Dogs, cats, and animals of every stripe trended in 2013 with stories ranging from inspiring tales of man's best friend demonstrating devotion to agile felines being employed by both criminals and cops to commit and solve crimes, as well as a slew of terrifyingly tragic shark attacks and killer bee encounters.
America’s #1 Dog & The Obama’s Sunny
For the 22nd year in a row, the Labrador retriever retained the No. 1 spot as most popular dog in the United States
, according to the American Kennel Club, however as far as the first family is concerned, the Portuguese Water Dog remains their favorite, having acquired a second furry family member of the breed in August, which they named Sunny
. In April 2009, the first family received their first Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, as a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy.
When it came to reaffirming the adage "man’s best friend," there was no shortage of heroic canine stories in 2013.
In January two dogs were credited with having saved the life of a 6-year-old Missouri boy
. The child reportedly got lost and spent the night in a ditch in a wooded area by his house where he was later found by authorities. According to the boy, his Boxer named Baxter and Labrador retriever named Bella huddled with him throughout the night to keep him warm while temperatures reached 20 degrees.
A similar incident occurred in Poland, when in March a 3-year-old girl who went missing was kept alive overnight in near-freezing temperatures by her dog
. The young girl was found several miles away from her home lying in a marsh with her mixed-breed black dog by her side, after the canine had reportedly alerted rescuers of her whereabouts by barking. "For the whole night the animal was with the girl, it never left her," local firefighter Grzegorz Szymanski told Reuters. "He is a hero. It is thanks to this dog that the girl survived the night."
In March, a 64-year-old French woman was attempting suicide when her German shepherd interrupted her
, jumping on her lap and in the process diverting the bullet that was aimed for her heart. Though the bullet still went into her chest, because of its location it was not deemed life-threatening.
In December, a seeing eye dog named Orlando jumped onto the train tracks of a New York City subway
after his blind owner, 60-year-old Cecil Williams, collapsed onto the tracks. According to witnesses the dog, an 11-year-old black Labrador retriever, jumped onto the tracks without hesitation, kissing his owner’s face while barking to wake him as a transit worker instructed the pair to lie between the two main rails as a train bore down on them. Both Williams and his dog survived the ordeal.
Orlando is scheduled to retire soon and Williams was heartbroken that he couldn't keep him once the dog stops working, but he couldn't afford it since his insurance doesn't cover the dog as a pet. The Internet rallied around the man and his dog and gathered enough donations for Orlando to stay with Williams
"He was definitely this man’s best friend. When the train was coming, the dog didn’t move," Ana Quinones, 53, told the New York Post
. "The dog was loyal to his master. He tried to save him. He was trying to pull him away when he was too close to the edge. He risked his own life to save his owner."
Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try, dogs aren’t always able to save their owner.
In May, a scruffy, mud-covered dog was found by first responders standing guard over his deceased owner
who lay beneath a pile of rubble following a deadly tornado that ripped through the town of Moore, Okla. The dog was subsequently taken to a local shelter, where if no one claims the animal, the deputy who found him says he plans on adopting the dog.
A Dog’s Best Friend
In addition to the many instances of dogs saving their owners over the past year, several people in 2013 demonstrated the same commitment to their four-legged companions.
In May, a Connecticut woman fought off a 200-pound black bear when the animal chased her dog
through multiple yards and nearly into her house. Sharon Flannery of West Hartford, Conn., reportedly kicked the bear in the face as it attempted to enter her home in pursuit of her Jack Russell named Maggie. Flannery suffered a puncture wound and several scratches to her right calf, however succeeded in chasing off the female black bear that retreated up a nearby tree to later be tranquilized by authorities and relocated to another area.
In June, a photo of police dog Figo went viral as the K-9 paid respects to his fallen partner Jason Ellis
In early August, Graham Anley of South Africa saved the life of his beloved 9-year-old Jack Russell
named Rosie by swimming her to shore and then swimming back for his wife after their yacht ran aground off the coast. All three fully recovered.
In stark contrast to the heroism displayed above, a Colorado man abandoned his injured dog atop a mountain
during a hiking trip in January. Eight days later, a group of hikers rescued the dog, a German shepherd-mix named Missy, carrying her to safety in an oversized backpack. She was later adopted by one of the hikers, while her original owner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor animal cruelty and received just 30 hours of community service.
There were at least two instances in 2013 in which cats were caught attempting to smuggle in contraband for prisoners.
In January, prisoners at the Alagoas Jail in Arapiraca, Brazil, trained a stray cat to go home with visiting relatives
and then return to the jail with useful items strapped to its body. Among the items that were strapped to the cat's body inside a plastic bag were saw blades and drill parts for drilling though concrete as well as earphones, a cell phone with a battery, and a charger.
Five months later, guards at a Russian penal colony more than 9,000 miles away from the Brazilian prison similarly found a cat with a plastic bag taped to his body attempting to breach the prison’s walls
. The cat was observed by guards scaling a fence along the perimeter of the prison, located near the city of Syktyvkar in Russia’s Komi province. It had two cell phones, batteries, and chargers enclosed in a bag that was strapped to its back with tape. In both instances, it was not reported by local media what happened to the cats after authorities apprehended them.
The Crime-Solving Cat
Whereas cats in Brazil and Russia were trained to help criminals, one British cat unwittingly helped police convict one, who happened to be his owner. British prosecutors were able to convict David Hilder of manslaughter in August after eight hairs from his pet cat were found on the dismembered torso of his victim
. "This is the first time cat DNA has been used in a criminal trial in the UK," said Jon Wetton, the University of Leicester geneticist who led the cat DNA project. Hilder was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
The Year of the Persian Cat
2013 was a big year for Persian cats, with two members of the breed making headlines for very different reasons.
In August, Colonel Meow, a 2-year-old rescued Himalayan-Persian
cat from Los Angeles, Calif., whose YouTube channel has already received more than 2 million views, was recognized by Guinness World Records for having the longest fur.
In September, Iranian officials announced their intentions to launch a Persian cat into orbit
as part of their next space mission. It was not said when the launch would occur or where the Iranian regime would acquire the feline, though it’s safe to say that Colonel Meow remains out of reach in sunny L.A.
Killer Bees Attack
Killer bees wreaked havoc from California to Florida this year, attacking and killing people, horses, and dogs along with whatever else crossed their path.
In March, two employees at Picnic Island Park in Florida accidentally upended a hive while cleaning up trash. They were immediately set upon by upwards of 100,000 killer bees. The workers managed to escape the killer bee assault; however they were reportedly stung 100 times collectively in the process
A 62-year-old Texas farmer was not so lucky. In June, while driving a tractor, Larry Goodwin of Moody, Texas, hit a pile of wood containing a year-old hive of Africanized bees. Upwards of 40,000 bees reportedly swarmed the man, killing him at the scene
Several months later in July, another hive of killer bees attacked a North Texas couple and their horses
. The couple was forced to jump into a nearby pool with their horses to temporarily escape the swarming bees. Despite the effort, they were reportedly stung 250 times collectively. Both horses died as a result of the attack.
Several months later, a dog chained outside a person’s residence in California was stung to death by a swarm of killer bees
after they were disturbed by a man in the neighborhood. The man was reportedly not injured.
When Sharks Attack
Despite the many headlines, there was a slight dip in shark attacks on in 2013 from the previous year. Overall there were 55 confirmed shark attacks worldwide as of Dec. 20, 11 of which occurred off Hawaii alone.
In April, a 51-year-old fisherman suffered severe puncture wounds when he was attacked by a 10-foot long grey nurse shark
off the coast of Australia's New South Wales while he was trying to free other sharks from a fishing net. The man received medical attention at the scene and survived.
One month later, a French honeymooner was killed in a shark attack while surfing off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean
. The shark reportedly targeted the 36-year-old surfer's lower extremities causing him to lose substantial blood and go into cardiac arrest on the beach.
A less severe attack occurred several weeks later off Texas when a 15-year-old boy belonging to a church youth group was attacked while boogie boarding with friends
about 50 yards offshore in waist-deep water. A nurse who happened to be at the beach treated the boy as soon as he was brought ashore.
A 15-year-old girl snorkeling in an unsupervised area off the shore of France's Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean was not as lucky, when in July she was literally bitten in half by a shark
In August, another snorkeler, this time off a Maui beach in Hawaii, suffered a similar fate when a shark bit off her right arm. The German tourist, who was said to be in her twenties, managed to live for another week on life support before she succumbed to her wounds
Two weeks later, an 11-year-old girl was bitten twice by a shark while she was boogie boarding off Florida
. After being bit once on the lower leg and once on the heel, the girl was helped by a couple of strangers who quickly jumped into action, wrapping her leg in a towel and rushing her to their car. The girl was reportedly left with a baby shark tooth embedded in her skin, which she kept.
In December, a second person was killed off Maui while fishing from a kayak
. The man's friend managed to grab him from the water and row him to shore, however he reportedly died before reaching land.
The Exotic & The Weird
Rounding out 2013’s trending animal news were a handful of strange, somewhat unusual stories such as toxic rodents being dropped by plane over Guam and a tortoise surviving 30 years without his owners providing any food or water.
In January, a pet tortoise in Brazil that went missing in 1982 crawled out of a box containing an old record player. According to the family, the box in which the tortoise was found had been in a room locked off for the past 30 years
. The animal’s remarkable survival was explained by a veterinarian, who said that such species of tortoise are able to survive for long stretches of time without food, living off nearly anything from dead insects, dead animals, and even in some cases feces.
In November, British researchers determined the world’s oldest living animal to be a 507-year-old mollusk
discovered in a seabed off Iceland. Unfortunately, in the process of determining the animal’s age, the scientist killed the mollusk by opening it up.
Two months before an unlucky mollusk earned the title of oldest animal through death, another group of Englishmen named the world’s ugliest animal. The Ugly Animal Preservation Society, a group of 11 British comedians who use levity to preserve unattractive endangered species, named the blobfish as the ugliest of all animals
. Found off the coast of southeastern Australia and Tasmania at depths of 2,000 to 4,000 feet, the blobfish is described by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as looking like a "big, blobby tadpole, just a mass of pale, jelly-like flesh with puffy, loose skin, a big nose and beady, staring eyes."
Lastly, in December scientists at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base ordered the air drop of 2,000 toxic-laced rodents
over the small Pacific island’s jungles in an attempt to reduce its 2 million brown tree snakes. The operation cost $8 million.
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