“We Don’t Deserve Dogs”: Missing Autistic Toddler Found In The Care Of His Family’s Dogs

Rokas Laurinavičius 3-4 minutes

One family from Ponce De Leon, Florida, has just experienced something that can scar your heart for life. Wednesday morning, their three-year-old boy, Marshal, went missing.

Not only did the toddler disappear wearing only his diaper, but Marshal’s also autistic and can’t speak, leaving his family even more worried about their chances to reunite with the boy. The only thing that gave them comfort was that he disappeared with Nala and Buckwheat, two loyal family dogs.

“We were panicked,” Marshal’s aunt Kayla Stewart told WJHG/WECP, adding that “all sorts of worst-case scenarios [were] running through their heads.”

Wednesday morning, a three-year-old boy went missing in Ponce De Leon, Florida

Image credits: Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr.

Little Marshal is autistic and can’t speak, which could’ve made the search even more difficult

Image credits: Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr.

But he was found later that same day, thanks to his loyal dogs

Image credits: Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr.

Image credits: WJHG

Image credits: Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr.

Both the neighbors, who quickly split up and searched the area, and the sheriff’s department, which posted about the case on Facebook, were trying to find the toddler. “Our expectations going into a search of that magnitude are always to get as many agency members on the ground as possible to aid in the search,” Corey Dobridnia, the Public Information Officer at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, told Bored Panda. “Minutes are precious when it comes to the search of a child.”

Neigbor Carol Shelton saw the boy later that afternoon about a mile away from his home. And I wouldn’t even call it a miracle, rather, an outcome that Marshal’s very earthly guardian angels ensured. Throughout it all, Nala and Buckwheat were by the toddler’s side. “[His] dogs were right there with him,” the neighbor recalled. “[We’re] thankful that the pups kind of guided him along, I guess they kept him safe.”

Dobridnia said everyone at the Sheriff’s Office are grateful for the family friend who was able to locate the child, adding that one of their captains was able to bring the child back to his mother.

“Marshal was in good spirits when found. A little dirty from the walk through the woods, but unharmed and happy,” Dobridnia added. “Dogs are loyal creatures. I feel like they probably knew to stay with him when they saw he was alone. Their instincts kicked in. They stayed with the boy and watched over him until he was located.”

Marshal’s family were beyond happy to see their precious little boy back home safe. They were also very proud of their canine family members. “They’re doing their job,” the boy’s mom said.

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Pink Power: Bully Flamingos are Deeper Pink

New research has just revealed that bright pink flamingos are more aggressive than paler rivals when fighting over food.  When the birds squabble over food, the pinkest flamingos — both male and female — tend to push the others around.  This makes sense when considering that pink plumage is a sign of good health in lesser flamingos, and a flush of color often means they are ready to breed.

“Flamingos live in large groups with complex social structures. Color plays an important role in this. The color comes from carotenoids in their food, which for lesser flamingos is mostly algae that they filter from the water.  Lesser flamingos do not have a breeding season — they breed when they’re in good enough condition. This is often displayed by a “pink flush” in the feathers. The birds then become paler again during the tiring days of early parenthood.

“A healthy flamingo that is an efficient feeder — demonstrated by its colorful feathers — will have more time and energy to be aggressive and dominant when feeding.”

-Dr. Paul Rose, Researcher, University of Exeter

Study overview

The color of individual birds in the study was scored from one (mainly white) to four (mainly pink).

The researchers studied the behavior of Slimbridge’s lesser flamingos in different feeding situations: at an indoor feeding bowl, a larger indoor feeding pool, and outdoors with food available in a large pool.

In the outdoor pool, birds spent less than half as much time displaying aggression, while foraging time doubled (compared to when fed from a bowl).  No difference was found between males and females in rates of feeding or aggression.


“When birds have to crowd together to get their food, they squabble more and therefore spend less time feeding. It’s not always possible to feed these birds outdoors, as lesser flamingos only weigh about 2kg and are native to Africa, so captive birds in places like the UK would get too cold if they went outside in the winter.

“However, this study shows they should be fed over as wide an area as possible. Where possible, creating spacious outdoor feeding areas can encourage natural foraging patterns and reduce excess aggression.”

Journal Reference: Paul Rose, Laura Soole. What influences aggression and foraging activity in social birds? Measuring individual, group and environmental characteristics. Ethology, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/eth.13067

Posted by: Kris

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You Talkin’ to Me? Cats Recognize their Names But May Ignore It

3-4 minutes

Human caretakers of cats have always known this and now it has been demonstrated scientifically: Cats recognize their names when called–but may choose to ignore it (possibly followed by an upwards tail flip and facial expression of  ‘uh, you talkin’ to me?‘).

Study overview

A new study indicates domestic cats do recognize their own names—even if they walk away when they hear them.  Behavioral scientist Dr. Atsuko Saito, has previously shown that cats can recognize their owner’s voice. Now, in this latest study, which involved 78 cats from Japanese households and a “cat café,” she honed in on responses to hearing their names.

Researchers first had owners repeatedly say four words that sounded similar to their cats’ names until the animals habituated to those words and stopped responding. Next, the owners said the cats’ actual names, and researchers determined whether individual cats (when living among other cats) appeared able to distinguish their own monikers. The researchers also had people unfamiliar to the cats speak the cats’ names. Although the felines’ responses were less prominent to strangers saying their names than when their owners called them, they still appeared to recognize their names.

Study results overview

The cats had more pronounced responses to their own names—meowing or moving their ears, heads or tails—than to similar words or other cats’ names, according to the study, which was published in Scientific Reports.

Study Abstract

The habituation-dishabituation method was used to investigate whether domestic cats could discriminate human utterances, which consisted of cats’ own names, general nouns, and other cohabiting cats’ names. Cats from ordinary households and from a ‘cat café’ participated in the experiments. Among cats from ordinary households, cats habituated to the serial presentation of four different general nouns or four names of cohabiting cats showed a significant rebound in response to the subsequent presentation of their own names; these cats discriminated their own names from general nouns even when unfamiliar persons uttered them. These results indicate that cats are able to discriminate their own names from other words. There was no difference in discrimination of their own names from general nouns between cats from the cat café and household cats, but café cats did not discriminate their own names from other cohabiting cats’ names. We conclude that cats can discriminate the content of human utterances based on phonemic differences.

The Takeaway

“Cats are just as good as dogs at learning. They’re just not as keen to show their owners what they’ve learned.”  [Me-ooow]

-Dr. John Bradshaw, biologist, human-animal interactions at the University of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute

Journal Reference: Atsuko Saito, Kazutaka Shinozuka, Yuki Ito, Toshikazu Hasegawa. Domestic cats (Felis catus) discriminate their names from other words,
Scientific Reports. 2019;9(1):1-8 DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-40616-4

Post: KW


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