Among the year's oddest stories, animal tales were top dogs

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2014 8:09 AM

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It was the year of the family pet behaving badly: A dog got sick from eating dozens of socks and a puppy took the rap for driving the family car into a pond. Angry cats held their owners hostage on at least two occasions.

A review of the oddest Reuters stories of 2014 also offers numerous examples of less-than-virtuous human behavior. There was the hapless burglar whose criminal career came to a crashing halt when he left his Facebook page open in a house he was accused of robbing. And don't forget the Texas man went to jail for urinating on the Alamo.

To be sure, many tales from the animal kingdom this year were by turns heart-warming and hilarious, and more than a few came out of the Golden State or the Sunshine State.

A parrot that spoke English with a British accent went missing for four years, only to return to his California home speaking Spanish and asking for someone named Larry.

The bird's owner, one Darren Chick, said he had no idea where his Nigel spent his time away, but aside from the language switch, he is doing just fine.

"It's really weird," Chick told the Daily Breeze, a Southern California paper, recalling the happy reunion. "I knew it was him from the minute I saw him."

For sheer heroics, it was hard to top the family cat that rescued a California child pulled from his bike by an attacking dog. A video of the encounter went viral, and as a reward, the fearless feline was invited to throw out the first pitch at a minor league ball game.

It could have been worse for the German shepherd puppy that knocked a car into gear and jumped on the gas pedal, driving the vehicle into a pond where it sank. The dog survived.

Same goes for a hearty Great Dane that had 43 socks removed from his stomach in emergency surgery, and a Golden Retriever found in California's Tahoe National Forest after apparently surviving nearly two years in the wilderness.

But at least two cat owners may have wished their pets went missing. In California, a family feline terrorized two women, trapping them in a bedroom for hours and forcing them to call police. In Florida, a tabby held its owner captive, and the woman later admitted she may have stepped on the animal, prompting the outburst.

A solution to bad feline behavior was suggested by a story about a 120-pound Burmese python found lurking in the Florida underbrush, likely solving the mystery of what happened to all the disappearing cats in the neighborhood.

“It’s the answer to so many questions,” said Pamela Dinola, who lost five of her seven cats.

Yes, the news flow this year also offered numerous reminders of the imperfect nature of humankind.

There was the cautionary tale of a Washington state man who set his house on fire when using a makeshift blowtorch to kill a spider, and a Connecticut driver accused of snatching the results of his sobriety test and trying to eat them.

A Florida contractor had to figure out what to do after building a million-dollar ocean-view home on the wrong lot, while Fort Worth, Texas, was hit with its third lawsuit in a year by residents saying the city knocked down their homes by mistake.

As always, sex was a hot topic: Chubby Checker, best known for his 1960 dance hit "The Twist," settled a lawsuit in which he accused Hewlett-Packard Co of using his trademarked name without permission on a software app that purported to measure the size of a man's penis.

The state of Kansas, figuring that sex sells, held an online auction of handcuffs, vibrators and other sex toys seized from a defunct chain of sex novelty shops.

And a bomb scare at a San Diego courthouse over a suspicious metal device turned out to be a false alarm caused by a discarded electronic sex toy.

"It was oblong, egg-shaped, you could say, I think aluminum, with a cord coming out of it leading to a small plastic box that contained a battery,” said Lee Swanson, a San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesman. He added that the device posed no threat.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Dan Grebler)