Nelson's View

Friday, February 20, 2009

Furry Encounters

When journalism becomes Wild Kingdom

I have definitely run into my fair share of pets/animals during my reporting adventures. One that really sticks out in my mind was the time a black lab (who belonged to someone I had just interviewed) jumped in my car. The moment I cracked open my driver's side door he was in. Fortunately I couldn't get mad at him because I love dogs (with a particular soft spot for black labs) and have an old dirty car so it didn't really matter that he jumped on the seats with wet paws.

When I told him to get out of the car, he just sat there and stared up at me. I finally grabbed him by his collar. "You need to stay here with your owners," I lectured with a pat on the head. I've encountered pets in people's homes and in their businesses. There's nothing like having to interview someone (and keep a straight face) with a fluffy cat sprawled out on your lap begging you to scratch his belly or a dog at the local furniture store crawl up to the top of the couch and sniff out every corner of your body.

While working in Nebraska as an Ag reporter I ran into all sorts of animals including chickens, goats that collapse (Tennessee Fainting Goats) when they're startled and plenty of uncooperative cattle. There's nothing like having to check your shoes before being allowed back in the newsroom.

I recall meeting a rancher who went so far as to name all his Lowline cattle. He wanted to show me how docile these animals were so he took me out to meet his herd. His wife introduced them to me by name. I have never met so many cattle on such a personal basis. She handed me a few ears of corn and told me I'd make instant friends. Well, I could always use more friends. I even got my picture taken with them. The best caption for the photo is "Jennifer was so desperate to make friends she started befriending cattle."

The ranchers even asked me if I'd care to join them for Thanksgiving dinner... I almost replied, "Oh no... what are we having for dinner - my friends?" I did a story on a dog park and watched dogs of all sizes and breeds play together. I covered a dog day at a swimming pool - one place lets the dogs play in the outdoor pool before emptying it for the season.

During the Star Spangled Spectacular parade I saw everyone and their dog... and ferrett, and parakeet out there. What next, a bowl of goldfish? I attended Schaller's Popcorn Day and met a bunch of ducks - the dirty dozen puddle jumpers I believe? Later that summer I paid to have my photo taken with a python wrapped around my neck when the circus came to town. I got some great photos of a littler of squirmy beagle puppies during their visit to residents at the nursing home.

Fortunately the animals I've met have been friendly. I have yet to be chased by a bull or bucked off by a horse, but I did get a very sloppy kiss once courtesy of Storm Lake's police dog.