Pet Scoop: Humans Can Read K-9’s Facial Expressions, Pope Francis Blesses Guide Dog

March 18, 2012: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

What’s This Pup Feeling?

Dog Feelings
From left to right, Mal's expressions here are happy, sad and surprised.

Dogs’ feelings are written all over their faces — and even people with minimal experience with canines can identify their emotions, according to a new study. In an experiment, volunteers were able to correctly identify when Mal, a 5-year-old Belgian Shepherd who’s a police dog, was happy, sad, angry or scared, based only on looking at photos of his face. They had a harder time determining when he was surprised or disgusted. Researchers believe the ability to read a dog’s face comes naturally. “There is no doubt that humans have the ability to recognize emotional states in other humans,” said Dr. Tina Bloom, who led the research. “We have shown that humans are also able to accurately — if not perfectly — identify at least one dog’s facial expressions.” The study was published in the journal Behavioural Processes. — Read it at the U.K.’s Telegraph

New Pope Has Soft Spot for Seeing-Eye Dog

He took the name of the patron saint of animals, so perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the first recipients of a physical blessing from Pope Francis was a guide dog. Asià, a yellow Labrador, was sitting next to his owner, an Italian radio journalist who’s visually impaired, during a gathering for journalists who’d covered the conclave. Vatican officials told the journalist, Alessandro Forlani, that Pope Francis had noticed the dog in the audience and wanted to meet him. “He said, ‘and a special blessing for your dog too,”’ as he bent down to pet Asià, Forlani said. “He broke the ceremonial rules as my presence on stage with Asià wasn’t previously arranged.” — Read it at Discovery News

Boy Rescues Cat From Bullies

Wendell Overton, 10, is being credited with saving a stray cat who was being abused by a group of young boys in his North Carolina neighborhood. Overton stopped the attack and brought the injured cat home to his mother, who took him to an animal clinic to be treated. The kitty, named Jackson, is now resting comfortably and expected to make a full recovery. The boy received praise from his mom and officials at the Outer Banks SPCA for doing the right thing. Jackson is now waiting to be adopted. — Read it at PawNation

Tacoma, a 13-year-old tiger, rests after hip surgery.
Tacoma, a 13-year-old tiger, rests after hip surgery.

Tiger Recovering After Hip Surgery

Tacoma, a 13-year-old Siberian tiger at the In-Sync Exotics wildlife rescue in Texas, is resting after undergoing a delicate surgery to relieve pain from arthritis in his hip. The operation was performed by two veterinarians from Canada. "We're hoping that, based on our past experience with this surgery, that he's got a good prognosis for getting improved function in his hip," said Dr. Doug Whiteside. Tacoma has lived at the rescue since he was less than a year old. "He'll be able to get back up on his platforms again, be able to play with his ball and do all the things that he used to like to do," said Vicky Keahey, the rescue’s founder. — Read it at NBC Dallas-Fort Worth

March Madness Kicks Off With Free Kibble

Here’s something that may help you determine your brackets. Along with the start of college basketball’s March Madness on Tuesday comes the start of the 3rd Annual March Kibble Madness. Each time a team with a dog or a cat as a mascot wins in the tournament, Freekibble.com will donate 100 Halo meals to shelter pets. The Freekibble website was started five years ago by 11-year-old Mimi Ausland. Working with Halo, they donate about 1.5 million pet meals a year to shelters. The March Madness promotion runs through April 8, like the tournament.

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