It's not only the lives of animals themselves that I want to highlight, though. I can think of no better way to close out the year than to celebrate the people — so many of you, so many of us across the world — who rescue animals in danger, distress or need.
Here are four of my favorite examples from 2013.
4. Dolphin Happiness
Speaking of celebrating! When fishermen in Brazil free a dolphin from a plastic bag, the animal, rather than just swimming away, leaps into the air. I'm too cautious to describe the dolphin's action as thanking the fishermen, as some have. The dolphin is so young we can only hope he or she survived what seems to have been a separation from the mother. But at that moment of freedom? That's pure dolphin happiness we're seeing.
Aceituna had arrived at Cameroon's Limbe Wildlife Centre in extremely poor condition after he was confiscated by wildlife officials. As a result of being tied tightly by a rope prior to his arrival, Aceituna's back right flipper was completely rotten, causing pain and a general infection. Limbe's veterinary team successfully amputated the flipper in a complicated procedure and, following a long and carefully monitored rehabilitation period, Aceituna was released to swim free.
We all become rescuers when we adopt our pets from shelters or animal-welfare organizations. Here's a fun series of photographs on BuzzFeed of rescued dogs on the way to their new homes.
1. Frolicking German Dairy Cows
Rescued from a planned slaughter, it's wonderful to see how these former dairy cows respond with joyful emotion to release from their winter quarters. Don't miss this one! The narrative is as inspiring as the visuals.