Backcasts archive: Through Oct. 24, 2008

Blog calendar: Oct. 23 | Oct. 22 | Oct. 20

posted Oct. 23, 2008

Bird is the word when it comes to the most grueling outdoor workouts

I just flew in from Alaska.

Boy, are my arms tired.

The only animal that can say that truthfully is the bar-tailed godwit, the newly crowned champion of endurance flying, according to the Washington Post.

Indeed, the godwit, described by the Post as a plump shorebird with a recurved bill, flies nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand during its fall migration.

Some of our feathered friends in this flock lag behind after landing on South Pacific islands during the annual flight. However, those that make the entire distance on the wing cover nearly 7,250 miles without sleep, food or beverage, the Post reports. We couldn't even fly in a plane that far without rest or refreshment.

In fact, this type of workout is over the top for even the most finely tuned athletes, according to Robert E. Gill Jr. of the U.S. Geological Survey, the biologist in charge of the study that determined the godwit's record distance aloft.

"The human species doesn't work at these levels. So you just have to sit back in awe of it all," Gill told the Post.

The godwit's feat surpasses the previous milestone of some 4,000 miles, from eastern Australia to China, established by very formative competition – the eastern curlew.

And the godwit just blew by it. Nice work. Bird is the word.


posted Oct. 22, 2008

Montana woman protects precious poodles from rampaging ruminant

When her Little Fighter needed a hand against a big bully, Carol Lince didn't hesitate. She pounded the assailant in the head until her companion was out of harm's way.

"I'm not a wimp; I don't back down," Lince, 61, of Silver Star, Mont., told the Montana Standard.

Nevermind that Little Fighter is the smallest of Lince's three poodles and the attacker was an overzealous doe. When it comes to man's best friend, it doesn't matter the size or reputation of the attacker; this master will come to the rescue.

Lince, who happens to have been a longtime carrier for the newspaper reporting the story (way to go, Carol!), told the Standard she wasn't about to back down when her dogs alerted her to trouble in the yard … not when the deer pinned her little poodle to the ground, not when she was kicking the deer's legs, not even when it became apparent that the doe had her in its sights.

Listen to this:

"When it looked at me I realized I bit off a little more than I can chew, but I'm going to fight," Lince told the Standard.

Sure, she's sore and recovering from bruises to the abdomen after the deer rammed her into a fence, but the very protective Lince succeeded in turning the rampaging ruminant away from her precious poodles.

The doe soon jumped the fence and bolted and the pooches were safe again, and that's really all that matters … oh, but we're very glad that our heroine and her Little Fighter will be all right.

While doe and dog will always live close together in Webster's, here's to hoping these poodles never get near deer again.


posted Oct. 20, 2008

From wartime rescues to stateside church services, dogs are worshipped

Truly inspiring for dog lovers is this story out of Baghdad: After two previous failed attempts, an animal-rescue finally got a handle on the adopted dog Ratchet, the Associated Press reports.

In May, Army Spc. Gwen Beberg and another soldier saved the puppy from a pile of burning rubbish. Ratchet soon gained international celebrity when it was revealed military personnel are not permitted to care for pets in Iraq, according to the AP.

Beberg, who claims she wouldn't have been able to pull through her 13-month deployment without the companionship of the dog, had all sorts of issues in her attempts to send the 6-month-old mutt home to Minneapolis.

But an online petition signed by 65,000 people urging the Army to let Ratchet go to America helps to illustrate the emotional cause, and last night Operation Baghdad Pups succeeded in loading the dog onto a charter flight to Minnesota, the AP reports.

The military had earlier permitted Ratchet to leave Iraq, but not on its dime or by it means. The rescue work came at a cost of about $5,000, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International, the parent group to Baghdad Pups.

Sure sounds like a lot of cash and effort, but it goes to show the extent to which dog fanciers will go.

Patricia Beberg, the adoptive soldier's mother, earns honors for quote of the week, as reported by the AP:

"He has been her emotional support, confidante, sanity-saver and a connection with something other than a war zone," she said of Ratchet's relationship to her daughter.

Meanwhile, in North Weymouth, Mass., dog worshippers have taken their passion to grand – some might even say heavenly – heights.

The Boston Globe reports on its Web site the Pilgrim Congregational Church recently was slated to stage its inaugural "woof 'n' worship" service, open to all dogs and their owners.

The Rev. Rachel Bickford told the Globe she was inspired to welcome pooches into her flock while reading the Bible in the company of her two cockapoos, Indy and Tugger. As Psalm 148 reads, Bickford said, "Let all wild animals, creeping things and flying birds give God praise."

Everybody needs a friend in these tough times, it seems, and man's best friend is getting the glory, too, so long as the tail waggers are on leashes.

Well, hats off to Rev. Bickford, the Pilgrim Congregational Church and its congregation of about 80 … people, that is.

Apparently the canine service isn't unique, as the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Chicago, for one, had a weekly "dog walker" program earlier this year, the Globe reports.

And even though all breeds are welcome at the North Weymouth house of worship, the church had to pay extra to its insurance company before it could win a dispensation to allow pit bulls to attend it service.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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