2012.01.11 Notable year for dogs, crocs, birds and more

Written by David Green.


I’m hoping 2012 will be another year of animals in the news. They’re fun to write about and opposed to humans, unlikely to send whiny, complaining letters to the editor. I just wish I knew what happened to some of 2011’s famous animals, like, for instance, Gena the crocodile. 

Last winter, Gena swallowed a cell phone dropped by a careless visitor to his aquarium home in Ukraine. Aquarium workers could hear the phone ringing in the poor reptile’s stomach. When the story made the news, Gena had not eaten in a month and no longer was playing with his croc friends. A risky operation to remove the phone was considered (and actually performed, according to one account). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down any updates on Gena.

Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know the rest of the story. I was happy to hear about the steer that escaped from a meat-processing facility. Upon arrival at the plant near Mount Pleasant, the steer discovered an open door and hoofed it to freedom, at least temporarily.

He was nearly caught at a Burger King some distance away (the article doesn’t say whether or not he ordered a Whopper), but escaped again, crossing a five-lane highway before being killed by police who claimed the steer was “large, agitated and dangerous.” I can’t say I blame the steer for being agitated. Wouldn’t you be?

A sad fate also awaited Andre the sea turtle. Found stranded on a sandbar off the Florida coast in June of 2010, Andre suffered from a variety of injuries including holes in his shell (apparently from boat strikes), a collapsed lung, an exposed spinal cord, plus an infection and pneumonia.

Several new procedures were developed to care for and rehabilitate Andre, and after 14 months, he was released back into the ocean. Just three weeks later, his body was discovered on a nearby island. A tag placed on him before his release confirmed his identity, but he was in such bad condition, a cause of death couldn’t be determined.

An emperor penguin found ill in New Zealand thousands of miles from its Antarctic home similarly died just a few days after being released following treatment.

Birds also grabbed a share of news in 2011. A Jackson man was sentenced to 10 months in jail for parrot abuse. He was carrying it in a backpack in Ann Arbor when witnesses reported that he shook it so hard that feathers were scattering. He told police he was “disciplining and training” the parrot.

It’s too bad he wasn’t sentenced to serve his time in a Brazilian prison which added two geese to its security force. The warden of the Sobral prison said the geese make a lot of noise when they sense “strange movements,” alerting guards to potential problems.

A veterinarian in Oregon saved an injured bald eagle by performing “mouth to beak” resuscitation. The eagle, which had been found in June with a dislocated shoulder and paralyzed right leg, was under anesthesia during physical therapy when it stopped breathing. Dr. Jeff Cooney was able to revive the eagle, who was lucky Cooney knew CPR.

Meanwhile, England is being invaded by thousands of rose-ringed parakeets, native to India and Africa. It is believed that initially they either escaped from bird cages or were released by owners. But scientists can’t yet explain how they are multiplying so fast.

The English population was estimated at 1,500 in 1995. Ten years later, that number had jumped to 30,000. The parakeets ravage crops in India, but so far, the British contingent seems happy raiding bird feeders. 

And finally, every dog may not have its day, but one finally received his own postage stamp. Owney, mascot of the Post Office’s Railway Mail Service in the late 1800s, was famous for traveling the country and, eventually, the world, in train cars carrying the mail. 

Owney collected hundreds, if not thousands, of metal mailbag tags during his travels, many of which were displayed on a harness given to him by Postmaster General John Wanamaker. Owney was shot and killed in Toledo in 1897 (details of the circumstances are sketchy) and his mail clerk friends paid to have him preserved. In 1911, the Postal Service transferred Owney’s body to the Smithsonian Institution and his 100th year there was marked on July 27th with a stamp in his honor.    

That sounds like a nice tribute to Owney. Now if only they’d make a crocodile-shaped cell phone to honor Gena.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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