Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Question of the Month: the Animal Adventure Edition

As if the oceans weren't scary enough, what with the sharks and the jellyfish and the icebergs, now we have to fear beavers, too. (
With this in mind, please we asked the Super Authors to share one of their  more memorable animal encounters. 

 Joanne Rock: My house in the Adirondack Mountains is surrounded by wildlife. Fox, coyote and deer all play nearby and we get along just fine. Except one summer, our raccoon population got out of control. Worse, they were determined to hang out in our garage as often as possible. Luckily, my husband was up for the challenge, setting up an elaborate trap involving a rope, a stick, and an empty garbage can. It was exactly the kind of thing Wile E. Coyote would order from ACME. Not only die he catch the unsuspecting raccoon, he went on to film the "catch and release" program, narrating the whole thing in his best Steve Irwin Aussie accent. The raccoon was highly photogenic, and the footage has become a family classic. But it's not quite as frequently viewed as the time my husband pulled the same trick and caught a skunk in similar fashion. Yes, I have it on film. Yes, my husband knew to hold it with the tail down to keep it from spraying. Trouble was, eventually he had to let it go...

Vicki Essex:  In 2006, I was in England on vacation with my husband's family. We were staying in Lymington, a town in the New Forest area, which is famous for its wild ponies. They're a protected breed that roam the area openly and have the right of way on roads. 

One day, my husband and brother-in-law and I took a walk off the beaten path. We somehow ended up in a boggy marsh where the thick, black mud threatened to suck us down. To escape, we climbed over a barbed wire fence and ended up in a field where a dozen or more of these New Forest ponies were grazing. Realizing our precarious situation, my husband and his brother warned me not to startle the animals, speaking low and giving them a wide berth without walking behind any of them. As I went along, I carefully declared to the animals that we were lost tourists, and that we hadn't meant to disturb them or trespass, but would they very much mind I we passed?

One of the ponies looked up and slowly plodded toward me. I reached out a hand, and she sniffed it, then let me pet her nose. Other grew interested, but didn't come close. After that, we left quietly and without incident. I like to think that pony was giving us permission to walk through their pasture.  

Jennifer Lohmann: For having grown up in rural Idaho, I'm not sure I have that many memorable animal encounters. My brother and father have had encounters with bears and moose and elk and such, but I missed all those. However, I do remember once walking back from the Snake River Canyon with a friend of mine. To get back to my house from the canyon rim, we had to walk through a neighbor's field. This must have been late in the season, because it's normally a corn field, but they had cattle grazing in the field. Anyway, we were walking back with my dogs and the dogs (Max, the golden lab mix in particular) got it into their head to chase the cattle. The cattle took umbrage with being chased and ran. Since we were yelling at the dogs, the dogs were ran towards us, herding the cattle as they went. My friend and I ran like the dickens for the fence, desperate to get to the other side before the cows got to us. Of course, it was an electrified fence, so you can't just climb over or through, but you have to create a gap with rubber-soled shoes and a kerchief that you can climb through without hitting the wire. In memory, we just barely got through the fence before the cattle were upon us, but it probably wasn't as close a shave as that.

Mary Sullivan: When I was twenty, a girlfriend and I bicycled through the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Crazy, I know, but at the time we didn't understand the dangers of two young women traveling alone on the highway. We started with a visit to rural Newfoundland to meet my grandparents, aunts, uncles and 43 cousins. It was my first visit to the province where my parents had been raised. I grew up in a large city and knew nothing about rural matters. My mum wanted me to climb to the top of the small mountain (or large hill—at any rate, a long hike) that overlooked the harbour, as she used to do as a child. It was supposed to have a spectacular view of the harbour and we might happen to catch a glimpse of an iceberg or a whale.

So we climbed and climbed until we found ourselves on a small plateau that rose gently to the far edge, so we couldn't see the harbour unless we got close. We were met by a group of goats huddled toward the edge. We couldn't get near it to see the view. Born and raised in the city, neither of us had ever had any exposure to goats. We were afraid to approach them. They turned en masse and came toward us. We freaked out and ran without ever seeing what we had climbed so arduously to see. They chased us back down and off the mountain.

When we got back to my grandfather's house, breathless, and told him our tale, he laughed and laughed. The story spread quickly throughout the community and we became the sheepish recipients of a lot of good-natured ribbing. Apparently, the goats were friendly and chased us for our attention. We didn't know. The extent of our knowledge was Three Billy Goats Gruff and we were terrified of being butted with their hard heads!
Kristina Knight:  I was raised on a farm, but I really don't remember many scary animal
experiences. I do remember catching chicken pox when I was about 5. I don't know who put the idea into my head - or if it came to me all on my own! - but I knew I was itchy and uncomfortable and I didn't want anyone else to be. So I packed my favorite pillow and blanket into a big
cardboard box, along with a couple of toys...and I moved myself into the chicken coop. I was only out there a few minutes before my mom found me and explained that I couldn't live with the chickens even though I had the chicken pox...

Geri Krotow: At heart I'm a bird lover, and I seem to find hawks and eagles wherever we go. On Whidbey Island in Washington State, bald eagles were more common than sparrows. I've seen bald eagles here in Central Pennsylvania, too. Last summer our German Shepherd-mix rescue, Misha, was alert at the patio door but not barking or even whining, which was very unusual for him. I walked up behind him and found out why--a huge red-tailed hawk was perched on the same chair I write at, eyeing our trellises that were covered with purple hyacinth bean vines. It has to be a big bird to keep my dog quiet! When I sit outside or take our parrot out for some fresh air, I'm very cognizant of the raptors and don't take any chances.
Jeannie Watt: I seem to have issues with animals showing up at my house in odd ways.
For instance there was the time I went out to the garage to get something out of my car and there was a goat standing next to the car. Oddly, I didn't own a goat--nor did my neighbors. She just...appeared. I live miles from my nearest neighbor, so it was a bit strange.

Then there was the time that 24 starlings flew down my chimney and popped out the furnace vent in the basement. We had 24 soot-covered birds flapping around inside the house. It took a long time to catch all those birds and release them back outside. The cat thought it was the best day ever!

And then there were the two baby snakes that showed up in our basement...fortunately that never happened again.

Sarah M. Anderson:  I just had an interesting animal encounter--a barred owl showed up in the tree outside my office for several days in a row! I named him Rothchild. He's trying to get my squirrel (I named her Silky because she is very sleek) but so far, it's been a draw. Rothchild the Owl has eaten several cicadas for me, though. The funny thing about Rothchild is I'm pretty sure he's got the worst case of Owl Insomnia EVER because I haven't heard him at night--I've only seen him between the hours of 10 and 2 in the middle of the day!

Tara Taylor QuinnI was sitting in my office a few years ago, looking out the wall of windows toward the mountain that was several acres off in the distance.  I thought I saw something move.  I watched, and saw it again.  A coyote, I was sure.  That was all that was really out there.  Or so we told ourselves.  As it drew closer, I knew it wasn’t a coyote.  It was a mountain lion!  It was big.  Really big.  It not only walked down the mountain, but kept coming.  I had three dogs in the office with me and I gathered them and pushed them under by desk, blocking the way so they couldn’t get out.  I was terrified that one of them would start barking and draw the predatory animal to us.  The office had a French door, all glass, and an entire wall of windows.  I told myself I was over-reacting.  There was no way it would come that close.  It kept coming.  Right up to my office.  To my office door, and then turned, going down to the driveway where, at the end, was a sewer drain.  It went into the big sewer pipe and disappeared.  I was later told that they come down off the mountain during droughts to get water.  Thankfully my babies minded their manners and kept quiet!

Anna Sugden: As for me, most people know I love penguins. In one of my former careers, as a marketing exec, I was in charge of a brand of bath products and got to work with a penguin! The time had come for a new ad and the advertising agency proposed a concept which included a clip of some kiddies in those hooded bathrobes being followed by a penguin. Very cute. So we agreed it and I looked forward to the shoot – as did everyone else! The big day arrived and so did the king penguin, in his special crate, al ong with a penguin handler (!) and a vet (to make sure the penguin wasn’t being abused). We were warned that the penguin was in mating mode (which we needed to get the nice colours) and a little grumpy. The set was closed and we all had to be silent as the penguin was released from his crate. He stank of fish and OMG what a diva! All he had to do was walk across the set in a reasonably straight line (they’d edit the kids in later). Would he do that? The penguin handler tried everything, but the blasted penguin kept wandering off and squawking and snapping at everyone! Finally, we had to entice him with some fish on a piece of string. The handler held it in front of the penguin and walked backwards. We almost had the shot, but then halfway across, the penguin got cross and lunged at the handler. It took a whole morning to get a 10s clip that would only be about 5s in the final advert! I tried to find a copy of the advert on You Tube to include, but I couldn’ t. I’ll save the story about working with the kids for another time. It’s true what they say – never work with animals or children!

Liz Talley:  My mother swears I have some sort of strange animal magnetism. When I was a toddler, a panther peed on me through the bars of his cage. When I was in high school, I was bit by a monkey. It was one of those spider monkeys who actually walked up, placed my finger in his mouth and bit me! And when my husband and I were newlyweds, I was attacked in a park by an amorous duck who attached himself to my hand and proceeded to mate with my arm (Boy, was he confused!) I couldn’t get away from the duck – he chased me around the park and everyone stopped jogging and died laughing. It was NOT funny to me. That duck did not understand NO means NO.  Honestly, I was rat her frightened to go to Alaska with all those wild animals roaming around. I’m quite often humped by dogs, but I don’t think I could have handled a moose. Let’s just say animals like me a lot.

Now readers, tell us - what are some of YOUR most memorable animal encounters? 


Mary Preston said...

I have had possums doing the rumba in the ceiling & massive carpet snakes coiled around the rafters on the verandah outside my bedroom door.

So, not sleeping because of the night life & being greeted by a frightful sight in the morning.

Laney4 said...

Wish I could think of an animal adventure story, but, alas, none come to mind.
The only animal "story" I can think of occurred when I was about 11 years old. I ate something gawd-awful and spit it out outside. My dog (a Terrier/Chihuahua mix) ran over and licked up the spit like it was the biggest treat on the planet. Ew!

liztalley said...

OMG, Laney, I scared my dogs laughing. Ha, dogs will eat anything. My mother said I would eat anything too. She pulled all kinds of insects out of my mouth as a toddler. Maybe that's why animals try to pee, bite and mate with me. They know if they don't defend themselves, I might eat them. LOL.

And Mary's situation sounds scary. Snakes? Uh, no.

Snookie said...

Wow Mary, I don't know about those snakes... don't really have any stories of my own, but my husband is the pied piper in our yard. All the animals follow him around the yard and stay near him wherever he is working. sometimes I hear him holding a conversation and think the neighbors came over, but when I go out to look he's holding a conversation with the dog or the duck or the pig or the cat or the guinea pig. Now I just don't go and look anymore!

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