and that humans will start treating nature and its inhabitants as equals.

Photo Via: Pinterest.com

Photo Via: Pinterest.com

We dream that we see no more news articles of animals being beaten, tortured, and abused. Instead, we dream of seeing more of this:

We dream that one day the rights and welfare of animals will be a priority on everyone’s agenda.

Photo Via: animal-rights-action.com

Photo Via: animal-rights-action.com

We strive to speak up about animal abuse and educate the public about animal rights, and we try to live by the words of MLK, Jr: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

We will not be silent, and we hope you will speak up as well.

*Note: The article above was written by © Kalie Lyn, 2016*

Aiding the Voiceless Victims of Natural Disasters

It’s tornado season, and with the destruction comes unintentional abandonment for many pets.

Many of us have seen photos of what storms can do to lives, and some of us have even witnessed it first-hand. Houses that were once called homes are collapsed into rubble, memorabilia that meant something personal is destroyed in an instant, and emotions beyond any other flood the body and brain after such devastation. However, beings, not belongings, are the priority when it comes to such devastation.

The 79 (or more) tornadoes that hit Mississippi and surrounding areas of southern United States in April, 2014 claimed at least 34 human lives, and left hundreds more injured. Throughout the initial shock and ultimate tragedy of any natural disaster, animals are usually the last to be noticed, causing them to be abandoned and forgotten about at the moment.

(Photo Via: IFAW.org)

(Photo Via: IFAW.org)

Thousands of pets were left homeless after the April, 2014 tornadoes. Many were separated from their pet parents during the turmoil of the storms, and some were left at shelters as their pet parents were unable to care for them after being left homeless themselves. With the number of animals taking up capacity in the shelters across the storm-affected areas, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is teaming up with The Animal Rescue Site and GreaterGood.org to aid in the transportation of abandoned pets that are filling up the shelters.

The Tupelo-Lee Humane Society of Tupelo, Mississippi, one of the hardest hit areas of the April tornadoes, is one shelter that has exceeded its capacity limit. Unable to allow more animals that are still being rescued from the storms, this specific shelter – along with many others – is in dire need of assistance. The IFAW is assisting in the transportation of these pets to other shelters who are able to take them in, and ultimately find them homes or even reunite them with their former pet parents.

(Photo Via: Theanimalrescuesite.greatergood.com)

(Photo Via: Theanimalrescuesite.greatergood.com)

Animals are voiceless victims when it comes to disasters – natural or human-made – and it is up to us to help them. It is expensive for shelters and rescue groups to take in the abandoned pets, and they need our help to continue their rescue work. You can help “Reunite Pets with Families After Devastating Tornadoes“. Another way to assist is by volunteering at your local animal shelter or rescue group, since most of these places are volunteer based.

Not only do the animals need our help, but also the people aiding these animals. They are the humans who give their time and hard work to creatures who can not say what hurts, or where the last place they saw their pet parent was. They need our support more than ever, and Animal Culture urges all you animal-lovers out there to give some of your money and time to help the animals affected by the April storms.

*Sources: Blog.theanimalrescuesite.com, Ifaw.org*
*Note: The above article was written by © Kalie Lyn, 2014*


A Primate’s Memoir [Book Review]

There is honestly nothing better than a funny book, except maybe a funny book about animals. For today’s “Book Review Thursday”, we at Animal Culture have brought you a gut-wrenching (the good kind), hilarious memoir.

This one needs little introduction, so Happy Reading, All!

Title: A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

Author: Robert Sapolsky

Robert M. Sapolsky

We couldn’t resist posting this little gem of the author himself! (Photo Via: Goodreads.com)

Synopsis: “Over two decades, Sapolsky survives culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the farthest vestiges of unspoiled Africa. As he conducts unprecedented physiological research on wild primates, he becomes evermore enamored of his subjects — unique and compelling characters in their own right — and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevents him. By turns hilarious and poignant, A Primate’s Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost science writers.”

ISBN: 0743202414

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons


This is the true story of one man’s life among the baboons of Kenya. Scientist Robert Sapolsky had only prepared to study the mental and physical behaviors of the baboons, but instead he found a life of adventure and formed his own primate family. From developing close bonds with the baboons, to learning the way of the Masai people (and often messing with them), Sapolsky takes readers on his more than twenty year journey through Africa.

Naturally hilarious and honest, A Primate’s Memoir is an exciting and entertaining read. His writing is quick and to the point, and his witty, often sarcastic humor makes this book that much more enjoyable. Each chapter contains a unique story, and whether he is being kidnapped and shot at, or playing a “wizard” in the Masai village, Sapolsky’s true-life tales never disappoint.

The chapters highlighting his time with the baboons are entertaining and raw. Sapolsky describes each member of his primate troop as if he were describing close human friends, and even admits to developing a baboon crush, along with a special human-baboon friendship. However, it is not all fun and games, and his research of the baboons is detailed throughout, allowing the reader an in-depth look into the exhilarating, yet tiresome days of a scientist.

A Primate’s Memoir is a funny, clever, and ultimately heartbreaking account of Robert Sapolsky’s experience in wild Africa. Highly recommended, this is definitely a book for animal lovers and science enthusiasts alike.

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: A Primate’s Memoir

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2011, originally published on her personal blog, Palm Trees & Bare Feet.*


A Chat with Jennifer S. Holland

Animal Culture is a place for animals, and the people who dedicate their time to these creatures’ welfare. These animal-loving humans are the ones who make a difference, and the ones who need to be recognized.

Today marks the first installment of “Animal Talks”, a monthly series (occurring the first Tuesday of every month) of interviews with people in the animal community. These are the people who fight for the rights and education of animals, and “Animal Talks” documents their personal work, beliefs, and thoughts.

So, without further ado, Animal Culture is greatly honored to introduce author Jennifer S. Holland as our first “Animal Talks” guest!

Jennifer’s passion for writing, animals, and the natural world is evident at the first glance of her highly successful resume. With a Master’s in Conservation Biology, and a Bachelor’s in English, Jennifer has worked with a vast number of affluent organizations, including the Journal of NIH Research, NPR, and National Geographic – where she was a senior writer for 11 years and currently is a contributing writer – just to name a few.

Recently however, she decided to take an adventure of her own, and investigate the world of animal bonds. Publishing two books, Unlikely Friendships and Unlikely LovesJennifer explored and revealed the unique, and often unexplained, affection between animals of different species. Imagine a friendship between an elephant and a sheep, or the love of a leopard for a dog. These inter-species relationships are often looked at as phenomenons, but Jennifer dove head (and heart!) first into the emotional lives of animals, and shared her experiences and revelations with the world.

Today we talk with Jennifer S. Holland about her research, life, and love for animals and writing.

Animal Culture: What was one moment in your life that inspired you to be a writer?

Jennifer Holland: I can’t really think of singular moments or events that pushed me in this direction. I was really a writer from the start. It was something I loved doing as a kid—I wrote a lot of short stories and (really bad) poetry and my family was very encouraging. I found early on that I was good at writing, while I struggled with subjects like math and history. I was also a big reader, so I suspect whatever I read as a young person was subtly helping me find my career path. In fact, I think I really wanted to write fiction. It wasn’t until later that I realized I could bring my passion for animals (also from way back) together with writing and actually make a living. Nonfiction then made sense based on my talents and interests.

AC: How did you come up with the concept of your books to write about animal friendships and loves?

JH: I was extremely lucky because while I was on staff at National Geographic, an editor from Workman Publishing in New York contacted me wanting to know if I’d be interested in writing a book. She had been reading my work in the magazine and thought I’d be the right voice for a fun animal book. The concept was something that we agreed on quickly—it was the perfect time to write a book on animal relationships because it was something people had gotten very excited about. The Web was flush with cute animals…it just made sense to do a real reporting job and find out the truth behind the stories. That’s how I got started on Unlikely Friendships—looking into some of the adorable photos I’d seen online and digging deeper to see if there was anything to this phenomenon of cross-species pals. The second book was really a continuation of the first…there were lots more stories to tell!

AC: You write about animal friendships and love in your books, attributing human emotions to them (committing anthropomorphism), something scientists both in the past and now frown upon. However, any pet parent can see that their furry friend exhibits joy, boredom, sadness, etc. Do you personally believe that animals have inner emotions similar to humans, or do you think we humans want them to, hence assigning these emotions to animals?

JH: Happily, it is becoming less and less taboo to talk about animals using “human” terms because we are learning more and more about how much overlap exists between us. The more scientists look at animal brains and behavior, the more they see evidence of empathy and joy and kindness and mourning—once thought to be ours alone. Other mammals share the brain structures of emotion that we have, and there are a lot of good studies nowadays that give us a window onto animal thinking. Other animals may not have the exact same emotional experiences as we do, but many are capable of feeling the same kinds of things we feel. Plus, many animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for! (I recommend the book Animal Wise by Virginia Morell to anyone interested in animal intelligence.)

I think for researchers doing animal behavior studies, however, it is still wise to keep the terminology more scientific. It’s hard not to “see” human emotion in animals but we do have to be careful not to make assumptions based on our own experiences and feelings. Words like “friendship” and “love” make some scientists uncomfortable, and I understand why. Research needs to be as unbiased as possible. Consider that in chimpanzees, a “smile” is really an aggressive expression. Dolphin “smiles” have nothing to do with how they feel, and in fact dolphins can be very nasty toward one another. What looks like kind sharing in some animals often has a less-than-altruistic reason behind it. So applying too much of our own human bias makes it hard to step back and see what’s really going on.

AC: Which animal pairing/trio were your favorites in both Unlikely Friendships and Unlikely Loves?

JH: It’s hard to pick favorites, but I was definitely delighted by the stories of dogs that befriended owls (mostly because the photos were so funny) and I loved hearing about cases in which a reptile was friendly with a mammal. The iguana and the cat in Friendships is a great example of that. You just don’t think of iguanas as being cuddly and sweet, and yet this one seemed perfectly content in a cat’s embrace.

I also loved the story of the dolphin and the sperm whales in Loves, because it happened in the wild (we don’t see that very often) and because it has such a great message. Here was a dolphin with a birth defect—a curved spine—that for some reason had shut it out of the dolphin pod. The whales took the animal in as one of their own. There was something special about that one—not only was it a cross-species friendship but one in which a “disability” was not an issue. Great message for kids (and the rest of us, too)!

AC: You were a senior writer, now a contributing writer, at National Geographic. What was one of your favorite assignments?

JH: I’ve had great opportunities to travel for Nat Geo—I feel very lucky about that. One of the best trips was to Papua New Guinea for a story on birds of paradise. It was a long trip—about 5 weeks—and a hard one. We did a lot of difficult hiking and camping in wet conditions in the Highlands of the country; we were uncomfortable a lot of the time, and only one in our group could communicate with any of the people we met. Yet, the whole experience was so incredible, in part because of those difficulties. The people were living such different lives from what we’re used to, and the landscape was amazing. I truly felt “foreign” there—in some places kids had never seen a white person and one toddler actually ran away from me screaming! It was fascinating to be in that position. Plus, of course, birds of paradise are incredible and I got to see seven or eight species in the wild, doing their natural mating behaviors. For me, that’s always one of the best parts of any trip—to actually get up close to animals I’ve never seen in person before.

AC: On your website, Cuttlefish Prose, you write in the “About” section that you have ‘loved animals since the womb’. Who was your first pet that you can remember?

JH: We had a golden retriever named Tasha when I was a baby—I remember little moments with her even though I was quite young. The next pet I recall was a little scared black cat named Misty, then a pair of tiger cats named April and Maggie (April lived to be nearly 20 years old). Those are my earliest pet memories, but we had many others in the years after that. (Not just cats!)

AC: Who is/are your greatest animal love(s)?

JH: Right now I’d have to say my dog Monk, a kai ken (a beautiful Japanese breed). He is such a love and a beauty, so soft and gentle, and I think he really likes me best in the family. (Our other dog, Waits, is definitely my husband’s dog.) I spend a lot of time with him lying at my feet or cuddling with me on the couch. When he’s not going wild and chewing up pillows, he’s the best.

AC: What is something you think people can do to help make our world better for both us and animals?

JH: I am always pleased to hear about people taking in animals that need homes, especially the ones that aren’t terribly pretty or charismatic or the ones that require special care. Kindness toward animals is good both for them and for us. In the bigger picture, it’s important to be aware of wildlife conservation issues and to do what you can to protect animals and their habitats around the world. That might mean actually giving some time or money to a good organization or simply paying attention to what you buy, looking for “sustainably harvested” wood, for example. Being an educated consumer really can make a difference.

AC: Every person needs someone to look up to. Who is your role model?

JH: I can think of a number of them, but my mom was certainly a main one—her love and gentleness toward animals really helped to shape how I feel about them and why I live such an animal-centric life. She also never stopped growing, never stopped looking for ways to improve herself and to give to others.

Animal Culture: Finally, describe your perfect day.

Jennifer Holland: It would be in early spring. Warm enough to have windows open and a breeze blowing through. I’d be at my little cabin in Virginia sitting on the porch with an iced coffee (or wine!) and a great book. Later we’d go for a hike with the dogs or a canoe trip with friends. We’d eat at a fantastic restaurant afterwards. Maybe we’d have a little bonfire outside before bed.

OR, I’d be traveling somewhere new with my husband or a friend, walking my legs off under sunny skies, seeing the sights, taking in the wildlife and landscapes. Better yet, I’d be swimming my legs off—scuba diving in a warm ocean filled with odd creatures that let me get remarkably close. After the dive, lying in the afternoon sun to dry off, relaxing to the rocking of the boat. Ahhh….

Showcasing her love for animals through her talent of writing, Jennifer S. Holland has changed the way we view our fellow creatures and their complex personalities and bonds. Animal Culture would like to thank Jennifer for her time and commitment to the animal community, and for inspiring all of us animal lovers and activists!

To learn more about Jennifer S. Holland, her work, and books, visit her website at Cuttlefish Prose.

*Note: This installment of “Animal Talks” is © Kalie Lyn, 2014 and © Jennifer S. Holland, 2014*

Unlikely Friendships [Book Review]

First off, Animal Culture would like to apologize for our hiatus. With our author, Kalie Lyn, traveling back to the United States from Spain, and readjusting to her busy work schedule as an animal care giver and pet groomer, life outside of the blogosphere has been quite hectic. But we are back, and ready to get the animal show back on the road!

We start back up with “Book Review Thursday”, and boy, do we have a book for you! From former National Geographic senior writer, Jennifer S. Holland, comes 47 different heartwarming stories of inter-species animal friendships.

So grab a hot cup of tea (since Spring doesn’t seem to be here yet), along with a furry cuddle buddy, and enjoy this week’s book recommendation!

Title: Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom

Author: Jennifer S. Holland

Synopsis: “Real friendship knows no bounds, and it’s not only humans who need it. Unlikely Friendships tells one story after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways and thrive on the warmth, closeness, and trust that come with being true friends.” 

ISBN: 0761159134

Unlikely Friendships : 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom


It’s the front cover of Unlikely Friendships that grabs your attention first, and instantly makes you fall in love with the book. Once those pages are flipped open, the intriguing yet often little known world of the animal kingdom is revealed, and each of the 47 stories captivates you, making you want to discover more.

Explore the unique friendships of birds and mammals (The Owl and the Greyhound), domestic and wild animals (The Sled Dog and the Polar Bear), and predators and prey (The Leopard and the Cow). Complete with breathtaking photographs, the stories of these real-life inter-species friendships are truly fascinating. The author, Jennifer S. Holland, not only entertains, but also educates with facts about each different animal featured in the book, and exposes the world of animal emotions, something that is usually reserved for humans only.

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland is one of those books that you pass on to others, and one that will definitely bring your mind and heart joy.  A highly recommended read, you will yearn for more cuteness once you are finished!

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: Unlikely Friendships

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2014.*

Choosing “The One”

So, it’s time. You know you have the essentials to get a pet, and you know the importance of adopting vs. buying. Now, it’s time to consider what kind of pet is perfect for you – size, temperament, activity, and all! (Side note: since dogs are the most popular pet, we will focus this post on choosing the right dog.)

Just like with searching for a spouse, or claiming someone as our best friend over another person, we look at what kind of person they are. Their personality, behavior, and interests are all factors we consider in other people; and the same goes for dogs too. We all want our dogs to mesh with our lives, to be just another (albeit four-legged) member of the family. And with this desire, comes much to think about.

Size: Choosing a dog based on the space you live in is important. If you live in an apartment, it would not be ideal, for you or the dog, to adopt a large breed – such as a Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dog, etc. These dogs require ample space to both move around and feel comfortable, and for you as well. For people living in apartments or smaller condos/town homes, small to medium-sized dogs are more ideal. So, depending on where you call home, the size of your living conditions should factor in what size dog you should adopt.

Size does matter! (Photo Via: News.domain.com.au)

Size does matter!
(Photo Via: News.domain.com.au)

Temperament: While it’s nice to think that we would all be unbiased when it comes to choosing a dog, especially breed, realistically that’s not possible. Each individual dog has their own individual personality, and it’s important to know what kind of personality best suits you. First thing’s first, erase your brain of all those Pit Bull stereotypes. For a temperament test performed by the American Canine Temperament Testing Society, Pit Bulls passed with flying colors with a score of 83.9%. They even surpassed the Golden Retriever (83.2%) and the Beagle (78.2%), and highly out-did the average passing score of 77% for all breeds. While this can not be said for all Pit Bulls (there are bad eggs in all families), the owner is usually the problem. With gentle, loving, and proper leadership, Pit Bulls make great family pets. So, don’t exclude them just because of their bad rap!

(Photo Via: Thepetcollective.tv)

(Photo Via: Thepetcollective.tv)

Some dogs however, no matter the breed, may just have a bad temperament. Maybe they suffered from a traumatic past experience, or have lost trust in certain humans (some dogs even relate better to women than men, or vice versa). Whatever it is, there are ways to test out a dog’s temperament before adopting them. Most shelters already know a dog’s personality, and will inform you before adopting, however, if you are curious for yourself, there are some things you can test out on your potential future dog. Calmly and gently touch their feet, ears, and tail. These are sensitive spots for dogs, and if a dog shows signs of aggression when you touch them (i.e. barred teeth, growling, nervous retreating), these are things to consider, especially if you know your dog will be around young children. Another useful tip is knowing how a dog reacts around other people and animals. Most shelters allow you to walk the dog you are considering. Seeing how they react while on leash and on the street around other people and animals is a great indicator of a dog’s behavior. And lastly, make sure to have the entire family present when considering a dog. Making sure the dog meets each family member before adoption is important not only to determine behavior, but is also part of the bonding process.

Breed plays a role in a dog's character, but it doesn't determine their whole, often complex, personality. (Photo Via: Dogtemperament.com)

Breed plays a role in a dog’s character, but it doesn’t determine their whole, often complex, personality.
(Photo Via: Dogtemperament.com)

Activity: Just like with a human partner, we also look for common interests when it comes to our pets. Do you enjoy running, or are you more of a couch potato? Are you outdoorsy, or do you prefer to snuggle up inside? Activity is determined mostly by breed. Highly active breeds include Beagles, Fox Terriers, and German Shepherds. So, if you are looking for a running buddy, or someone to play fetch with on a daily basis, these may be the breeds for you. However, if you enjoy watching TV marathons, or live a less active lifestyle, Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, and the Bullmastiff may fit better in your family. Age and health is also a factor in the activity level of a dog. Older dogs (which need just as much love!) are more suited for a calmer, less-active lifestyle. On the other hand, puppies and young adults, given they don’t have any health restrictions, need ample exercise and play time. To see a more detailed list of the activity levels of certain breeds, visit Happy Healthy Puppy.

(Photo Via: Dogster.com)

(Photo Via: Dogster.com)


While this may seem like a lot of information, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Factoring in all of the above, and adding requirements of your own, is important when deciding which dog is best for you and your family. Make sure to do your research. Adopting a dog should not happen on a whim, and “love at first sight” doesn’t always determine a healthy, happy relationship.

Knowing what you want and need in your life, and meeting many different dogs, is key in choosing “the one”. So get out there a mingle! There are many adoptable dogs searching for you as well!

*Sources: Cesarsway.com, Americanhumane.org, Dogbreedinfo.com, Mabbr.org, Happyhealthypuppy.com*
*Note: The above article was written by ©Kalie Lyn, 2014*