L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
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Category: Famous Animals

Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring on Groundhog Day 2011

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil, America's favorite groundhog, predicted an early spring when he failed to see his shadow Wednesday morning at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa.

Early spring predictions are rare for Phil. But Mike Johnston, vice president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, insisted that the groundhog's failure to see his shadow was based solely on his accurate foreknowledge of weather trends. Reuters reported Wednesday:

Johnston said the latest prognostication will be entirely accurate, and does not reflect any desire on Phil's part to cheer up Americans who are suffering through a grueling winter.

"There is no question that Phil is capable of feeling empathy," Johnston said in an interview. "But he is absolutely incapable of error."

Others doubt Phil's infallibility, however. And his record of accuracy isn't the only controversy that has surrounded the groundhog in recent years: In 2010, PETA protested the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's continued reliance on Phil as a weather predictor/tourist attraction and asked the group to move him to a sanctuary and replace him with an animatronic groundhog replica.

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Viral cat videos and more vie for Urlesque's Urly award for Animal of the Year [Updated]

Who will be the Internet's MVA ("Most Valuable Animal," of course) for 2010? Pop-culture website Urlesque is letting its readers decide which lucky cat, dog or octopus will be named Animal of the Year from a field of five contestants in its annual Urly Awards.

Voters must decide between Standing Cat, above, a French cat with alarmingly good balance (he can also sit upright) whose real name is Rocky; a Bichon frise-poodle mix named Riley whose birthday party photo became a popular Internet meme; OMG Cat, whose expression of pure shock was caught on video and has since been viewed untold thousands of times on YouTube; Paul, the "psychic octopus" who correctly predicted the outcomes of 8 World Cup games in a row; and a cat named Iggy who went to town playing with apps on his owner's iPad shortly after the device was released earlier this year. (As Urlesque puts it, the so-called "iPad Cat" video is "worth watching because it's like the cat is playing with yarn. Then it does a keyboard cat impression. Memes!")

Urlies will also be awarded for Meme of the Year; Video of the Year; Biggest Facebook Trend of the Year; Celebrity Photoshop Meme of the Year (please, please let it be Prancing Michael Cera); Breakout of the Year; Coolest Web Kid of the Year; Justin Bieber Internet Thing of the Year; Best New Single Topic Blog of the Year (we were pulling for either Faces of the Last Season of Oprah or Selleck Waterfall Sandwich, but both currently trail Hungover Owls); and Hero of the Year.

At present, Paul the Octopus leads in the Animal of the Year category, and he's something of a sentimental favorite since he passed away a few months ago. Voting closes Wednesday at midnight Eastern time, so you've still got a few hours to cast your vote.

[Update 12/17: Urlesque has announced that the winner of its Animal of the Year Urly award is Paul the Octopus. A fitting tribute for our fallen mollusk friend, we think!]


-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: DaisYannou via YouTube

Celebrity polar bear Knut celebrates his 4th birthday with a party at Berlin Zoo

Knut BdayBERLIN — Knut, Germany's favorite polar bear, has celebrated his 4th birthday with a lavish party at his zoo attended by about 250 people.

Fish and meat were served in the polar bear's snow-covered outdoor enclosure at the Berlin Zoo on Sunday, followed by a birthday cake shaped like the number 4.

As Knut gobbled up his cake, the spectators sang "Happy Birthday,"the German news agency DAPD reported.

The visitors also were given the rare opportunity to feed Knut, and he seemed to enjoy the bread, fruit and fish they brought for him.

Knut has been a star in Germany since he was hand-raised by zookeepers after his mother rejected him at birth.

Knut, beloved polar bear, has a run-in with a fan
Zoo custody dispute over Knut the polar bear ends; he'll remain in Berlin

-- Associated Press

Photo: Knut enjoys his birthday cake in his enclosure at the Berlin Zoo on Dec. 5. Credit: Soeren Stache / European Pressphoto Agency

R.I.P. Paul the octopus: Tentacled World Cup prognosticator passes away in German aquarium

PulpoPaulPaul, the octopus whose correct predictions of the outcomes of eight World Cup 2010 games fueled his meteoric rise to stardom, has died at the ripe old age of 2 1/2.

"He appears to passed away peacefully during the night, of natural causes, and we are consoled by the knowledge that he enjoyed a good life here and that the care provided him by our dedicated displays team could not have been bettered," Stefan Porwoll, manager of the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, said in a statement.

Paul, who was born in the U.K. but spent most of his life at the German aquarium, made his famous predictions by selecting a mussel from one of two clear plastic boxes, each marked with the flag of one of the teams playing in a World Cup match.

His knack for picking the winning team earned him the adoration of legions of soccer fans, but he became especially popular in Spain after he picked the country's national team to beat Germany in a semifinal matchup. Later, he chose Spain as the winner of the final game against the Netherlands.

The Madrid Zoo even attempted to convince the Oberhausen aquarium to let Paul move to Spain, either temporarily or permanently, but the request was denied. The Sea Life aquarium also turned down a number of offers of further publicity for Paul, such as opportunities to expand his prognosticating career into other realms. "He won't give any more oracle predictions -- either in football, nor in politics, lifestyle or economy," Sea Life spokesperson Tanja Munzig told the Associated Press after the World Cup. "Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh."

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University of Georgia set to debut new bulldog mascot, Uga VIII, after the death of Uga VII

Uga VII, the University of Georgia's new mascot

ATHENS, Ga. — After playing its first six games with an interim mascot, Georgia will introduce Uga VIII before Saturday's homecoming game against Vanderbilt.

Georgia has had "Russ" as the interim mascot since Uga VII's death last year.

Uga VIII's registered name is "Big Bad Bruce" in honor of Dr. Bruce Hollett of the university's school of veterinary medicine. Hollett has helped in the care and treatment of the line of white English bulldog mascots owned by members of Savannah-based Sonny Seiler's family.

University of Georgia President Michael Adams and new athletic director Greg McGarity will participate in the pregame ceremony as the collar is passed from Russ to Uga VIII.

"Uga is one of the most storied mascots in the history of college athletics," McGarity said. "He is the rallying point for the Bulldog Nation. As our mascot he represents everything we want our student-athletes and fans to be ... proud, loyal, tenacious and relentless.

"We look forward to his long and successful reign and appreciate all the Seiler family has contributed to our mascot program for more than half a century."

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Octopus oracle Paul inspires a theme song

Color us excited: Our favorite novelty-animal-song writer, Parry Gripp, has penned an ode to Paul the octopus (or, if you prefer, "el pulpo Paul"), the so-called oracle who recently went 8 for 8 in predicting the outcomes of World Cup matches.

"He picks the winner / when he eats his dinner," the lyrics note, referencing the fact that Paul's predictions were made by selecting a mussel from one of two clear boxes marked with flags. "Your tentacles are magical / They pick the winning team / You were born in England / Now you live in Germany," the song continues. Elvis Costello-style wordplay it is not, but has Elvis ever written a song about a soccer-predicting octopus? To the best of our knowledge, no.

Paul has officially retired from the prognosticating game, although public relations expert Max Clifford told CNN that he could still make a mint by appearing in commercials and print advertising campaigns. The German aquarium where he lives has said that it is vetting offers "to see if there are opportunities to spread Paul's fame even further, without involving the canny cephalod directly." Meanwhile, PETA Germany is asking Paul's fans to sign a petition to free him.

We're not sure if Gripp's "Paul the Octopus" rivals his earlier masterpieces -- among them "That Skunk Is Mad," "Shopping Penguin," "Spaghetti Cat (I Weep for You)" and our personal favorite, "Cat Flushing a Toilet" -- but it's still, in our opinion, the best psychic-mollusk song out there. 

Paul the octopus oracle picks Spain to win World Cup amid media frenzy, death threats
Soccer prognosticating octopus Paul picks Spain over his own Germany in World Cup game

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: Parry Gripp via YouTube

Paul the soccer-predicting octopus oracle picks Spain to win World Cup amid media frenzy, death threats

Paul the octopus oracle

BERLIN — There's been plenty of ink for Paul the octopus lately, and why not?

The octopus, also known as the "Oracle of Oberhausen," has successfully predicted the winner of six World Cup matches.

Now, Paul has forecast the winner of Sunday's championship match. And rather than go out on a limb -- or maybe eight of them -- the critter is sticking with the favorite, picking Spain over the Netherlands.

Handlers of the 2 1/2-year-old floppy octopus -- a resident of the Oberhausen Sea Life aquarium -- usually have him make predictions only for games in which Germany plays. But because of Paul's recent worldwide fame and demand for his pick for the final, they made an exception.

Here's how the seer sucker makes his prognostications: Officials put a mussel inside each of two clear plastic boxes bearing the national flags of the teams in his tank. Paul then makes his choice by opening the lid with his tentacles and devouring one of the treats.

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Son disputes heiress Gail Posner's will that leaves millions for care of her Chihuahuas

Chi MIAMI — Conchita, Lucia and April Marie are used to a luxurious life in an island mansion. With a $3-million trust fund from the will of an heiress, they'll never have to worry about a thing. What sets the three apart is that they're Chihuahuas.

The three little dogs are part of a bitter battle over the estate of Gail Posner, daughter of late corporate raider Victor Posner. Gail Posner's only surviving child, Bret Carr, 46, is challenging her will in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. He contends that she was coerced into changing it by several employees while she was suffering from cancer and drug addiction.

Carr was awarded only income from a $1-million fund in his mother's will. But employees including maids, a personal trainer and bodyguards received $27 million, according to court documents. Some of them, including a caretaker of the pampered pooches, are being allowed to live in the $8.3-million, seven-bedroom Sunset Island mansion with the Chihuahuas.

Carr's attorney, Bruce Katzen, contends that Victor Posner, who died in 2002, set aside a fortune in 1965 that Katzen says is now worth as much as $100 million in irrevocable trust accounts for his grandchildren, including Carr. Without telling Carr, Gail Posner made changes before she died March 19, at age 67, that virtually cut him out, Katzen said.

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Veterinarian sues Mariah Carey, claiming $30,000 in bills unpaid

Mariah NEW YORK — Mariah Carey is in the doghouse with a veterinarian who says the pop superstar hasn't paid nearly $30,000 in bills for three of her prized pooches.

Veterinarian Cindy Bressler sued Carey on Wednesday in Manhattan state court.

Bressler provided "extraordinary services" for Jack Russell terriers Cha-Cha, Dolomite and JJ, but the Grammy Award-winning singer paid only about $8,200 of the roughly $37,800 in charges, the lawsuit says. The bills cover a little more than a month of care.

Bressler's lawyer, Michael C. Posner, declined to elaborate on the dogs' treatment. Bressler, whose website notes that she makes house calls in New York City and the Hamptons and caters to "prominent New Yorkers and celebrity clients," didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Carey's spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages.

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'Biggest Loser' trainer Bob Harper urges you to get off the couch, adopt


Talk about a lucky dog.

"The Biggest Loser" trainer Bob Harper has a new furry, four-legged friend: Karl. He's named after the designer Karl Lagerfeld and came to Harper fully housebroken from Animal Advocates Alliance in Baldwin Park. Harper said he hopes everyone will bypass "puppy mills" and go to pounds and rescue centers instead to find their own pet. Read more at The Times' fashion blog, All The Rage.

Karl probably did not recognize Harper from TV, but the black-and-white pup has hit the doggie jackpot.

Harper takes Karl everywhere, including to the set of "The Biggest Loser," because, well, Harper's one of the stars of the show and he can get away with doing that. (The photo above was taken at the ranch.) And because Karl is small enough, he qualifies as carry-on "luggage" when Harper flies back East for his frequent guest appearances and his consulting gig on "The Dr. Oz Show."

And then there is the fact that Karl is so cute that he draws a crowd wherever he goes, as people crouch to scratch him and pat him and rub his belly. (Harper joked that no one talks to him anymore, they just come over to talk to Karl.)

In other words, this dog has it made.

Poll: More than half of survey respondents say they plan to adopt next pet from a shelter
German shepherd found emaciated in Bellflower garage is recovering -- and has a new home

-- Rene Lynch


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