Staff Sergeant Reckless, A True Marine

In this day and age of technology, where tanks and drones have made combat much less personal, many have forgotten the times when horses, mules, dogs, even camels and birds served their country, putting their lives on the line, along with the soldiers who worked with them. Many assume that animals no longer serve alongside their human counterparts. It is for this reason, and because we are who we are here at Your Pet Space, that I would take this day to share a story with you about an animal who served her country. She was once famous enough to have television personalities begging for her to come on their shows, but now the horse who was a household name has begun to slip through the fog of fading memory. She is becoming a forgotten warrior from a forgotten war and it is my hope that this post will begin to change that. With no further babbling, it is my pleasure to introduce Staff Sergeant Reckless.

Reckless the horse with wire

Reckless loaded with a reel of communication wire.

Born in Korea and originally named Ah Chim Hai (Flame-of-the- Morning), Reckless started life as a racehorse, training at the Seoul Racetrack. When war began, her owner, Kim Huk Moon (a pseudonym used at the owner’s request to remain anonymous), found himself faced with a very hard decision. He could keep the horse that he so desperately loved, or sell her to the United States Marines for $250, money he desperately needed in order to purchase a prosthetic limb for his sister, who lost her leg when a mine exploded near her. In what must have been the most difficult choice he would have to make, he sold his horse, sending her on a journey that no one would ever have expected.

War began in Korea in 1950 and it didn’t take long for American troops to enter the fight on South Korea’s behalf. We were fighting against communism and we fought hard. At the war’s end in 1953 nearly 40,000 soldiers were killed and 100,000 wounded.  If you were to combine the losses of all soldiers and civilians from both sides, your count would reach nearly 5 million. As the battles raged, the Anti-Tank Company of the 5th Marines faced a serious problem. Terrain where they were stationed around Kamon-dong was steep and they were fighting with a recoilless rifle, which is basically a six foot long, 115 pound tube that sits on a tripod and fires 75mm shells. It was designed for use on the front lines and you would think that would make it easily portable, but the opposite was true. In the steep terrain in the area of fighting around Panmunjom, using a recoilless rifle was unbelievably loud, backbreaking work that required firing a few rapid shots, dismantling the rifle and hauling it to a new location before it was able to be targeted by incoming fire. In the icy Korean winters, trucks simply weren’t an option for moving the rifles up and down the inclines, so men carried the weapons and volatile ammunition on their own. It took several of them to do the job, often two would carry the gun, one would take the tripod, and the ammunition (each round measuring 4 and ¾ inches in diameter, 29 inches in length, and weighing 24 pounds) would go on the backs of the soldiers, typically two rounds per man and these rounds were live.

Reckless with rife and saddlepack

Reckless with 75mm recoilless rifle and pack saddle.

It was the commander of the platoon, Eric Pedersen, who realized a horse would make this work a lot easier and was given permission for the purchase. When Ah Chim Hai arrived the soldiers named her Reckless, after the recoilless rifle that she would carry. The men built her a bunker to standard specifications, covered her with a green Marine blanket at night and on the especially cold nights, allowed her to come into their tents and sleep by their stoves. She eventually became so familiar with the marines that she came and went into tents as she pleased, making them part of her herd.

Reckless withLatham

Reckless at Chang-dan, Korea, with TSgt. Joseph Latham, the Marine who put her through ‘hoof camp.’ A Seoul race pony, she thrived on bacon and eggs.” Caption courtesy the Saturday Evening Post.

Just like any soldier, Reckless was put through training. In “hoof camp” she was taught to step over wire, lie down, kneel, and shown how to take cover into a bunker when there was incoming fire. She wanted nothing but to please her new herd and she worked hard to learn all of these skills. Eventually she was fully capable of ducking and covering just like any human Marine in her platoon. They prepared her as much as possible for actual combat, but when the time came it was certainly hard on her. Even though she was carrying about 150 pounds at the time, Reckless jumped completely off the ground when she encountered her first taste of real weapons fire from the recoilless rifle. By the third blast she had calmed enough that she no longer flinched, but she sweated horribly, a sure sign that she feared for her life.  Still, under all of that stress, she and her handler delivered 5 loads of ammunition before the battle was over.

Reckless took part in many other battles and grew as accustomed to the noises as was possible for a Marine. (Though it has been noted she had nightmares, even after she retired and some Marines believed she was reliving those days the way she kicked and ran in her sleep.) New accommodations had to be built for her everywhere she went and at times her fellow Marines would throw their own flak jackets on her to protect her from incoming fire. Everyone did these things willingly, to protect one of their own who was fighting by their side. In these battles Reckless would repeatedly climb the steep terrain, carrying the ammunition for their rifles on her back. Over and over again she would take a running start and go as far as she could, pause, then move on when she was able. Often she made these trips on her own, with no one leading her. She made the choice to take the ammunition to the Marines and return again for another load, and she did it with all of the strength she had in her, sometimes from daybreak to sunset, all while carrying up to 144 pounds of live ammunition on her back.

Reckless on the Battlefield

Reckless on the Battlefield.

battle for outpost Vegas

It was the battle for outpost Vegas that she is best known for, a battle that is thought of as unequal to any other when it comes to the savagery of war. This was the defining battle of the Korean War, one that saw Reckless climbing a 45 degree incline at a trot or a gallop, desperately trying to maintain her balance with the extreme weight of the ammunition on her back. Some of the men were helping, but Reckless made two trips for every one of theirs and she carried eight rounds at a time. Through all of her fear at the incoming fire, Reckless never went slack on her duties, she charged up the hill again and again, ducking down with the Marines in their bunkers when enemy fire hit, then heading back down the hill once she was given the all clear. On occasion she was given a rest and rub down, taking some food and water, but for the most part, she continued on bravely, sometimes rescuing a wounded man from the fighting and carrying him down to safety only to be loaded with ammunition and head back up the hill immediately after.

It was on two of these trips that Reckless was wounded. On one climb up the hill, shrapnel cut her head, just above her left eye, and on another she was struck in her left flank, but like a true Marine, she continued on, wound and all. At the guns she was treated with iodine and sent back down for more ammunition. Again she went willingly, though by the end of the battle she was beginning to slow her pace. To quote the book by Robin Hutton, “No matter how tired she was, the mare with an almost incomprehensible sense of duty just kept going.”

In that one day Reckless made 51 round trips, carrying 386 rounds of ammunition, and walking more than 35 miles up and down that hill, most of the time on her own through heavy fire. Many marines talk about what an inspiration it was to see that small, Mongolian mare climbing the hills by herself, coming with everything they needed in order to continue to fight. She worked so hard and kept the men so well stocked that the barrel of one of the guns actually melted from use.

Reckless is promoted

Reckless is promoted to sergeant. On the platform (L to R: Gen. Pate, Capt. Andrew Kovac, Col. Elby D. Martin Jr. listen as MSgt. John Strange reads the citation. Standing beside Reckless are Sgt. Lively (L and TSgt. Dave Woods (R).

When the war was over, a campaign was started to bring Reckless to American soil. In her time in Korea Reckless had been officially promoted to the rank of Sergeant and had been given the appropriate ceremony for said promotion. This was not an honorary title, this was the real thing, as was befitting a marine who had earned two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation with Star, a Navy Unit Citation, a National Defence Service Medal, a United Nations Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal with three stars, a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, and the French fourragere, awarded to the 5th Marines after World War I. She wore all of those decorations, and her sergeant stripes on her specially made red and gold blanket. At this time Reckless was a household name and when she finally came to her new home in America, she came home as a hero.

Reckless eats centerpieces

Who needs cake when there are carnations? Reckless eats the centrepieces. (Reception at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel).

There is so much more to say about Reckless; how she continued to work with the Marines at her new home in Camp Pendleton, how she attended official functions, made public appearances, and was promoted one last time to Staff Sergeant. In all of this time she was treated as a the true marine she was: some would salute her and no one that she outranked was permitted to lead her at official functions, as that would mean they were giving her orders. Reckless became a mother four times over, giving birth to three sons, two of which (PFC Fearless and Private Dauntless) were given ranks, while her third son Chesty became a trail horse. Sadly, her unnamed daughter died prematurely and all of her sons were gelded, so there are no grandchildren to carry on her bravery and determination to the next generation. All of these things (and many more) can be found in Robin Hutton’s book Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse. What I would like to conclude with is a note on how you can honor this brave marine.

reckless monument

Dedication of the Reckless monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center.

Robbin Hutton and others have fought for years now to bring the bravery and determination that was Reckless back into the public eye. In July of 2013 the Marine Corps finally unveiled a statue titled “An Uphill Battle,” a statue of Reckless created by Jocelyn Russell. The statue resides in the grounds at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center in Triangle Virginia and contains in its base a small sample of the hero’s hair, installed there by Robbin herself. The statue came about through generous donations to the Sgt. Reckless Memorial Fund (including donations by Betty White and William Shatner), a process which continues to the day of this writing in order to install a memorial at Camp Pendleton.

I encourage everyone who reads this to pick up Robbin’s book and properly experience the life of Sergeant Reckless in a way I am unable to do here. I would give you a more in-depth review, but this story is about Reckless and I know Robin would want it this way. I will say that almost all of my knowledge of Reckless came from devouring the pages of her book.

Sgt. Reckless Book Cover

If you are so inclined, you can join the Sergeant Reckless fanclub on Facebook or go to the official webpage and make a donation to her Camp Pendleton Memorial Fund. On this Memorial Day, let us decorate the grave of a true Marine.

Thank you for your service, Staff Sergeant Reckless.

All photos and captions in this post come as printed from Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse and were contributions from the Author. I would like to thank Robin Hutton for her help in sharing this story with us.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

My Animal Talks!


Stories Of How My Pets Communicate

We have all seen videos of pets making a noise that sounds like human speech. Dogs howling “I love you”, cats yowling “Hello”, and of course we all expect birds to pick up some vocabulary when they are around us. Do these animals really know what they are doing? Most don’t, of course, but there are some animals that do communicate in ways we consider to be language, like the gorillas that have learned to sign. So unless you have a gorilla, you’re out of luck when it comes to communicating with your pet, right? Not if you learn to talk the way your pet talks.

Animals have a language that is all their own and each species often has a different kind of language from the others. Just like humans, some are capable of learning how to “talk” in other languages, which is usually when you see those mixed species animal friend videos go viral on YouTube. How does that dog seem so happy with that deer? They have found that common ground in language between their species. I watch the videos and though my eye is untrained, I have no problems picking up some ideas rather quickly. Among other observations, the most obvious is that the deer has learned some of the dog’s playful body language and the dog has learned some of the deer’s neck grooming behaviours. There is just enough common ground between them to maintain that friendship, partly because they have learned to “talk” in the other’s language.


It is possible for humans to do the same thing, if we allow ourselves the time to learn.  Animals will quite happily study our behaviours, mostly out of genetic necessity.  Take our local deer; they freeze in place and stare at whatever strange thing is moving around them to try and decide if they should dash away for their lives. This is their nature. It is what keeps them alive. If the deer in your neighbourhood don’t do this, they have probably become too used to the human activities around them, which can be a dangerous situation with any wild animals.

We are lucky enough to live out beyond the rural boundary, where the deer haven’t adjusted to life with humans in a way that is unnatural for them. Still, loving animal communication since I was a child, I wanted a way to let them go about their lives while we went about ours without disturbing them too much, the way they would coexist with a bird or a squirrel. I didn’t want to open my door and walk to my car, terrifying an entire herd of deer in the process, so I began whistling when I saw them.  It wasn’t a tune or anything, just a note once or twice, occasionally making sound. In this way I would move about my yard, not really looking at them or paying them too much attention at all. At first this confused them, but after some time they began to appreciate it. They are still wild animals, they remain unsure about my intentions and they do move deeper into the woods when they see me, but they aren’t dashing out into the country roads in a panic, to be hit by an unsuspecting driver who is coming around the bend at 45 miles an hour. They have learned that my typical behaviour is to exist in the yard, occasionally making a whistle sound and that this particular behaviour doesn’t harm them. They hear me and will casually wander into the woods, flicking their tails a little in agitation that I have disturbed their peace. The same trick also lets them know I am coming down the private drive we share with other families. A short whistle out the window lets them know I see them and I move forward while they shuffle into the trees. Most astonishingly, in recent years, the older deer have actually come to expect that we should announce ourselves to each other. If I do not see them, they will snort at me to let me know they are there, then flick their tails straight up and trot off into the woods, alerting that they aren’t comfortable with this unusually quiet behaviour on my part. This actually startles some guests at night, so be aware if you come visiting.


The deer aren’t my pets, and I wouldn’t ever want them to be, but I use them to prove the point that all animals have the capability to learn the behaviours of others, even the human variety. If we think about it, this should be obvious.  When we see a bird in our yard, don’t we expect it to eventually fly off? Don’t we all know that a fish out of water is going to flop around in a desperate struggle to get back in? We know these things because we experience them in some way, either in life or on video.  Well, our pets experience us regularly too. They have seen us get food from containers, they expect that we will sleep in the big rectangular fluffy thing instead of on the floor, and they know that we all love looking at that noisy light box on the wall or tapping our fingers on the smaller light boxes that we hold in our hands. If we are doing these things regularly, that must be the way of life.  So when my rats, for example, hear me shuffle boxes around or move a plastic bag, they instantly expect that food is being handled, even if the plastic bag is being put in a pocket to use for the dog’s walk.

How do we increase our communication with our pets?

Some animals can be trained to respond to commands.  Dogs are trained to sit, stay, beg, and do any other number of nifty things. They hear a word, they learn the behaviour that is expected at the mention of that word, then they do the thing required.  It’s that simple. Sometimes you can go beyond that training and teach them to express themselves with the word they have learned.  For example, one of our dogs, Sahara, loves belly rubs.  She flops over, holds her short little leg up in the air and waits.  You rub, then stop, and she turns to look at you as if to say, “Well?  Where’s the rest?” I went a little farther with this expression, knowing that she was trying to ask for more. I taught her that if she touched her cheek when someone had given her a belly rub, she would get more belly rubs. It was an extension of the paw waving behaviour she was already displaying, so she picked it up quickly.  When she realized I only rubbed her belly when she touched her cheek, and not when she put her paw in the air and looked at me, she transitioned to asking for “more” on a regular basis. Recently she has tried this once or twice when getting treats or dinner, all on her own, without prompting.  We have created a monster.

sekhemkare the cat

I have also learned to “talk” with my cat, Sekhemkare, and some of my fish.  With cats, of course, there are usually no issues at all in communication, since they either leave humans alone entirely or have no problem what so ever in telling us what to do. In the case of our cat, the story comes from replacing his favourite toy, “Piggy”, which had become filthy. We got him a new one and picked up the old one to throw away, only to discover in the morning that the old Piggy was happily resting in the middle of the living room floor while the new Piggy was drowned in the cat’s water dish.  That message was clear; death to all imposters.

spit the fish

With my fish, communication has been an interesting ride.  The best results came from Nix, Hydra, Pluto, and LaForge, who all learned how to get my attention by spitting into the corner of their tank.  They quickly discovered that this sound would instigate my making sounds (talking to them) and moving closer to where they were. Each of them began to use this technique to “call” me the way you would call a dog or cat.  LaForge was an only fish and Pluto was also alone for a time, and they were often perfectly content to have me walk over to the tank and sit beside them for a while. In their case this was a way of saying they wanted that “schooling” feeling of having another living thing there with them.  Nix and Hydra are my current fish and use this “call” to tell me that I have forgotten to feed them at exactly the time that they expect to be fed.  If I ignore the “call” they will often leap slightly from the water and knock into the lid of the tank, which I have decided must be their version of swearing at me for not hurrying up about it.

Deimos the rat


How My Pets Communicate: The Rats

Now we come back to the rats, who are probably the best communicators of any of the pets that I have. Their minds work more like human minds than just about any animal I have ever encountered. This is one of the reasons rats are so often studied in order to help humans.  There are so many stories when it comes to rats talking with us that it is hard to pick one or two to share. We have had rats tap our cheeks or pull on our clothes to tell us where they want us to take them, we have had rats who have dictated exactly where they expect us to leave their food by dragging their dish to the proper place until we finally got the idea, we have a rat who learned to let himself out of his cage, but would only chew a tiny notch in the furniture, then go back inside and wait for us to notice.  “See? I let myself out again. That’s three times this week, in case you are counting, like I am.”

Two of our rats have been such good communicators that I gave serious thought to teaching them to use technology to actually speak.  Archie was the first of these and sadly he passed away at a very young age, before his training went very far. I learned of his abilities when I realized that he would actually listen to individual words and seemed to work out their meaning within a week or so. I would talk to him and when there was a word he was unfamiliar with, he would tilt his head and look very intent.  He would do this repeatedly until he had learned the word. What do I mean by this?  Take the word “water” for example. To sum up his vocabulary skills quickly, I will shorten his learning process to a few sentences, but it went something along these lines… I would be talking to him and say something like, “I’m going to get your water, be right back.” He would tilt his head and shift his ears forward, a clear sign he was listening to me. I would repeat the word I thought he was trying to learn: “Water?” If he repeated the head tilt, I knew this was the thing he was focused on, so I would then go and get the water bottle, put it in his cage and repeat the word “water”, usually in a sentence, sometimes on its own.  After about a week, if he heard the word water, he would go to either his bottle or the sink, even if we weren’t talking to him. After some time of this, he began to tell us when he wanted fresh water by bonking his head under the bottle if we didn’t talk about water when cleaned his cage.  He would stick his head under the bottle, lift it up, drop it and wait.  If nothing happened he would do it again and repeat the action until someone said the word “water.”  Usually in the form of the sentence: “Okay, Archie, I’ll get you water, just wait a minute!”

archie the rat


In a few months there were many words that Archie knew and several he was fond of. “Water”, “treats”, “kisses” and “snuggles” were all favourites, but he also knew the meanings of “yes” and “no”, along with many other useful words.  He could also tell the difference between a single “no”, which we used to emphasize new rules, and “no, no, no”, which we used to remind him of rules he already knew how to follow (like no rats on the floor).  I began to work with this increasing vocabulary, certain that there would be a way to help him call to us like the fish did or to express his needs.  I bought little jar lid attachments, intended to help the blind label things.  You record a short message then push the button to play it back.  I began teaching Archie to push the buttons and that pushing the buttons would give him the reward of the thing that he had “requested.”  The hardest part was helping him understand that when he heard the word “kisses” come out of the device, it meant he would GET kisses, not that he should GIVE them.  Sadly, just as he was learning this he became sick and then passed away, so I will never know how far this training could have gone with him.

north the rat


Our latest boy, North, will be featured in another article about helping animals adjust to new routines because his communication is the strongest when something is supposed to happen and doesn’t.  For instance, when the power goes out and we then can’t turn the lights on when it gets dark, he dashes around looking up at light bulbs and pulling on our arms. His communication is always very clear.  In this case you can almost see the speech bubble over his head: “Stupid humans.  It’s dark, make it light again!”

The point of all of this is that I have had many people tell me they wished they could have the same connection with animals that I do. Often they ask me what my secret is. How is it that even as a three year old child I seemed to be able to interact with animals in a way that they completely understood? How did I get them following me around or “listening” to what I was telling them to do? There is only one answer: observation. It’s something you need for any language. In order to learn how to say “teddy bear” in such a way that someone else understands it, you have to figure out what word the other person uses for “teddy bear.” The same is true when “talking” with animals; you just have to switch your mind into a different, physical, form of communication.  Sometimes “I’m so glad you’re here!” really sounds like water slapping against the glass of a fish tank. Accepting that is the first step to really “talking” with the animals around us.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Product Review: Top Fin Large Aquarium Vacuum

Regular readers will recall a similar post that I made some time at the end of last year.  In my review of the smaller vacuum, I had stated I would be needing a larger one and would review that product as well.  Now that my goldfish, Nix and Hydra, are permanently moved from their “starter tank” to their home in a 60 gallon aquarium at school, I needed to upgrade my gravel vacuum, so here I am again.

Assembling The Aquarium Vacuum

Assembly of this vacuum is exactly the same as the smaller variety, a very simple process that even my pre-schoolers could figure out rather quickly.  The kit consists of two tubes, one longer, one shorter, the bulb, and a clip to hold the longer tube in your bucket, all the same parts as the smaller version, they’re just bigger. This can make them a little harder to fit together tightly, but with the proper fiddling and a little bit of extra squeezing, it works out in the end.  Remember you want a tight fit between the bulb and the hoses so that they don’t fall apart on you while you are using them. Also, make sure you follow the arrows that are printed on the side of the bulb. You want the water to follow the in/out direction indicated on the side.

bulb to top fin vacuum

I found that the longer tube on the x-large version doesn’t seem to have the extra length to it that the small version did. When I cleaned Nix and Hydra’s tank with the small vacuum, I seemed to have extra tubing winding all around the inside of my bucket, but there have been a few times when I have almost pulled the tubing out of the bucket when using the x-large vacuum, so be aware that it is somewhat easier to accidentally pull your tube from your bucket when you are cleaning. Normally I would put this down to being an issue with the height of my tank, however it is on average the same height of other tanks of comparable size and volume, so I’m not sure that is the entire cause of the seeming lack in hose length.

top fin vacuum clip

The speed of the water flow seems to be much more rapid compared to the smaller vacuum, probably due to the larger size of the intake nozzle. This is both a help and a hindrance, since I have had to empty my bucket much more frequently than with the smaller version. With the small vacuum I was able to watch the intake tube, but with the larger one I find myself putting more attention on the bucket, which between pulling the tube out and overflowing from rapid intake, can become a distraction to the actual removal of waste from the tank. After many tries, I have found that the trick to slowing down the flow is to actually encourage the intake hose to become partly filled with gravel. Water still comes through, but at a much slower pace, however, this means you are not taking out as much waste as you would like. It isn’t ideal, but it does work. Figuring out what works best for you might be a little bit of a puzzle, but it shouldn’t take long to come up with your own tricks of the trade.

Water Replenishment In Your Aquarium

aquarium setup

The overall amount of waste that the x-large vacuum collects seems to be proportionally equal to that of the small vacuum, meaning I am spending as much time and effort per gallon as I was with the smaller tank setup. Having changed Nix and Hydra’s water regularly since January, I can say that the tank continues to look as fresh as the day I moved it in to my classroom. It should be noted that I vacuum the tank once (sometimes twice) a week, which brings me to the only serious issue that I have with using this vacuum on a large aquarium: Water Replenishment

Nix and Hydra live on well water, which comes from my house, outside of town. Their tank is a good 10 minutes away from the water that fills it. This is my choice, because to me this is the healthiest option for my fish. I have never fully trusted purifying droplets or evaporation techniques that are supposed to make city water safe for my fish to swim in. The down side of this healthier way of living for them means that I have to haul over 36 litres of water per tank change from house to car, from car to school and up a flight of stairs to the tank.  That number is for only a quick, sloppy job, if I intend to do a more complete cleaning, I have to make several trips back and forth. This is a process that I am quickly losing fondness for, but it is one of my own making, so I can’t really complain. What I can do, though, is contemplate how others would refill the aquarium after cleaning it out.  I would suggest that before fish owners purchase this vacuum, they consider their water source carefully. It is important to freshen the water in the tank, so changing the water out when you vacuum the gravel makes a lot of sense, but if you are looking for a vacuum that will take out less water and more gunk, you might want to find another version. Personally, I would love to have one, slower vacuum for cleaning the waste only where it piles up frequently, and another for actually cleaning the tank with. For now, the setup I am using works, but I am giving serious consideration to finding yet another vacuum that can conserve water on the days when I need to.

pumping out aquarium

Overall, I’m really happy with the x-large vacuum. It is still safe for the fish and is just as easy to use, even if it takes a little bit more getting used to than the small size. It’s a great vacuum for total tank cleaning, but I’d find another if you intend to use it for spot-cleaning.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Advocacy for Animals Through Humane Education- It Takes a Village

Kids say the darnedest things. Their expressions of naiveté are often very funny and endearing. An example in point occurred at a “Critter Connection” after-school session I was leading. A young boy, I guessed to be in first or second grade, asked about the dog resting in my arms. “Is she people’s age?”, he inquired, truly baffled by the number “18” assigned to the dog‘s age. “Yes”, I replied, “that’s her age but because dogs age faster than people she is really much older. I carry her on walks because she is blind now and too old and frail to walk very far”.

Dog with students

“Dali” –photo courtesy Jean Gilbert

By chart standards, using size (toy poodle mix) and weight (11 lbs.) as references, my dog “Dali” is the equivalent of an 88-96 year old person. Adopted from the municipal animal shelter (Las Cruces, NM) as a young adult, she’s been a celebrated companion– comfortable at humane education sessions meeting children and happy at animal welfare events like “Lobo to Lassie”, winning best talent for catching tennis balls to song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and featured in “Bark Magazine“ with a winning smiling photo.

I wish all dogs were as celebrated and cherished as Dali. This year marks the 13th season of the Dogs Deserve Better “Have a Heart for Chained Dogs” and “Chain-Off” campaigns. Children in the Humane Society of Southern NM’s education program lent their artistic talents (year 5) with thoughtful, anti-chaining messages on valentines to help improve lives for chained/tethered dogs through DDB mailings to approximately 10,0000 residences in the US , including residences identified in Dona Ana County. Our education campaign now, in concert with DDB, focuses on danger of heat stroke in summer time for chained dogs with a “Chain-Off” demonstration led by animal advocates and community members planned for July.

Tamira Thayne, founder of DDB, notes their organization’s rescuers see horrific conditions with dogs suffering from heat exhaustion or freezing in the snow, given a longstanding misperception that it’s okay to chain a dog outside in any kind of weather. She underscores the significance of education and awareness campaigns for reaching people who chain/tether their dogs and for bringing aid to forgotten canines through re-homing efforts or bringing provisions such as fencing to living environments for dogs based on support or cooperation of owners.

Chaining is not only inhumane for dogs isolated and alone in the elements 24/7, but it has taken a toll on our nation’s children. During a 10-year period spanning through July 2014, there were at least 400 incidences, conservatively reported, of children killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country. Chained dogs, not socialized with humans, can become very territorial of their tiny space, and a child who wanders into that space can be attacked and killed before adults can intervene. An attack in Arkansas left a 2-year old boy dead from head and neck injuries. He was attacked and killed by an unspayed female chained in the backyard, with puppies.

Buddy Unchained book cover

About Buddy Unchained

The Henry Bergh ASPCA award-winning and heart-warming story “Buddy Unchained” by Daisy Bix reflects the anti-chaining message of DDB when a small dog, chained in wintertime, is overcome by hypothermia and is rescued in the nick of time. This year marks the fifth consecutive year for the Humane Society of Southern NM donating hardback copies of this remarkable story to area schools with emphasis on danger of heatstroke as summer approaches. The children who hear the story through presentations are always immersed, struck with concern and empathy for Buddy and rejoice in the happy outcome for a deserving dog.

Join the Humane Society of Southern NM in humane education efforts by volunteering in the Critter Connection or Diggity Dog Learning programs or in the Cans 4 Critters project involving youth and clubs in litter clean-up with aluminum cans saved for reclamation to help animals.

Jean Gilbert

Jean Gilbert is a retired teacher with a MS degree in elementary/special education. She has been active in animal welfare work since moving to Las Cruces with her husband over 30 years ago. She has served on the board of directors of Las Cruces Storytellers, Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary, Southwest Environmental Center, and the Dona Ana County Humane Society.

As a humane and environmental educator for HSSNM, Jean leads “Critter Connection” sessions for youth and adults in the community and “Diggity Dog Learning” programs in the public schools. In addition, Jean leads the “Cans 4 Critters” project benefiting animals in the community and serves as a volunteer with the Las Cruces “pet network“.

As membership/fundraise chair, Jean welcomes ideas and support for fundraising projects for the organization to sustain HSSNM programs/services. Jean welcomes requests for humane education presentations and service projects involving youth and adults in the community.

Contact Jean Gilbert, HSSNM humane educator-coordinator at or 575-522-2529 for more information.

Who Is The Beagle Freedom Project?

beagle freedom project logo

History of the Beagle Freedom Project

In December of 2010, Shannon Keith learned that beagles being used for animal experiments in a research lab were to be given a chance at freedom.  The mission for the Beagle Freedom Project was formed and they have been rescuing and re-homing beagles ever since.

Beagles for the research industry are generally obtained from commercial breeders, who breed them specifically for this purpose.  This breed of dog is known to be friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving–in short, perfect for lab use.  In addition they adapt well to cages and are fed inexpensively.

The Beagle Freedom Project legally removes beagles that are no longer used in testing and transports them to forever homes.

Beagle Freedom Project is a service of Animal Rescue, Media & Education (ARME). Founded in 2004, ARME is a nonprofit advocacy group created to eliminate the suffering of all animals through rescue, public education and outreach. ARME has found homes for thousands of homeless and abandoned animals. In 2004 ARME organized the first-ever “Shelter Drive” to provide creature comforts to homeless animals such as beds, toys and treats. ARME’s Shelter Drive became an annual tradition uniting volunteers with businesses that allowed drop boxes for donations. ARME also helps feed and shelter displaced animals when Southern California fires strike residential areas.

animal testing brands

Types of Testing Beagles Are Used For

Universities and research labs use beagles to test commercial products such as medicines and pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and household products.

Challenges In Adopting A Lab Beagle

As the greatest majority of these dogs have lived all their lives at either a breeding facility or a lab, they have never experienced meeting children, cats–even other dogs!  They are not house trained, but they learn quickly.  They have never seen grass…or felt the warmth of the sun.  They must adjust to a diet other than what they were provided by the lab.  They have never had treats, toys or soft beds, and may never have been on a leash.

At the lab, they may have had irritated or infected paws from living in a cage with a wire bottom.  They may be frightened and may haven been surgically de-barked at the breeder, with an ID number tattooed inside the ear (similar to greyhounds).  Adopters are given very little info about their beagle’s medical history.  The type of testing they were used for is usually not revealed.

However, the transformation of these dogs after they are freed is nothing short of amazing!

Projects In Process Now

Beagles are not the only animals used in laboratory research.  Many people are surprised to learn that cats are also, and many need adoption.

laboratory cat

The Identity Campaign

As a 501(c)(3) organization contributions to ARME are tax-deductible. To donate please see


Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.