3 Good Things: Good dogs, a once-a-millennium thrift-store find and new life in Death Valley

Karlotta Freier / For The Times

number one

Judge not

Chalk up a win for nurture over nature. It turns out that knowing a dog’s breed doesn’t tell you very much about how it will behave. Almost every dog can be a good dog. Using genetic information from 2,155 mixed-breed and purebred dogs, and comparing the DNA profiles with owners’ responses to a survey about behavior, researchers concluded that breed predicts a dog’s personality only about 9% of the time. Individual variation within a breed was far greater than variation among breeds. So that beast up the street may be a total love bunny, at least to her owner.

number two

What a find

A Roman marble bust
A Roman marble bust bought for $34.99 at a Texas Goodwill.

This is one well-traveled dude. A Roman bust carved 2,000 years ago somehow landed in the collection of a Bavarian king by 1883, then somehow came to Texas — maybe with an American soldier who looted it during World War II. And then somehow it ended up under a table at a Goodwill in Austin with a $34.99 price tag stuck to its cheek. Luckily, the person who snapped up that bargain was an antiques dealer with a moral compass who tracked down its provenance. The dealer won’t keep it or sell it but will return it to its last known rightful home, in Germany. “Art theft, looting during a war, is a war crime,” she said. “I can’t be a party to it.” This piece of history finally fell into just the right hands.

number three

The comeback kids

This spring, the world’s rarest fish is a little less rare. The Devil’s Hole pupfish is found in the wild in only one place. Deep in a crevasse in Death Valley lies a pool with the square footage of a studio apartment, home to a species whose ancestors presumably became stuck there as the last ice age ended. In 2013, these little blue swimmers numbered just 35, despite decades of intense protections from the federal government. Authorities added clumps of aquarium plants so that any babies could hide from hungry adults, and began some captive breeding. Today, the world has about 475 Devil’s Hole pupfish. Even that word “about” is cause for celebration: It’s more fish than can be confidently counted.

A Devil's Hole pupfish in a propagation aquarium
Keep swimming.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

And one more ...

Canada’s doctors can now prescribe spending time in nature, and patients with those prescriptions will receive free access to 80 national parks and other sites. “There’s almost no condition that nature isn’t good for, from diabetes to high blood pressure, ADHD in children, anxiety and depression,” said the physician who directs the program. “We like to say that it should be the fourth pillar of health, along with healthy diet and sleep and exercise.” Sounds like easy advice to follow ... and isn’t that everyone’s favorite kind of advice?


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