Pet Scoop: Dog Digs Up Purple Heart Medal, Kitten Found Frozen to Fence Gets Adopted

March 24, 2015: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

Smuckers the Lab dug up this Purple Heart in his backyard 10 years ago.
Smuckers, a yellow Labrador Retriever, dug up this Purple Heart in his backyard 10 years ago.

Family to Receive Lost Medal

It was 10 years ago when Smuckers, a yellow Labrador Retriever with a penchant for digging, uncovered a Purple Heart medal in the backyard of his Denver home. The presidential honor is awarded to those who are killed or wounded while serving in the military. Smuckers’ owner said he was filling in the 10-inch hole when he saw something shiny, and pulled out the medal with the name Cpl. Richmond Litman engraved on the back. But the dog’s owners didn’t know how to get the medal back to where it belonged. It wasn’t until recently that they heard about the Vermont-based nonprofit Purple Hearts Reunited, and contacted them about Smuckers’ discovery. It turned out that Litman, an African-American soldier, had served in the Korean War and earned the medal in 1950. He lived just blocks from where the medal was uncovered, but he and his wife had since passed away. Luckily, a family member heard about the story of the Purple Heart through local media. Litman’s stepdaughter contacted Purple Hearts Reunited Sunday night and provided his photo and discharge papers. A special ceremony is being planned to return the medal to the family. — Read it at Colorado’s 9News and watch the report about the search for the family at USA Today

Study: Opossum Could Hold Key to Universal Antivenom

In lab experiments with mice, researchers discovered a peptide in the opossum’s blood — a molecule that can neutralize snake venom. The peptide was found to work against several venomous snakes, including the western diamondback rattlesnake native to America, and the Russell viper from India. "The mice that were given the venom incubated with the peptide never showed any signs [of being sick]," said Claire Komives of San Jose State University in California at a meeting of the American Chemical Society Monday. "It was like a miracle, that this peptide really has this activity." Still, venom experts warn that a snake’s venom contains hundreds of different toxins and the peptide may only neutralize one class of those toxins. — Read it at National Geographic

Experts Warn African Elephants Face Extinction Within Decades

At the African Elephant Summit in Botswana, experts warned that the animals could be extinct in the wild in the next 10 to 20 years if poaching continues at its current rate. "In five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal," said Dune Ives, senior researcher at Vulcan, a philanthropic organization run by billionaire Paul Allen. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that the African elephant population dropped from 550,000 in 2006 to 470,000 in 2013, with East Africa seeing the most significant decline. — Read it from Agence France Presse via Yahoo

Ralphie the kitten has fully recovered after being found with his paws frozen to a metal fence.
Ralphie the kitten has fully recovered after being found with his paws frozen to a metal fence.

Recovered Kitten Gets Adopted

Ralphie was only a few weeks old when he was found on March 7 with his paws frozen to a metal fence in Boston. A Good Samaritan heard the kitten’s cries and used warm water to free Ralphie’s feet. He then rushed the kitten to the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center for help. Ralphie was suffering from hypothermia. He was treated with convection heat, blankets and warm water bottles while the veterinarian treated him with pain medication for his paws. When word got out about Ralphie’s plight, hundreds of families applied to adopt him. The MSPCA said Monday that he’s “now warm and safe in his new home” with a couple in Brighton, Mass. — Read it at CBS Boston

Justin Bieber Introduces New Puppy

Just in time for Monday’s National Puppy Day, the singer took to Instagram Sunday night to introduce his latest love: Esther the puppy. "Say hello to the newest member of the bieber family #Esther," he wrote with a picture of the pup. The new arrival comes about three months after the passing of Bieber’s family dog, Sammy. — See the photo at People Pets


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