David Bruce: Animals Anecdotes 

As a wildlife photographer, M. Timothy O’Keefe had to be a patient man, as it took days or weeks to photograph the scenes he wanted. He also had to be quick, as taking the actual photograph took only a second. To focus his camera ahead of time, he used to tape his drivers license to something in the scene he would photograph, such as a tree limb, focus on the license, then remove it. In 1979, he wanted to photograph an owl with a freshly caught mouse, so he picked a tree branch where an owl might enjoy a meal, focused his camera, then waited in a blind. One night, he heard a squeak of a mouse, then the owl settling on the branch. He tripped the shutter, four strobe lights illuminated the branch, and he had the photograph he wanted. Well, almost. Yes, he had photographed the owl and the mouse, but he had also photographed his drivers license, which he had forgotten to remove from the tree limb.

In 1978, just before the all-around finals of the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, a ladybug flew onto gymnast Elfi Schlegel’s leg. Her mother was delighted because she felt that this was a good-luck omen, so she put the ladybug in a jar with some air holes punched in the lid. In fact, young Elfi won the all-around, and during the press conference afterward, her mother told the reporters about the ladybug and showed them the jar. The ladybug received a lot of media attention, and when Elfi and her mother returned home to Toronto, many cards and presents were waiting for them — all with a ladybug theme. Today, even though Ms. Schlegel is grown up, ladybugs are her good-luck charm.

Author Peg Bracken knows a woman who prepared a luncheon for the conductor of her city’s symphony orchestra. The luncheon was truly marvelous, and in the middle of the table were two large silver containers: one filled with fruit salad, and the other filled with a curry mayonnaise. The hostess lifted the lid of the container filled with the curry mayonnaise, and a mouse jumped out onto the conductor’s plate. Ms. Bracken says, “My friend is all right. When I saw her last week, she was sitting up, and we think she’ll be be taking a little nourishment any day now.”

Rabbi Stephen Wise once met a man who boasted about a horse he had recently purchased. The horse could go as fast or as slow as you wanted. It could do any work to which it was put. It was gentle, but it had spirit. It went when you wanted it to go, and it stopped when you wanted it to stop. It had no bad habits, plus it came immediately when called, and it didn’t run off when confronted with something strange. Dr. Wise admired the horse, saying, “I wish that horse were a member of my congregation.”

Opera singer Mary Garden’s sister Helen was very good with animals. Each morning, she would load a basket up with meat and cheese, then walk down the streets of her village, giving each cat and dog in the village a piece of food. A garage in the village had a ferocious dog fenced up, and Helen was the only person who would approach it. The owner of the garage told her, “Madame, if anybody steals anything from my garage I’ll know it is you, because nobody else in the village could pass that gate and live.”

The Right Honorable The Baroness Trumpington of Sandwich, in the County of Kent, visited the National Stud in Newmarket when she was Mayor of Cambridge. Entering a stallion’s box, she patted the stallion, but the Director then asked her, “Are you wearing scent? Because if you are, you must come straight out of there. When the stallions aren’t interested, we put scent on the mares.” She was forced to admit, “Not only am I wearing scent — but I am a Mayor.”

Some jockeys used to carry buzzers, illegal devices that shock a horse and make it run faster. When women jockeys first started racing, some of them found that being female made it easier for them to use buzzers. Jockeys suspected of using buzzers were sometimes frisked in an attempt to find the buzzer, and one woman jockey said as she slipped a buzzer up her sleeve, “”They wouldn’t dare touch me.”

It helps to know what you’re getting into before you get into it. At a rodeo, a girl from Cincinnati, Ohio, entered a bucking stock contest and drew a bull by the name of Bone Crusher. Shortly before she was scheduled to ride, she asked the stock contractor, “What’s going to happen when I get on?” He asked, “Have you ever ridden bucking stock before?” She replied, “No, I haven’t. I’ve never ridden anything before.”

Katheryn Bloodgood, a mezzo-soprano, was singing at Oberlin College when a bat flew into the recital hall. While she was finishing singing a Henschel lullaby that was supposed to end with the word “shu” sung very quietly, the bat flew directly at her. Instead of singing “shu” very quietly, she shrieked the word, then ran offstage to escape from the bat.

Princess, the pet dog of the family of Olympic gold medalist gymnast Bart Conner, was severely arthritic, yet she accompanied Bart’s mother on a three-mile walk every day. The vet told Bart’s mother, “Lady, you’ve just got a motivated dog.” She replied, thinking of her three successful sons, “I’ve got motivated everything.”

During World War II, Spike Milligan and some fellow soldiers were shipped to Algiers. On the voyage, the soldiers became trigger-happy, frequently firing anti-aircraft guns at seagulls. Eventually, the ship’s Captain told them, “Gentlemen, all seagulls in this area are unharmed. Can we refrain from shooting at them?”

While Jay Leno was in high school, he would sometimes hide a dog in a locker. The custodian would have to open as many as 15 lockers before he found the dog. (Jay and his friends used to bet on how many lockers the custodian would have to open.)

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce

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