Playful Cheetahs Puncture Owner

March 31, 2008

By Yul

Two cheetahs named Charlie and Matt are in the dog house for playing too rough and putting their owner in the hospital on March 29.

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Judy Berens is a 58-year-old cat-lover who owns Panther Ridge Conservation Center, a 5-acre big-cat sanctuary in Wellington, Fla. Last December, she was thrilled to get the 2-year-old brothers from South Africa after trying for two years and spending $40,000.

She was in the cheetahs’ enclosure doing an exhibition for about 20 spectators to raise money for all her cats’ upkeep when one of the cheetahs got distracted by a kid bouncing a ball.

Judy recently said, “Matt is the wild man and Charlie is the scholar,” so Matt’s the prime suspect.

Cheetahs can run 70 mph, so when the cat lunged after that ball, he knocked Judy off her feet. Next thing she knew, she was being nipped and batted around like a big cat toy by two 100-pound cheetahs.

Using a common technique to get cats to back off, quick-thinking assistants sprayed water in their faces.

Judy sustained about 40 puncture wounds, but is expected out of the hospital today.

Judy has said the brothers love to rough-house. I think if they’d meant to hurt her, she’d have been shredded. Cheetahs can’t retract their claws, even if they want to, which gives them exceptional traction.

Charlie and Matt were born and raised in captivity, so they really like humans and purr when you rub their ears. Judy is training them to walk on a leash, sit on command, and do tricks to demonstrate their speed. Charlie’s said to be catching on faster.

In addition to the cheetahs, 21 other big cats live at Judy’s place, including a leopard, 2 jaguars, a serval, 4 clouded leopards, and 5 cougars.

Judy got into big cats after seeing Katharine Hepburn with a leopard in Bringing Up Baby. She told the Palm Beach Post, “I figured if she can have a leopard, why can’t I have an ocelot?”

Since Judy will be OK, I hope the cats don’t end up like Tatiana the tiger, who was killed for doing what comes naturally.


Anthony Bourdain & Ottavia: A Portrait

March 30, 2008

By Karen

Someone got this great photo of Anthony Bourdain with Ottavia at his David Letterman taping on March 24.

I wondered why Tony seemed so subdued during that interview. I guessed either he was really sick of being asked about the cobra heart and the warthog again, or that Ottavia was in the wings, watching his every move.

He was also unusually circumspect as a judge a few weeks ago on the new season of Top Chef. Almost a nonentity.

With the extended book tour with nonstop personal appearances and interviews, the latest season of No Reservations, and his new family, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tony’s feeling yanked in a lot of directions and exhausted. I’m beginning to think that for his own sanity and career longevity, he needs to go on a long vacation to an undisclosed location so he can “refill the well,” as we writers call it when we get in a rut and run out of ideas.

Anyone who follows him must be noticing that he’s begun to repeat himself a lot. That’s partially due to lazy interviewers asking him the same easy questions over and over, but it also may be because the man’s been picked clean of fresh ideas.

As much as I’ll miss him, I’m willing to see him go away for a while to have some time to relax, unwind, and let his crazy thought processes have free rein to generate some new material. Maybe even write another novel, just for fun.

The last thing I want to see is Anthony Bourdain become a victim of his own success and start screwing things up.

Take a break, Tony! You deserve it!


Anthem Cut the Crap (Finally)

March 28, 2008

By Karen

After nearly 3 months, Anthem has approved my cheaper policy. It essentially rolls back my premium two years in exchange for me shouldering more out-of-pocket expenses. I don’t know if I’ll really come out ahead in the end, but right now I’m betting on continued good health.

Anthem put me at premium Level 2. Level 1 would have been cheaper, but here’s how that works:

In 2003 when I first applied, I took no medications and my health was nearly perfect for someone my age. Anthem made me Level 2 by dredging up an old stress fracture in my toe from too much ballroom dancing and a few other one-time things.

In other words, unless you’re 18 and have never seen a doctor in your life, you’ll never qualify for Level 1.

This time my Level 2 rating was for my “unoperated hiatal hernia.” That means it gives me no trouble and requires no treatment – but unoperated sounds scarier.

Anthem explains (bold emphasis is theirs), “Even if you are currently healthy and have no immediate health problems, your chances of needing medical care are greater than someone who does not have similar health conditions or lifestyle characteristics.”

They’re referring, of course, to someone who is already dead.

Apparently, that was the best they could do, since my harmless freckle and a blood pressure reading in the 120s over 80s didn’t pan out as crises.

They were so relentless about digging into my records, I really expected a bump into Level 3 to end up paying even more for less coverage. That’s how individual health insurance works.

So I’ll be saving $110 a month at least until December when they hit me with another huge rate hike and I’m back where I started.

I’m 12 years from qualifying for Medicare. If insurance companies are allowed to continue reaching for the moon for profits, at some point I could join the 47 million Americans who can’t get or afford coverage unless I find some employer to cover me.

Politicians of both parties, please, please, please end this nightmare. Passing HR 676, the universal healthcare bill that’s been sitting under your noses since 2005, would be a good place to start.


Too Bad the Cat Got Chelsea’s Tongue

March 27, 2008

By Adele

Chelsea Clinton choked when asked if she thought her mother showed weakness during the Monica Lewinsky business. Stalling, she said no one had ever asked her that in 70 college appearances, then the best she could come up with was, “I do not think that’s any of your business.”

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Now, I’ve always liked Chelsea. After all, she had a cat named Socks until her parents gave him away.

But I think 9-year-old Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late wildlife conservationist Steve Irwin, could have fielded that question with more grace and tact.

Chelsea missed a golden opportunity to turn the Lewinsky mess into a big plus for her mother rather than dodging it. Instead, she reminded us that Hillary would have done exactly the same.

Chelsea could have said, “I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire my mother for keeping her cool and holding our family together during what must have been an intensely embarrassing and painful time for her. The way she steered us through widespread disapproval and made our family even stronger shows that she has what it takes to do the same for this country.”

The student from Butler University who asked the question, Evan Strange, is a big Hillary supporter who later said Chelsea surprised him because he thought he was giving her an opportunity to put Monica-gate to rest for the cause.

But Chelsea chose to blow it.

Unlike Bindi Irwin, a media darling, Chelsea’s a public figure with an iron-clad policy of never speaking to the press. You’d think a 28-year-old woman who believes she’s mature enough to scour the country campaigning could handle the odd uncomfortable question – no matter who asks it. But, for some reason, the press lets Chelsea go around in a protective bubble, shooting her mouth off unchallenged.

Here’s my advice to Chelsea: The next time someone asks you a stumper, stop and ask yourself, “What would Bindi Irwin do?”


Cat Forced Into Sky-Diving Stunt

March 26, 2008

By Yul

An anonymous gray and white cat was forced to jump out of a plane, and some of it was caught on video.

UPDATE 3/27/08: The cat is called “The Kid” and lives in Russia with his owner, a 60-year-old retiree named Vladimir Kulikov who’s apparently going senile, and they jumped together from a height of 3,960 feet.

What we’re missing is a shot on the ground afterward. For the cat’s sake, I hope the man didn’t splatter like a bug. And I hope that cat showed proper gratitude for his adventure when he got home – by peeing all over his owner’s bed.

The cat was in a harness, strapped face-forward to the front of a man. He could see everything that was about to happen and seemed calm until the man stood at the open door. But when the cat found his legs in mid-air, he started kicking up a storm.

The man jumped anyway.

It’s unfortunate they didn’t strap the cat face-to-face against the man, or even on his back. Then the guy would have been a pile of bloody shreds by the time he reached the ground. He had it coming.

Why do humans keep pitting small animals against the vast forces of Mother Nature? This stupid stunt ranks up there with that surfer dude in Peru who got the bright idea to see if his kitten Nicolosa would sink or swim in the ocean. You never saw a cat learn to dog-paddle so fast.


Conan, the Praying Chihuahua

March 25, 2008

By Fred

When it comes shameless sucking up, no animal can top a dog. Conan, an 18-month-old male Chihuahua, is the mascot for a Zen Buddhist temple near Okinawa, Japan. He’s hit upon an ingenious scam to get attention and treats. By striking poses like his master, a priest named Joei Yoshikuni, the dog seems to be praying.

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Standing on his hind legs with paws clasped reverently, Conan gazes up at the altar with his soulful Chihuahua eyes like he really means it.

I’m guessing he knows some Beggin’® Strips are stashed up there.

Yoshikuni said it took Conan only a few days to perfect his pose, and now he has his own little prayer rug. They say he gets upset if anybody tries to sit in his spot. The last thing people want is to rile a yappy, hyper little dog because he’ll never let you hear the end of it.

What do dogs pray for, anyway? Yoshikuni says Conan’s pose is a Buddhist gesture of appreciation, so he thinks Conan may be expressing gratitude for “treats and walks.”

Fat chance. I think Conan’s just a cute con artist.

Nevertheless, his act has been good for temple business. Attendance is up by 30%. But you have to wonder how pleased Buddha is to have his house filled with gawkers snapping pictures of a praying dog.

Yoshikumi would like to teach Conan to meditate to give himself more peace and quiet, but concedes that Conan may never be able to master sitting cross-legged.

But don’t be surprised if Conan turns up next in a little doggie robe with his head shaved.


Cat Takes the Rap for MRSA Infection

March 24, 2008

By Adele

A cat is being blamed for making its owner repeatedly develop ugly abscesses on her back. She had a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, the vicious bug that humans catch from hanging out in really filthy places – like hospitals.

The woman’s husband, two children, and one of her three cats also had the superbug, and nobody showed any symptoms. But the woman’s sores didn’t clear up until doctors gave the kitty antibiotics.

Some reports said this was the first documented case of cat-to-human transmission, but I found this on WebMD:

“In 2006, the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases reported that a San Francisco cat with skin ulcers tested positive for MRSA. The cat’s owner, who had had skin infections three months earlier, may have spread MRSA to the cat. But that’s not certain because the cat’s owner didn’t get a MRSA test.”

In both cases, doctors believed the cats caught the bug from their humans, so don’t jump to any conclusions that we’re up to something, like those rats who so thoughtfully brought you the Black Plague.

There have also been reports of MRSA being transferred between dogs and pigs and humans. They think it’s transmitted mainly through simple contact like petting, not licking, and they say this germ is so strong, it can survive in dust.

Cats already have an undeserved reputation for bumping off babies, so we’re not keen to be known as MRSA-carriers. Humans, please take our fastidious lead and wash yourself a lot.


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