Yesterday my husband, who enjoys watching Good Morning America, called for me to join him since they were featuring beluga whales and he knows I once had a memorable encounter with one. Lara Spencer narrated the segment as hip hop violinist, Big Lux, performed for three belugas at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium. The small whales appeared mesmerized by his violin. One in particular moved its body and flippers in perfect time with the music, obviously enjoying it. Lara Spencer asked whether it was just her, or did we also think the beluga was smiling?
There was no doubt in my mind since I once had a beluga smile at me. I was at the Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium watching a beluga circle its tank. On the third time, it lifted its powerful tail and purposefully splashed me. It turned to see my reaction. Peering out through my soaked strands of hair, our eyes met. That’s when the sassy whale flashed its grin.
Following are my top animal or bird stories, beginning with five featuring wild animals. At the end, I’ve included a special invitation.
I used to have a car that would squawk when the driver’s door was left open and the keys were in the ignition. One afternoon, it was squawking when a crow flew down and perched on a nearby tree branch. Squawk, squawk, squawk, the car called. Squawk, squawk, squawk, the crow echoed in a perfect imitation.
While kayaking on a remote lake in Canada, a gentler sound, that of mewing, broke the serene swish of my sister’s and my paddles. Was I hearing a kitten way out here? We searched and finally spotted a camouflaged beavers’ lodge built along the shoreline. We were hearing the beaver kits inside!
On Memorial Day years ago, my husband and I discovered a fawn still wet from birth. The doe wasn’t in sight. I knew from reading DNR warnings that the fawn hadn’t been abandoned. The doe was simply hiding. The fawn was just learning to walk, and it stumbled toward me. My heart melted. I knelt down, and it stepped forward. It licked my hand. I resisted the urge to pet it and backed away so the doe could take over, but I ended up having to hurry since it wanted to follow.
While wandering several miles down a logging road in northern Wisconsin, I paused to pick blueberries. I glanced up and less than 20 feet away, a black bear also picked berries. We both read each others’ body language, felt no threats, and in unison, turned and quietly ambled off in different directions.
While summer camping on Isle Royale, I had a close encounter of the scary kind. I arose early, brushed my teeth, and was spitting out toothpaste on the edge of the woods when—gasp!—I caught sight of a huge bull moose! It was so close to me I could have hit it with my toothpaste spit. We locked eyes. I knew how dangerous moose could be, especially if it’s a cow with a calf or a bull in rut. Fortunately for me, this big guy was mostly interested in the browse, and he simply turned and continued weaving his way through the heavy brush.
My last three stories have to do with the unique bonding between animal and humans. Hours after collecting six-week-old Josie, our Cockapoo, my husband and I stopped at a rest stop. Thinking our new puppy might need a potty break, I set her on the grass. I started walking away, and for the first time, she followed me. These past 11 years we’ve continued to be loyal buds having enjoyed hundreds of walks and adventures together.
The Canada gosling we raised bonded with us and when we fired up the speedboat, she refused to be left behind. Faithful readers of this column know she flew alongside us in the boat, happy to be with her flock.
I bought an older quarter horse named Candy for under $500. I found a used saddle and found riding boots at Goodwill. I spent many happy hours training Candy and trail riding her for pleasure. After entering her in a three-part event, I quickly realized by our competitors’ shiny tack and the clothing of the riders and the fancy horses’ names suggesting expensive breeding that we were out of our league. During the event, we did well in dressage and stadium jumping. Now if only we could clear the fences on the cross-country track. At one point I knew she was tired, and I gave her an extra squeeze with my legs to tell her she could make the high jump. Toward the end, I grew tired and even though I hadn’t signaled her properly, she gave the extra effort and cleared the jump. Afterward, it wasn’t the impressive dressage horses who got to do the victory gallop, but the two who knew each other’s weaknesses and had worked as a team—Candy and me.
Do you have a favorite animal tale—scary or tenderhearted—or a delightful photo you’d like to share? Send it to me by August 12. I’ll ask someone to judge them, announce two winners, and feature the winning photo and story in a future column.
Send them by a squawking crow (if you happen to meet one) or simply email me at email@example.com.