Ah December, the month where we realize the year has flown by and we scramble to remember what, exactly, happened the last 12 months or if things we think happened this year really happened like 4 years ago (when I’m reminded of things that happened in January and I think that’s so long ago I feel old). So for the next two weeks you can look forward to every publication putting out their top lists of the year. This blog decided to not be excluded. There were plenty of stories that made their way into national and world news, including a cow on the run (there’s something about a food animal that makes a break for it that we just kind of have to get behind), but there were two top animal stories of 2011 that caught the attention of pretty much everyone:
The first was Hawkeye, the Labrador retriever, who lay at his owner’s casket during the funeral. Jon Tumilson, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan when a Chinook helicopter was shot down (a story that also made headlines for a good while in August), and the dog was as visibly pained as the human mourners. The photo was taken by Tumilson’s cousin who thought that the image said more than anyone there could have said about the bond that man and dog shared, and she thought those who weren’t able to make it to the service deserved to see it. I, for one, am glad she did (even though taking pictures at a funeral is taboo) because it’s an image the world deserved to see. It shows the dog not only understood what was going on, but had emotions about it. The dog didn’t lie down by other people he knew, didn’t follow Tumilson’s friend (who took over ownership of Hawkeye) to the podium while he made his speech, he stopped in front of his owner’s casket and stayed. You’d be hard pressed to come up with another explanation for the dog’s behavior.
The second animal story followed two penguins at the Toronto Zoo who appear to be in love. The only problem is they’re both males. This wouldn’t be the first time gay penguins made the news (a gay pair from New York inspired the children’s book And Tango Makes Three), and certainly not the first time gay animal behavior has been observed in zoos, but it is the first time a gay pair was split up. The split wasn’t to appease conservative groups (who got all angry about Tango and seem to want to forget that animals aren’t being conditioned to be gay like they’ve said humans are), but rather to perpetuate the species. Buddy and Pedro are endangered African penguins. The main purpose behind most zoos is to educate the public and perpetuate the captive population in order to safeguard against extinction in the wild. Say what you will about the bond Buddy and Pedro have, no one can deny the two males can’t reproduce together. The good news is that once the pair have done their business making baby penguins with the ladies in their group, they’ll be reunited. The Toronto Zoo is not in the business of denying their animals relationships, so come next spring they’ll be back where they want to be.