Sept. 6, 2013: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

A group of National Guardsmen were reunited with an Afghan dog and her seven puppies on Wednesday.

Veterans Bring Home Dog Family

While they were serving in Afghanistan, a group of New York National Guard soldiers befriended a stray dog they named Sheba. In March, their pal gave birth to a litter of seven puppies, and the Guardsmen nursed the weakened mom and her pups to health — feeding her their Army-issued food, and asking relatives back at home to send dog food. Then, as the U.S. began to pull troops out of Afghanistan, they found out that their base was closing. "It really broke our hearts that we might have to leave them there," said 1st Lt. Joseph LaPenta of Staten Island. They contacted Guardians of Rescue, a group that helps bring war dogs home. And on Wednesday night, Sheba and her 6-month-old puppies Cadence, Rocky, Sarah, Jack, Buckeye, Breezy and Harris were reunited with the soldiers on Long Island. Two soldiers will take home two pups each, and three others will take home one each. Mom Sheba is being assessed to see if she can be certified as a therapy dog to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. — Read it from the AP via CBS News

Bittersweet Farewell for Sarah Silverman’s Dog

The comedian’s tribute to her 19-year-old dog, Duck, has gone viral. Duck, who Silverman rescued at age 5, died on Tuesday. "He was a happy dog, though serene. And stoic. And he loved love," Silverman wrote. "Over the past few years he became blind, deaf, and arthritic. But with a great vet, good meds, and a first rate seeing-eye person named me, he truly seemed comfortable." Finally, though, she knew it was time to say goodbye. Silverman thanked her Twitter followers for their outpouring of condolences. — Read it at Today

500 Baby Sea Turtles Released in Florida

The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in releasing more than 500 sea turtle hatchlings onto sea beds located about 6 miles off the coast of Boca Raton, Fla. Volunteers released 311 threatened loggerhead and 194 endangered green sea turtles, one by one, on Thursday. The babies were rescued from nests throughout Florida and collected at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center to be given a better chance of survival. Only about one in 1,000 hatchlings survives until adulthood. “We all rescue these little guys every morning and knowing that we get to release them and they are healthy and ready to go is pretty awesome,” said marine scientist Melanie Stadler. — Read it from the AP via Yahoo

Mei Xiang cradles her baby girl.

D.C. Zoo Reveals Panda’s Gender

Officials at the Washington zoo said Mei Xiang’s cub is a little girl! They also announced on Thursday that a paternity test showed the baby’s father is Tian Tian, Mei’s partner at the National Zoo. Mei had been inseminated with frozen semen from both Tian Tian and the San Diego Zoo’s male panda Gao Gao in March. The cub was born on Aug. 23, and had a fraternal twin who was stillborn the next day. The tests showed that the cub who didn’t make it was also a girl sired by Tian Tian. Officials said the surviving cub and her mom seem to be healthy, and that they’re pleased to have made it past the critical 10-day mark. "It's got a fat little belly. It's very active. It's very vocal," said senior curator Brandie Smith. "If it needs anything, it definitely lets Mei Xiang and the rest of us know that it needs something." The cub is also starting to show her distinctive black and white markings. — Read it from the AP via USA Today

Buddhist Monks Help Protect Snow Leopards

New research suggests that snow leopards in the Tibetan plateau are being protected by Buddhist monks who live in hundreds of monasteries in the area. The scientists discovered that monks patrol the wilderness to prevent poachers from killing the endangered animals, who are wanted for their fur and are considered valuable in traditional Chinese medicine. Their population has dropped by about 20 percent in the last 20 years. Researchers also found that the monks teach local people that killing the leopards is wrong. "This report illuminates how science and the spiritual values of Tibetan Buddhism can combine their visions and wisdom to help protect China's natural heritage,” said study co-author George Schaller of the conservation group Panthera. The study was published in the journal Conservation Biology.— Read it at Live Science