Stay in a Luxury Hotel for $40?

Not you, ya dumb human.  Your doggie!! Heated pools, massage salons and a-la-carte menus are de rigueur at luxury hotels across the world but in one exclusive Paris establishment the difference is the guests: they have four legs, and enthusiastically wagging tails.

Actuel Dogs bills itself as France’s first luxury hotel for dogs, and founders Devi and Stan Burun, a dog behaviour specialist and lifelong dog-lover, also offer training programmes for unruly hounds and dog walks in the woods.

As well as a dip in the pool, or a massage, guests including Ulysse, a bumptious yellow Labrador sporting a smart red collar, enjoy “doggy jogging,” or simply relax on cushioned couches in their luxury suites.

Their tiled-floor rooms smell fresh and clean and are adorned with framed prints of dogs and equipped with televisions so dogs can watch their choice of dvds.

Owners pay between 26 euros and 35 euros ($36-$48) to leave their lucky hounds for a full day and while the luxury touches appeal to owners, the key difference with traditional kennels is that dogs are not locked up in cages.

“People think we serve the dogs’ food from silver platters but this is not pointless, extravagant luxury,” Devi said, as Clifford, an English bulldog, Cocker Spaniel puppy Floyd, Golden Retriever Cleo and miniature Schnauzer Belle bounded around the hotel’s games room, equipped with a treadmill for training.

Stunt Donkey has Heart Attack

Here is some sad news about an animal that really lived?  A flying donkey you say? The Russian donkey that starred in a viral video that drew the ire of animal lovers worldwide has died.

In July, a Russian parasailing company strapped Anapka, an 18-year-old female donkey, to a parachute and forced it to sail over a southern Russian beach in a misguided attempt at a publicity stunt.

The stunt garnered plenty of negative publicity as horrified beachgoers uploaded a video of it to YouTube, where it sparked worldwide outrage.

In interviews with Russian media, onlookers said children at the beach burst into tears at the sight of the wailing, frightened donkey.

Witnesses even said the animal was dragged through the ocean when it landed.

Cops launched an animal cruelty investigation, but didn’t press charges.

According to the Moscow Times, only maiming or killing an animal is illegal under Russian law.

But the animal was taken from its owners, who rented it to the parasailers for the promotional stunt, and placed on a farm outside Moscow, where, according to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, it recently died of heart failure.

Veterinarians weren’t able to say whether the heart problems were related to the parasailing stunt.

Bird Kills Man in Cockfighting Incident

It seems one of these guys finally got knocked off by an angry bird.  Jose Luis Ochoa, 35, of Lamont, California, was declared dead at a hospital about two hours after he was injured in Tulare County on Jan. 30, the Kern County coroner said.

An autopsy concluded Ochoa died of an accidental “sharp force injury” to his right calf.

“I have never seen this type of incident,” Sgt Martin King, a 24-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, told the Bakersfield Californian.

Ochoa and the other spectators fled when authorities arrived at the scene of the fight, King told the newspaper. Police found five dead roosters and other evidence of cockfighting at the location.  According to Kern County Superior Court records, Ochoa paid $370 in fines last year after pleading no contest to one count of owning or training an animal for fighting, according to the newspaper.  Speculation is that Jose simply got too close to the action and was sliced by the razor on one of the birds legs.

How to Toilet Train your Pig!

Hey have you heard the one about the pig using the toilet? Well it might actually be a real situation! Taiwan has been experimenting with a simple solution to the perennial problems of pollution, smell and excessive water use on pig farms: train the pigs to use a toilet.

After some encouraging results the government now wants all the island’s pig farms to adopt the practice as it looks to burnish its green credentials, offering cash to farmers and pushing the benefits such as less watery manure that can be sold at higher prices.

“To use the pig waste as manure is a very good approach within the spirit of green energy, much better than just letting it go to waste and pollute river water,” Stephen Shen, Taiwan’s environment minister, told Reuters Television.

“And I think that can help us a lot in decreasing CO2 emissions and fighting global warming.”

The “toilet” consists of a series of iron bars installed about 20 cm above the floor in the corner of the pen. Pigs step between the bars to go about their business, with the waste collected in a single, easy to clean spot.

If all the around six million pigs in Taiwan — one for every four people — used such toilets, the government estimates that around 180 million litres of water used per day in cleaning would fall by half.

The environment ministry has helpfully published three suggestions on how to toilet-train pigs: put some feces in the cage as pigs will follow the smell; clean the rest of the pen so “the pigs are not misled to defecate outside the toilet” and let the pigs “become familiar with the new environment.”

Chang Chung-Tou, general manager of Long Kow Foods Enterprise, a pig farm with toilets in the western Taiwan county of Yunlin, says not only does he get more for his manure, but his potty-trained porkers live longer.

“Because we don’t need to flush the whole cage with water, the pigs are also less likely to catch colds. That helped us to raise the survival rate of our pigs from 70 to 90%,” Chang told Reuters Television in an interview at the farm.

He said he has been able to increase income from the less-diluted, and therefore better quality, manure he sells to other farmers as fertilizer to more than T$250,000 ($8,636 U.S.) a year from T$50,000.

If that is not incentive enough for others, the government will also help.

“As long as farmers are willing to try, we would give them financial aid,” said environment minister Shen.  I think this is a great idea, I wish my cat could be toilet trained!

German Sense of Humor

I always thought the Germans were a little stiff but I guess they are kind of wacky too!

Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum, is the latest creature to rocket from Germany’s front pages to international recognition, capturing the world’s imagination with her bright, black eyes turned toward her pointed pink nose.

Since the first photos were published in December, the marsupial from Leipzig Zoo has attracted more Facebook fans than Chancellor Angela Merkel. By Wednesday more than 111,000 fans from as far away as Bangkok and Montreal and clear across Europe were exclaiming “so cute!!” and “so sweet.”

Experts say that like Knut, Berlin’s famous fluffy white polar cub who was abandoned by his mother, and Paul, the late octopus who correctly predicted the outcome of all of Germany’s 2010 World Cup games and Spain’s victory in the final, the hype surrounding Heidi is fed by a human weakness for cuddly looking critters and the ability of modern mass media to spread images around the globe instantly.

Bangkok resident Julie Queen-Vichitthanarurk said she heard about Heidi on the local radio station on the way to work, and raced home to find a picture on the internet and become a “fan” on Facebook.

“Right away when I saw her picture, I feel in love with her!” the 40-year-old told The Associated Press in an Facebook message. “There is just something so sweet about her that made my heart melt.”

It is exactly that feeling that humans crave, making such “cute” animal images so popular.  I don’t’ find it cute but each hey who am I to judge?

Fox Shoots Hunter

This is a great story out of Moscow for all you animal lovers!

A wounded fox shot its would-be killer in Belarus by pulling the trigger on the hunter’s gun as the pair scuffled after the

The unnamed hunter, who had approached the fox after wounding it from a distance, was in hospital with a leg wound, while the fox made its escape, media said, citing prosecutors from the Grodno region.

“The animal fiercely resisted and in the struggle accidentally pulled the trigger with its paw,” one prosecutor was quoted as saying.

Fox hunting is popular in the picturesque farming region of northwestern Belarus that borders Poland.  Nice going mr. fox!

Gay Birds Eat Mercury

Researchers in Florida and Sri Lanka studied the effect of the metal in white ibises’ diets to find out why breeding was down.

They found the higher the dose of mercury in the wading birds’ food pellets, the more likely a male bird was to pair with another male.

Dr Peter Frederick from the University of Florida, who led the study, said: “We knew mercury could depress their testosterone levels but we didn’t expect this.

“We’re seeing very large reproductive effects at very low concentrations of mercury so we really need to be paying more attention to this.”

The team fed the birds on food pellets which contained concentrations of mercury equivalent to those in the shrimp and crayfish that make up their wetland diet.

As Seinfeld would say, “Not that there is anything wrong with that.”

Odd Statue

I guess a Polish joke is not politically correct but they did spend $300,000 on this statue to commemorate a bear that apparently fought along side the army against the Nazis!

The £200,000 monument is to commemorate the extraordinary life of  Wojtek, a 6ft tall, 500 pound brown bear who served alongside Polish soldiers — and lived out his years after the war in Edinburgh Zoo.