Old Friends Sanctuary Saves Dogs

Old dogs don’t care that they’re old. They focus on more important matters – Comfort. Snacks. Naps. And, of course, belly rubs from the people they love.

Nearly 100 senior dogs are enjoying all those essentials and more at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, a fairy tale land for former shelter dogs in Mount Juliet, Tenn.. Hundreds more are lounging on soft beds and soaking up affection in “forever foster homes” located within a 100-mile radius of the sanctuary. Foster families get to care for calm, content pets without ever having to worry about a single vet bill, and the once-homeless dogs get to spend the rest of their days as part of a family.

“When they come to us from the shelter, we say, ‘Today is the day that they start their new life,'” Zina Goodin, co-founder of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, said. “We just try to help them feel better and make them healthy so they can live out the rest of their lives happily.”

Zina, 62, and her husband, Michael Goodin, 66, started the sanctuary in 2012 when they were semi-retired and on the prowl for meaningful volunteer opportunities. The couple saw a huge need to help older animals at shelters in Middle Tennessee, where euthanasia rates are high.

“People are less likely to adopt a senior dog from the shelter because they worry about the additional veterinary needs and medications,” Zina Goodin said. “Just like senior people, senior dogs have special needs, so the senior dogs need rescue more than the younger dogs do.”

Eager to prevent older dogs from dying alone and afraid in shelters, the Goodins started out by taking a posse of pooches into their own home. Their efforts gradually grew as friends and strangers heard about what they were doing and offered to foster even more senior dogs in their homes. Then, in 2014 and 2015, that gradual growth became exponential thanks to social media; people began falling madly in love with dogs featured on the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary’s Facebook page.

“Almost like a soap opera, people would cling onto certain dogs,” Michael Goodin said. “They loved it!”
Today, Old Friends has more than 1.8 million followers on Facebook, live cams so fans can watch the dogs’ antics in real time online and about 400 rescued senior dogs in its care. Two and a half years ago, the sanctuary relocated to 2 acres on the site of a former garden center. In their expanded digs, senior dogs can roam inside or outside as much as they want, and there’s no shortage of soft surfaces, socializing, sniffing and snoring.

The sanctuary relies on more than 300 volunteers and employs 26 people, including a full-time, on-site veterinarian to help keep the dogs’ health-care costs down. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, small tour groups of as many as six people visit the sanctuary to see its operations in person and meet all the dogs.

“We’ve become a bucket list item for a lot of people,” said Sally McCanner, Old Friends’ foster medical coordinator and tour director.

Most dogs at the sanctuary range in age from about 10 to 14, although their ages are often “guesstimates” from veterinarians because so many animals arrive at shelters with incomplete or mysterious back stories. Some dogs are picked up as strays, while others get removed from situations of hoarding, abuse or neglect. Many more spend years living as family pets until their human owners face a life upheaval of some sort, such as a financial emergency, illness, divorce, home foreclosure or even a military deployment.

Another common scenario for senior shelter dogs is that their older human caretakers either pass away or move into nursing facilities that do not accept pets. Shelter stays can be even more stressful and disorienting for senior dogs in situations like these.

“They’re super confused because they’ve been with a family for 12 years and, all of a sudden, they’re basically in jail,” Michael Goodin said. “It’s wonderful to come in and save these guys and see ’em just brighten up and be great.”

All of the sanctuary’s cleaning supplies, pet food, medications, veterinary care and other needs are paid for by donations. “Our average donation is only $25, so we have a lot of people who support us,” Zina Goodin said. “It also shows that every single donation that we get is very important.”

“A lot of the dogs who come in from the shelters are in pretty bad shape … and it is quite amazing how quickly those dogs will start to heal and turn into lively, energetic, healthy dogs when they’re given the care that they need. They’re able to move on and trust people and love people again.”

The work of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary and other senior dog rescue efforts across North America is described in the bestselling book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts,” written by TODAY senior editor Laura T. Coffey and with photographs by Lori Fusaro. The book includes a comprehensive, listing of senior dog rescue programs.

Robot Will Make Any Car Self-Driving

You know that self-driving cars are here and soon will be in the mass market. But you also may know that your budget isn’t ready to buy one.

Enter the highly adaptable robot being developed to perform all the functions of driving a vehicle. Israeli startup IVObility is developing a robot that can sit in the driver’s seat of an ordinary vehicle and be the driver. The robot does not require the vehicle to have special drive-by-wire equipment, because it has its own sensors and cameras that “see” what a driver sees.

The cars we drive ourselves eventually will be replaced with those that drive themselves. IVObility’s robot will be able to drive ordinary vehicles. The company’s name combines “Intelligent Vehicle Operator” and “mobility” and is the work of Hugo Guterman, director of the Laboratory for Autonomous Robotics at Ben-Gurion University. Having already developed an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (a self-piloting submarine) called the HydroCamel, Guterman’s team is now shifting its focus to dry land.

Where most self-driving-car projects remove the vehicle’s operations from the driver’s seat, IVObility’s device literally sits right in it. The robot is almost humanoid in appearance, with a torso, a lap, a head full of sensors, arms to turn the steering wheel, and legs to work the pedals.

Because the “limbs” are mechanical, it doesn’t require the vehicle it’s operating to be fitted with drive-by-wire controls. Nor does it need a proliferation of radar, lidar, ultrasonic and other sensors to be installed around the vehicle, relying instead entirely on its own cameras to virtually see what a human driver would from behind the wheel.

The concept is simple. The execution is not so simple. CEO Tzvika Goldner says IVObility aims to launch its driving robot by the middle of 2020 and intends to offer three versions: most will be fully autonomous, but some will offer more cost-effective semi-autonomous capability or remote-controlled operation.

The startup is initially focusing on applications removed from public-street traffic, such as agriculture, mining, security and border control. It’s working to launch a pilot project at a European airport later this year and is currently seeking funding to continue development.

Goldner remains reserved on the notion of a consumer version, but the prospect of augmenting existing, driver-operated cars with plug-and-play units like IVObility’s may prove only a matter of time-whether this company makes it, or someone else does.

Extinction Threatens Up to 1 Million Species

Planet Earth has been put on red alert by hundreds of leading scientists who have warned that humanity faces an existential threat within decades if the steep decline of nature is not reversed.

The recently-published conclusions of the greatest-ever stock-taking of the living world show that ecosystems and wild populations are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing completely, and up to 1 million species of land and marine life could be made extinct by humans’ actions if present trends continue.

Food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate all depend on a thriving plant and animal population. But forests and wetlands are being erased worldwide and oceans are under growing stress, says the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the United Nations’ expert nature panel, in the landmark global assessment report. The three-year study, compiled by nearly 500 scientists, analyzed around 15,000 academic studies that focused on everything from plankton and fish to bees, coral, forests, frogs and insects, as well as drawing on indigenous knowledge.

If we continue to pollute the planet and waste natural resources as we have been doing, it won’t just affect people’s quality of life but will lead to a further deterioration of earth’s planetary systems, said the IPBES scientists.

“The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed. This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world,” said professor Josef Settele, a research ecologist and co-chair of the 1,800 page report, the summary of which was agreed to by 132 governments, including Canada and the United States, at a meeting in Paris.

The scale and rapid speed of this decline of nature is unprecedented in human history and is likely to continue for at least 50 years, say the authors of the global study, but can still largely be turned around if governments, businesses and individuals urgently commit to working together to conserve and restore nature, and to use fewer natural resources better.

It will require a concerted worldwide effort to change the way we live, said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson, a former chief scientist at NASA who is now with the U.K. government.

“The whole world is focused on climate change but loss of biodiversity is just as important,” said Watson. “You can’t deal with one without the other. There is a recognition now that biodiversity is an environmental issue, but it’s also about economics and development, too. We have to reform the economic system.”

The global assessment report, which will not be published in full until later this year (only the conclusions have been released), is unique among governmental biodiversity studies because it identifies both the direct drivers of nature’s losses ― such as climate change, agricultural expansion, pollution and the exploitation of oceans and forests ― and the underlying causes.

These indirect drivers are more controversial and include world population, which has doubled since 1970 (from 3.7 billion to 7.6 billion people), the tenfold increase in global trade over the last five decades, the sheer amount of goods that people now buy in rich countries, as well as supply chains, the endless pursuit of economic growth, damaging subsidies and the sharp growth of new technologies, all of which put demands on natural resources.

Unless both direct and indirect drivers are addressed simultaneously, there is little hope of the transformational change needed to avert a planetary crisis, said global assessment lead author Kai Chan, professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia.

“The present system (of environmental protection) has not worked well enough. Governments must get serious about reining in the power of business to regulate itself. We must also focus on supply chains. At present, nature is undermined every time we buy something through the raw materials used or the way goods are produced,” he said.

“Few governments fully understand the magnitude of the problems we face. Most deny the reality of the existential threat we face,” Chan added.

The global assessment report also shows:
• Urban areas have more than doubled in size since 1992, and 100 million hectares (247 million acres) of tropical forest were lost from 1980 to 2000.
• Around 25% of animal and plant species are threatened, and around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades if no action is taken.
• The current rate of species extinction is at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.
• Nearly half the live coral cover on coral reefs has been lost since the 1870s, with losses in recent decades accelerating due to climate change.
• Two-thirds of the oceans are under stress, and over 85% of wetlands area has been lost.
• The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events have increased in the past 50 years, while the global average sea level has risen by between 6 and 8 inches since 1900.
• Climate change is projected to become increasingly important as a direct driver of changes in nature and its contributions to humanity in the next decades.
• There are around 2,500 conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land currently occurring worldwide.

The global assessment report is a critical piece of science, Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the U.N.’s Environment Program, said. “It is a reminder that nature is not a luxury but is the building block of economic growth, food security, livelihoods and health. It tells us there is a window of opportunity to change track.”

The authors collectively call for bold, far-reaching economic and social changes, including paying for large-scale ecological restoration of degraded lands, and strengthening international targets to control climate change and biodiversity loss.

NGOs are among those echoing the call for major, transformative changes. “We must end this war against nature. We must eat less meat, which takes up most agricultural land at the expense of nature, and we must stop treating our oceans like a waste dump while also exploiting their resources to the point of collapse,” said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace.

The good news, said Watson, is that governments have accepted the report. “They know the problem. They cannot disagree with the evidence because they have signed off on it. Now we need action.”

College Grads Too Optimistic?

College graduates under 30 strongly believe they’ll live as well as or better than their parents, according to a survey of 21- to 30-year-olds conducted by The NHP Foundation, a not-for-profit provider of affordable housing. Even those saddled with student loans are optimistic about their future financial and housing picture.

Researchers question if their optimism could be overblown.

Sixty percent of college grads surveyed say they fully expect to be able to “afford the kind of housing they most prefer” in one to five years. Seventy percent rated homeownership as “important” to “very important.”
The age group has been labeled “generation rent,” which refers to young adults faced with stagnant wages and high debt who – compared to other generations – are forced to stay renting longer due to the high costs of housing.

Forty-six percent of the graduates surveyed say they expect to live on their own, paying rent with no help from roommates or parents. However, more young adults are living at home with their parents than ever before. For example, in markets like New York, Miami and Los Angeles, as many as 45% of young adults are living at home, the study notes.

More than half of the college grads surveyed say they have student loans – with 10% owing more than $50,000. Nearly 40% say they expect to pay those loans off in one to three years, though. Researchers say it’s more likely it’ll take about 10 years to pay them off. The average bachelor’s degree graduate takes 21 years to pay off loans, the report notes.

College grads may not be completely unrealistic about their finances, researchers note. About 67% did say they expect to spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Most financial experts consider that “cost burdened.”

“We were surprised to learn that 54% of these young graduates know that they could potentially qualify for affordable housing under HUD’s definition,” adds Richard Burns, president and CEO of The NHP Foundation. “This helps us understand how we need to consider housing to suit these renters, who may be in apartments for longer than they think.”

Building Scents That Make Sense

Fragrance developers are helping build brand awareness in the real estate space.

A smelly room is not necessarily a bad thing. In residential real estate, agents go to great pains to make sure their listings include no off-putting odors. But on the commercial side, building owners are relying on sophisticated research about how scent can influence perceptions of a brand. Some developers are teaming up with fragrance makers to fashion signature scents that make work spaces more welcoming and provide office dwellers a pleasant experience in common areas. By leveraging “ambient scenting,” also known as scent marketing, companies hope to use the smell of their space to forge greater emotional connections with their building.

“It’s not just putting an air freshener in a socket. This is much more complex in evaluating a brand and selecting just the right scent for it,” says Mike Fransen, chief operating officer at Parkway Properties, which has worked with the firm Prolitec to add specialized scents to 15 office buildings in the Houston area over the last three years. When visitors or tenants set foot in one of their buildings, they want the space to feel comfortable and familiar. Scent is one way they felt they could achieve that.

The developers of Parkway Properties chose a warm, woodsy fragrance, “blue wood,” for the properties’ main scent because scent researchers have tied the smell to feelings of “luxury,” “modern” and “sophistication” – all terms they wanted associated with their lobby areas. The expectation is that the scent, even subliminally, would reinforce those feelings for everyone entering the buildings, too.

Cintas Corp. says smell is tied to memory and links to the emotional regions of the brain more directly than other senses. What’s more, the corporaton says, people can remember smells with 65 percent accuracy after a year. Visual recall, on the other hand, is only about 50 percent after three months Cintas reports.

Unlike other senses, smell tends to trigger first an emotional reaction and then an identifier. Sight, sound, and taste, on the other hand, initially trigger people to identify the information before they have an emotional response, according to Cintas.

The “blue wood” scent combines crisp green apple notes with floral hints of jasmine and magnolia and a cedar wood component to bring a comfortable elegance to lobbies, entrances and hallways. It is delivered using Prolitec’s high-tech diffuser on the wall, which controls the distribution of the scent uniformly based on the size of the space and its airflow. For the buildings’ fitness centers, they chose a scent to reflect the change in mood: “mandarin zest.” “You don’t want the same mood ambiance of warm elegance in the fitness center but instead a scent that is uplifting and high energy,” says Jeff Sneed, vice president of sales at Prolitec.

The hospitality industry has a proven record for its ambient scenting. For example, in 2005, Westin Hotels & Resorts created a signature scent for its global properties known as “white tea,” a fragrance described as a blend of white tea and vanilla with cedar notes. Its lobby spaces and bath amenities, like lotions and soaps, all carry the same scent to reinforce brand recognition of its spaces.

“The concept of scent marketing has been around for a long time, but it’s really starting to enter the commercial real estate industry,” Sneed says. Here’s why: Research shows smells are easier for humans to recall than visuals and that specific scents are tied to happier, calmer customers and more inviting workspaces.

That’s why real estate developers are allocating scent expenses in their budgeting. Given that creating a formula from scratch can cost up to $25,000, choosing from a library of existing fragrances is a common and more economical approach costing between $200 to $500 per month, Sneed says.

Adding scent to a building should be done cautiously, however. Responses to a smell can be subjective, and a misfire in choosing a fragrance can turn off customers and employees. That’s why building owners are relying on “scent consultants,” who cull research on perceptions of distinct smells and use that information to guide companies to the right scent for their space.

Scent delivery companies like Prolitec, ScentAir and others offer consultations to client firms to help them avoid complaints. They’ll work with firms to ensure the scents make sense, matching the fragrance to the existing design and the brand image and noting how the scent is delivered along with where and why (say, to cover an existing odor or to complement a brand).

Anette Hebert, a district manager with Ambius, a customized scenting company, says the selection of the scent has to be done thoughtfully. She recalls a client company where its leaders selected a clean floral scent for its lobby. But the scent was a mismatch with the lobby’s design, which featured dark woods and cooler burgundys. Instead, Hebert’s team suggested a woodsy scent with a hint of spice – more consistent with the decor.

Besides matching a scent with the visual environment, another consideration is ambient sound. For example, a study found that ambient scent mixed with background music generated more positive customer responses and office evaluations, according to a study published in Journal of Retailing by researchers Anna Mattila and Jochen Wirtz.

Parkway Properties’ “blue wood” fragrance was incorporated into its freshly designed lobbies, which feature more relaxed, conversational areas with a “coffee house” vibe. Acoustic versions of pop songs play quietly in the background. “The smell offers familiarity and comfort, and coupled with the music and the new design of our lobbies, it’s becoming our identity,” Fransen said. “By taking a look at the five senses, we wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could in our campuses to create a good first, second, and lasting impression. The technology around scent is helping us to advance that.”