September 19, 2017

A chihuahua-dachshund mix named Sir LaRue Winnieschnitzle — aka Chewbarka — saved several lives when he alerted his family to a fire about to engulf their Florida home.

Early one recent Tuesday, James and Theresa Parsons woke up to Chewbarka, 3, barking his head off. He wouldn't stop, so Theresa Parsons got up to see what was making him so upset; once at the back of the house, she saw the porch was on fire. "It was a wall of flames," James Parsons told the Tallahassee Democrat. The Parsons ran to the front door and escaped. Firefighters estimated that the house sustained $85,000 worth of damage, and while the family was safe, they lost nearly everything, including heirlooms.

The fire took place on Theresa Parsons' birthday, and despite the devastation, the family is looking at the bright side — neighbors have rallied to give their teenage son with autism a new Nintendo 3DS to replace the one burned in the fire, James Parsons was able to sift through the ashes and find his wife's wedding band and engagement ring, and, of course, their dog Chewbarka is a hero. "Everything happens for a reason but we don't know what the outcomes are going to be," Theresa Parsons told the Tallahassee Democrat. "But we stand firm in our faith." Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2017

At the age of 8, Sophia Spencer has done something many scientists only dream of: She co-authored a paper that was published this month in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Spencer, who lives in Canada, loves bugs — snails, slugs, caterpillars, and her personal favorite, grasshoppers. When the kids at school started making fun of her because they thought it was weird for her to be so interested in bugs, Spencer's mom wrote a letter to the Entomological Society of Canada, asking if they could share any words of encouragement, Quartz reports. After the request hit Twitter, support started flooding in for Spencer, and Morgan Jackson, an entomologist at the University of Guelph Insect Collection, decided to publish a paper on the importance of social media making science accessible to a greater audience. He asked Spencer to be his co-author.

Jackson analyzed social engagement and the topics that were brought up, like getting more women involved in STEM, while Spencer wrote about her love of insects and what it was like to speak with entomologists. The tide has turned at school, Spencer said, and now the kids think bugs are cool and they use her microscope to get a closer look. "If somebody said bugs weren't for girls, I would be really mad at them," she said. "I think anything can be for anybody, including bugs." Catherine Garcia

September 14, 2017

Philip Osborn never knew he had a sister until he moved in next door to her. After living in Florida for years, Osborn recently moved back to a Michigan retirement home to be closer to his family. His new neighbor, Marilyn Meyers, adopted at birth, had spent the past few decades searching for her biological family — so when she heard that someone with the last name Osborn had just moved in, she started investigating. After confirming small bits of family history, they were shocked to discover they were siblings. "I've always wanted to be an older brother," Osborn told Fox17. "It's divine intervention." Christina Colizza

September 14, 2017

Jane Fine Foster was shopping in Grand Junction, Colorado, earlier this year when she did a double take.

As she walked by A Robin's Nest Antiques, Foster saw three very familiar pictures in a long frame. They were of her mother, taken at her wedding in 1948. Foster thought she'd never see the photos again — her family had missed a payment in 2003 on their storage unit, and the contents, including the pictures and her mother's wedding dress, were auctioned off. She made dozens of calls, trying to track the items down, but finally gave up. "All my life, we saw this wedding picture on the wall in my home," Foster told Inside Edition. "I stood there and I blinked and I blinked and you blink again and think, 'Oh, you're seeing things.' That really was my mother's wedding photo."

She went inside and shared her story with the owner, who shocked her once again by saying he also had the wedding gown, which was downstairs. Foster's mother died in 2013, and having her dress back is a dream come true. "She touched this fabric and I can touch it now and think of her," she said. Catherine Garcia

September 12, 2017

Hailey Dawson comes from a baseball-loving family, and she has set a lofty goal for herself: to throw out the first pitch at every Major League Baseball park.

The 7-year-old was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare birth defect that left her right hand without a pointer, ring, and middle finger. Her mother, Yong Dawson, approached the University of Nevada Las Vegas' engineering department, and asked if they could make a robotic hand for her daughter. Using fishing wire and a 3D printer, they created a hand just for Hailey.

Hailey's dad coaches baseball and her brother plays, and Yong told Today "there's always baseball on TV at our house," so it's no surprise that Hailey has taught herself how to throw a ball, using her robotic hand. Word is spreading about her quest to throw first pitches at every park, and over the past two years, she's wowed crowds at Nationals Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

This week, Hailey has been invited by several teams, including the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland A's, to throw first pitches, and she's excited to not only participate, but also spread awareness of Poland Syndrome. "She doesn't think she's different," Yong told Today. "She says she has a special hand. When I tell her that other people are inspired by her, she says, 'I'm just being me.'" Watch a clip of Hailey throwing the first pitch at an Orioles game two years ago below. Catherine Garcia

September 12, 2017

An uninvited guest named Irma ruined their original wedding plans, but two members of the Air National Guard came up with a last-minute solution.

Senior airmen Lauren Durham, 24, and Michael Davis, 26, were supposed to get married this past weekend on a Florida beach, but both were deployed to help with Hurricane Irma relief efforts. On Sunday, they were eating breakfast at the Orange County Convention Center with fellow Guard members and outside relief workers who came to Florida to help, when it was suggested they get married inside the hangar. "It just kind of unfolded," Durham told The Associated Press. "And it turned out to be really great."

Dressed in fatigues and carrying a bouquet of orange flowers someone was able to rustle up, Durham said "I do" to Davis in front of friends and strangers in the hangar. Their best friend in the Guard is a notary, and she officiated the ceremony, which ended with Skittles for everyone instead of wedding cake. Durham and Davis have been together for five years, and while this wasn't the wedding they planned, it was fitting for two members of the Guard. "Service before self," Davis said. Catherine Garcia

September 10, 2017

When five friends ventured outside of their emergency shelter in Manatee County, Florida, on Sunday afternoon and saw two manatees stranded on the beach, they quickly tried to come up with a plan to save them.

Hurricane Irma caused the water in Sarasota Bay to recede toward its eyewall, leaving the manatees beached 100 yards from deeper water, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. The friends — Tony Foradini-Campos, Emily Reisinger, Steven Reisinger, Michael Sechler, and Donovan Norton — took photos of the manatees and posted them on social media, hoping someone who could do something to help the manatees would see the pictures. "We had to do something about it," Foradini-Campos told the Herald-Tribune. "We couldn't just let those manatees die out there."

In just four hours, the post was shared 6,100 times, and deputies and officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission saw it and arrived at the beach with tarps that they used to get the manatees back into the water.

"It's an amazing story," Foradini-Campos said. "It shows what people can do when they come together." Catherine Garcia

September 7, 2017

A stray dog that narrowly escaped being put down is helping to save lives after Hurricane Harvey. Rocket, a lively border collie mix from Sacramento, was put on a euthanasia list in 2012, after the shelter holding the pooch deemed him too unpredictable for adoption. But National Disaster Search Dog Foundation volunteer Andrea Bergquist saw something special in Rocket's energy and saved him. Now the professionally trained canine is sniffing out storm survivors amid the wreckage in Houston. "It is truly amazing to see how far Rocket has come," Bergquist said. Christina Colizza

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