Thursday, May 29, 2008

Special and unusual felines

We hear about famous and heroic dogs all the time; cats, not so often. I think it's because cats are not braggarts like dogs. Sure, there are many, many exemplary cats out there - they just shun publicity. Here are the stories of some very unusual kitties: Oscar a.k.a. "Unsinkable Sam" The black and white patched cat had been owned by an unknown crewman of the German battleship Bismarck. He was on board the ship on 18 May 1941 when it set sail on Operation Rheinübung, Bismarck's first and only mission. Bismarck was sunk after a fierce sea-battle on 27 May, from which only 115 from its crew of over 2,200 survived. Hours later, the cat was found floating on a board and picked from the water, the only survivor to be rescued by the homeward-bound British destroyer HMS Cossack. Unaware of what his name had been on Bismarck, the crew of Cossack named their new mascot "Oscar". About five months later, Cossack was hit and destroyed by a German submarine, and Oscar was again among the survivors. The cat was then brought aboard the famous aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, but only three weeks later, this ship, too, was torpedoed by a submarine. This luckily ended the cat's naval career. He was transferred first to the offices of the Governor in Gibraltar, and then sent back to the UK, where he saw out the remainder of the war living in a seamen's home in Belfast. Sam died in 1955. Simon Simon served on the Royal Navy sloop HMS Amethyst 1948 through November 1949. Simon received the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross for gallantry after he protected food stores on the HMS Amethyst from an infestation of rats, despite being badly injured in shelling by Chinese Communist forces during the country’s civil war. He was later posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery, instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin CBE, the founder of veterinary charity the PDSA, and was given the rank of "Able Seaman". Simon is the only cat among 62 animals to be awarded the Dickin Medal. Ms. Ruby LeGato Ruby patrolled the Alamo in Texas from 1981 through 1985. Ruby was awarded a certificate of completion of the Basic Security Officer Training course from San Antonio College. In 1988 Ruby was immortalized in Rita Kerr's book, "The Alamo Cat". A bronze plaque marks her final resting place on the grounds of the Alamo. Fred He came from the streets of Brooklyn, a cool customer on four legs, the perfect bait for a sting on a fake veterinarian. In February 2006, Fred was enlisted by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office as an undercover secret agent, posing as a would-be patient to help the NYPD apprehend Steven Vassall, a Brooklyn man suspected of acting as a veterinarian without proper license or training. On 18 May 2006, Fred was presented with a Law Enforcement Appreciation Award by Brooklyn district attorney Charles J. Hynes. Fred was later honored on July 8, 2006, at "Broadway Barks 8!", the New York City Theater District’s dog and cat adopt-a-thon benefit hosted by Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters. He was presented with the Mayor’s Alliance Award, which is given to remarkable animals. Fred died on 10 August 2006 when he escaped from his home in Queens, New York and was struck and killed by a car. Fred was 15 months old. Tama Because of budget cuts, the only stationmaster the Kishigawa Train Line in Japan can afford is Tama, a nine-year-old cat. The railway company formally appointed her as "stationmaster" in January 2007. Happy with her successful job as stationmaster, the company promoted Tama to "super-stationmaster" in January this year, making her "the only female in a managerial position" in the company's 36-strong workforce. The company feeds her in lieu of salary. Wizzo Fighting the war on rodent infestation, the 95th Mission Support Group is using a "military working cat" to help reduce the amount of damage to equipment caused by rodents living in the supply warehouse. The cat, named Wizzo, calls the 95th Mission Support Group's supply warehouse his home. The feline lives and works around the clock as a mobility rodent deterrent. So far, Wizzo has caught a bird, a rat and three mice, which officially makes him an ace. The supply team keeps his kill count posted on a board for him. Felix , or was it Félicette? France launched a black and white stray tomcat of the Paris streets on October 18, 1963, on Veronique AGI sounding rocket No. 47 from the Hammaguir test range in Algeria. Was it a male named Felix. Or a female named Félicette? Whichever, it was the first cat in space as the capsule in the rocket's nose cone separated at 120 miles altitude and descended by parachute. Electrodes in the cat's brain transmitted neurological impulses to a ground station. The cat was recovered. Photo: Cats in simulated spacesuits [NASA archive] Thanks to LA Unleashed for tips to the Ruby and Tama stories.


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