We begin this week with a life-saving black Labrador named Orlando, to whom Cecil Williams is eternally grateful for the dog's loyalty and vigilance. Williams, who is blind, slipped and fell onto the subway tracks in New York, and his service dog Orlando went down with him. With a train fast approaching, Orlando stayed with Williams between the tracks, and the two were, miraculously, able to lay low while the train went over the top of them, without much room to spare!
While we're on the subject of pet heroics, let's check in on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and that organization's "Cat of the Year," Koshka. She was a stray kitten in Afghanistan, one whose battered little body put her at great risk on the streets. Luckily for her, Koshka was taken in by U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jesse Knott. Knott brought Koshka back to health over the course of seven months, and in turn the military man credits Koshka's compassion and presence with seeing him through the darkest days of his deployment. Koshka now resides in Oregon, after Knott's family helped him arrange for the cat to be brought to the United States.
Not to be left out, we now turn to the ASPCA's "Dog of the Year," Xena, who was first discovered by animal control officials in Dekalb County, Ga. There were reports of a very malnourished, barely alive, abandoned pit bull puppy, and, sure enough, they found Xena and brought her to a shelter. The founder of a local animal group then took her in and watched as the hard-luck pup regained her strength. Xena later went on to become the companion of an eight-year-old autistic boy.
From all of the cat and dog heroics above sea level, we now take a turn for the decidedly playful. This grey seal was timid at first, when reaching out to the funny thing with the fins and shiny blob on it back. But in the end it couldn’t resist playing with the diver’s drysuit glove. The moment was captured in the waters off of Norway, the photo later entered in the 2013 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition, organized by the Underwater Photography Guide.
If you were thinking, "I hope there are penguin chicks in the next slide," you're in luck. This enormous gathering of chicks lives in remote East Antarctic. A team from Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station estimates there are 15,000 penguins living in four groups at the colony, on East Antarctica's Princess Ragnhild Coast. That's enough to make 2,500 hockey teams.
A snowy owl, no doubt full of wisdom, glides over a northern landscape. The fluffy white birds have swooped down upon the eastern United States in greater migratory numbers than at any time in at least 50 years. They're typically found in the Arctic and are rarely seen south of the Great Lakes. Fun fact: Unlike many other owls, snowy owls are active during the day. Not everyone can adapt to night-shift work.
If you're wondering what this is, well, you're probably not alone. It's a humped bladderwort (tough break, in the name department), an aquatic carnivorous plant, and it won first place in this year's Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition. In the photo, you can see the floating plant catching its prey, microinvertebrates that are sucked into its trap a millisecond after they touch its trigger hairs. "It's a plant," you might be thinking, "and this is an animals gallery!" True enough, but we're bending the rules for the neat pic, and because it sure acts like an animal. It might not even know it's a plant.
And now back to animals. Here, a young wild boar in winter trods along the snow in search of food.
Christmas came five days early to raccoon Bella, who searches for fruit, nuts and cat food in a Christmas bag at the zoo in Hanover, Germany on Dec. 20, 2013. The zoo keepers gave their animals gifts for Christmas, which only seems fair. If a human child got only nuts, fruit and cat food for Christmas, there would be much wailing. But they're glorious treats to a raccoon.
Dutch zoo keepers got in on the act, too, treating their animals to some early Christmas surprises. The white lions of Ouwehands Zoo, in the Dutch city Rhenen, got gifts to, er, tear open on Dec. 19, 2013. When the little predators entered their outdoor enclosure, they found a real Christmas tree with Christmas gifts waiting for them. At first, they were much more interested in the tree, but eventually they got their claws into the wrapped presents. Among the best gifts was a large rattle, which is meant to encourage the hunting instinct of the young lions.