L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
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Category: Animals Helping Animals

Agoura Hills dog adopts baby squirrel

A Shih Tzu mother of three puppies has taken one extra baby -- a squirrel -- under her paw and is raising it as her own, our colleagues at KTLA report.

Princess, the admirable surrogate mother, belongs to Doug and Corinne Thomas of Agoura Hills.  A neighbor found the tiny infant squirrel, a female, after she was apparently abandoned by her mother.  But the neighbor had no luck convincing the baby to eat and worried about her chances for survival.  A plan was hatched: Give the tiny creature to Princess, who had recently given birth to her own litter.

In short order, Princess was caring for the squirrel as if it were her own offspring, and the Thomases say that both squirrel and puppies are thriving. 

"If humans could be more like Princess and the squirrel and the little pups, we would all get along a lot better," Corinne Thomas told KTLA.  "It doesn't matter what you have on the outside, it's on the inside."

When she's not busy with parenting duties, Princess is a therapy dog, working with autistic children.  When the puppies are old enough, the Thomases hope they'll receive new homes where they can follow in their mother's footsteps -- with families raising autistic kids. 

As for the squirrel -- whom they've given the (let's face it) rather uninspired name "Squirl" -- the Thomases plan to keep her, since she can't be rereleased into the wild.  They hope she also will join her adoptive mother and work with autistic kids in the future.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: KTLA

Your morning adorable: Dog nurses red panda cubs in Chinese zoo

A white dog cares for two red panda cubs

At the Taiyuan Zoo in northern China's Shanxi province, a red panda gave birth to two cubs unexpectedly on June 25. "No one knew she was pregnant" because the panda's bushy fur and general plumpness masked her telltale burgeoning stomach, zoo employee Ha Guojiang told China's state news agency. 

Immediately after the two cubs were born, they were abandoned by their mother -- so zoo staff set about finding a suitable adoptive mother. Several female dogs that had recently given birth to their own litters of puppies were considered for the gig, the Associated Press reports.  Zoo staff chose this willing candidate, a white mixed-breed owned by a farmer who lives in a neighboring suburb. 

She takes to her duties so enthusiastically, Ha said, that she sometimes even denies her own puppy milk in favor of the red pandas. The cubs are reportedly thriving and have doubled in length over the last weeks (they now measure about 8 inches long).  As adults, they'll be about the size of a house cat (but with much larger, bushier tails than most cats) and spend most of their time in trees. 

Red pandas are native to China, Myanmar and Nepal; they're classified as endangered because of habitat loss as a result of deforestation.  See another photo of the adoptive mom and cubs after the jump!

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Your morning adorable: Surrogate doggy dad watches over orphaned kittens

Dog and kittens

Submitter wg explains that these little guys are "two of five feral kittens who lost their mothers"; wg took them in and cared for them with the aid of a certain large dog with a fatherly instinct. He "loves them, and they love him," wg says. Now that's the kind of story we like to hear!

For more photos of love among members of the animal kingdom (or to submit your own), check out the Four-Legged Friends album at The Times' photo-sharing site, Your Scene.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: wg / Your Scene

Your morning adorable: Australian shepherd nurses orphaned kittens

Lakota, a 7-year-old Australian shepherd, looks after and nurses a litter of four kittens

When a mother cat was hit by a car and killed last month in Snohomish County, Wash., north of Seattle, her four kittens were orphaned. Fortunately for them, they happened to be living in the barn belonging to Colleen and Robert Nesseth -- and they had a willing surrogate mother in the form of the Nesseths' Australian shepherd, Lakota.

Lakota took an immediate interest in the kittens, whom the Nesseths brought inside in a box. She began caring for them, grooming them and even letting them suckle (although the Nesseths aren't sure whether  she's actually producing milk for them -- they bottle-feed the kittens just to be sure they are fed).

Lakota gave birth to her own litter of puppies once and has even cared for a kitten in the past.  "It just shows you don't have to give birth to be a mother," Colleen Nesseth told the Everett Herald.

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Your morning adorable: Dachshund adopts tiger cub in German zoo

A tiger cub was adopted by a wirehaired dachshund at a small zoo in Germany

A tiger cub born last weekend at Germany's Stroehen Zoo has already experienced the loss of two mother figures in its short life.  The cub was rejected by its mother shortly after its birth.  Things began looking up when the cub was adopted by Monster, a wirehaired dachshund that belonged to the zoo's owners.  But Monster himself died unexpectedly.

After Monster's death, his daughter Bessi (shown here with the cub) took over mothering duties -- indeed, a zoo representative said she "fell in love" with the infant and has proved a capable guardian.

More photos of Bessi and her as-yet-unnamed charge after the jump!

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WebClawer: Dog searches for tigers by following the scent of their droppings; giant rats hunt for landmines

Maggie the tiger "hunter" jumps as she plays with an officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia From elusive Cambodian tigers and the dogs who aim to find them to giant (and heroic?) rats, the Web is chock full of animal news:

-- It sounds like a joke without the punch line: How do you tell if tigers still roam your nature reserve? Get a dog to hunt for their droppings. A German wirehaired pointer named Maggie will do just that at Cambodia's 1,158-square-mile Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area beginning next week. Maggie was trained in Russia, where the idea to use dogs to find elusive tigers was pioneered. Since then, dogs have been employed in South America (where they searched for jaguars) and Africa (leopards), but Maggie's project marks the first time the method has been tried in Asia. "We think this is the best method when we have a large area and not that many tigers," said Hannah O'Kelly of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Another Russian-trained dog is set to join Maggie later this year as part of the $10-million, 10-year "Tigers Forever" initiative that aims to increase the tiger population by 50% in countries including Cambodia, China, India and Thailand. (Associated Press)

-- In Mozambique and Tanzania, giant Gambian pouch rats (which can grow to be about the size of a raccoon) are being used to sniff out land mines. One advantage of using rats for this purpose, according to the group HeroRATS, is that -- unlike sniffer dogs -- they're too small to set off the mines. A team of two rats and their handlers can clear two 100-square-meter fields a day, and the rats are rewarded with bananas when they detect a mine. (Gizmodo)

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