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Dec. 23, 2015: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
A loyal Australian Sheepdog is being credited with keeping a 2-year-old girl alive after she wandered off from her family’s home in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday. Sophia was playing outside when she wandered off on the family’s 65-acre farm at about 7:30 p.m., wearing only a T-shirt and a diaper. With the help of the police and a search team of 100 people found the little girl 7 hours later, still with 1-year-old Poppy. "Ultimately the dog was the one who alerted us to her presence, because one of the search and rescue guys heard the dog barking,” said Warragul Police Sergeant Graeme Carter. "If [the dog] wasn't with her, I don't know whether they would have found her,” said Sophia’s grandmother, Vera Cook, reported Australia’s ABC Online. The family is grateful to Poppy for taking care of Sophia. They said her “loyal puppy” will be well fed. — Read it at Australia’s 7 News
A new study suggests dogs often copy the facial expressions of others in a phenomenon known as “emotional contagion,” where an individual instantly shares the same emotional state of another. This is the first time it’s been proven in dogs. "If you live in a group and you share with companions many interests and goals, you must understand his or her emotional state, and the only way to do that is to 'read' his or her behavior and facial and body expressions," explained lead author Elisabetta Palagi of the Italian Primatological Association. “Via emotional contagion, you take part in a social life; you create an emotional bridge between you and others. It is essential for the social life to evolve." The researchers documented that in less than one second, many of the dogs in a dog park would copy the expressions of other dogs. The findings were published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. — Read it at Discovery News
With only three Northern white rhinos left in the world, an international team of scientists has come up with a new plan to try to save the species. Their goal is to use the remaining three rhinos and stem cell technology to try to create a self-sustaining population. If the plan works, gametes can be introduced into surrogate mothers to produce fertile northern white rhinos. — Read it at Science Daily
When thieves broke into a home in Claygate, England, on Saturday, they took two iPads, costume jewelry — and the family’s 22-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppy. But thankfully, Maximus is back home just in time for Christmas. The pup was found on a street 13 miles from the Dowling family’s home and brought to a kennel, where his identity was confirmed through his microchip. “Words cannot describe the feeling of seeing, then holding and then hugging Maximus when we were reunited with him at Treetops Kennels,” said owner Sandra Dowling, in a statement from the Surrey Police. “We are all over the moon now he is home, safe and asleep. He has eaten and has had lots of hugs.” — Read it at the U.K.’s Evening Standard
Happy birthday, Colo! The Western lowland gorilla celebrated her 59th birthday at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio Tuesday with an ice cake filled with her favorite treats, including clementines and tomatoes. Officials say Colo is the oldest known gorilla living in a zoo. She was born at the Columbus Zoo in 1956, becoming the first gorilla in the world to be born in human care. She now has more than two dozen descendants living in zoos around the country. “It’s not yet the big 6-0, but it’s the big 5-9! Because she is so old, every single day with her, not just her birthday, is a gift,” said the zoo’s Audra Meinelt. — Read it from the AP via Ohio’s WKYC
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