David Bruce: Animals Anecdotes

• Sometimes, whales become entangled in nets and flotation devices left behind by fishermen, leading to death. In 2005 in Gordon’s Bag, South Africa, police diver Eben Lourens cut away most of the ropes entangling a southern right whale. National Sea Rescue Institute Gordon’s Bay Station Commander Stuart Burgess said, “We slowly approached [the whale] until we were about 30m away and then cut the engines. The whale swam up and gently bumped our rescue boat. At that point we got good visuals of the problem.” He added, “We could see the ropes and buoys entangled around the tail and the pieces trailing behind her.” Mr. Lourens was deployed ahead of the whale, and as the whale swam past him, he grabbed onto the fishing net and started cutting the ropes. He cut away most of the ropes and all of the flotation devices. Mr. Stuart said, “Although there is still some rope attached to the whale, we were unable to do more and we suspect that the remaining rope will fall free as it untangles.” Mr. Lourens said, “It’s not something I’d done before, so the adrenalin was pumping through me. But it was very satisfying afterwards.” After the rescue, the whale was swimming much more easily. Mr. Burgess said that commercial crayfishers often left their nets behind: “We find them all the time. In one afternoon recently we found four of them.” The nets are hazardous not only for whales, he said, but also for boats—especially at night. Freeing a whale can be very dangerous—even deadly—work. Nan Rice of the Save the Whales Campaign said, “It is very dangerous to attempt such a thing without the proper equipment and tools. The public must take note and not try and do this by themselves. You cannot swim up to a whale and try to cut it loose. It is extremely dangerous.” In New Zealand, a diver was killed during an attempted whale rescue, she said: “The whale slammed its tail down on top of him, and he was gone. I feel that human lives are just as valuable as those of animals, and I don’t think it is right to risk one for the other.”

• Kaye Harris, the owner of a pony farm in St. Rose, Louisiana, took care of many animals that had been let loose because of Hurricane Katrina. Two such animals were a pony named Molly and a pit bull terrier. Unfortunately, the pit bull attacked Molly, chewing on her jawbone, belly, and all four legs. Ms. Harris said, “He gnawed on this pony like a meat grinder.” She knew that many animals had been traumatized because of Hurricane Katrina, so instead of having the pit bull euthanized, she gave it to people who were skilled in handling problem pets. One of Molly’s legs became infected, and it looked as if Molly would have to be euthanized. However, Ms. Harris persuaded the vets at the veterinary hospital at Louisiana State University to look at Molly. At first, they did not think that they could save Molly, but Dr. Rustin M. Moore, the director of the veterinary school’s equine health studies program and a veterinary surgeon, watched Molly and noticed that she was taking good care of her infected leg and so he thought that she could successfully be fitted with a prosthesis. The vets amputated her infected leg below the knee and fitted her with a prosthesis that had been built and donated by the Bayou Orthotic and Prosthetic Center. Ms. Harris said, “She went out and she went right to putting her weight on it, and I just cried because I knew it was going to work.” After being fitted with her prosthesis, Molly visited a prosthesis center for children who were getting prostheses for missing arms and legs; the children were amazed by the pony with a metal leg.

• Regina Mayer wanted a horse, but her parents would not get her one. Therefore, the teenager, who lives on a farm in southern Germany in the hamlet of Laufen, which is very close to the Austrian border, used what was available and started riding a cow named Luna, even teaching it to jump over a hurdle. The 15-year-old Regina says about Luna, “She thinks she’s a horse.” Teaching Luna took many hours and many treats, but now the two take long rides together. At first, Regina simply put a halter on Luna and took her for a walk, and then gradually she got her accustomed to other riding equipment. After six months, Regina climbed up on Luna’s back. Regina says, “She was really well behaved and walked normally. But after a couple of meters, she wanted me to get off! You could see that she got a bit peeved.” But now Luna understands commands such as the German equivalents of “go,” “stand,” and “gallop.” Anne Wiltafsky, a cow expert near the Swiss city of Zurich, gave Regina advice when requested. Ms. Wiltafsky says about cows, “Especially younger ones can jump really well.” She also pointed out that cows can be “unbelievably devoted” to people. Martin Putzhammer, a 17-year-old neighbor of Regina, says, “At first I thought it was kind of weird—a kid on a cow? Had to get used to it, but once I did I thought it was pretty funny.” Regina still hopes to get a horse one day, but she says about Luna, “She’ll stay my darling.”

• Top, a Great Dane owned by Axel Patzwaldt, saved not just one life, but two. An 11-year-old girl took Top out for a walk one day, but she did not notice a truck coming toward them. Top barked, jumped in front of the 11-year-old, and pushed her out of the path of the truck. Top’s leg was badly damaged by the truck, and for seven weeks his leg was in a cast. When the cast was finally off, Mr. Patzwaldt let Top loose outside, and quickly Top returned, barking loudly. Mr. Patzwaldt followed Top and discovered two-year-old Christopher Conley at the bottom of the apartment complex’s swimming pool. A former lifeguard, Mr. Patzwaldt dove into the pool and rescued Christopher, bringing him to the surface and giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. For saving two lives, Top was named Ken-L Ration Dog Hero of the Year for 1969.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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