WE HUMANS SURE behave in ways that drum up awful news about everything under the sun.

There’s our acerbic political arena, both in the U.S. and around the world, war, terrorism, hunger, religious battles, racism, greed, child and spousal abuse, murder, drug abuse — all perpetrated by us. The list goes on.

While we supposedly are the most intelligent creatures on earth, one has to wonder sometimes if we really don’t know enough to get out of our own way.

That’s why, when the news gets too all-consuming, we can be thankful we share our space with animals.

Stories about animals offer us a welcome break from politics and terrorism, tyranny and torture.

Sometimes the stories are not easy to read or hear about, but at least that’s typically not the fault of the animals. We humans, on the other hand, have no such excuse.

Last week alone, there was the guy in Augusta found to be illegally harboring baby alligators and was nabbed by authorities; the woman who allegedly bred and abused dogs, though she denied it; and the hunters who reportedly killed 87 snowshoe hares on an island off the Maine coast.

Those are disturbing tales, but stories about animal antics have also made us smile, laugh or shed a tear.

The recent story about the lamb triplets born at Unity College was heart-warming. Earlier this year, we learned about the Waterville man who as a boy in the 1950s had a pet crow that rode with him on his bike while he delivered newspapers. The crow also stole clothespins off people’s lines; purloined parking tickets off cars downtown, annoying the police; and pilfered jewelry from stores when their doors were open in summer.

There are the curious animal stories we’ve published over the years: the turkey vulture that got trapped in the boiler room at the former Seton Hospital in Waterville by apparently entering the room via the smokestack; the Waterville man whose pet mouse allegedly stole his false teeth one night and hid them behind a wall; and the stink raised in Oakland from geese constantly befouling the town’s scenic boat launch and park.

I’ve written my share of animal stories — some fun, some sad.

I got a call from a woman in Norridgewock about 25 years ago who claimed there was an elephant in her backyard. Wasting no time deciding if she were telling the truth or attempting to send me on a wild goose chase, I drove there and found a small-ish elephant in a field of tall grass that had performed in a circus and was apparently taking a hiatus.

There was the errant pig known as the Colby pig as it was first spotted on the Mayflower Hill campus in Waterville. For days, the pig wandered around the city, evading would-be captors, but eventually it was taken into custody on West River Road after it was subdued with a Taser stun gun.

Early in my career, I wrote a story about a Winslow woman who was in a car accident and her cat was in a cage in the back seat at the time. The cage catapulted out of the car during the crash, its door flew opened and the feline fled. It eventually was found at a farm off Interstate 95, where it had sought refuge after the traumatic event.

There was the Skowhegan man who looked out of his living room window by the Kennebec River to discover his dog had wandered out on the ice and fallen into the frigid water. Though it was dangerous, the man crept and crawled onto the ice and rescued the canine.

More recently, the code enforcement officer in Skowhegan was attacked and bitten by a fox in his own driveway. The fox did so unprovoked and since it was suspected to be rabid, the poor guy had to undergo a series of rabies shots.

Many years ago I received a call from a woman in Solon who insisted I come out to witness an unusual sight in her yard. Her cat had given birth to one kitten in the dog house, and the family dog stood on the dog house roof, barking fiercely to protect mother and baby from anyone who got too close. I snapped a photo and, after it was published, received requests from as far away as Florida for copies. The photo still hangs on my wall at home.

One day as I was getting ready for work, I saw what appeared to be a horse outside our window in Waterville. Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was a moose. Then I saw another moose — and another! Three moose loped across our front lawn, crossed the street and wandered over to Eustis Parkway, where they entered the woods as motorists stopped to gape. All this as our cat watched, wide-eyed, from the window sill.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget the 25-year-old Siamese cat in Waterville I wrote about in the late 1980s that was so smart, it used the toilet instead of a litter box — and flushed it after each use.

You can’t make up a lot of this stuff and truth really is stranger than fiction.

That is often the case with both humans and animals — but animal tales are often more palatable.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Mark Twain, when contemplating these sorts of things:

“If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.”

Now, there lies a story.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.