Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dog files false police report

When they decided that 999 would be a good number to use for emergency calls, the British obviously didn't anticipate what a bad dog could do.

The Telegraph - A 999 operator worriedly returned a call from a suspected domestic violence victim only to discover that the caller was a dog that had stolen its owner's phone.

Officers traced the call, in which a man was heard screaming "Come out or else, I'm warning you", to Jodie Halfpenny's house in Withington, Herefordshire.

The operator, from West Mercia Police, immediately returned the call thinking that the caller might have been attacked after a muffled whine was heard before the line went dead.

But Miss Halfpenny, 20, answered and revealed that the call had been made by mistake – by her 14 month-old golden retriever Bailey.

Bailey had made the call inadvertently after making off with the phone and repeatedly biting down on the number 9 digit.

The muffled voices were Jodie and a male friend, who chased the dog behind their garden shed before wrestling the phone from Bailey's jaws at 4.30pm on Monday.

In this country you can go to jail for this sort of thing, but you know those bunny-hugging British - Bailey apparently got off without even a reprimand.

"After discussing the situation at length, we were satisfied the call was made by the dog and there was no danger."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bigfoot with bad breath

Reported by under the headline "Siberians complain about Bigfoot's appetite:"

The local Shor people in Kemerovo Region, Siberia, are reporting that something is snatching up the wild leek crop that is a staple of their diet, Itar-Tass Siberia reports. The onion-lovers leave behind abundant large footprints with clearly defined toes, similar to the prints found in the area earlier this year, the news service continues.

Bigfoot sightings are common in this remote section of the taiga and they have received attention worldwide... Now local Tashtagol District administrator Vladimir Makuta notes that he has received 14 new written reports of yeti sightings near the cave and the nearby Mrassu River.

It's too late to travel to spend your holiday weekend participating in the investigation of this phenomenon, but you can leave mystifying footprints in the comfort of your own home with the pictured Bigfoot action figure. Not at all elusive, you can find it any time at Archie McPhee. It has stamps on the bottom of its feet and comes with a stamp pad, and is guaranteed not to steal your leeks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Postal service tradition defeated by small dog

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. Associated Press – Cozmo the Jack Russell terrier has done what neither rain, sleet nor the gloom of night has been able to do — keep postal carriers in Clarksburg from their appointed rounds. Postal Service spokeswoman Cathy Yarosky said mail delivery to seven homes on Milford Street was halted because of the 20-pound terrier.

She said a carrier was injured after falling while trying to run away from Cozmo.

Cozmo's owners Jimmy and Justine Marino, said the dog has never bitten anyone. But they acknowledged he has gotten out of the yard a few times.

The Marinos have been told mail delivery won't resume until they get rid of the dog. Jimmy Marino said efforts to find a new home for Cozmo have been unsuccessful.

This blog may need two new categories: "Dogs and Traditional Sayings," for this one and the dog eat dog from last week; and lazy animals injuring people by no more effort than making them fall down: our own pets, this dog, and the nutria of our last post. Come on, at least get off your butt and bite people!

Toothy photo from Flickr user beardenb.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Invasion of the Super-Rats

The nutria is a large, semi-aquatic South American rodent that has escaped from fur farms and established itself in much of the southern US.

One naturalist says “It’s the John Dillinger of invasive species. It doesn’t just change habitat. This sucker eats habitat.”

You may feel safe from the nutria's huge naked rat tail and big orange buck teeth because you live in civilization, not wild wetlands. But not anymore. They're branching out, and the habitat where they're established may now include your local Wal-mart, according to the Associated Press:

NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana woman is suing a Wal-Mart store over what she claims was a much-too-close encounter of the furry kind. Rebecca White says in her lawsuit that employees at a Wal-Mart in Abbeville let a rat-tailed rodent known as a nutria run loose and scare her. She says that not only did employees know it was in their store, but gave it a pet name, Norman, and failed to warn shoppers...

White wants compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, fear, disabling injuries, and medical expenses. Her attorney says the surgery bills aren't in yet, but other medical bills totaled nearly $2,000.

(Click here for the original story at the Abbeville Meridional.)

Don't miss a lovely short documentary on nutria in Louisiana here.

And don't bother moving out of the country to avoid them - that photo, of a nutria that demands a toll payment of food to cross the bridge, is from Flickr user gynti_46 in Germany.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Animal espionage dogs Iranians

The news business has fallen on hard times. How can you doubt it when you can't find any followup to this story from 2007:

Iranian Police Smash Squirrel Spy Ring

SKY NEWS UK Thursday July 12, 2007
Police in Iran are reported to have taken 14 squirrels into custody - because they are suspected of spying.

The rodents were found near the Iranian border allegedly equipped with eavesdropping devices.

The reports have come from the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

The IRNA said that the squirrels were kitted out by foreign intelligence services - but they were captured two weeks ago by police officers.

A Foreign Office source told Sky News: "The story is nuts."

Of course the Foreign office would deny it, but outside experts were also dubious about the accusations against the squirrels. When asked by NPR about the possibility of training squirrels to be spies, professor John Koprowski, co-author of North American Tree Squirrels, suggested that it would be difficult to "channel their elusiveness" into "constructive activity" in the field.

Still, clearly there were squirrels lurking suspiciously near the border - and their fate seems to be unknown. But that hasn't stopped other species from getting into the game, since Iran also arrested some spying pigeons near a nuclear facility in 2008.

Asked to comment on the pigeon story, one diplomat told Sky News, "It's clear there has been some sort of coo in Tehran."

Perhaps there's a bright side to all the sneaky bad behavior on the part of animals in the Middle East. With all the zoos downsizing due to the state of the economy, maybe some of those unemployed keepers can get work as prison staff in Iran.

Squirrel by, once again, the excellent Misterqueue.

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's a dog eat dog world

X-ray of Alfie, a spaniel in England, who ate a toy puppy from a dollhouse.

His owners say "Alfie is back to normal now - running around like a lunatic."

No word on the exact bill for the 'couple of hours of surgery.'

(Detail of photo from Manchester Evening News via the Telegraph.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Extremely unclear on the concept

A police dog in England, adding insult to injury, attacked his handler instead of the guy who shot her in the leg:

Police dog handler Katie Johnson confronted gunman Wayne McDonald and his accomplice David Tyrell after receiving an emergency call over an armed robbery at a pub.

When McDonald blasted her in the leg with a shotgun, she set her dog Chaos on him, believing that he would save the day.

However, instead of jumping on the robber, Chaos bit WPC Johnson on the arm, allowing McDonald, 47, and Tyrell, 39 to flee the scene in Preston, Lancs.

I think I'd have had second thoughts about being assigned a trained attack dog called "Chaos," even before he showed how confused he was about his job. But the policewoman seems oddly unmoved:

WPC Johnson, who had only been paired with Chaos for three weeks when the incident happened, said: "I don't blame Chaos at all, dogs are dogs and not robots."

Uh, right...

(Now we know why they have a sign like the one in the photo taken by Flickr user bartmaguire .)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Equine (lack of) style: bad taste, bad behavior

It has always been my firm opinion that no one looks good with just a mustache. A moustache, no matter how you spell it, should go with a beard like cookies go with milk. And this is not just true for humans - it holds no matter what species you are, as is clearly demonstrated by the ridiculous emperor tamarin:

Sorry, tamarin, those little wisps on your chin are NOT enough to make a difference.

(From Flickr user Nebarnix)

Well, a certain horse in England named Alfie has grown a frightfully tasteless and unnatural mustache, and of course horses don't have beards, so the effect is appalling:

Now, sure you can't blame him for growing it, or for the fact that it isn't even a matching color. But apparently he's actually proud of it, and won't allow it to be trimmed:

The horse...refuses to let staff at the stables in Bitton, Gloucestershire, into his stall there for fear that they will remove his whiskers.

Alfie clearly enjoys the look and groom Justine Greenslade said all efforts to clip it had been in vain...

"He's obviously rather proud of his facial hair," she said.

"He runs a mile if he thinks we're going to trim it."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Boozing bees, part 2: "Not even a college student."

In our last post, we saw the effects of lab-induced drug abuse in bees, which were oddly reminiscent of the effects in humans. But how is that behavior the fault of the bees, you may ask?

Well, they may only get cocaine in labs. But in nature, alcohol is actually their drug of choice.

According to an artice in New Scientist ("Driven to Drink: A Sorry Tale of Bees' Boozy Life," August 8, 1992, p. 14), honey bees drinking fermented nectar have more flying accidents, die younger and are often rejected by teetotalers back at the hive. An Australian entomologist, Dr. Errol Hassan, is looking at bees imbibing both fermented sugar syrup and nectar. The alcohol content can be as high as 10% in these materials and adding fermented syrup or nectar to honey can make it "spiked."

The observation that bees are attracted to alcohol on their own goes back many years, as in this article from the New York Times of Dec 26 1898

The bee, like its human brother, is a frail and temptable creature, whose usefulness depends on absolute abstemiousness... According the credible accounts, the Cuban honey bee, to some extent, has fallen a victim to strong drink. The "workers" find it much nicer to congregate around the sugar mills, where they are always sure to discover sweet juices in ample supply. At first the bees carry on their labors diligently. Then, little by little, they learn that juices from the sugar cane contain alcohol...

Forsaking even the semblance of work, the bees imbibe the intoxicating fluid, and thenceforth the social and mental decline is marked. The sad fact is that the bees get drunk. They fly about in a dazed and listless condition, ambitionless so far as honey making is concerned. Once they have drunk from the fountain of Bacchus, they are moral and physical degenerates.

So researchers are merely taking advantage of their natural tendencies, which they say is exceedingly easy:

Most animals have to be tricked into drinking alcohol, says Charles Abramson of Ohio State University. But a honeybee will happily drink the equivalent of a human downing 10 litres of wine at one sitting.

"We can get them to drink pure ethanol, and I know of no organism that drinks pure ethanol - not even a college student," he says.

But don't try this at home - remember, these are trained professionals. Don't mess with bees!