Category Archives: Animals

Barbra Streisand Cloned Her Beloved Dog Sammie for $50,000…See The Results!

“It was basically an aside — an odd and interesting nugget in an interview with Barbra Streisand that otherwise dealt with heavy topics like sexism and politics…But it was that one nugget — a brief comment about her dogs — that drew the most attention on Tuesday night.” M. Stevens, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Barbra holding her beloved Samatha-5:30:17.

 

Excerpt: Barbra Streisand Cloned Her Dogs… By Matt Stevens, The New York Times

“In her interview with Variety, Ms. Streisand revealed that two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were clones. Specifically, the magazine reported that the dogs — Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett — had been cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of Ms. Streisand’s late dog Samantha, who was 14 when she died last year.

Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett ‘have different personalities,’ Ms. Streisand told Variety. ‘I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.’

Streisand’s three girls, Pink, Blue and Violet

Ms. Streisand’s third dog, Miss Fanny, is a distant cousin of Samantha’s, the magazine said. (Miss Fanny’s mother, the story noted, had been named Funny Girl.)

Even if you are not a close follower of clones, you may recall Dolly the Sheep, who was born in 1996. Since then, researchers have cloned about two dozen other mammal species, including cattle, deer, horses, rabbits, cats, rats — and yes, dogs.

South Korean researchers announced that they had cloned a dog for the first time in 2005, after almost three years of work and more than 1,000 eggs.

By 2008, a California company had partnered with a South Korean laboratory and made plans to auction off chances to clone five dogs. Later that year, The New York Times reported that the first three puppies from the group had been born in South Korea.

Barbra Streisand revealed in an interview that two of her three Coton de Tulears had been cloned. CreditRussell James for Variety

Two 2015 reports — from Business Insider and NPR — detail the work of Sooam Biotech, a lab in South Korea, and said the lab, on its own, had cloned more than 600 dogs.

Both articles say Sooam Biotech charged about $100,000 to attempt the process. ViaGen Pets, a company based in Texas, says it charges $50,000 for the cloning or $1,600 to merely preserve your pet’s genes.

It was not clear which company Ms. Streisand used to create her clones. A publicist for Ms. Streisand did not immediately respond to an email or phone message on Tuesday night.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE copy

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The puppies had been cloned from cells taken from Ms. Streisand’s late dog Samantha.
  2. It was basically an aside.
  3. Ms. Streisand revealed that two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were clones.
  4. The possibility of cloning dogs intrigues many owners.
  5. You do not have to be an incredibly famous and highly acclaimed actor.
  6. The older dog served as the surrogate mother.
  7. It was reported that cloned animals aren’t exact replicas of original dogs.
  8. Cats and dogs delivered by cloning have the same genes as their donor pets.
  9. There is strong potential for miscarriages.
  10. A California company made plans to auction off chances to clone five dogs.

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Cats and ___delivered by___have the same___as their___ pets and will be the closest match possible to the___ ViaGen said on its website. This is best described as identical twins born at a later date. The___ does interact with ___to impact many traits such as ___and behavior, the company continued.

WORD LIST :  personality, genetics, environment, donor, genes, dogs, cloning, donor,

 

Grammar: Identifying English Articles

Directions: Have students choose the correct English articles (THE, A, AN)  from those provided to fill in the blanks.

“You do not have to be ___incredibly famous and highly acclaimed actor to have it done.

By 2008, ___California company had partnered with ___ South Korean laboratory.

Researchers at ___South Korean lab told ___ station that ___dogs it had cloned have been healthy — and had almost always looked and acted like ___dogs they were cloned from.”

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you have a favorite pet? If so  is cloning your pet something you’d consider?  Explain why or why not.
  2. Other than cloning pets, what other reasons are there for cloning animals?
  3. In your opinion, what are some advantages and disadvantages of cloning?
  4. Who was Dolly the sheep? Why is she famous?
  5. Are there any questions your group would like to ask Ms. Streisand?
  6. Have groups search the web for additonal information about cloning.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Actors, Animals | Tags:

Fiona the Bubbling Baby Hippo: A Happy Sight to Behold!

“At the entrance to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Africa exhibit every table in the place was packed: with schoolchildren in matching T-shirts, middle-aged tourists with giant S.L.R. cameras slung around their necks, and a mélange of zoo employees…The cafe is the closest eatery to the hippo tank, and therefore the closest to Fiona, the 10-month-old hippo who bounces around inside it.  Over the last year, Fiona has become something of an international cause célèbre, largely because of the efforts of Ms. Curley, the zoo’s communications director, and her four-person team, who started posting Fiona’s every move to social media from the day she was born on Jan. 24 (prematurely, and perilously, but more on that later).” R. Syme, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Fiona’s 2018 calendar photo.

Excerpt: Hooray for Fiona the Hippo, Our Bundle of Social-Media Joy, Rachel Syme, The NYT

“Fionamania has swept the country. Videos of her twirling around in the water, Rubenesque and graceful, rack up millions of views online. She photo-bombed a local couple’s engagement photo, and it wound up on ‘The Tonight Show.’ The popular Cincinnati ice cream purveyor Graeter’s made a ‘Chunky Chunky Hippo’ flavor over the summer — a toffee base with salted peanuts and caramel truffles — that sold out at the zoo every day it was available. A local T-shirt company, Cincy Shirts, screen-printed a small batch of tees with the words ‘Feeling Hip’ along with a cartoon rendering of Fiona in February, and has since shipped 30,000 Fiona-branded products (including tees, stickers, magnets and now Christmas sweaters featuring Fiona in a Santa hat) all over the world.

Fiona the baby hippo takes a walk. USA Today

Fiona starred in her own 7-episode reality show sponsored by Facebook. The zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, sold a children’s book called ‘Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo’ to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, scheduled for the spring of 2018, with proceeds benefiting the animal’s care. The Cincinnati Reds are planning to have an official ‘Fiona Day’ at the ballpark next summer, complete with commemorative hippopotamus bobbleheads.

When Fiona was born, no one expected her to survive. Bibi, her lumbering, obstinate mother (‘Fiona gets all of her diva tendencies from her mom,’ said Christina Gorsuch, the curator for African mammals) gave birth six weeks early, and the baby weighed only 29 pounds. Most viable hippos weigh between 55 and 120 pounds at birth; premature infants rarely pull through. ‘In the first six weeks, there was at least once a week when we were sure she was going to die,’ said Ms. Gorsuch… She was kept in a newborn I.C.U., with round-the-clock care that included visits from local doctors from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who located her tiny veins for an IV during a nasty bout of dehydration.

Fiona reunited with mom. WABC-TV

Overnight, Fiona became a symbol of resilience and positivity. Buzzfeed ran listicles of her bravest moments, calling her a ‘sassy, unbothered, unproblematic queen.’ NPR ran a national report on her swelling celebrity status. One website called her ‘The Only Good Thing Left in This World.’

People love a story where everything looks dark and then heroes save the day. Fiona came here in the year 2017, a year when we need a lot more good news. And there she is, our good-news emissary.’

Fiona with her adoring parents. CBS News

‘People tell us all the time that Fiona is something everyone can agree on,’ said Amy LaBarbara, the zoo’s coordinator for marketing and events. ‘We have heard from countless people online that Fiona has been uniting the United States. We hear from people going through chemo that tell us she is the only bright spot in their day.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Every Formica table in the place was packed with schoolchildren.
  2. There was a mélange of zoo employees wearing branded fleeces and muddy boots.
  3. Fiona starred in her own reality show.
  4. Caring for a 500-pound baby can be exhausting.
  5. People needed ways to commemorate the special occasion.
  6. Fiona’s birth was documented on social media for the world to see.
  7. That’s when everyone knew that Fiona is really a rock star.
  8. Now  the zoo was getting asked at conferences about how they did it.
  9. Everyone is so invested now.
  10. Many of Fiona’s keepers insist that she courts and adores the attention.

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraph taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Twitter ___have become ___with Fiona’s flatulence. She has___America’s Large ___Daughter, its___baby queen, its___diva with the skin___of a wet___.

WORD LIST: obsessed, avocado,texture, reigning, triumphant, become, fans, Adult,

Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students are to chose the correct word or phrases from the article. This exercise reinforces students’ attention on words that have been introduced in the reading. Have them skim the article to check  their responses. Students should also find the meanings for all unknown words.

Scientists/science at the zone/zoo milked/milk a hippo for the first time — “we had no idea what was/why in hippo milk before now,” Ms. Gorsuch said — so that they could recreate/retrace the form/formula for Fiona’s bottles. Every day, between January and May 15, when Fiona finally was able to promenade/promote around the hippo tank for the public, seemed to bring a new heat/health crisis. All of this was documented on social media for the world to see.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search for the topic on the web and see what additional information they can find. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals | Tags:

Jane Goodall was Right: Chimps Do Share Personality Traits With Humans

“In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jane Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees she followed in Gombe National Park in what is now Tanzania. In her descriptions, some were more playful or aggressive, affectionate or nurturing. Many scientists at the time were horrified, she recalled… They contended she was inventing personality traits for animals…But time has borne out her insights. Chimpanzees in the wild have personalities similar to those in captivity, and both strongly overlap with traits that are familiar in humans, a new study published in Scientific Data confirms.”  K. Weintraub, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Jane and some of her chimps. NPR

Excerpt: Wild and Captive Chimpanzees Share Personality Traits With Humans By Karen Weintraub, the New York Times

“Dr. Goodall, now 83, said in a phone interview on Monday from her home in England that scientists thought ‘I was guilty of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.’ The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals in 1973 to include more than 100 additional chimps that were evaluated a few years ago. The animals were individually assessed by graduate students in the earlier study, and in the latest by Tanzanian field assistants, on personality traits like agreeableness, extroversion, depression, aggression and self-control.

Jane Goodall Institute

Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits in the two studies, but most of the personality types were consistent across the two studies. These traits seen among wild chimps matched ones seen among captive animals, the study found, and are similar to those described in people…Clive Wynne, a professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the research, said the new study offered a ‘really rich picture’ of the overlap among species. 

Jane and a baby

‘It’s backing up and reinforcing a number of things that we assume about animal personality that are seldom established with this degree of security in substantial wild-living populations,’ said Dr. Wynne, who concurs that dogs, his area of specialty, also have similar personality traits.

Jane Goodall-CBS News

Dr. Goodall said that fits what she’s seen, too. She only visits Gombe twice a year now, and only two animals are still alive from the days when she knew them as individuals. One, a mother of twins named Gremlin, has changed a bit, Dr. Goodall said… Dr. Goodall added that she’s pleased that researchers are still finding so much of interest at Gombe, and tapping into the expertise of Tanzanian field workers.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Jane Goodall.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

I. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees.
  2. Chimpanzees have the same personality traits like humans.
  3. During the early research many scientists at the time were horrified at Dr. Goodall’s statement.
  4. Dr. Goodall was accused of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.
  5. Researchers have found that many animals have very vivid personalities.
  6. The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals.
  7. These findings were in line with previous research done by Goodall.
  8. She knew from childhood experiences with guinea pigs, and other pets that animals have personalities that are quite familiar.
  9. According to Dr. Goodall, the ape named Gremlin has become more confident as she gets older.
  10. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Robert Latzman, an ___professor at Georgia State University, who was not___in the study, said his___with ___in___ has always left open the question of whether animals in the wild are somehow different… ‘The work in the ___how similar these ___truly are to humans.’

WORD LIST: animals, underscores, wild, zoos, chimpanzees, research, involved, associate,

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Many scientists at the time  did not agree with Goodall.
  2. Animals show the same traits as humans.
  3. The animals  was individually assessed.

 

II

  1. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits.
  2. According to Goodall,  animals have vivid personalities.
  3. Some say that dogs also has similar personality traits.

III

  1. Research in the wild underscores how similar these animals truly is to humans.
  2. Researchers still have interest  in the chimps at Gombe.
  3. Goodall only visits Gombe twice a year now.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Reading Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals

California’s New Pet Law: Pets Must Be Rescues

In a blow to commercial animal breeders and brokers, California pet stores will soon have to get their puppies, kittens and rabbits from shelters and rescue centers only. Individuals can still buy from private breeders. But beginning in January 2019, it will be illegal for stores to do so. Violators will face a fine of $500.” J. Fortin, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

SPCA Value of Adoption

Excerpt: California Tells Pet Stores Their Dogs and Cats Must Be Rescues By Jacey Fortin, The New York Times

“The bill, A.B. 485, had strong support from several animal welfare organizations, which cheered it as a blow to “puppy mills” and “kitten factories” that mass produce animals for sale, often in inhumane conditions. It was written by two California Assembly members, Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh, both Democrats, and signed into law on Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

photo- lfpress.com

California is the first state to pass such legislation, though it is following dozens of its own cities and jurisdictions, which have passed similar measures on a smaller scale…Opponents of the measure argued that the bill painted large ‘puppy mills’ and responsible backyard dog breeders with the same broad brush.

Animals wait for adoption. Daily Herald

Mike Bober, the president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a national advocacy group, called it ‘well-intentioned but misguided’ in a video last month, adding that it would jeopardize hundreds of jobs.

Ben Ashel’s store specializes in tiny dog breeds including teacup Yorkies and toy Maltipoos said he was not sure what he would do once the law comes into play.

After the bill easily passed in California’s Senate and Assembly last month, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals praised the state for taking action where federal regulators had fallen short.

Because pet stores are one step removed from the breeding of the animals they sell, store owners rarely know the breeding conditions of their animals.

‘By cutting off the puppy mill pipeline that moves cruelly bred animals from across the country into California pet stores, A.B. 485 will also help prevent California consumers from being duped into purchases that contribute to unconscionable animal ‘production’ and suffering,’ the organization said in a statement.

Adopt a pet blog

But Ben Ashel, a pet store owner in Agoura Hills, Calif., said the new law might have unintended effects by motivating more consumers to order dogs online or find sneakier ways to acquire the breeds they want…They just want to start fresh with a puppy, and this law makes it very, very difficult.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.

Objective:  Students will read the article with a focus on reading comprehension and new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Pet stores are one step removed from the breeding of the animals they sell.
  2. In many cases, puppy mills house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
  3. Many times there is not adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care.
  4. The number of for-profit pet stores in California has been dwindling.
  5. Still, Mr. Jang said he understood lawmakers’ intentions.
  6. Their heart is in the right place, but their thinking is a little shortsighted.
  7. Cruelly bred animals from across the country will move into California pet stores.
  8. One store, Puppy Heaven, specializes in matching owners with tiny dogs.
  9. Some people need breeds that work well with children or accommodate allergies.
  10. The new law might have unintended effects by motivating more consumers to order dogs online.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

It takes the___of choice from___who want to get a puppy. They don’t want to get someone else’s ___dog or something of that nature, he said, adding that some people need ___that work well with or accommodate___and other health issues.

WORD LIST:  allergies breeds, unwanted,   people, freedom, children

Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

His stye/store, Puppy Heaven/Haven, specializes in matching/moving owners with teeny/tiny dogs — teacup Yorkies and toy Maltipoos — and has a celebrity clientele. He said he was not sure what he would do once the law/lawyer comes into affect/effect.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you own a pet?  Where did you get them from?
  2. In your opinion, what are the advantages of California’s new law? What are the disadvantages?
  3. Do you think all pet stores should only get animals from shelters? Why or why not?
  4. In your opinion, which places are the safest to obtain a pet?

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals

Giving Credit to the [Real] Dogs of War

“I would wager that 90 percent of American combat troops killed in action during the Vietnam War never saw their killers. Whether it was a sniper at 200 yards, a rocket fired into a base camp or an attack from a well-concealed bunker complex, the element of surprise was usually on the side of our enemies. But our forces did have one elite weapon that sometimes took the advantage away. At times, these weapons even turned such situations upside down and enabled us to surprise and take them out. That elite weapon was our military working dog, and we had thousands of them.” R. Cunnigham, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Sentry dogs with their handlers after patrolling near Da Nang in 1969. Credit R.A. Elder/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images Once in Vietnam, these dogs were the gold .jpg

Excerpt: The Dogs of the Vietnam War, by Richard Cunnigham, The New York Times

“I was a sentry dog handler in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, a member of the 212th Military Police Sentry Dog Company stationed in Tay Ninh. My companion was a German shepherd named Smokey. I was 20 years old and weighed 135 pounds; Smokey weighed 90 pounds. Our unit’s responsibility was to protect the Tay Ninh Base Camp, and especially the ammunition dump. Smokey and I typically worked at night, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but we would also conduct daylight area sweeps when temporarily attached to infantry units.

Fieldy is an athletic black Labrador retriever who served four combat tours in Afghanistan. Phot- ABC News

In Vietnam, American forces used dogs for everything from base security to detecting ambushes to hunting down fleeing enemy units. We used German shepherds like Smokey, mixes of shepherd types and Labrador retrievers that were well trained in detecting, attacking and tracking the enemy. They were certainly not all purebreds. Most were given to the military by families back home.

The dogs started out at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas with a thorough physical exam. Then they were observed and tested to determine which area of training they would be assigned. Aggressive dogs usually went to the sentry unit. Less aggressive but still highly intelligent shepherd dogs went to the scout school. The Labradors, with their amazing noses, went straight to tracker training.

Specialized Search Dog (SSD) Taz, a Black Labrador Retriever, finds explosives during war. Photo-Camp Pendleton

Every dog accepted was highly intelligent, and each became a canine soldier, with his or her own individual four-digit service number tattooed in the left ear. Dogs and their handlers went through three phases of instruction: drill/obedience, aggression and scouting. And although it appeared that the dogs were being instructed, it was the soldiers who were actually being taught.

At Okinawa, where I met and trained with Smokey, most of the dogs were veterans being reassigned to new handlers. They knew the drills inside and out, and we did not. Our training instructors seemed to take a perverse pleasure in informing us how dumb we were compared with the dogs.

A human nose has about five million scent receptors; a shepherd has at least 225 million. The dogs can detect movement much faster and more accurately than we can, and their ears can hear, even at a very early age, sound from four times farther away than we can. What’s more, all our dogs had lived with our American ‘smells’ for years. The scent of the Vietnamese was very different and much easier for them to pick up and alert on.

When our politicians decided to exit Vietnam — in a hurry — the military classified our dogs as “equipment.” As such, they were left behind. Some, but not many, were transferred to the South Vietnamese military and police. Of the 4,000 dogs that served in-country, fewer than 200 made it back to the States. Not a pleasant thought to consider given their incredible service, endurance and devotion to duty.

I’ve heard it said that without our military dogs, there would be 10,000 additional names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. I, for one, think that’s an understatement.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. There were many sentry dog handlers in Vietnam.
  2. The unit’s responsibility was to protect the camp.
  3. Soldiers were temporarily attached to infantry units.
  4. Dogs were good at detecting ambushes.
  5. Aggressive dogs usually went to the sentry unit.
  6. Every dog responded to both verbal and nonverbal hand commands.
  7. Scout dogs were able to raise an alarm about an ambush long before the the unit knew there was danger.
  8. With a dog’s help a soldier could call in fire or air support to obliterate the enemy position.
  9. Not every unit on patrol got a dog.
  10. With a scout dog team leading the way, most patrols were successful or uneventful.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

This ___or sound ___was also true of the ___dog teams, like Smokey and me. When a dog team___at its post — usually just a ___around a camp,___dump or air field — it ___a ‘changeover.’The handler changed the dog’s ___collar to his ___’now it’s time to work’ collar. The dog understood the difference___ and went to work.

WORD LIST: immediately, choke-chain, performed, arrived, sentry, scent,   alert, path, ammo, leather,

Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

There were also mind/mine and booby/body trap dogs. They protected/protect our soldiers on patrol/petrol from the many and diverse/diversified devices set to kill and maid/maim. Take the thin, monofilament line/lies that were practically invisible/advisable to the human eye, which the Vietcong attached to a grenade/green or other explosive device/devious that detonated when ‘tripped.’

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search the web for the topic of dogs used in wars to see what additional information they can find. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals