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Symbolically adopting an endangered animal is a wonderful project to do with children. When my daughter was 8, her class studied endangered animals. Each child chose an animal to research, and my daughter chose the giant panda. We visited the World Wildlife Fund website and "adopted" a panda. Our family has been in love with pandas ever since. We trekked to the San Diego Zoo to see the pandas on loan from China, and there was great excitement because after many years of pandas failing to reproduce, a new baby panda had recently been born. After waiting in line at the exhibit for over an hour, we were rewarded by seeing little Hua Mei wake up from a nap and nuzzle with her huge, gentle mother, Bai Yun. Hua Mei was the first giant panda born in North America to survive to adulthood. She has since returned to China and given birth to three sets of twins. You can visit the pandas at the San Diego Zoo anytime by watching the zoo's "Panda Cam."
You can also "adopt" an endangered animal through the World Wildlife Fund. By protecting pandas, gorillas, tigers, and other animals, you will protect additional species that live in the same habitats. You will also improve the lives of poor rural people who live nearby. When habitats become healthier, humans become healthier too.
We love our pets, but Lee Haus's dog, Brutus, is more than a pet -- he is her partner. Together, they are an emergency response team with Los Angeles' search and rescue task force. When disaster strikes anywhere in the United States, Lee, Brutus, and their colleagues calmly move in, focused on saving lives.
Brutus came to Lee from the Search Dog Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides the country's most highly trained search dogs, and partners them with firefighters and other first responders. SDF's extraordinary dogs and handlers participated in recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site following the September 11 attacks. They also worked in the areas hit by Hurricanes Ike, Gustav, Katrina, and Rita, as well as other disaster sites. Most of SDF's rescue dogs were rescued themselves. Abused or abandoned, the dogs are taken in by SDF, which trains them and takes care of them for life. When dogs cannot search anymore due to age or injury, they remain with their handlers or SDF finds good homes for them.
For Lee the best part of the job is watching Brutus search. "It's amazing how he figures it out, no matter how deep he needs to dig or how many distractions there are around him. He'll run, stop, turn, and then go to work." Lee described their experience in Louisiana following Hurricane Rita: "We were searching a part of the New Orleans Parish that had flooded up to the eaves of the houses. Our mission was to go house to house and search for survivors. It was 101 degrees with 85 percent humidity, and we were searching eight hours a day. There was mud everywhere -- in some places, up to our thighs. The houses were full of debris and furniture was toppled everywhere. We kicked, crawled, slipped, and pushed our way into each house. Our dogs worked like champs, always willing. It was great to put all my training with my pup to work." What will happen when Brutus retires? Lee says, "We'll be together. We're a team." For life.
You can help abandoned animals by donating free food for them: Visit TheAnimalRescueSite.com.
Twelve-year-old Mimi Ausland loves animals. She wanted to find a way to feed abandoned dogs at her local Humane Society in Oregon. So she came up with an idea with her mom and dad: a dog trivia game on a website. What if every time a person played, ad revenue was generated to buy free kibble for needy dogs?
It worked. Local businesses signed on to help, and FreeKibble.com was born. Play every day. Whether your answer is right or wrong, free food will be donated to abandoned animals at the Humane Society of Central Oregon. Mimi and her parents hope to grow the site so they'll be able to provide kibble to animal shelters in other places, too. There are tens of thousands of hungry dogs in shelters across the United States, so Mimi is busy. She's talking to classes, participating in events with the Humane Society, and doing other community projects to encourage people to help animals. After seeing how popular FreeKibble.com became, Mimi also launched the Meow Cat Trivia game at FreeKibbleKat.com so she can feed abandoned cats too.
"I absolutely love delivering the food to the Humane Society! Before our first delivery, FreeKibble.com was just a website with virtual kibble. But when we went out to deliver food for the first time, I got to put the bags of kibble in the storage room, feed the dogs, and play with them. I then realized that by feeding the dogs here and other places, the shelters can use that money to get the animals more toys, cat food, litter boxes, leashes, food bowls, and more. So after that day of delivering food to hungry dogs, FreeKibble.com was real!" -- Mimi
Donate free dog and cat food to abandoned animals by playing the Bow Wow Dog Trivia game at FreeKibble.com.
Puppies Behind Bars trains prison inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs. Their handlers learn to contribute to society and feel human again while preparing the dogs to help disabled children and adults, and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some dogs also assist police and international security forces with explosives detection. Volunteer puppy sitters are needed to socialize the puppies during their weekend "furloughs." This is because service dogs need to acclimate to various environments and stress levels. So they need to experience going into stores and restaurants, walking on different streets, attending softball and soccer games, as well as other activities.
On weekends, puppies also visit homebound elderly senior citizens in New York City. Puppies learn from their interaction with people, and seniors who rarely leave their apartments love to receive puppy kisses. How many people's lives are transformed by Puppies Behind Bars? Prison inmates, homebound elderly people, countless people in public venues, disabled children and adults, and veterans and their families.
You can become a puppy sitter, a weekend volunteer who helps socialize puppies that are being raised to become service dogs. Send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit PuppiesBehindBars.com.
Debbie Tenzer is the founder of DoOneNiceThing.com and the author of Do One Nice Thing. Her book and site offer more than 100 small deeds that can yield big results -- and help readers make kindness a regular habit.
Excerpted with permission from Do One Nice Thing.