Waterfront: April 2006

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Monday, April 10 kicks off National Wildlife Week, and in honor of all the wild, and not so wild, animals that have made their way into swimming pools and spas, AQUA presents its Top 10 Animal Stories from Waterfront.

10. "Cowabunga" April 2006

One of many reasons to make sure pools are safely enclosed was demonstrated in New Hope, Va., recently when a 1,000-pound heifer strayed through an open gate and took a tumble into her owner's pool. "It was hectic," said owner Richard Randolph to the Staunton News Leader . "We had 15 or 18 people here, the New Hope volunteer fire company, an Augusta County Fire and Rescue Van, a veterinarian."

The heifer was hauled safely out of the pool after a three-hour ordeal. The pool had been drained for winter, but 5 or 6 feet of water remained in the deep end, and the slippery floor kept the cow from making her way to the shallow end of the pool. "We tried to entice her to jump out, but she could only get her front legs out," says Randolph. "Then we built a ramp using my barn door."

An auto-repair shop crew finally winched the exhausted heifer onto dry land, where she was contentedly munching hay in the barn the next day. "She exhausted herself," said veterinarian C.J. Ceglowski. "That made it easier to put the sling around her. It was exciting. I've seen horses in sinkholes, but I've never had a cow in a pool."

9. “Pool Provides Safe Harbor” Nov. 2005 

Many headlines shortly after Hurricane Katrina spoke of lives lost and homes swept away. But there were a few sparks of hope, like the story of the 14 dolphins from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss., all of which were rescued successfully. 

8.  "Unbearable Heat " Sept. 2005 + "Apres Ski" April 2006

Bears, it seems, enjoy the soothing effects of water as much as we do. Last summer a black bear took respite in a California pool during a 90-degree heat wave.

With the help of the California Department of Fish and Game, she was safety escorted back to her natural habitat. Last winter, skiers in Lake Tahoe found their rented cabin's hot tub already occupied by an unwelcome guest — a hibernating black bear who'd woken up to take a warm soak.

“This bear was supposedly hibernating under a cottage next door, one they didn’t rent out during the winter, so theydidn’t know it was there,” says Ann Bryant, executive directorof the Bear League, a bear protection agency. “And he would get up every once in a while and come over and get in the hottub. We have that a lot; it’s actually pretty common. They loveto soak in the water in the winter.” These skiers were not amused with the bear’s antics, and promptly checked out ofthe cabin. What you may find surprising is that “many peoplethink it’s cute and they sit there and watch them and take pictures of them and let them do it,” says Bryant.

For those who don’t want to deal with the bears, Bryantrecommends dousing the hot tub surround with Pine Sol. “The smell of the Pine Sol soaks into the wood and makes it distastefulto the bears who haves noses that are 500 timesmore sensitive than ours. But after just a day, people can’t really smell it anymore.” If bears do get in the hot tub, Bryantsays they don’t really mess it up at all. “There’s a little bit ofhair, but not much more than after a few people have been in there, and usually the skimmer takes care of that.”

7.  “Northern Exposure” Nov. 2000 + “I’m Parched” Jan. 2001 

These two moose sightings tie at No. 7. In one case, John and Marium Clare of Anchorage, Ala., had a couple of furry party crashers, but they didn't mind. The other moose, who decided to stop for a drink in a backyard pool in North Adams, Mass., caused a bigger stir. After being hit with a tran quilizing dart, the stubborn, 850-pound bull moose hopped onto the deck and appeared to fall asleep. But as wildlife officers, firefighters and city workers feverishly attempted to tie straps around the beast, it rose up to its feet and dove into the deep end, sinking rapidly. Firefighter Ray King dove in immedi ately and held the moose's head above water, and with the use of a bucket loader, the moose was slowly lifted out of the water and released in the nearby woods.

6. “Bone-Shaped Pool A Real Treat” Feb. 2003

Over the years AQUA has written a few items about how pools can benefit dogs, including a short piece about this bone-shaped pool at Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven, Fla. Since dogs make enticing bait for the gators in the lakes of Central Florida, Dr. Mitsie Vargas, co-owner of the animal hospital, decided to have the pool built so even overweight or arthritic dogs could get some exercise without needing stitches afterward.

5. “Polly Want A Hot Tub” Jan. 2002

Dogs aren't the only pets that offer companionship and entertainment. Years ago, after Nancy Harmon's husband passed away, the manager of The Original Hot Tub Co. in Knoxville, Tenn., wanted some company, so she went to a pet shop to buy some finches. But a parrot who said "I love you" captured her heart, and without a second thought, she paid $1,650 for Toby, who has been a delightful, and profitable, fixture in the hot tub store for many years.

The yellow-naped Amazon parrot, well known for his ability to mimic human speech, has even landed on local television and graced the pages of newspapers. The publicity has kept a steady stream of shoppers coming into the store. "People come in because they simply want to talk to the bird," says Harmon.

"Then they come back because they want to visit the bird and they feel they have to buy something. I tell them they don't have to because Toby enjoys the company, but they still buy."

4. "Gone Fishin '" June 2005

Mike Hodak welcomes wildlife into his pool, but just once a year. The owner of Pools & Waterfalls by Mike Hodak in Canonsburg, Pa., stocks his pool with 250 trout each fall after the chemicals dissipate as part of a benefit for a local charity that helps abused children. Proceeds from selling fishing licenses go to the charity, and the hundreds of kids who toss a line in absolutely love it, especially since there's a chance to win a big prize: $500 for the kid who catches the one golden trout (the rest are rainbow trout).

3. " Just Ducky" March 1999

Millions of Americans have a bird feeder in the backyard, but Judy Simons of Villa Park, Calif., went just a bit beyond that. In 1995, a mallard pair flew into her neighborhood and every other pool owner on the block shooed them away, but Simons fed them, and they stayed in her15-by-21-foot in-ground pool and laid eggs. Eventually, two grew into almost 1,000 since Simons fed them all, putting out 225 pounds of food daily. And even though Simons and her husband stopped using their pool, they manually brushed and vacuumed the pool daily before dumpingin chemicals. “I have not kept track of how much we have to put in, just like I don’t keep track of the bills,” said Simons.

2. "Do-Good Doggie " April 2006

Roosters strolling about town may not be a familiar sight in your neck of the woods, but in Climax, Ga., two roosters, one named Abner and the other named Foghorn Leghorn, make daily rounds through various backyards. According to the Bainbridge Post Searchlight , "Several [homeowners] along the route claim the roosters until they do something they dislike, then no one claims them."

One day last winter, before a Climax family, the Tooles, had closed their above-ground pool, Foghorn Leghorn decided he had to get a better look at the pool and ended up a blob of white feathers flopping in the water. The Tooles' dog, Toby, noticed the rooster in distress, dove in and used his nose to push the rooster to the edge of the pool. But every time Toby got Foghorn close to the edge, the rooster took off back to the middle. Hearing odd noises in the backyard, the Tooles' daughter, Kaitlyn, came to the rescue, first grabbing Toby and then using a dip net to scoop out Foghorn.

"I had one exhausted rooster and dog," Kaitlyn told the Post Searchlight .

1. “Oh, Crikey!” Nov. 2001

Perhaps the most memorable, and definitely one of the most off-thewall animal stories ever in AQUA was about the Darwin, Australia swim coach, Mark Davies, who tried a less-than-conventional motivation technique. Instead of yelling at his swimmers like a drill sergeant, he threw a crocodile in the water and told his pupils to outswim it. Davies was not completely off his rocker — the croc's 6-foot jaw was taped and its claws were clipped before it was tossed in the water. And, well, the technique worked — the kids swam faster. But the Darwin city council, owners of the pool, condemned the routine and, not surprisingly, insurance companies withdrew coverage of the swimmers. However, the kids didn't seem to mind the croc as much. "One of the children actually kissed the croc," said Davies.

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