Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bored Seals Exhibit Higher Risk-Seeking Behavior, Study Finds

Magnolia Beach, WA

Bored seals are at high risk for depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, and eating disorders according to a study out of the University of Washington.

Harbor Seals are commonly found lazing on beaches and rocks in coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest, they tend to live in and stick to common grounds, making them an easy subject to study.

Living near a steady supply of fish to eat makes seals grow lethargic and bored, according to the study.

Janice said she used to enjoy watching seals play and frolic on the beach outside her home until their behavior grew questionable

Males used to fight over mates underwater, but now simply play games against each other on Wii and when this behavior gets tiresome the seals look for adventure elsewhere.

“I used to love to watch seals playing on the beach,” said Janice, a 7-year-old Calico. “Now they come up to the door and ask me to place online bets for them. “(It’s) disgusting,” she said.

According to researchers, bored seals often begin to indulge in risky activities. These activities might include online gambling, streaking, or base jumping, pursuits they adopt in an attempt to deal with boredom.

Like chronically bored but healthy cats, they need far bigger “hits” of laughter and pleasure to find fun in their daily lives

"Now instead of one cup of coffee doing it, I need a triple espresso to get me going," said Tex, a 13-year-old Harbor Seal. "Anything that used to give me pleasure doesn’t work anymore."

Being pinnipeds, seals lack legs and cannot walk far, ride bicycles, or drive cars to places where they might otherwise find entertainment, as a result, they may turn to activities like doing drugs.

Researchers said drug use is common for seals who are bored. They tend to abuse drugs during down times, when they would normally otherwise be doing something useful, like working or napping.

This seal’s drug-seeking behavior quickly landed him in jail, and represents a growing problem among pups

“With seal unemployment at an all time high of 85% there is bound to be an upsurge in high-risk behavior,” said Jerome, a 22-year-old Harbor Seal who lost his job at an aquarium in May.

Bored seals also ended to score low on tests measuring self-awareness. Seals with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) were also more likely to be bored, as are those who cannot operate a remote control.

Researchers said they hope this study will help bring attention to the plight of the Harbor Seals and draw assistance from state and local governments to develop work-education programs in the future.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large
Top photo copyright Steven Thompson

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Search And Rescue Underway For Missing Ball Of Yarn

Mt. Baker, WA

A Search and Rescue team of over 192 cats from all over the Mount Baker area has been assembled in a wooded area of the state park this afternoon after two brothers reported a ball of yarn missing.

The yarn in question, soft, and yellow, was a little larger than a tennis ball in size and said to have been tightly wound together.

One of the brothers, Fizzer, an 11-month-old, neutered, Domestic Short Hair said that while playing, he batted (the yarn) with his paw and in a fit of rage the yarn stormed off and rolled under a picnic table, later, it ran off into the woods.

The much-loved yellow ball of missing yarn

The second brother, Figgs, also an 11-month-old, neutered, Domestic Short Hair, said it was the last time they saw the ball of yarn.

“We had been playing with it all morning.” Figgs stated, “It was really soft and had catnip on it. I'm really sad, but I have high hopes they will find it.”

The ball of yarn was seen by a camper who was barbecuing chicken wings as it rolled past her tent and through some leaves and tore up into the snowy woods behind the campsites.

Oatmeal said the yarn "looked mad"

“You could tell it wasn’t going to be coming back anytime soon.” said Oatmeal, a 7-year-old, spayed Burmese. Oatmeal said she often saw the boys playing with the yarn. “It looked mad," she said.

The search party was called together by a U.S. Forest Service team. A full description of the ball of yarn was given to search and rescue leaders by Figgs, who was being consoled by officers with peanut butter.

“Soft, yellow, and of a thick type.” said a witness, “I saw it too, regrettably, I didn’t realize what had happened or I might have tried to intervene.”

The brothers, Fizzer and Figgs, as seen in happier days

Rescue workers plan to work well into the evening and for the rest of the weekend if needed to find and return the ball of yarn.

Fellow campers and family members agreed to assist and gathered food and drink for the rescue workers to eat during breaks in shifts. One rescue worker said sometimes toys get a mind of their own and decide to run "if an opportunity presents itself or if (the toy) is provoked."

Search and Rescue workers have reported the missing yarn’s description to State and Local Police Departments in the hope of creating a county-wide search net.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More And More Corgis Say They Face Discrimination At Work

Seattle, WA

A new poll has revealed many Corgis feel they are regularly discriminated against at work.

The Washington State Unemployment Department released data showing a spike in claims filed by Corgis who said they were “openly discriminated against” in the workplace due to their cuteness and height.

The poll also revealed when applying for jobs, many Corgis do not get past the interview stage of a job once they have mentioned that they are a Corgi. Others complained they lost their jobs once their condition was known.

Many Corgis lost their jobs because employers said their adorable and cuddly presence made it hard for others to concentrate

“Their ears make them very cute and distracting,” said an employer who admitted he had let a Corgi go in the past. “There was too much petting going on and not enough work, I had no choice.”

Some Corgis said they prefer not to mention their breed at all on an application form, as they think it may jeopardize their chances of being given an interview.

Muffin, a 2-year-old, neutered, Pembroke Welsh Corgi currently works at Mr. Big & Tall in Alderwood. “When tall dogs come in to buy clothing they laugh at me,” he said. “Sometimes they pick me up and put me on top of the displays and leave me there so I can’t get down.”

Professor Gambit has studied dog employment statistics for nearly 12 years

One Corgi who did not give his name said he was employed as an escort, but was eventually let go because his boss said females prefer “taller” dogs when seeking a mate.

"Height is ideal, even for dogs,“ said former professor Gambit, a 15-year-old Sphinx who works for an employment agency. “It is unfortunate, but research has shown that taller dogs get more treats,” He added, “They are perceived as stronger and usually get paid more.”

Some Corgis said they try to “dress down” when applying for jobs in an attempt to not appear cute and cuddly, but still many bosses are unwilling to employ them.

Jango has recently sought cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of his Napoleon complex

Jango, a 7-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi worked as a bouncer and was consistently laughed at and told he had "such a cute little bottom.”

Jango has finally admitted he suffers from a Napoleon complex brought on by years of systematic abuse and petting from clients.

Now the state is set to focus attention on raising awareness that being a Corgi need not be a bar to employment. Tens of thousands of leaflets will be dispatched to employers, employees and job seekers giving a comprehensive guide to Corgis and work.

(Dedicated to little Noelle Roelle)

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Answers To Donut-Stress Link Lie In Amygdala, Study Finds

Seattle, WA

The long held hypothesis that cats under stress ate more donuts than cats not under stress has been debunked today, according to an article published in the journal Nature.

A scientist from the University of Washington conducted a longitudinal study of over 500 cats for 12 years who worked for the US Post Office and found major differences in brain morphology.

When stressed, the brain’s stress center, the amygdala enlarges dramatically. The swelling taxes an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory and can actually cause it to shrink.

Jackson said emerging evidence links donut eating not to stress but to the shape of the amygdala

Scientists once believed cats under stress craved donuts as a simple biological “numbing” reaction to both the stressor and the swelling of the hippocampus, causing them to abandon reason and pig out.

Recent EEG and CAT scans done on the study’s participants showed cats who were stressed ate donuts not because of the stress, but because they had a amygdala shaped like a French Cruller.

“Normally, the amygdala is shaped like an almond,” said Jackson, the 19-year-old Domestic Short Hair who wrote the paper. “The amygdala’s job is to create a stress response, but we never expected to find a case where it triggers donut eating.”

The amygdala in the donut eating cats was oddly shaped like a French Cruller

In the experiment, cats were stressed and tested while hooked up to machines measuring responses in the brain, they were then sent to the cafeteria, where in a type of blind study, their lunch choices were monitored, unbeknownst to them.

Cats who were subjected to air horns and beatings, but had normal shaped amygdalas, chose nothing out of the ordinary.

Cats stressed with aerial bombings, and bullwhips, but had French Cruller shaped amygdalas, chose Apple Fritters, Maple Bars, Bismarks, and even Raspberry-filled, Powdered Sugar Coated Donuts upon entering the cafeteria.

Cats with the genetic defect need to be given special accommodation and access to donuts, regardless of public opinion

According to Jackson, the results of the study could be far reaching.

“Now we may see that some cats have a genetic pre-disposition towards donut addiction,“ he said. “We need to see that these cats have a problem that needs treatment and is not something that should be laughed at or written off.”

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Monday, July 19, 2010

Washington State Enacts Stringent Law on Grocery Cart Immigration

Olympia, WA

Washington State, taking after the much debated immigration laws in Arizona, has enacted a law that will allow police to stop any grocery cart and ask for current identification.

The new law requires grocery carts to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question carts if they suspect they are in a parking lot illegally.

“The (grocery carts) are always trying to leave parking lots, sometimes illegally,” said Max, a 6-year-old Domestic Short Hair who is a supporter of the law. “Parking lot borders are serious things and need to be enforced, violently if necessary.”

Cats rallied in support of the carts, saying they believe it can only lead to racial profiling

“If you don’t stop them, they go wild and end up abandoned in neighborhoods, on sides of roads, or found dead in ditches,” lawmakers said.

But detractors say this type of selective ID checking can only lead to trouble. “I’m so tired of getting pushed around,” said one cart, “this only makes my life harder.”

Cart advocates and the ACLU are concerned the law will foster racial profiling. They argued most police officers don't have enough education or training to know specifically which grocery carts belong to which supermarkets.

“Some grocery carts know their place,” said one supporter of the law, "some don’t.”

“Sometimes you have an area where there is both a Trader Joe’s and an Albertsons sharing one parking lot,” said Max. “The lines are blurred between the territories of red carts and blue carts, it is a fine line we are walking.”

“What are you going to do about a few carts mixing?” said one cat who did not want to give his name. “If a red Trader Joe cart wants to work over at Albertson‘s, why not let him? Why is it okay to ID him just because he is red?”

Police and Federal agencies are now being trained to be able to correctly identify which carts belong to which grocery stores

Some grocery stores use an electrical “lock and shock” mechanism to prevent their own grocery carts from illegally crossing the border into neighboring lands, but activists in the past were up in arms, saying it was a cruel and harmful way to enforce borders.

Lawmakers said ID checks mean an end to “lock and shock” techniques, and will increase prosecutions of employers who knowingly hire illegal grocery carts.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Local Cat Wanted For Impersonating A Scottish Fold

Seattle, WA

Police in Seattle are looking for a cat who pretended to be a Scottish Fold Friday so that she could stop, detain and rob an unsuspecting motorist of his giant cinnamon Elephant Ear pastry.

According to investigators, the robbery occurred Friday between 8:45 and 9 p.m. near the Bite of Seattle.

Police said the victim was driving away in his car when a cat “resembling a Scottish Fold” waved him to the curb.

The victim's accurate description helped lead police to eventually name a suspect

Police said the cat masquerading as a Scottish Fold was actually a husky Tortoise Shell female of approximately 7-10 years of age, weighing 18-20 pounds, who was seen earlier that day taunting small children with her ears turned inside out, a shoddy attempt at disguise.

Believing the assailant was having an emergency, the victim pulled to the shoulder of Mercer street. He was then approached by the cat.

The victim, a 9-year-old, neutered Domestic Short Hair named Jeff, said the quick driving maneuver caused him to inadvertently smear grease, sugar, and cinnamon on the dashboard and steering wheel of his car.

Police said crimes have been on a steady incline at the Bite of Seattle over the past five years

The assailant was wearing casual clothing but had a police badge, squirt gun and was carrying a portable radio, police said.

The assailant never said what law enforcement agency she represented and eventually told Jeff to exit his car and take his clothes off.

Reports state Jeff complied and was handcuffed. During the search, the assailant took an undisclosed amount of cash and salt packets from the victim’s pants and "violently snatched" the crisp, warm Elephant Ear pastry he had been eating.

A noted two-time felon and Former-Feral "Ramona the Pest" is now sought by police as a suspect

Forensic examination of the car turned up traces of sugar and cinnamon on upholstery and the steering column, confirming the victim’s testimony.

She had a “little bit of a beard and a scar beneath her right eye,” the victim said.

Police said the victim’s accurate description of the assailant led them to believe two-time felon Tortoise Shell Ramona The Pest, who is already wanted for string fraud, could have also committed this crime.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Study Finds Depression Common In Raccoons Receiving Welfare

Seattle, WA

A new study indicates single raccoon mothers of young kits receiving welfare are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, yet do not receive the mental health treatment they need.

The study looked at factors in the raccoon's lives that contributed to depressive symptoms, and examined whether these symptoms prevented the raccoons from gaining employment and becoming independent from welfare.

Penny, an 8-year-old North American Raccoon said she worked the night shift assembling 747 engines at Boeing until she gave birth to 4 young kits. She was laid off the next day.

A sub-prime mortgage and no job forced Penny and her kits into a cardboard box

“Male raccoons take no part in raising young, so that pretty much left me to fend for all of us,” Penny said. “We had a sub-prime mortgage too, so we lost our big Cedar Tree.”

Penny said she and her kits now live out of a one bedroom cardboard box in suburban Kent and make ends meet by eating cat food and selling candy bars door to door during the evening hours.

One challenge facing welfare agencies is to identify barriers to finding quality employment. One such barrier, being nocturnal, is high among low-income single raccoons, reports stated.

“I cry a lot,” admitted Penny

Forty percent of the raccoons reported symptom levels that would likely indicate a diagnosis of clinical depression, yet few had received any mental health services.

“I went into a doctor’s office once looking for psychological help and everyone ran out, screaming,” said Cassandra, a 12-year-old North American Raccoon. “Cats from Fish & Wildlife came and took me away and locked me up.”

Significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms were found in raccoons who had more than 4 kits, were forced to live more than 50 yards from a water source, and had no access to apple fritters.

Cassandra, who worked in a hair salon until she lost her job, sought professional help - but was incarcerated instead

Socio-demographic information about each raccoon was obtained from a questionnaire filled out along with the state welfare application.

While symptoms of depression did not affect the likelihood of going bowling or participating in food dousing activities, raccoons with more depressive symptoms were less likely to leave welfare over the two-year period.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Giant Marshmallow Farmers To Use Falcons To Thwart Pesky Campers

Sequim, WA

Farmer Eric, a 2-year-old, neutered, Domestic Short Hair, smiled as he watched a falcon circle his crop.

Eric is one of 17 Giant Marshmallow farmers nationwide who signed up for a program, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that allows the use of predator birds to control wild Campers that damage or forage on the marshmallows.

The original habitats of the North American Camper are deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their adaptability they have extended their range to mountainous areas, river banks, and rural areas, where marshmallow farmers consider them to be pests.

Eric said he has high hopes the raptors will protect his Giant Marshmallow crop this year

"Campers are tricky,” Eric said. “They tend to be nocturnal. We know they have been here when we find discarded chocolate wrappers, sticks, and graham cracker crumbs in our fields. Sometimes they start fires, too. It’s a huge problem.”

Though previously thought to be solitary, there is now evidence that Campers engage in gender-specific social behavior.

Related females often share a common area, called a tent, where stores of scavenged beer and hot dogs are kept, while unrelated males live together in groups of up to four to maintain their positions against foreign males during the mating season and other potential invaders.

Wild Campers are dangerous and tend to set up their dens near running water

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now beta testing the raptors in the hopes of scaring off the campers, who generally remain in the same areas year-round, but their prevalence depends on a variety of weather conditions.

“In many ways, (using raptors) is probably more environmentally sound than other methods we might use, like murder," said Ginger, a 5-year-old Domestic Short Hair who has been growing Giant Marshmallows in Sequim for years.

Giant Marshmallow farmers have long battled campers and sometimes even Hikers, who damage or forage on their crops, causing an estimated $900 million in damage in one year, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Campers have caused more than $900 million in damage in one year, reports say

Farmers hope using the raptors will confuse and scare Campers, sending them off in another direction or possibly to a grocery store to procure marshmallows, thus saving the farmers money and time in this tough economy.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth Of July Sale Makes Fleas More Affordable

Lynnwood, WA

With unemployment at 9.5%, its highest rate in nearly 29 years, many cats and kittens are having trouble affording this season's hottest accessory, fleas.

It's summer, and everyone who is anyone is into fleas. They are portable, terrifying to humans, and thanks to a special sale, an affordable status symbol now readily available to every cat.

"What's a cat to do on a hot and sweaty day with no fleas?" Asked Jacob, a 9-year-old, neutered Domestic Short Hair. "It's just not American."

Fleas are all the rage this season

Luckily, Lynnwood Veterinary Center has the answer to the summer blues. Fleas are on sale for a limited time in a buy six get one free deal.

"I'm so excited," said Barley, a 5-year-old, neutered Scottish Fold from Mukilteo. "All my friends are sitting around scratching like crazy, but me? Well, until now I couldn't afford any," Barley said. "Now I'll be cool like all my friends!"

Among the benefits of having fleas this season is the fact that humans who know you have them will stay far clear of you and will not waste time acting like asses trying to dress you up in retarded outfits.

Recently laid-off Jonathan is happy to now be able to afford fleas

"I was fired from my job in May," said Jonathan, a 3-year-old, neutered, Siamese. "I sold all my DVDs on craigslist just so I could get some fleas...I'm elated!"

Jonathan is not alone in his excitement over the flea sale. Some cats reported driving all the way from Oregon to get in on the exclusive pricing.

"In Seaside, where I live, fleas are all the rage," said Jasmine, a 3-year-old Domestic Short Hair who brought along her momcat for the ride. "If you're not scratching, you're not hip."

The store has extended its hours to help serve the demand for fleas

Representatives from the store said the fleas are the genuine article and to beware of imitations or copycat brand name fleas being hocked at cheaper prices.

The sale began today in celebration of Independence Day and is expected to continue while supplies last.

Reservations are being taken by phone for custom flea placement at 425.420.FLEA. Hours have been extended to meet the high demand for summer fleas.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Local Turkey Files Lawsuit Against Employer Over Racial Slur

Marysville, WA

A Turkey from Marysville has sued Wal-Mart in federal court, alleging that a coworker at the store where he worked referred to him as a “dumb turkey” and made racial remarks about his species’ supposed inability to fly.

Jack, a 3-year-old Domestic Turkey, filed the complaint this morning in U.S. District Court.

Jack said he was restocking shelves at the Marysville store where he worked part time and was laughing at a joke a fellow employee told him when a cat turned to him and said “shut up, you dumb turkey.”

Maggie was sent home after calling her coworker a “dumb turkey”

The cat, a 5-year-old spayed Tortoise Shell named Maggie, was spanked and sent home from work after the comment was made. Maggie had worked at Wal-Mart for almost a year without incident.

For Wal-Mart, which has built a fragile trust among minority communities, this comes only months after an incident at a New Jersey Wal-Mart store where a Pygmy Goat came over the PA system and announced “Attention, Wal-Mart customers; all turkeys must leave the building.”

Even with the Civil Rights Movement behind us many Turkeys still face racial discrimination and have long been living with the stigma of being called “dumb.”

The Wal-Mart store in Marysville, where the incident took place

Turkeys in the past have been unfairly portrayed as poor, lazy, very religious, as criminals, and often times as being fans of drinking orange pop and eating waffles.

Court documents say the employee’s comment made Jack feel uncomfortable and depressed. “Not all turkeys are dumb,” he said in a statement. “That is an unfair stereotype.”

He said Maggie had also called him “lazy” in the past and made fun of his inability to fly due to his weight. “I could fly when I was younger,” said Jack. “I have eating issues, that is my business. That (turkeys) can‘t fly is a misconception.”

This turkey alleges he applied for a promotion to management only to be told to “get stuffed” by a manager

Jack is seeking a jury trial with compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and an injunction ordering Wal-Mart to require affirmative training and take other steps to ensure other Turkeys are not discriminated against in the same way he was.

Fellow turkeys say they have seen their fair share of discrimination in the past, but say they fear taking action would cause them to lose their jobs.

The EEO sued the company in May 2009, claiming some Vampire Bat employees were subjected to a hostile work environment. That suit alleged managers failed to stop repeated verbal harassment, including the use of the term “bat-shit crazy” against employees of Chiropterian descent.

Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large

Pugs More Likely To Plead Guilty To Crimes They Didn't Commit

Sequim, WA Pugs are more likely to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because they are really dumb and thus less able to make matu...