8 million is a tough number to wrap my head around, so I thought about it in terms of something I can visualize. Fill the largest baseball stadium to capacity. 142 times. That's not quite 8 million.
Maria Ducasse of Brooklyn is an inspiring example of how one person can unite a community to ensure no one loses their pet because of hardship.
Three years ago, she founded East New York Dog Lovers a nonprofit that has grown to have 29 foster homes, 200 volunteers, and helped reconnect more than 50 dogs with their people. It's a safety net where struggling pet owners get emergency fostering, help with medical bills, and food for their fur babies.
"Our biggest mission is to end pet surrendering," Maria told Chewy. "So whatever help may be needed—food, vet care, whatever you need to keep your pet at home—we are willing to supply and help you."
Maria has arranged for people struggling with homelessness, domestic violence, and medical emergencies to connect with fosters who care for their pets until they're back on their feet. Her hard work keeps families intact and pets safe.
"We just keep getting bigger," Maria says. "Every time we go out there and help somebody, they're like, 'I'm in—how can I help?'"
Maria's wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Community Pet Foster."
Six years ago, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards started humbly as a small photo contest. But it's grown to be a worldwide renowned competition seen by millions across the globe. The photos are always funny but they come with a serious message: We need to protect the natural world.
This year's winner is "Ouch!" a photo of a Golden Silk Monkey who appears to have injured the family jewels by landing on a wire with his legs open. The photo was taken by Ken Jensen in 2016.
"I was absolutely overwhelmed to learn that my entry had won, especially when there were quite a number of wonderful photos entered," Jensen said in a statement. "The publicity that my image has received over the last few months has been incredible, it is such a great feeling to know that one's image is making people smile globally as well as helping to support some fantastically worthwhile conservation causes."
Golden Silk Monkey, China.
This is actually a show of aggression, however in the position that the monkey is in it looks quite painful!
"I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on the bird's face." – John Spiers
When this Bald Eagle missed its attempt to grab this prairie dog, it jumped toward the eagle and startled it long enough to escape to a nearby burrow. A real David vs. Goliath story!
A smooth-coated otter "bit" its baby otter to bring it back for a swimming lesson.
An elephant expresses its joy in taking a mud bath against the dead trees on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe on a hot afternoon.
Two Kamchatka bear cubs square up for a celebratory play fight having successfully navigated a raging torrent (small stream!).
I have the high ground!
Bald eagles will use the same nest for years, even decades, adding new material to it at the beginning and throughout the nesting season. Normally, they are highly skilled at snapping branches off trees while in flight. Possibly tired from working nonstop all morning on a new nest, this particular bald eagle wasn't showing its best form.
Yes, sometimes they miss. Although this looks painful, and it might very well be, the eagle recovered with just a few sweeping wing strokes, and chose to rest a bit before making another lumber run.
Just who do you think you're looking at?
This proboscis monkey could be just scratching its nose on the rough bark, or it could be kissing it. Trees play a big role in the lives of monkeys. Who are we to judge?
The little raccoon cubs are telling secrets to each other.
Two western grey kangaroos were fighting and one missed kicking the other in the stomach.
This raccoon spends its time trying to get into houses out of curiosity and perhaps to steal food.
A young bear descending from a tree looks like it's playing hide and seek.
I spent my days in my usual "gopher place" and yet again, these funny little animals haven't belied their true nature.
Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.
"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."
This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.
"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."
She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."
Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."
So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.
"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.
"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."
"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"
Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.
In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.
"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."
She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.
"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!
A FaceTime from her daughter is the best surprise this mom could ask for. Why? Because unbeknown to her, the daughter arrived back home from college in secret. And she shared this touching impromptu reunion with TikTok for everyone to enjoy.
The video shows a mom in the kitchen, answering a Facetime call from her daughter, her face appearing in close-up. We know what's about to happen (the caption reads "Surprising my mom that I'm back home from uni"), but still the anticipation is delightful.
And it doesn't take long for the mom to realize what's going on. As she turns her back from the camera for just one second, the daughter zooms out and waits. When mom turns back around, she instantly knows what's up, and off she runs out of frame, followed by an equally surprised little brother.It's no wonder the video went viral. One commenter summed up it by saying, "families that actually LIKE each other are my favorite."
You might be wondering: How did the daughter manage to sneak into her room without mom noticing? The question gets answered at the end (which is arguably the best part of the video, second to mom's excitement).
As mom jolts out of the frame to hug her daughter in the next room, out of nowhere comes dad, beaming with a smile that lets us know he was definitely in on the plan. From the look on their faces as they share mischievous looks, I'd say we know where the daughter gets her prankster streak from.
Parenting is as old as time, but there's never been a time in history when we've talked about it more. If you go into any bookstore, you'll find shelf after shelf filled with books about how to raise your kids. If you have questions about any element of parenting, there are countless websites and online groups you can consult.
And yet, most of us still go into it unaware of the reality of it, because let's face it, there's no way to adequately prepare for parenthood. No matter what you picture it being like going in, parenting will yank that image right out of your head, smash it into the ground and grind its heel right into the heart of it.
Okay, that's a bit dramatic. But only a bit. Parenting is the hardest, most rewarding job on earth—a thrill ride that takes you on the highest highs and plunges you to the lowest lows. Up and down you go, over and over again, sometimes squealing with delight, sometimes thinking you might puke and sometimes screaming "Stop the ride, I wanna get off!"
While it's not possible to truly prepare, it's good to hear from experienced parents what you might expect. Every kid, every parent, every family is different, but there are some near-universal things that people really should know going in.
A user on Reddit asked, "What is something nobody warns people about enough when it comes to having kids," and the answers didn't disappoint. Here are some highlights:
"There's a very good chance they won't turn out like you think," wrote one commenter. That's not to say that you have no influence whatsoever, but each kid is their own unique person with their own individuality, and they also change as they grow. If you're too attached to an idea of how they should be, you may not fully appreciate who they are.
"People seem to often forget that they're raising people," shared another commenter, "as in, independent-thinking individuals whose actions, values, personalities, interests, and capabilities will potentially be completely unlike yours. I've seen a lot of parents struggle hard with that, and frankly, that's a possibility you should have made your peace with before you became a parent, imo."
Another person added:
"This is why many parent/child relationships are so strained. Many parents have a child thinking they are programming a perfect human being. Many are disappointed when the child is not the exact person they hoped (or worse, the polar opposite). Perfectly normal children grow into resentful, tired adults because of their parents' unrealistic expectations that have nothing to do with them."
We all want to look to "the experts" when raising our kids, and some things we find in parenting books can be marginally helpful. But they certainly aren't the be-all-end-all of good parenting.
"The books are fine for ideas, your experience, friends thoughts, paediatricians, therapists," wrote one commenter. "But at the end of it all you have this complicated little person you're in charge of with their own preferences, feelings, insecurities, abilities, and you have to do what works for them and your family and, of course, also raise someone who isn't a blight on humanity or menace to society."
"As my mum says: 'The kid hasn't read the book.'
"Her parents tried to do everything by the book with her and she hated it. She was supposed to have pigtails, wear dresses, learn piano and not go climb trees and play soccer/football. She saved pocket money to get her hair cut short and her dad almost hit her for it. Did she stop pushing to be herself? Nope. She is a strong woman, but boy, does she have some scars on her soul.
"With her own three kids she watched what interests they developed and then helped them explore it further and to not forget to keep an open mind about other possible hobbies, sports, arts etc. I have no idea how to thank her properly for this."
"The days are loooong and the years are so very short," wrote one person. It's true. When you're in the thick of parenting and someone tells you how fast it goes, you might feel like strangling them. But then you look at your child who has changed so much and it does feel fast in hindsight.
"I've heard older people say this or the equivalent all my life," wrote another. "I always thought I understood. And then I had children. Now I understand. I keep looking at my kids and can't believe how much time has passed. I'll look at them doing something new and just be amazed. Seems like yesterday that my youngest couldn't lift her own head and now she's doing tuck rolls across the house."
"This is it!" shared a parent of young adults. "Mine are 18, 19 & 20. Empty-nest syndrome is a REAL thing. I always look back and think… How the hell did it go by so quick? I used to roll my eyes at people who would say stuff like this when they had 3 different practices, in 3 different places at the same time. It really goes by so quickly."
When they're babies, they wake up in the night for all kinds of reasons—to eat, to practice crawling, to say hi, to wail inconsolably for no explicable reason, and so on. When they're older, they wake up because they need to go to the bathroom or a drink of water or they're scared. Then, when they're much older, they suddenly stay up late and want to have deep, heart-to-heart talks at 10 p.m. Most of us expect the baby sleep deprivation stage, but there are sleep disruptions throughout a child's entire childhood.
"When they grow older, you don't have a private life anymore," wrote one commenter. "They stay awake longer than you."
"Never thought of this. The later part of the evening is my time usually," someone responded.
"Used to be my time as well," shared another commenter. "Since becoming a parent, my time is 4-6am. One reason why you start waking up early once you're older, probably."
I have a young adult, a teen and an almost-teen, and I can attest to waking up extra early simply to have uninterrupted time to myself.
"For me, I stopped having a chance to think anything through without interruption," wrote a commenter. "I had a very hard time with that. I couldn't remember anything, couldn't make decisions, etc because every thought seemed to get interrupted.
"I'd just sit in my car alone sometimes so I could think."
Ah, the beautiful, quiet solitude of the car. Every mother I know enjoys a good "car bath" once in a while.
"I am so glad somebody said this," someone responded. "I was starting to worry I was getting early onset dementia, because my mind just feels like mush all the time. I can't remember things, I start sentences and can't finish them, I forget common words....my mind rarely gets to switch off because someone is always interacting with me or calling my name."
Part of the brain mush is because kids need things all the time. And part of it is that you now have an entire other person's life (multiplied by however many kids you have) to think about. Their health and well-being, their education, their emotional state, their character—it's a lot. So much more than you can really imagine until you're in it.
"How important the years between 7 and 12 are for building a bond (one that lasts into the teenage years)," wrote a commenter. "They are so hard to listen to at that age with all the starts and stops in conversation and they talk about the most boring thing's BUT it is so important to listen and converse at those ages. They will grow into teenagers that will talk to you, and be fun to talk to, but only if you can get through long boring conversations about Minecraft or whatever thing they are currently into."
Having teens and young adults, I have seen the truth of this advice play out. If you want your teens to talk to you, you have to listen well before they get to that age.
Another user shared what it meant to them when their mother did just that:
"I can remember being about 12 and wanting to share my biggest interest at the time with my mom, that being Bionicle, by reading to her all the books I had been collecting with my allowance. Sometimes she would involuntarily fall asleep, but my God she tried so hard to show an interest. I really didn't appreciate it at the time, focused on all the times she yawned or fell asleep, but now (16 years later) we both remember it fondly as the bonding time it really was."
And another shared just the opposite:
"My god, what an amazing mom you have. I vividly remember coming home from school around 12-13 yo, super excited to tell my mom all about my day, and she's sitting there reading her book, as always. No problem, I'm just telling her my stories while she's reading. Then that one time, I wondered is she actually listening? So I stopped mid-sentence and she didn't notice. I remember my heart just sank, and after that I never told her anything ever again. I don't think she noticed."
"Practicing diapers on a doll doesn't count," wrote one commenter. "You're ready when you can do it on a cat."
HA. So true. Others shared their diaper wrangling woes as well:
"My first daughter was patient and would just let us change her. My second daughter wants nothing more than to roll over and crawl away. There's nowhere for her to go but she wants to go anyway."
"It's like, I am physically orders of magnitude stronger than her, how the hell does she still win?"
"My daughter has just perfected the alligator death roll technique when she doesn't want to be changed or put pants on lmao. And because she's 2 and a bit she laughs the whole time cause it's hilarious."
Don't even get me started on trying to get an unwilling jellyfish toddler buckled into a carseat.
"I stupidly thought once I had a child I would automatically 'know' how to parent," wrote one commenter. "You're the same dummy before and after having a child, and you realize how much your parents were winging it."
"Leaving the hospital with that tiny fragile little being was terrifying," wrote another. "C-section delivery so they kept us a couple days longer. Lots of help from the amazing maternity ward, to the moment you realize you and your spouse are alone and now solely responsible for keeping this little baby alive."
"Yeah, it's like: "We can just leave? WITH the baby? Who approved this?" added another.
"The panicked looks my husband and I exchanged the first time we were left alone with our newborn will live forever in my mind," wrote yet another.
It really is surreal that you're just, like, handed a newborn baby and that's it. A whole life in your hands, and you're supposed to just figure out what to do with it. Good luck!
"Nothing prepared me for the sheer 'unrelentingness' of parenting," shared one parent. "Every day for many years has to be finished with a dinner/bath/bed routine that takes two hours, regardless of how tired, upset or unwell you are. Difficult enough if you've been at work all day, yes. But also if you're on holidays and got a little bit sunburnt, or been to a family wedding and overeaten, or spent the day assembling Ikea furniture and are just exhausted.
"As a childless adult you could occasionally say 'I'm just having takeaway tonight', and flop in front of the TV until bedtime. As a parent, that's not an option."
This is a truth that's hard to fathom but oh so real. Parenting never ends. You don't ever really get a break, even when you're lucky enough to kind of get a break. Your kids' well-being is always on your mind, even when you're not with them.
And it doesn't end at 18, either. Many commenters talked about how parenting is forever. You worry about your adult kids, too, just in a different way than when they were young and you were fully responsible for raising them.
This list might lead people to believe that parenting sucks, but it doesn't. I mean, sometimes it can, but that's true of anything in life. If you're fortunate and put in your best effort, the joy and fulfilment of parenting hopefully outweighs the hard parts. Getting a realistic picture of what it entails—both the delights and the challenges—can help people temper their expectations and take the roller coaster of parenting as it comes.