The Ottawa Humane Society has teamed up with the Capital City Garrison to produce a photo series titled "OHS Meets Star Wars: The Furs Awaken."

This is the second time they've done a series like this. The concept is simple (and squee-worthy): pose badass "Star Wars" characters with cute, fuzzy dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. Then share the photos with the Internet, and watch as the adoptions roll in.

The project was started by Rohit Saxena, a five-year volunteer photographer for the Ottawa Humane Society and a member of the Canada-based international "Star Wars" costuming organization the Capital City Garrison.


Members of the Garrison regularly dress up as "Star Wars" villains for charity events under the slogan "Bad Guys Doing Good." Saxena thought photos juxtaposing the villains with pets in need of homes would help the cause and find them their forever homes. Saxena also invited the Rebel Alliance to provide some "Star Wars" heroes for the show.

"I think there's a lot of fun stories to be told about shelter animal adoption," Saxena told Upworthy, explaining that by using the "Star Wars" characters in the photos, they're able to "bring in people who may not have been previously considering that avenue."

1. Saxena took care to group characters and pets by theme, such as pairing Chewbacca with a fluffy shih tzu "who might be a distant relative."

Chewy the Wookiee with Sage the shih tzu. Photo by Rohit Saxena, used with permission.

2. Sometimes opposites attract. That's why Saxena paired the decidedly un-adorable Darth Vader with "the cutest puppy around."

Darth Vader and Bella. Photo by Rohit Saxena. Used with permission.

3. For any guinea pig fans out there, Saxena paired this lil guy with his closest Star Wars counterpart: an Ewok.

An Ewok and Chloe. Photo by Rohit Saxena, used with permission.

4. Tusken Raiders often keep to themselves. Who better to understand that than a cat?

A Tusken Raider poses with OHS shelter cat Lucky. Photo by Rohit Saxena, used with permission.

5. Jawas aren't known for their emotions, but anybody would be thrilled to have a canine companion like Doyle.

A Jawa and Doyle. Photo by Rohit Saxena, used with permission.

6 and 7. And even the fiercest Stormtroopers need some love. Bonus if that comes from two guinea pigs.

Stormtroopers hold Sugar and Clover. Photo by Rohit Saxena, used with permission.

The project was immensely successful, getting every single pet in the project's first photo series adopted.

All the pets featured in OHS's first series were adopted, according to the shelter, but the cute, cuddly critters featured in this second series are still available for adoption.

The problem of overcrowded shelters is much bigger than the Ottawa Humane Society. 7.6 million pets enter animal shelters in the U.S. every year, and in 2014, Canadian shelters took in 85,000 cats and 38,000 dogs.

Clearly, there's a large need for people willing to give these animals a safe, loving home. Too many people are still purchasing their pets from breeders and pet shops (who often get them from cruel puppy and kitten mills) rather than adopting pets from shelters.

"We want people to be aware of the great work being done at their local animal shelters and to support their local shelters by adopting, donating, or volunteering," Saxena said.

"Our role in the community at the Ottawa Humane Society is to make people think about how these animals can fit into their own lives," Natalie Pona, communications manager at OHS, added.

She says that the adage "Pictures are worth a thousand words" rings true as people are more likely to respond to creative photos of the pets at the shelter.

Using pictures to draw in the massive crowd that's interested in "Star Wars" is not a bad place to start at all.

The "furs" is with them, indeed.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less