When Braunton, UK resident Rick Abbott discovered he was dying of cancer in 2019, he walked across the street to neighbor Max Woosey’s house and gave him his tent. “Go have an adventure,” the seventy-four-year-old told his ten-year-old friend.
Neighbors in Braunton, near the North Devon Coast of England, Max and Rick enjoyed talking about the things they both loved—mainly camping and the outdoors. Rick was kind, direct, and honest, and he treated Max like his equal. Rachael, Max’s mother, could tell that Max loved their relationship and that he was grateful for the way North Devon Hospice took such good care of Rick in his final days and tried to fulfill his end-of-life wishes.
In February 2020, almost three years ago, Rick Abbott died.
Max and his dog | Courtesy of the Woosey Family
Max mulled over Rick’s request for a long time. Then on March 27, 2020, shortly after COVID-19 began reshaping the world, Max finally figured it out. He would follow Rick’s instructions to have an adventure—but with his own spin. North Devon Hospice had its funding cut due to the pandemic. Max decided to set up Rick’s tent in his backyard and announced he would camp there to raise money for the local hospice.
Initially he set his sights on raising a modest £100. Rachael thought she’d have to contribute the whole sum! But then North Devon Hospice put word out on social media and the pounds came pouring in. Celebrities including adventurer Bear Grylls and rugby player Jonny Wilkinson both contributed to Max’s cause.
Max pitched his tent at places like Twickenham Stadium and 10 Downing Street (that’s the home of England’s Prime Minister, a very important address).
Max participated in special events, too. On July 5, 2021, Max joined Action for Children, an organization dedicated to providing practical and emotional care for children, making sure their voices are heard, and bringing lasting improvements to their lives. He participated in their Boycott Your Bed initiative. This twenty-year-old tradition, which asks kids to give up their bed for one night to raise funds for vulnerable children, had Max’s name written ALL over it. “I've been boycotting my bed for over a year now, so I thought it was a brilliant idea,” said Max. The challenge also encourages finding an unusual place to sleep. Max chose to sleep outside the London Zoo lion enclosure—where he said he listened to the kings of the jungle all night.
Exactly two years and fourteen tents later, after sleeping outside every single night alone (even his dog, Digby, only hung out in the tent until the sun went down!), sleeping out on holidays and in storms, after battling red ants and being chased by pheasants, he raised an incredible £700,000 (that equaled around $959,000 in 2021!)—enough money to pay for twenty hospice nurses’ salaries for an entire year. Not surprisingly, Max won the Spirit of Adventure Pride of Britain award in 2021.
Max and family at the Spirit of Adventure Awards | Courtesy of the Woosey Family
“It is just a really nice feeling inside knowing I have helped to raise so much money,” said Max. “I am just really thankful for everyone who has donated. The hospice are the real heroes and do all the hard work.”
When Rick was alive, he inspired Max deeply with his commitment to spending part of every day outside doing the things he loved. He continues to inspire the now twelve-year-old boy. Max’s mom believes he has confidence and an amazing sense of self because of his camping adventure. And although his public fundraising is officially over, when asked if he was coming inside to sleep any time soon, he replied, “Never! The tent is now my home.”
(How much do you know about hospice? Take this quiz to find out.)
Dogs spend a lot of time with their noses to the ground. And it’s no surprise. They “see” the world through their noses. Dogs have more than three million olfactory receptors and are 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive to smells than humans. They can find food, squirrels, and their favorite ball stuck under the couch with their noses—but they can also smell emotions. Have you ever had the experience of your dog coming to sit by your side when you’re sad? Many dog owners report this kind of awareness and connection.
Some new science backs this up. According to a new study by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, dogs can not only smell emotions in humans, but they can smell stress too.
Previous research has proven that animals can link smell with an emotion, specifically fear and joy. Horses and goats, for example, can tell the difference between a happy face and a scared one. (Goats prefer happy faces, if you ever come across one.) The researchers doing this study wanted to dive a little deeper and focus on a more complicated feeling—stress.
This is what they did: they collected breath and sweat from a group of healthy adults before and after doing a really hard math problem—totally relatable!—and then compared their pre- and post-math heart rate and blood pressure, as well as their feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear. Next, each person’s “before” and “after” breath and sweat samples were presented to dogs trained to detect odor changes. And guess what? The dogs held their noses to the post-math-problem vial (the one that contained stress from trying to solve the problem) 675 times out of 720, or almost 94% of the time.
What exactly are the dogs searching for?
They are trained to identify odor changes to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
And what are VOCs?
You know the smells that come from a can of paint when you open it? Or a new rug that you’ve just unrolled? Those are VOCs: chemicals used in products that are then released into the air as gas. But humans make VOCs too. In ancient times (think Hippocrates in Greece in 400 BCE) doctors diagnosed certain diseases by their general odors—diabetes supposedly smelled sweet and fruity, while liver disease was characterized by a musty, fishy smell. Now, though, we know those odors are really VOCs, such as CO2, acetone, and isoprene—and we also know that stress produces more of them.
Bust of Hippocrates | 1881 Young Persons' Cyclopedia of Persons and Places
(Did you know forests produce them when they’re stressed too, like during a drought?)
This new finding has exciting possibilities. It might give service, protection, and therapy dogs a new tool for understanding when their owner is in crisis. It might allow dogs in schools or hospitals to find people who need help.
And it definitely adds support to the saying that dogs are our best friends.
Duane Hansen wanted to do something big for his 60th birthday—846-pounds big, to be exact. The Nebraska resident, whose hobby is gardening, built a boat out of an enormous pumpkin he grew in hopes of beating the Guinness World Record for—ready for it?—pumpkin paddling.
(There are some out-there Guinness World Records. Check out this timely video of George Peel setting a record for putting on ten COVID-19 masks in just over seven seconds.)
There’s an actual Guinness Record entry for the “longest journey by pumpkin boat.” And yes, Duane broke it.
Phil Davidson | City of Bellevue, Nebraska | Facebook
In 2016, Rick Swenson paddled twenty-five and a half miles down the Red River (which connects Breckenridge, Minnesota to Lake Winnepeg in Canada), but Duane believed he could float further. However, this would also be a test in patience as he first had to grow a pumpkin big enough to accomplish this goal, which took five years! Finally, in 2022, he knew he had cultivated a winner. Berta, the 800+ pound pumpkin, would become his partner in this great gourd adventure.
On August 27, 2022, wearing a bright orange life vest—fashionably matching his boat—Duane drove to the Bellview, Nebraska public boat launch, stepped into SS Berta with a cooler on the floor and a cup holder carved into the hull, and began his journey on the Missouri River.
Fascinating fact: In the summer of 1804, Lewis and Clark began a leg of their expedition on the same waters, sailing not in a pumpkin, but in a 55-foot-long keelboat named Discovery.
Duane reports that his record-breaking boat ride wasn't easy. Waves from passing boats threatened to capsize him at times. Berta sat about eight inches above the water and the waves would lap only inches from the opening. He had to “stop everything and just hold on.” But he persevered in his trusty pumpkin. Twelve hours and thirty-eight miles later, he arrived at the Nebraska City, Nebraska marina. Official paperwork aside, he had done it. Duane broke the Guinness World Record for sailing a squash.
What’s next for Duane? In an interview with WGN News, he shared that his daughter wants him to grow an even bigger pumpkin—1,800-2,000-pounds big—so that they can paddle to glory together!
Don Shall | Flickr