By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lovelorn singing whale, a world-famous feline sourpuss and ravenous goats credited with thwarting a dangerous California wildfire were among animals whose escapades across the United States made news in 2019.
Animal antics drawing attention this year included:
WORLD’S FIRST AIRPORT THERAPY PIG HOGS CALIFORNIA LIMELIGHT
Anxious airline passengers who may have tried to calm nerves with a cocktail or sleep aides were introduced to a new remedy in November at San Francisco International Airport: a therapy pig. LiLou, a 5-year-old Juliana pig, is now a member of the airport’s “Wag Brigade,” which otherwise consists mainly of therapy dogs meant to help ease passenger travel anxieties. Dressed in a pilot’s cap and with toenails painted bright red, LiLou uses her hooves and snout to bash out tunes on her toy piano before she signs off duty and returns to her owner’s downtown San Francisco apartment.
GOATS HELP SAVE CALIFORNIA REAGAN LIBRARY FROM WILDFIRE
A voracious goat herd may burp and bow after being credited with helping save the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library from a California wildfire in October by eating 13 acres (5 hectares) of flammable scrub and creating an impenetrable fire break. The 500 hired goats, with names including Vincent Van Goat and Selena Goatmez, like to eat noxious weeds and other invasive species that fuel wildfires, said herd owner Scott Morris. By acing their all-you-can-eat assignment, the goats aided in sparing such library treasures as a piece of the Berlin Wall. The Easy Fire raged less than 50 feet (15 m) from the site’s hangar housing the Air Force One jet used by the late Republican president, who is buried at the library along with his wife Nancy.
GRASSHOPPERS TAKE VEGAS BY SWARM, UPEND WEATHER RADAR
A near-Biblical plague of grasshoppers descended on Las Vegas in July, with so many swarming around the bright lights of America’s Sin City that the National Weather Service detected them on its radar. The grasshopper migration was triggered by a wetter-than-normal winter. It sparked fear and loathing on social media, and prompted some hotels in the tourist district known as the Strip to shut off lights and operate in darkness in an effort to foil the insect invasion.
LOVELORN RIGHT WHALE SONG RECORDED OFF ALASKA
The crooning of a rare North Pacific right whale was recorded for the first time ever in June, and scientists said it sounded like the elusive aquatic mammal was looking for love. The likely mating call of the right whale was documented by researchers in the Bering Sea off Alaska’s coast. Scientists said they were traveling in such thick fog they could not see the animal, and assumed its serenade was a whale’s version of a dating profile. Possibly something like, “If romantic dinners feasting on krill near the ocean floor with a 70-ton companion are for you, I’m the one.”
GRUMPY CAT, WHOSE SCOWL DROVE A MILLION MEMES, DIES AT AGE 7
Life sucks, then you die. The feline who embodied that philosophy became known to millions of online fans as Grumpy Cat, her permanent frown catapulting her to internet stardom. The scowling kitty, whose real name was Tardar Sauce, appeared on magazine covers, television advertisements and even starred in her own movie “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.” She died in May at age 7 after a urinary tract infection.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)