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Man gives granddaughter notebooks filled with years of written memories

A grandfather’s gift to his granddaughter on her 16th birthday is melting hearts across the country.

>> Read more trending news

Lauren Blank and her grandfather have always had a special bond.

“He has been there for me and has been one of the most influential people in my life,” she told BuzzFeed News.

Blank celebrated her 16th birthday on Wednesday. Her grandfather decided the time was right to share a special gift with her: three notebooks filled with her grandfather’s writing, documenting all the time they spent together from the time Blank was 2 until she was 5.

He documented every encounter the two had together. 

“(Each) notebook is just filled with daily things that we did,” Blank told Buzzfeed. “We went to the zoo a lot, and flew kites, and throughout the notebooks he gave me advice.”

Blank’s grandfather had considered asking her mother to give her the notebooks after he died.

“He waited so long to give it to me because he just wanted me to understand and appreciate the moments that we had together when I was little,” Blank said.

Blank said she and other family members cried when she received the gift. 

“I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this,” she said.

Blank’s tweet with images of the notebooks have garnered more than 500,000 likes.

People have responded to the post saying they want to get closer to their grandparents or hope to do a similar project for their future grandchildren.

Read more on Buzzfeed.

Interior Department first federal agency to allow dogs at work

The cabinet secretary who rode in on a horse his first day of work is leading the pack to make his the first federal agency to be dog-friendly. 

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke announced the “Doggy Days at Interior” program Thursday to nearly 70,000 employees, which would allow them to bring their pooches to work in an attempt to boost morale at the federal agency that includes the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, according to The Washington Post

>> Read more trending news

The program will be tested May 5 and Sept. 1 at the department’s Washington headquarters.

“Today is National Puppy Day, and I don’t know about you, but it makes me think of how much my family dog, Ragnar, makes my day better,” Zinke wrote in an email Thursday. “Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day.”

The dogs will have to be housebroken, vaccinated and have no history of aggression, according to the Post. Zinke also has rules for coworkers who have concerns about having dogs in the workplace including allowing them to work outside of the office. 

Zinke hopes the program will help improve morale at the department, which is ranked 11 out of 18 in a federal government survey.

“Scientific studies show having a dog around the office improves morale and productivity, and having dogs around the office has health benefits like reducing stress levels,” Zinke wrote the Huffington Post reported. “Research suggests it might make you trust your coworker more and improve collaboration, too. I’m willing to give it a shot and hope you’ll work with me in this new endeavor.

Zinke rode Tonto, a U.S. Park Police horse that lives at the stables on the Mall, on his first day of work.


‘Monster’ lizard captured in Florida backyard

Floridians are used to lizards scurrying past them or chilling by pools. 

However, what one Florida woman found sunbathing in her backyard is being compared by some to a dragon or monster of sorts. 

>> Read more trending news

Julie Weiss, of Cape Coral, said wildlife trappers captured a 4-foot-long Nile monitor lizard that was nesting near her yard, WBBH reported. 

Weiss told WBBH the creature used to walk along the seawall or sunbathe in a flower bed, but recently was getting too close to her pets. 

“I’ve never felt threatened by one, like one was going to attack me or anything like that, but it’s the fear and safety of the animals,” Weiss told WBBH.

The lizard might have been after more than just her pets. Burrowing owls are a protected species of the Cape and just happen to be a favorite snack of the Nile monitor lizard, which is why the city tries to trap them. 

“They’re just evil. I mean they’re one step from a Komodo dragon for God’s sake,” Clark Sweeney, Weiss’ neighbor, told WBBH.

Read more at WBBH.

Macy’s, Kmart, JCPenney: More retailers closing brick-and-mortar stores

The news from retailers across the country this quarter has not been good. 

More than two dozen stores and restaurants, including the likes of Macy's, Payless Shoes, Outback Steakhouse and Noodles and Company, have either closed locations or have announce plans to shutter stores across the country.

As people choose e-commerce over shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, experts said customers can expect to see more deserted storefronts and “going out of business” signs.

"It's going to be a year of transition and a year of reckoning and a year of awakening for retailers," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analysis for the NPD Group. NPD Group conducts market research on consumer trends.

More shoppers are eschewing retail outlets for the convenience of online shopping, made sweeter with deals from the likes of Amazon, which offers free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member. 

Amazon has seen the benefits of such features. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the company saw a 22 percent increase in revenue over the fourth quarter of 2015.

U.S. shoppers spent a record high $91.7 billion online during the 2016 holiday season.

While e-commerce is seen as quick and generally easy, a study conducted in 2013 by WD Partners showed that nearly 80 percent of respondents said instant gratification was what got them out of their homes and into the malls. 

Here’s a list of 15 retailers that have announced store closings for 2017.

  • American Apparel – all 110 stores closed
  • CVS – closing 70 stores
  • Chico – closing 120 stores
  • Crocs – closing 160 stores
  • Family Christian – closing all of its 240 stores 
  • JCPenney – closing 138 stores
  • Kmart – closing 108 stores
  • Macy's – closing 63 stores
  • Office Depot – closing 100 stores
  • Payless Shoes – closing 400-500 stores
  • Radio Shack – closing 552 stores
  • Sears – closing 42 stores
  • The Limited – closed 250 stores in January
  • The Children’s Place – closing as many as 200 stores
  • H.H. Gregg – closing 88 stores 

Several restaurant chains have also announced they will be closing locations in 2017 as well.

Forty “underperforming” Carrabba’s, Outback, Bonefish Grill and Flemings restaurants will be closing by the end of the year, according to the company that owns them.

In 2016, chains Bob Evans, Logan’s Roadhouse, Old Country Buffet and Ruby Tuesday all announced restaurant closings.

WATCH: Teen saves choking friend while others stand by

A Wisconsin teenager is alive today thanks to his quick-thinking friend.

>> Read more trending news 

Freshman Will Olson was eating lunch with his friends this week when he started to choke on a piece of food. His classmate Ian Brown immediately knew something was wrong, jumped to his feet and began using the Heimlich Maneuver on Olson.

Other students around them continued eating.

After a few thrusts, the food became dislodged and Olson began to breathe again.

“I could’ve been dead,” Olson told WISN. “I could be dead now. I’m thankful. I can’t say thank you enough for what he did.”

The La Crosse Police Department posted surveillance video of the incident to its Facebook page where it said Brown had learned the life-saving technique when he took a training course with the police department. Brown had participated in the department’s Police Explorer program, which exposes teenagers who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement the basics of policing, including first aid training, according to KTRK-TV

Nearly 1 million pounds of chicken recalled due to ‘metal objects’

An Oklahoma company is recalling nearly 1 million pounds of breaded chicken products sold nationwide after customers complained of finding “metal objects” in the food.

>> Read more trending news

About 933,300 pounds of OK Food Inc. breaded chicken products fall under the recall, according to a notice issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The chicken was sold under various brand names, including Wal-Mart’s Great Value store brand. The products were also sold to institutions across the country.

 >> See the full list of recalled OK Food Inc. chicken products

The affected chicken products have establishment No. P-7092 in the USDA mark of inspection.

The recall comes after five people complained of finding metal in OK Food Inc.’s chicken. Personnel with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service also found metal in the products.

OK Food Inc. determined that the food was tainted by metal from a conveyor belt.

No injuries or illnesses have been reported.

Man, 72, suffocates wife, drags body to car in broad daylight, police say

A Texas man was arrested and charged with murder after police responded to a call about a man seen dragging a body from a house to a car in broad daylight, police said. 

When police arrived to the home inside a gated community, they saw Joseph Scala, 72, leaning against a vehicle, and the body of his wife Betty Scala, 72, on the ground next to it around 11 a.m. Thursday, according to WFAA.

Scala told officers he suffocated his wife, Sgt. Chris Brichetto, a Granbury police spokesman, told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

>> Read more trending news

"She was laying next to the vehicle. He was kind of trying to catch his breath,” Brichetto told KDFW. “That is what was reported to me. They asked what happened. He said, ‘I suffocated her.’”

The couple lived in Arlington, but Betty was staying with a friend in Granbury. Joseph Scale did not give a reason for or say what lead up to the incident, Brichetto said.

“She was staying out here with a friend. He was not,” Brichetto said. “So he drove out here today, apparently for that reason."

Missing teen found after catching coal train to Texas, police say

A Texas teen who went missing last week while visiting Colorado with her family was found about 300 miles away after she hopped on a coal train bound for the Lone Star State, Colorado Springs police said Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news

Adalie Rivera, of Lubbock, Texas, vanished on the morning of March 17 after leaving the Quality Inn Colorado Springs Airport hotel room that she was sharing with her family.

Police said she got onto a coal train in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area and traveled to a farm community near Dumas, Texas, about two hours north of Lubbock.

“She actually got out of the coal car because she ran out of Skittles and she was hungry, so bless her heart,” Colorado Springs police Lt. Howard Black told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

A farmer on Tuesday found Adalie covered in coal dust and notified the Moore County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies took custody of Adalie until her family could get her.

She was found safe, despite being missing for about four days, police said.

Authorities don’t expect to file any charges in the disappearance.

Firefighter uses mouth-to-snout resuscitation to save dog

Firefighters used mouth-to-snout resuscitation, bringing a dog back from the brink of death after it was found in an apartment fire Tuesday.

Neighbors told Crystal Lamirande, 35, that her apartment was on fire as she was returning to her unit around 4 p.m. Nalu, her 10-year-old bichon frise/shih tzu was still inside. Thick, acrid smoke blocked Lamirande from entering.

Santa Monica firefighter Andrew Klein rushed in and, moments later, carried Nalu’s limp, lifeless body out as other members of the crew fought the blaze for about 10 minutes.

>> Read more trending news

"His eyes were glazed over, and he was not breathing, and I assumed he was dead," Lamirande told The Associated Press. "The firefighter said, 'I'm a positive person. Let's just get him back.'"

Klein and other rescuers spent 20 minutes using life saving techniques to get Nalu breathing again, including a special pet oxygen mask, CPR and mouth-to-snout resuscitation. 

"He was totally lifeless," Klein said. "I picked him up and ran out of the apartment, because time is key, especially with a small dog. Failure was not an option."

Nalu started breathing again and even walked around. Lamirande took him to an animal hospital, where Nalu spent the next 24 hours in an oxygen chamber to recover. 

"He's been coughing, but right now, he's fine, and he's so happy and smiling," she said Thursday.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire. 

Policeman accused of abandoning emaciated dog in park

A Philadelphia police officer was charged with animal cruelty Thursday, four months after investigators believe he put his starving pit bull mix into a trash bag and abandoned her at a park.

>> Read more trending news

Authorities charged Officer Michael Long, 33, with multiple counts of animal cruelty following an investigation by the Pennsylvania SPCA and the police department’s Internal Affairs Unit.

Long, an 11-year veteran of the police department, has been suspended from the force for 30 days with the intent to dismiss, police said in a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pennsylvania SPCA director of Humane Law Enforcement Nicole Wilson told KYW-TV that the abandoned pit bull was micro-chipped, which led investigators to Long.

Officers with the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Humane Law Enforcement team found the dog in November after a passer-by spotted her head poking out of a garbage bag in Wissahickon Valley Park. Authorities brought the severely underfed dog to the Pennsylvania SPCA’s shelter.

The dog was found just before Thanksgiving and named Cranberry. Veterinarians estimate she is around 2 years old.

Veterinarians caring for Cranberry were unsure in November whether she would recover from her previous owner’s lack of care, but she survived and was adopted in December, Pennsylvania SPCA officials said.

“She is currently living in a home in Malvern soaking up life as a couch potato very happy and most of her updated pictures come back exhausted by how happy she is,” Wilson told KYW-TV.

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