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December 19, 2011: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
Sunshine and Sweetie (a.k.a. Yang Guang and Tian Tian) met their adoring fans on Friday for the first time at Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo, which has sold more than 10,000 advance tickets to visitors who want to glimpse the popular pair. The duo, who are on loan from China for 10 years, showed off their best bamboo noshing skills during their debut. Officials are hopeful that the pandas will mate. The good news: They’ve already shown signs of attraction. — Read it at People Pets
Plus: One-year-old polar bear Augo charmed visitors at a Denmark zoo by giving his mom a bear hug — following what appeared to be a stern lecture from his mother. — See the photos at Today
Unbeknownst to his owner, a ginger-colored kitty in Britain routinely takes 10-mile, round-trip rides on a local bus — free of charge. "The drivers buy cat food for him and he sits on people's laps,” Fee Jeans, the 15-year-old feline’s owner, told the Telegraph. "Sometimes he just sits in the middle of the road and waits for the bus to turn up before he gets on." The drivers know Dodger’s stop — and they let him off when he’s ready to go home. — Read it at the Telegraph
For her holiday cards last year, the southern California congresswoman paid tribute to her Himalayan, Gretzky, who'd passed away. The feline had appeared on the politician's cards since 1998. This year, Sanchez and her new husband adorn the card, but Gretzky still managed to insert himself into the scene — you can spot his face on the ornaments hanging on the tree behind them. — Read it at Politico
Plus: Gretzky isn’t the only political pet on a card. Bo Obama is captured snoozing by a cozy fire on the White House Christmas card this year. — See it at the Washington Post
In the “Ph.D” (Prisoners Helping Dogs) program at the Toledo Correctional Institution, shelter dogs live with inmates for several weeks, so the prisoners can train the canines to sit, stay, come and even “give me five.” Each pup in the program is assigned two prisoner mentors — and the rewards go both ways. The well-mannered canine graduates have a better chance at being adopted, and the inmates say that the experience not only gives them some companionship, but it also teaches them patience. — Read it at the Toledo Blade
Normally, the term “cat lady” is reserved for someone who's much older than country crooner Taylor Swift. But that's exactly what friends were calling the 22-year-old singer at her birthday party last week. Swift, who's been recently gushing about her new kitten, Meredith, laughed off the jokes. — Read it at Pop Crush
Are you heading out to holiday shop for your pet? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 53% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners plan to buy presents for their pets this year — and 81% of those surveyed by Kelton Research say that they regard their pets as members of the family. Note: Mental health professionals tell USA Today that all of this love for pets is perfectly normal. (Hey, who said it wasn’t?) — Read it at USA Today
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