These heroic rodents are showing the world why we need to rethink how we feel about rats.

Everything you think you know about rats is wrong.

Think they're dirty? Wrong. They spend hours cleaning themselves every day.

Think they were responsible for the bubonic plague? Wrong again. It was fleas, who were just as likely to be found on cats, dogs, and even gerbils!


Think they're ugly? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Rats are cute! Just look at this little guy.

This rat's name is Jones. And he is a hero. All images courtesy of APOPO.

And then there are African giant pouched rats. You won't believe what they can do.

We've known for a while that rats are capable of learning complex tasks, and that they're smart enough to care about each other.

I can actually vouch for their intellect firsthand. I had a major rat problem in my house a number of years back, and the rats were frighteningly good at getting out of and evading traps. (While I appreciated their intelligence, that doesn't mean I wanted them nesting in my bed.)

But the folks over at APOPO, an organization headquartered in Tanzania, have found a way to put those smarts to really good use.

The rats they train aren't just navigating mazes. They're saving lives.

Rats can sniff out land mines. I repeat. Rats can sniff out land mines!

The rats are tethered to little leashes to keep them on track, and they cover a TON of ground this way.

How's that for a daily dose of awesome?

See, dozens of countries around the world are affected by a deadly problem known as "land mine contamination," meaning they have tons of leftover explosives from conflicts past and present scattered across the landscape.

The usual process of clearing these mines is painfully slow and highly dangerous.

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times writes, "Typically, men in body armor walk in precise rows holding metal detectors in front of them. Whenever they come across metal, they stop and painstakingly brush away the soil until they see what it is."

Metal detectors? That's amateur hour.

That sounds ... tedious. And like it's a pretty good way to get yourself blown up.

The rats, who are too light to set off the mines, are able to quickly sniff out the explosives and then paw at the ground when they detect something. From there, the mines can be safely cleared.

APOPO says a team of rats takes about 20 minutes to sweep the same area that would take a human team about four days. Even better? The rats can sometimes be more accurate because they aren't distracted by scrap metal, according to the organization.

They also look pretty dang adorable on those little leashes.

But that's not all! Rats can also detect tuberculosis with a quick wiggle of their nose.

High-five!

TB, a highly contagious and potentially fatal lung infection, is a huge problem in certain counties. The disease was actually declared a national emergency in Mozambique a few years back.

Doctors in these areas have been desperate for a faster, more accurate way to diagnose patients.

Time to call in the rats.

Here's how it works: TB clinics collect sputum samples (basically, saliva and phlegm) from suspected patients and do an initial check. According to APOPO, doctors are only able to identify about half of the samples correctly this way.

The samples are then put in front of a team of trained rats that are able to double check large amounts of them with lightning speed, identifying thousands of missed positives in the process.

Rats are gross all right — grossly underappreciated.

D'awww.

We've gotta get over this idea that rats are yucky. And I'll be the first to admit that I've let my ... complicated history with rats color my better judgment for years.

Well no more.

Rats have earned my respect. And while I'd appreciate a comfortable distance between them and the food in my pantry, if sharing the occasional meal with them is the price I need to pay for the work they're doing, so be it.

They've earned it.

If you feel the same, you can start by "adopting" your own APOPO HEROrat to help pay for its intensive training.

Check out the video below to learn even more about why it's time to "Rethink Rats."

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!