Border Collies are reforesting Chile's burned land after destructive wildfires

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Oct. 16 2019, Updated 10:49 a.m. ET

There isn't much that Border Collies love more than running — and a group of the energetic dogs recently got to use that passion for good. In the wake of the destructive 2017 Chilean wildfires, three Border Collies used their running skills to help reforest the damaged grounds of a Chilean forest.

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In late January 2017, powerful wildfires tore through central and southern Chile, destroying almost 1,500 homes, killing 11 people, and costing the Chilean government $33 million, VOA News reported at the time. The wildfires burned almost 593,000 acres of land (three times the size of New York City), CNN added. Many have called these wildfires the worst that Chile has ever seen, and unfortunately, even more wildfires have occurred in Chile over the past three years.

And that's where the Border Collies come in. As Mother Nature Network (MNN) reported, Francisca Torres is a dog trainer and the pet parent to three Border Collies named Das, Olivia, and Summer who all love running through forests. So in March 2017, to help revitalize the burnt forest grounds, Torres began her most important dog-training project yet. 

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She outfitted her dogs with small doggy backpacks, designed to slowly release the seeds she fills them with onto the ground. She lets her dogs run wild around the forest, and as they do so, their backpacks release native seeds onto the earth — seeds that will eventually grow into trees. 

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As Torres told MNN, her dogs have boundless energy, and have been known to run 18 miles through the forest and drop more than 20 pounds of seeds in just one day. And to thank Das, Olivia, and Summer for all their hard work, Torres always rewards them with endless treats throughout the hikes. Torres — and her sister Constanza — took her three Border Collies for consistent trips to the forest for six months, MNN reported — and the trips were all worth it. "We have seen many results in flora and fauna coming back to the burned forest!" Torres told the news outlet last year.

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Torres runs the popular Facebook page Pewos (presumably a play on the word perros, which is Spanish for dogs), which boasts more than 84,000 followers, as well as Instagram pages for her dogs. She uses those platforms to share photos and videos of the dogs in action. One slow-motion Instagram video reveals exactly how the backpacks release the seeds — and it's a little less high-tech than you may be picturing. 

Basically, the backpack features one pouch on each side of the dog's body. Torres fills each pouch up with seeds — and then doesn't zip them closed. Because the pouches are open, as the dogs run and bounce around, the seeds fall out of the pouches.

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A lot more work is still needed to completely heal Chile from the 2017 wildfires — and not to mention, to prevent the growing wildfire epidemic from growing even more across Chile. That said, it's pretty amazing that just by letting her dogs run wild and free, Torres found a way to do her part in revitalizing Chile's land.

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