Big 10: Unforgettable animal encounters


[email protected] is his email address. The News-Gazette’s editor is Jeff D’Alessio.

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With UI Vet Med’s in-person open house returning today, we asked this week’s panel to share their most memorable animal experience, whether it was with a pet, patient, or partner.

Officer Alex Tran and his trusty sidekick, Lollipop.



On the University of Illinois police force, Lollipop has a partner.

Since December of 2020, we’ve been partners. “Lollipop is one of four therapy K9s at UIPD.

Many of these have been covered by the local media. “In the last ten months, we’ve dealt with countless tragedies and heartbreaking moments, as well as just as many, if not more, heartwarming occasions.

Despite this, the Urbana officers who spoke with him discovered that he liked dogs. “On a Saturday morning at 9 a.m., the most memorable and fond events occurred. A phone call from my sergeant jolted me awake. He claimed there was a subject who had a knife to his throat and was threatening to kill himself.

One of the officers on the scene told me I could approach and the scene was completely safe before I could get Lollipop’s leash on. “So Lollipop and I drove over to the scene to assist in any way we could. As a crisis negotiator, I was thinking about how to solve this problem going into this.

I later learned that the officers on the scene informed the subject that the dog had arrived, and that when he learned of this, he threw down his knife, raised his hands, and surrendered. “I was perplexed. He had a few minutes to pet Lollipop before being whisked away to the hospital for further assistance.”

Gene Pavlovsky


Medical director, UI Veterinary Medicine South Clinic

Because his movements reminded me of Bruce Lee, he was given the name Bruce. “When I was in college, I got a cat named Bruce.

“He would walk slowly and deliberately across the room, then be startled and spring up into the air as if he had springs attached to his feet.

He’d stand at the end of a corridor, ready to go; I’d bounce a ping pong ball, and he’d leap into the air and catch or bat it away like a pro. “I would later replay this in slow motion in my head and make sounds I imagined Bruce Lee would make as he roundhouse kicked some guy in the head,” he said. Bruce was also a soccer player, specifically a goalkeeper.

“Once upon a time, we had a cat named Cleo. We could hear her low yowls coming from the basement late at night when everything was quiet, and we knew what was about to happen. She was a cat who delivered laundry.

“She’d saunter up the basement stairs, squeeze through the cat door, dragging some laundry item — usually underwear and socks — and appear in our bedroom, still yowling, clothing in hand. She’d proudly leave the item for us and retire to bed, satisfied that her job was done.”

Dr. Annette McCoy



UI associate professor, equine surgery

“When I was an intern at the University of Minnesota, we had an emergency abdominal surgery on a mare who had just given birth. We knew her chances were slim, but the owner was determined to save her.

“One of our teaching herd mares, Shasta, went into labor while we were preparing that mare for surgery. Shasta’s pregnancy was unplanned, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because when the client’s mare died during surgery, Shasta stepped in to foster the orphaned filly while also raising her own healthy colt.

The story, however, does not end there. “Shasta and the two foals returned to the filly’s owner to live.

She met Shasta’s colt and fell in love with him so much that she decided to adopt him. “Shasta and her colt were returned to the university after the foals were weaned, but we didn’t know what to do with the colt because our teaching herd only included mares. As it turned out, I had another client a few days later who had lost her horse due to severe lameness.

“I’ve always been astounded by this little colt’s impeccable timing and the number of lives he touched.”

Alex Lourash


Natural areas manager, Allerton Park

“As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, I find myself in the woods with my bow more frequently. About six years ago, I had this experience.

It was freezing outside, so I wore heavy pants, an insulated jacket, and a ‘Mad Bomber’ hat. The ear flaps on this hat are detachable, and the entire hat is trimmed in rabbit fur. “I got up early that morning and went to my tree stand.

As I raised my eyes, I noticed a barred owl perched on a branch about 10 feet in front of me at eye level, looking at me puzzled. “A large force struck me on the top of my head, causing my chin to touch my chest, just as the sun had barely peeked over the horizon.

“When he or she saw the fur on my hat, he or she thought I’d be a quick breakfast.

“We both sat there looking at each other for several minutes before it flew off in search of its next meal.

Because it had left three long talon marks in my scalp, the owl must have been very determined to make me its meal.” “When I got home, my brother examined my head.

Angela Green-Miller with Finnigan, the family cat


TellTail Ag, a company founded by a University of Iowa associate professor, aims to reduce piglet mortality.

“With pets, wildlife, farm animals, and even research animals, I’ve always been known as a bit of an animal whisperer. Growing up, I always had pets and frequently assisted injured wild animals.

By spring, it had fully recovered and was ready to return to the farm. “One winter, I kept an injured green snake in the kitchen in a tall garbage can.

“My first beach vacation with my husband was a memorable experience. We were walking along the beach late at night, and I jokingly said, “hey dolphins, come on over.”

“For the majority of our walk, two dolphins swam into the shallow water near the shore and splashed and swam alongside us.”

Dr. Mary Welle Strang



Veterinarian/owner, All Creatures Animal Hospital of Urbana

“After more than 30 years in veterinary medicine, the most common questions I get are about the lifespans of pets. That depends on the patient at All Creatures Animal Hospital.

“At two years old, our small mammals — hamsters, mice, and gerbils — are seniors. We’ve also looked after parrots in their fifties who had been passed down through the generations.

Giant breeds, such as Great Danes and Bernese Mountain Dogs, show their age at an early age of 8 to 10 years. The oldest dogs I’ve worked with were a pair of Yorkies who lived to be 19 and 20 years old. “Dogs have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, with smaller dogs living longer. Cats live for an average of 13 to 16 years, but there are exceptions.

“When I was a vet student at the University of Iowa, I met my oldest cat. Except for some dental issues and possibly arthritis, she had a fairly routine exam. ‘Baby’ was a scrawny little Tortie with an unruly coat and a fiery demeanor.

When I looked at her medical records, I noticed that she was born in the same year as me. “We updated her annual vaccines, and the owner inquired as to whether there was anything else they could do for her.



“When I was 23, I told the owners, ‘Don’t change a thing.’”

Dr. Tegan Stoerger


Animal Hospital at the Crossing, Champaign’s chief of staff

“It’s a running joke in Vet Med that Labrador Retrievers will eat anything. That was certainly the case when one of my favorite patients — a 100-pound black lab — ate half of a landscape brick early in my career.

Again, a successful operation and a contented dog. “Thanks to surgery, I was able to retrieve the brick, and the dog performed admirably. However, he returned four months later for eating two large pieces of asphalt, which was unfortunate for the owner.

“Needless to say, that patient will live with me forever.”

Stephanie Block



Co-owner, Sundrop Alpacas of Bement

“Attending the Railsplitter Alpaca Show in Springfield was one of our most memorable experiences.

They had a favorite alpaca named Calypso who they wanted to walk around the show arena alone. We gave them permission and they were on their way. “This year, the kids decided that they really enjoyed working with the alpacas.

A+ “We realized after a while that the kids and alpaca had been gone for quite some time.


a long period of time We began our search and were able to locate them relatively quickly.

“It appears that the kids and their fluffy alpaca were spotted by a well-known artist, the Artist Nicolosi, who invited them to participate in a photo shoot.”

Mary Auth


Champaign-based international cat show judge

“The world is full of animals, and I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with elephants in Tanzania, giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, exotic birds in Malaysia, and kangaroos in Australia,” she says.

“However, my most memorable encounter has to do with animal-related travel and the friends you make around the world because of a shared passion.”

“I have the privilege of traveling around the world on someone else’s dime as an international all breed cat show judge for the Cat Fanciers Association, all to evaluate and rank pedigreed (and non-pedigreed) cats.

I was traveling with a fellow judge, and we decided to spend the week in between in Budapest for a few days. We made it to Zurich with some quick airline ticket maneuvering and were on standby to fly to Warsaw and change flights to Tallinn, Estonia. The following weekend, I was to travel to Estonia for a show. “I was in Maribor, Slovenia, in April 2010 to judge a show. When we returned to Maribor to fly to Estonia, we learned that most of Europe’s airports were closed due to an Icelandic volcano eruption.

We were stranded. “We didn’t make it before Zurich’s airport shut down, despite running through it.”

I stayed at the hotel for three days until an American flight arrived and I was able to secure a seat. “However, because we have cat friends all over the world, we contacted a fellow cat fancier in Zurich, who drove us to France, where we were picked up by a friend in Germany, who drove us to the Frankfurt airport – with a few hotel stays in between. My fellow judge was able to board a United flight earlier.”

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