Our favorite animal stories of 2018

  • Two-year-old Luke Caponi gets a kiss from Digger the dog before the German shepherd-beagle mix escaped from a Palatine boarding service on Aug. 5.

    Two-year-old Luke Caponi gets a kiss from Digger the dog before the German shepherd-beagle mix escaped from a Palatine boarding service on Aug. 5. Courtesy of Todd Caponi

 
Daily Herald report
Posted12/21/2018 6:00 AM

The cool thing about animals is that they're so different.

Some are cute and furry. Some have feathers and some have shells. Some are a little bit creepy -- mice in the house, eek! -- and some, like a cougar roaming through a forest preserve, are a little bit scary.

 

The cool thing about animal stories is that they're different, too. Some are happy, like when an abandoned dog finds a new home. Some are sad, like when a family pet goes missing. And some make you mad, like when somebody steals a puppy.

Some make you smile, like when monarchs land in your yard or once-injured seagulls are released back into the wild. Some make you want to cry, like when a bald eagle flies into power lines and gets electrocuted.

The cool thing about animals, and animal stories, is that they can touch us in so many ways. Here's a look back at some of the animal stories we shared this year ...

January

Possible cougar sighting:

Authorities investigate unconfirmed reports of a cougar sighting at the East Branch Forest Preserve near Glendale Heights. A visitor reports seeing what looks like a cougar on the west side of the preserve and a forest preserve police officer who responds reports seeing the same thing. The district places cameras along trails at the site, but experts say if the animal really was a cougar, it was likely just passing through.

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Settlement in Digger case:

Digger the dog has yet to be reunited with his Palatine family, but a settlement is reached in a lawsuit filed over his 2015 escape from a boarding facility. Todd Caponi placed Digger, a German shepherd-beagle mix, and two other dogs at Baxter & Beasley on Colfax Street in Palatine before a family vacation in California. As Caponi, his wife and children were entering Disneyland in Anaheim on Aug. 5, 2015, he received a call from Baxter & Beasley informing him of Digger's disappearance. The suit, filed in August 2016, blamed negligence by the boarding facility and Waste Management Inc. for the dog's escape. Under the deal, Baxter & Beasley agree to pay about $3,750 to Caponi, with an undisclosed amount from Waste Management.

Call for therapy dogs:

Edward Hospital in Naperville and Elmhurst Hospital put out a call seeking more dogs for their Animal-Assisted Therapy programs. Edward's program began in 2002 with 15 teams of dogs and handlers and now features nearly 70 such teams. Elmhurst started its program in 2012.

February

Thief steals French bulldog:

This French bulldog puppy was stolen, and never returned, from a pet store in Aurora.
This French bulldog puppy was stolen, and never returned, from a pet store in Aurora. - Daily Herald file photo

A man steals a French bulldog puppy valued at $6,000 from the Furry Babies pet store in Aurora's Fox Valley Shopping Center and escapes even as employees give chase. The puppy is never recovered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

March

Animal control hires interns:

Naperville Animal Control put out an application for interns for the first time, seeking summer help from a few college students with tasks such as rescuing ducklings from sewers, impounding dogs and caring for pets whose owners have died. Interns also learn how to rein in unruly animals with nets, traps and snare poles, as well as how to medicate sick animals.

Lombard police dog retires:

After eight years with the Lombard force, police dog Chico, a German shepherd, retires and becomes the pet of longtime handler officer Greg Sohr. Chico's career of sniffing out drugs, evidence and missing people includes helping with 270 drug-related arrests that recovered $5 million in cash and assets.

April

Preventing dog bites:

The Carol Stream post office plays host to a program to teach letter carriers how to avoid dog bites in the wake of a U.S. Postal Service report showing 6,244 workers across the country were attacked by dogs last year. Chicago ranked eighth on the annual list of cities with the most dog bites to carriers.

Herons fly away:

A great blue heron rises from a nest in a rookery in a DuPage County forest preserve.
A great blue heron rises from a nest in a rookery in a DuPage County forest preserve. - Courtesy of Gary Davis

A rookery of great blue herons that once included 152 nests disappears from Danada Forest Preserve near Naperville. The rookery peaked in 2008 before the herons began gradually moving on for a variety of natural reasons, including the death of trees where they make their homes. Forest preserve officials say they believe the birds moved to Winfield Mounds.

June

No warranty on cats and dogs:

Naperville rejects a proposal to require pet stores to offer a four-year warranty on the health of dogs and cats. The city council instead approves a new animal control ordinance that adds protections against pets barking incessantly or being left outside during dangerous weather, requires pet stores to promote microchipping, and increases fines for breaking these rules as a deterrent against mistreating animals.

Farmers markets and pets?:

Not all farmers markets are as welcoming to pooches as some new ones popping up across the suburbs, which offer organic pet food for sale and boast pet-friendly policies. In DuPage, the Naperville Farmers Market at 5th Avenue Station prohibits dogs, while markets in Aurora, Bolingbrook and Elmhurst allow them.

July

Shopping with pets:

The Geneva City Council decides it's OK to shop with your pets, as long as it's in a store that has posted a sign saying it allows pets. The change in city law doesn't apply, however, to places that serve food, because the state prohibits bringing pets to such establishments everywhere but in Chicago.

August

Seagulls released into wild:

Sean Spratt, wildlife keeper with Willowbrook Wildlife Center, carries seagulls to be released at Songbird Slough Forest Preserve in Itasca.
Sean Spratt, wildlife keeper with Willowbrook Wildlife Center, carries seagulls to be released at Songbird Slough Forest Preserve in Itasca. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Seven young seagulls that were nursed back to health at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn are released into the wild along the edge of a forest preserve lake near Itasca. The birds were among about two dozen rescued in June from a Chicago street after they apparently were attacked by adult birds.

Monarch migration:

Wendy Waddick's quest to help monarch butterflies comes to fruition this summer as the colorful insects make a pit stop in her Campton Hills garden along their migratory path. Waddick, 54, a retired probation officer, joins conservation efforts to keep the species' population from declining. Her 1-acre property has butterfly-friendly plants and trees and is a designated a "Monarch Way Station" -- among more than 1,500 scattered throughout Illinois. She's raised monarch butterflies for nearly five years, nurturing caterpillars in the chrysalis, or pupa, stage, and releasing them once they emerge as adult butterflies. She also tags them so the nonprofit Monarch Watch can track their annual migration.

Wag 'N Paddle:

Shannon Bergman takes Lucy for a swim at the Wag 'N Paddle indoor dog pool and park in Naperville.
Shannon Bergman takes Lucy for a swim at the Wag 'N Paddle indoor dog pool and park in Naperville. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Wag 'N Paddle, an indoor dog park and swimming pool, opens in Naperville. It offers three heated pools inside heated rooms where swim coaches coax dogs to pant as they paddle, fetching fish toys and getting exercise while they're at it. But much of the space is a large play room with platform climbers, hurdles, boulders, benches and a balance beam for dogs to hop, jump, romp and roam to their heart's content.

Makeover helps dog adoption:

Illiana Rosado helps Pasta get her nails done for a makeover at the dog spa Dogtopia in Oakbrook Terrace.
Illiana Rosado helps Pasta get her nails done for a makeover at the dog spa Dogtopia in Oakbrook Terrace. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

One unlucky mutt who had stayed much longer than usual at the Hinsdale Humane Society is adopted quickly after a makeover and a social media frenzy on National Mutt Day. The mixed-breed named Pasta is adopted Aug. 1, fresh and clean after a bath and spa treatment at Dogtopia of Oakbrook Terrace.

September

Shedd joins turtle program:

The Shedd Aquarium joins the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's long-running effort to save an endangered species of turtles. The Chicago-based aquarium becomes the latest partner in the district's Blanding's turtle recovery program, which raises hatchlings in captivity before releasing them into the wild. The district has been conducting the program since 1996 to try to rebuild the reptile's numbers in DuPage.

November

Bald eagle found dead:

A bald eagle is discovered on River Road in Des Plaines after being electrocuted by power lines. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services pick up the remains for transportation to the National Eagle Repository in Commerce City, Colorado.

Pet oxygen masks:

Invisible Fence Brand donates pet oxygen masks to the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District. The masks come in three sizes and work for almost any sized pet that may have been caught in a fire. "We're donating these with the hope that you never have to use them," Invisible Fence general manager Christina Lamdwehr tells firefighters.

Mice moving in:

As temperatures turn, populations of mice with extra time to breed during extended warm springs, summers and falls look for places to stay warm and find our homes and offices. Pest experts warn where there's one mouse, there are usually five more, and it's not smart to clean up mouse droppings without careful research or exterminator assistance.

December

Selah, the deaf 'wonder dog':

Marilou Haworth and her lab, Selah, go through a scent test at Car-Dun-Al Dog Obedience Training Club in Huntley.
Marilou Haworth and her lab, Selah, go through a scent test at Car-Dun-Al Dog Obedience Training Club in Huntley. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

Marilou Haworth's Labrador retriever Selah was so quick to learn obedience commands and compete in agility contests that she earned the nickname "Selah the Wonder Dog." Only after three years did Haworth discover that her four-legged star couldn't hear a thing she was saying.

And that diagnosis was first suggested by someone with a special awareness of hearing -- her husband, who is deaf.

In addition to contests all over the Midwest, Marilou. of Elgin, takes Selah to private lessons once a week and to workouts with the Car-Dun-Al Dog Obedience Training Club in Huntley twice a week. "I'm a teacher. I love teaching and see teaching a deaf dog as a challenge," Marilou said.

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