12. The Doctor Is In. Fidge, the Cat Doctor That Is
At first glance, this sounds like the story of a really annoying cat. Every night for two weeks, Wendy Humphreys’ cat, Fidge, jumped on her right breast and remained there while Humphreys lay on her sofa watching television. The 52-year-old mother of two decided to pay a visit to her doctor since she was concerned that Fidge might have bruised her. Instead, it was discovered that Humphreys had a pea-sized lump in her breast that turned out to be malignant. Researchers have discovered that cancer produces volatile chemicals that dogs—and obviously cats too—can detect with their powerful sense of smell.
11. Living With Wolves
As the old adage goes, “You can never truly understand a person until you walk a mile in her shoes.” For veteran documentarians and husband and wife Jim and Jamie Dutcher, a mile in someone else’s shoes was six years living among a pack of wolves in an effort to better understand the creatures famously villainized in folklore and history. From 1990 to 1996, the Dutchers lived without electricity and running water in a tent within a 25-acre enclosure on the outskirts of the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho, photographing and filming the Sawtooth Pack, a family of wolves maintained within the 25-acre territory.
Photo: Jim & Jamie Dutcher/National Geographic/Getty Images
10. Pit Bull Drags Owner From the Path of an Oncoming Train
In the “this is really not a good idea department,” after consuming too many drinks at her boyfriend's house, Christine Spain of Shirley, Massachusetts, decided to walk home along the railroad tracks. She promptly either collapsed or passed out. Luckily, Spain’s dog, Lilly, heard the rumblings of a freight train and managed to pull her owner from its path. While Spain was unhurt, Lilly lost muscle and skin from her front paw, and her pelvis was fractured in multiple places. But after undergoing two surgeries, she appeared to be on the road to recovery.
Photo: Courtesy of Angel Animal Medical Center
9. A Hero Donkey Has Everyone’s Ass Covered
As wildfires spread through Colorado this past June, Mike and Sharon Guli, who board horses at their ranch in Paradise Park, put a five-year-old mammoth donkey named Ellie, four draft horses, and another donkey into an open pasture. Before trailers could make it to the ranch to rescue them, access to the area had been closed down. But that didn’t worry Ellie, who kept the herd calm and grouped together, except for one horse who was found nearby. “Over the years, I’ve seen her do such amazing things. She pretty much takes care of the other donkey and horses. She’s in charge,” said Guli.
Photo: William A. Cotton
8. With a Little Help From Some Friends, Bear Cubs Climb to Freedom
Shirley and Tom Schenk heard some bear cries outside their home in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and discovered that three cubs had gotten themselves stuck in a dumpster. The couple placed a ladder inside the dumpster and then quickly drove away. Amazingly, this is nothing new for Shirley and Tom, who had used the ladder twice before in exactly the same situation.
7. Formerly Blind Orangutan Is Happy With Her Double Vision
Gober, a 40-year-old orangutan, was captured in Indonesia in 2008 after conservationists found that she had gone blind from cataracts. In 2011, Gober gave birth to twins at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation as part of its breeding program to increase her species’ dwindling numbers. Cataract surgery on an orangutan had never been attempted before in Indonesia, but Gober’s operation was a success, and when she opened her eyes she was able to see her babies for the first time.
Photo: Menahem Kahena/AFP/Getty Images
6. A Doggone Good Sense of Direction
Mark Wessells, who lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, temporarily left his two-year-old black Labrador retriever, Buck, with his father in Winchester, Virginia, because he was in the process of moving. But a week later Buck disappeared and set out on a 500-mile journey. About six months after leaving Virginia, the pooch was found in the Bellegrove community of Myrtle Beach by Brett Gallagher. When Gallagher took Buck to the vet, they found a microchip embedded in his body, and Buck and Wessells were soon reunited.
Photo: Denise Balyoz Photography via Getty Images
5. A Shark With the Jaws of Life
In what sounds like a real-life version of the theme song to Gilligan’s Island, Toakai Teitoi, a father of six from Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean, became lost on a small wooden boat during what was supposed to have been a two-hour sea journey. After a 15-week ordeal, Teitoi was rescued when a shark kept bumping his boat to guide him toward a nearby fishing vessel.
(Photo: Jeff Rotman/Getty Images)
4. Holy Smokes! Mother Birds Line Their Nests With Cigarette Butts
Unless you’re watching an episode of Mad Men, you’re unlikely to see mothers casually exposing their children to the hazards of cigarettes. But it’s been discovered that urban-dwelling birds line their nests with secondhand butts to repel blood-sucking parasites. Their rural counterparts stick with what nature has to offer—starlings and chickadees collect volatile plants, such as dandelions and species from the Nicotiana genus, since the plants’ smelly compounds repel parasites.
(Photo: Victor Argaez)
3. At 220 Pounds, Moses the Elephant Is One Big Baby
Found wandering alone and close to death at the Vwazi Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, rangers theorized that Moses the elephant may have been orphaned as a result of the actions of poachers. His new human mom, Jenny Webb, who runs Jumbo Foundation, a Malawi shelter for large animals, adopted Moses and began bottle-feeding him six gallons of formula a day and playing games with him. It turns out the big guy loves to play fetch.
Photo: Jumbo Foundation
2. Meet Ethan, the Jack Russell Terrier With Nine Lives
In October, Ethan survived being poisoned and buried alive in Northern France. A passerby unearthed him when he saw the ground moving—reportedly due to the dog’s convulsions from the poisoning. Only one day later, Ethan was as good as new and adjusting to life number two.
1. Harbor, The Happiest Raccoon
Talk about being lost at sea. Harbor was discovered on a boat by authorities who had been sent to investigate the vessel as a health hazard. After being locked up for years in a two-by-two cage, he was found to be 80 percent blind due to poor nutrition, no sunlight and fumes from the accumulated feces and urine. Now, Harbor is happy as can be and his caretaker, Laura Simpson, commented that his recovery shows that, “We do not have to carry our darkness with us and that every day is a gift.”
Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com