1. Racoon, the gentleman in the city
A few years ago, after a long morning of sightseeing in New York, my children and I took a breather on a park bench in Central Park.
“Look!” my son said, pointing to a nearby rubbish bin. That’s when we saw our first raccoon. Quite at home in the big city, he paid us no heed, concentrating only on finding a tasty lunch. He sorted through a few options before emerging with a wrapped sandwich held between his paws.
Satisfied, he jumped down and ambled casually to a spot on the gravel path, not a meter from where we sat. The children were mesmerized, the raccoon providing better entertainment than any museum.
He glanced at us, perhaps as reassurance that we weren’t about to pilfer his lunch. With delicate fingers, he peeled back the layers of plastic wrap until the half-eaten sandwich was uncovered. Then, he surprised us all. Instead of starting his food, he turned to a nearby rain puddle and dipped his hands in. With a casual air, he rubbed his hands together underwater for a moment, preened his whiskers, then started genteelly picking at his meal.—Elizabeth Strachan
2. Crowd pleaser
In the mid-1980s, I had just completed a successful season with my jazz duo in London, and we were booked for a six-month contract at The Golden Hat Piano Bar in Paris. One night, just before our 1 a.m. finish and when the crowd had thinned out, a young man in blue jeans and a light leather jacket walked in with his small companion. He chose a table near the band and ordered a cocktail for himself and an orange juice for his friend.
They sat and listened to the music. When we had finished the number, the little friend, who was dressed in overalls and a red-checkered cap, carefully put his orange juice down on the table, and they both clapped enthusiastically.
Well, we couldn’t very well stop at that when we had two such delightful customers enjoying the music, so we played on for another half hour, thoroughly enjoying our small but select audience.
What made it an occasion to remember was that the pleasant young man could have been from anywhere, but his little companion—was a chimpanzee!
Surely, only in Paris!—Leigh Weston
3. Swine sense
Years ago we owned an English setter named John, who often suffered from in.fe.cted or s.or.e ears. He was constantly being treated for it and absolutely loved ear rubs as they seemed to make him feel better.
One day my brother’s pet pig, Chloe, was in the front yard with John. When John settled down for a nap, Chloe trotted over and started rubbing behind John’s ears with her snout. He groaned with relief so Chloe continued rubbing his ears enthusiastically.
From that day on, whenever John lay down, Chloe would trot over to rub his ears. Maybe animals have a sixth sense, and hers told her John needed an ear rub.—Paula Glennie
4. Pushed to the edge
I got my new guide dog, Zeke, in 2011. He’s a black Labrador who loves everyone. Sadly, Zeke can become a little too enthusiastic, which does not go well with Cocoa and Latte, my two Burmese cats.
One day, when Zeke really annoyed Latte, she waited until he went to bed before exacting her revenge. She scaled a 1.8-meter bookshelf that stood directly behind Zeke’s bed and squeezed behind a suitcase that sat on top. Once in position she walked back and forth, using all her weight to push on the suitcase. With a loud crash, the suitcase toppled off the edge.
Zeke woke with a fri.ght and dodged out of the way before the suitcase tumbled to the floor. I thought it must have been an acc.id.ent until Latte did it again two weeks later after Zeke had got on her nerves again. It wasn’t until the third attempt that I decided to move Zeke’s bed to a safer spot. Zeke hasn’t annoyed Latte since.—Kathryn Beaton
5. Love birds
Years ago, my friend Julius rescued an in.jur.ed cockatoo from the side of the road and kept it as a pet. As the vet had to a.m.put.ate one of her wings, she was unable to return to the wild. Soon, wild cockatoos came visiting and one amorous male bird managed to find his way into the cage.
“Mom” Cocky was soon expecting but as she couldn’t fly, “Dad” Cocky gave up his freedom and built a nest in the backyard, fending off everyone who approached his bird bride. “Baby” Cocky eventually fledged and spent his days flying off with his dad, leaving his mom behind. She would sit and screech until they returned home each afternoon.
The family stuck together and each night Mom and Dad would sit and lovingly groom each other. A true lesson in devotion!—Colin Stringer