The 10 Most Heroic Dogs in Houston

Categories: Best of Houston

Photo by the Harris County Sheriff's Office
Boomer and Tommy
Mankind's partnership with the dog goes back further than our written history. It has been us and the pooches against the world for a very, very long time. This week we're going to celebrate some of the great deeds done by our four-legged friends here in Houston.

Boomer and Tommy
The working dogs of the Harris County Sheriff's office are serious about crime busting. Two of the K-9 unit heavyweights, Boomer and Tommy, were nominated for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards 2013 for their contributions to law enforcement in Houston. Boomer is the veteran, having been responsible for the seizure of more than $6 million worth of illegal drugs. Tommy is the up-and-comer, but has already been instrumental in cornering suspects, finding lost people and locating evidence in sexual assault cases.

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10 Best Houston Hoaxes and Pranks

Categories: Best of Houston

Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A coral snake
Yesterday was April Fools' Day, otherwise known as the day it sucks very hard to be a journalist. Pranks and jokes and hoaxes abound and telling real news from fake news becomes impossible. Hopefully everyone has gotten it out of their systems by now, and to celebrate today we look back at some of the most notable of Houston pratical jokes and trickery.

10. The Houston Zoo's Rubber Snake
In the '80s the Houston Zoo apparently had a problem keeping coral snakes alive in captivity... which is a little weird when you think about it considering coral snakes are indigenous to Texas. Their response was to put a rubber snake in the exhibit, a solution that worked until a frequent visitor to the zoo asked curator John Donaho why the snake hadn't seemed to move in nine months. ''We have had live snakes in the exhibit, but they don't do well - they tend to die,'' he said, as reported in the New York Times. ''Rather than kill snakes, we put out a rubber one for people to be able to see what they look like.'' These days the zoo promises the only fake animals on grounds are statures, but PR director Brian Hill told the Houston Chronicle that after the story originally broke a wise-guy from an East Coast zoo sent a box with a new rubber snake and breeding documentation filled out.

Speaking of snakes...

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Betting on Their Own Team: Sugar Land's Minor-League Gamble Pays Off

Categories: Best of Houston

Photo by Marco Torres

Houston is a rambling, gambling town and this year Best of Houston celebrates those in the community who are taking a chance.

At baseball's major league level, the stadium boom of the 1990s was built on promises of economic stimulation and community pride, with cities investing hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to fund new workplaces for their local teams. The "if you build it, they will come" mantra from the 1989 classic Field of Dreams lit the way for more than 20 cities to approve funds to break ground on new stadiums between 1990 and 2008.

Whether all those communities saw an economic return on their investment is a matter of debate, but Sugar Land heard the mantra in 2008 when voters approved the investment of tens of millions of dollars to build a minor-league baseball stadium. Civic leaders tossed around phrases like "spur economic activity" and "potential ancillary development" while asking for several different taxing mechanisms.

Sugar Land's vision entailed fewer taxpayer dollars than those of their big-league metropolitan counterparts, but theirs came with far more risk and far fewer promises. Questions abounded, including: Which minor-league team could the city of Sugar Land attract? How thirsty is Sugar Land for minor-league baseball? Would the Houston Astros throw up roadblocks, viewing Sugar Land's efforts as competition?

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7 Things Houstonians Don't Care About

Categories: Best of Houston

Photo by cemaxx
Houston likes big things. including our freeways.

Houston is a city full of passionate people, but there are a few things that most Houstonians just don't seem to care about.

7. Doing things on a small scale.

Well, this IS the Lone Star State, and everything's supposedly bigger in Texas, and boy do Houstonians seem to believe it. We love going big, and it shows. The Katy Freeway has 26 lanes at some points, and is the widest in the world. Then there's the enormous Lakewood Church, with the largest congregation in the U.S. We take conventional stuff and super size it here. Clearly Houstonians like large things, and aren't fond of doing stuff on a small scale.

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Houston's 10 Best Make-a-Wish Wishes

Categories: Best of Houston

Here's a factoid that will brighten your day a little because, trust me, you're going to need all the sunshine in the world here in a minute. Houston is one of the highest-ranked cities in America when it comes to having the best charities. Only St. Louis has us beat.

Inside the list of great Houston charities, tops among them is the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana, which in 2014 scored 67.78 out of a possible 70 on Charity Ranker scale. Today we celebrate their good work by looking at the top 10 wishes of Houston children that they have granted. You really might want to pause and go get some tissues.

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The 2014 Best of HoustonĀ® Readers' Poll: Vote Now for the Best of Houston!

Categories: Best of Houston

Live somewhere long enough and you develop a collection of favorite locations, places you can always count on to deliver a good times or good service. You have your favorite museum to explore, your favorite bike trail, your favorite local sports star, so on and so forth.

In a few weeks, our Best of HoustonĀ® 2014 issue is going to drop and we'll have our list of favorites for you to read and check out. Of course, we also know that you feel very passionate about some of the subjects, which is why we're giving you the chance to let us know what your favorite spots are.

That's right, it's time for the 2014 Best of HoustonĀ® Readers' Poll.

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Time to Tell Us What You Think: Our Annual Readers' Choice Awards

Categories: Best of Houston

It's time

We're getting ready for our annual Best of Houston issue which will hit the stands in early October.

This year's theme: We're gamblers willing to take chances and roll the dice. As a result, Houston has prospered and even when the pot gets low, we double down and rebound. And so do the people who live here in every category from restaurants to government to health to sports. Houston is holding a winning hand and we're going to tell everyone so in this year's Best of Houston.

The other important part of BOH -- besides our writers' picks -- is our Readers' Choice awards. That's where you tell us what you think the best places/people are in 99 categories as well as the category we forgot.

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Best Eight Houston Businesses to Visit in Case They Ever Close for Good

Categories: Best of Houston

Photo by Chris Lane
You don't find places that look like this in the mall.
Houston is a city of constant evolution and rebirth. And I think more than anything else, the ever-changing landscape is what defines this city for me. Houston seems to continually be in a state of flux, modernizing or reinventing parts of its past in favor of newer development.

This cycle of renewal is one of the things that makes Houston an exciting city to live in, but it also means that some of the unique places that give Houston it's flavor are not guaranteed to be around forever. Most people get used to certain businesses being "around." We pass them in our cars, taking note that the cool old-fashioned looking store has always been there, and then one day we're shocked to see that place is closing down, and will soon be gone forever.

It's probably a good idea for us to enjoy some of these establishments while we can. Places like..

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Breaking News (Updated): Apocalyptic Fire Ravaging Montrose Apartment Complex (w/ Video)

Photo by Margaret Downing

Check out our slideshow of the fire.
Update:The Houston Fire Department declared the fire under control at 2:56 p.m. They say all the construction workers were accounted for and there were no injuries reported.

Update 2:32 p.m.: We talked to eyewitness Kim Cortez who works in the Wortham Tower across from the fire. She says that in less than five minutes it went from being a small fire on the roof of the apartments to the full on blaze you see in the photos above and below. "At first people were just watching and taking photos," she says, "and within five minutes you could tell it was just getting worse and worse."

We also have some more video from the scene as supplied by Houston Press Editor Margaret Downing:

Update 2:01 p.m.: Fire officials are saying that if you live in anywhere near the 2400 block of W. Dallas you should avoid the area. Crews are working to protect nearby buildings, but the winds are a problem today. One construction worker was rescued from the scene and fortunately there have been no injuries reported.

Update 1:39p.m.: The Houston Fire Department upgraded the response to a 3-alarm at about 12:50 and to a 4-alarm at 1:04 p.m. By 1:25 p.m. the fire at the complex in the 2400 block of W. Dallas Street was upgraded to a 5-alarm fire.
The fire department responded with 70 units and nearly 200 people.

Original story:
The Houston Fire Department is fighting a 2-alarm fire at an apartment complex at West Dallas and Marconi, just off Montrose.
Smoke can be seen downtown. People on their lunch break were describing a black wall of smoke.

Here's Instagram video by Melanie Tep taken from the Chase tower.

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Last Shot @RODEOHOUSTON's Social Media Scavenger Hunt

Illustration by Houston Livestock and Rodeo
Can you find the Outlaw?
This year the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will not only feature entertainment from Usher, Maroon 5, and Keith Urban amongst other top performers, but it's also been awarding prizes through a Twitter-based scavenger hunt. It's like finding the golden ticket from Willy Wonka.

With the Twitter account @RODEOHOUSTON (which has nearly 56,000 followers) leading it off, a city-wide scavenger hunt has been in operation all week. It wraps up today with a special tweet that will go out at 8:30 a.m. The Outlaw has taken the prizes and folks are asked to retweet and share the Twitter clues with their friends for a final shot at 2 season tickets to the rodeo.

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