David Bruce: Animals Anecdotes

The great Shakespearean actor Sir Ralph Richardson had a pet mouse which he sometimes took for a walk so it could get some exercise. Once, he was walking in a gutter over the mouse — to protect it — when a passing police car stopped to investigate. Sir Ralph explained, “I’m taking my mouse for a walk.” The police officer recognized him and offered to use his flashlight so that Mr. Richardson could better see the mouse. For a while, there was a little parade — the police officer with a flashlight, the mouse captured in the beam of the flashlight, and Sir Ralph Richardson watching over the mouse. Eventually, Sir Ralph felt that his pet mouse had gotten enough exercise, so he put him in his pocket, thanked the police officer, and returned to his hotel.

In January 1933, the great dancer Bill Robinson, aka Mr. Bojangles, was dancing at the Loews State Theater in New York, when a rat made its way onstage. At first Mr. Bojangles ignored the rat, but members of the audience began to see it and started screaming. Mr. Bojangles knew that the audience would panic, so he picked up a block of wood and began dancing toward the rat. In the middle of the stage, he threw the block of wood at the rat, wounding it, then ran over to it and brained it with the wood — to the orchestra’s long drumroll followed by clashing cymbals. The newspapers the next day gave much play to the story.

A Quaker had a cow that had the habit of kicking over the milk bucket. One day, the Quaker started milking the cow, and when the milk bucket was half full, the cow kicked it over. So the Quaker started milking the cow again, and when the bucket was half full again, the cow kicked it over again. Once more, the Quaker started milking the cow, but for a third time the cow kicked over the milk bucket. Finally, the Quaker, a nonviolent person, could stand it no longer. He walked to the head of the cow and told it, “Friend cow, thee knows I will not curse thee. And thee knows I will not beat thee. But has thee considered that I can sell thee to a Presbyterian?” (Note: Presbyterians are welcome to change the end of this story.)

The prophet Isaiah says that when the Messiah comes, a lion and a calf will lie down together. Once a man went to a zoo, where he was astonished to see a lion and a calf lying down together. He asked the zoo keeper how long this had happened, and the zoo keeper replied, “Around three years.” The man asked, “I haven’t heard that the Messiah has come. How do you get a lion and a calf to lie down together?” “It’s easy,” said the zoo keeper. “Every morning we put a new calf in the pen.”

Alicia Markova was fond of cats, and she often made friends with the cats in whatever theaters she performed in. Unfortunately, at His Majesty’s Theater in London, this almost led to a faux pas on stage, when Peter, the theater cat, decided to look for Alicia. Just before he trotted onto the stage where Alicia was performed, he was intercepted. After that incident, she was discouraged from making friends with theater cats.

Arturo Toscanini once conducted the New York Philharmonic in a Sunday radio broadcast of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. A flock of canaries was loose in an apartment while the occupant listened to the broadcast. The canaries were silent for the symphony’s first three movements, but when the Choral Finale began they flew to the radio, settled on it, and sang with the music. Maestro Toscanini was greatly pleased with this story.

As young men, Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks were out riding in the country when they got lost, so Albert stopped the car and asked a cow for directions. The cow moved its head, probably because of a fly, and Albert started driving in that direction, saying, “He knows. He lives around here.” The cow’s directions were accurate, and Albert and Rob made it back home again.

Comedian Wally Cox was a bird expert. At his farm in Connecticut, birds even flew to him and rested on his hands and arms. One of his friends wanted very much to do this. She learned the proper birdcalls, but the chickadees wouldn’t come to her the way they came to Wally. Finally, the woman put on Wally’s hat and coat — seconds later, she was covered with birds.

Abraham Lincoln used to tell a story about a man who was attacked by a farmer’s boar. The man grabbed a pitchfork and killed the boar. The farmer, however, was not pleased by the loss of a valuable animal, so he complained to the man, “Why didn’t you use the blunt end of the pitchfork?” The man replied, “Why didn’t the boar attack me with his blunt end?”

At a public park, a woman told author Michael Thomas Ford, who was walking his dog, “Can’t you read the signs? Dogs have to be on leashes. What if your dog attacks my little girl?” Mr. Ford looked at the little girl, who was happily playing with his dog, then he replied, “I’ll tell you what. If he bites her, I’ll have him shot. And if your little girl bites him, I’ll have her shot.”

Acting with animals can be difficult. In Mrs. Brown, Judi Dench had a tender love scene in which she was seated on a pony. The scene had to be shot many times, not through any fault of Ms. Dench’s, but because the pony kept loudly passing gas.

Michael Douglas once interviewed the Japanese wife of singer and animal-lover Wayne Newton, asking, “Have you always liked animals?” She replied, “No, not until I met Wayne.”

On his TV show House Party, Art Linkletter interviewed a little girl whose fish had recently died. He asked whether the fish had gone to fish heaven, but the little girl replied, “No, I threw him down the toilet.”

Gay comedian Bob Smith knows a gay couple who named their dogs Lorna, Liza, and Joey — which are the names of Judy Garland’s children.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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