The best of humans helping animals

The Forth Worth dog train (Facebook)
The Forth Worth dog train (Facebook)

Humans have always had a special relationship with animals – when they're in need, we're there to help without hesitation and sometimes they return the gesture.

And why wouldn't we lend a hand? Animals are like humans in many ways. They want relationships and to be cared for, they work hard for rewards, although sometimes they're kind of annoying.

Last time it was animals and their run-ins with the law, but in the second part of the wrap of this year's best animal stories, we focus on some of the other stories that made you go 'awww' in 2015.


New Zealand gets a lot of international tourists each year (2.8 million of them in 2014), but it was one lost, sick and stranded sea turtle who found herself on Kiwi shores and in our headlines in July.

Ridley, an Olive Ridley turtle, normally lives in the warm Northern Hemisphere oceans, but mysteriously found herself washed up on a Wellington beach with a broken shell and hypothermia.

She entered rehab at Wellington Zoo and eventually recovered from the damage to her internal organs and pneumonia, though her shell needed more time to heal. Ridley was transferred to Auckland's Kelly Tarlton's aquarium in August where she's putting on weight, but a spokesperson says her road to recovery will be a long one.


Two Texan brothers are trying to right the wrongs of their hunting past in possibly the cutest way possible – by creating a dog train for the rescue dogs which live on their farm.

As young men, Eugene and Walter Bostick used to shoot "anything that moved" on their property, but now they're trying to turn that around by feeding all the animals there. And of course, there’s that head-turning dog train.

It's a sight to behold – a tractor, driven by Eugene, pulling nine home-made carriages for the nine rescue dogs that live on the farm.

The train provides amusement for people who see it driving through the streets of Fort Worth, and the dogs love it too.

"Whenever they hear me hooking the tractor up to it, man, they get so excited. They all come running and jump in on their own. They're ready to go," Eugene says.


Marcus the sheep is annoying - so annoying his owners at Grasmere Lodge near Arthurs Pass wanted to give him away to a family more tolerant of his behaviour.

He thinks of himself as "more or less a human/dog in a sheep's body" and likes hanging out with his human buddies a bit too much.

Not content with lazily grazing in a paddock all day like the rest of his kind, Marcus took to the finer things in life, like sleeping inside, riding in cars and following his human mates everywhere.

But the owners of the lodge got fed up with Marcus leaving "deposits" everywhere and not even cleaning up after himself.

It led to an online plea for someone to take him off their hands – a call answered by a Tai Tapu family.


From a freeloading animal to another credited for saving a failing railway company. Japanese cat Tama died this year after bringing the Wakayama Electric Railway company back from the brink of financial collapse.

A stray turned popular mascot and station master, Tama was honoured by the company with a Shinto-style funeral and an outpouring of flower tributes and canned tuna from members of the public.

The company's chief executive Mitsunobu Kojima said Tama's popularity with visitors was responsible for bringing 1.1 billion Yen (NZ$13M) to the local economy during her time in the job.

To keep the tradition going, the station appointed Nitama, Tama's understudy, to take over the position.

Honourable mentions:

Abandoned and homeless puppies got a helping hand from inmates at Rolleston Prison who knitted blankets to help out the SPCA. The charity says it can't afford to buy all the bedding needed to keep the pups warm and the prison's director says the programme was therapeutic for the male inmates and a way for them to express themselves.


When singer/songwriter Ryan Adams blew into Auckland in July for two shows, he spent some time hanging out in the Symonds St cemetery with a black and white cat.

He tweeted a photo of it, asking for any cat rescue organisation to save it and #cemeterycat, later named Wednesday by Adams after the Addams Family character, was born.

The story went global and in true 21st century style, the rescue of Cemetery Cat was live-tweeted.

The world-famous cat was later put up for adoption.


Cemetery Cat wasn't the only animal in need of help this year, with search and rescue dog Thames ironically getting lost in the bush during a training exercise.

The week-long search for Thames in the Wairarapa bush cost the police $10,000, and a total of 417 volunteer and police hours were spent looking for the four-year-old.

After Thames was found, there was an emotional reunion with handler Constable Mike Wakefield, who’d spent countless hours looking for his best friend in the Tararua Ranges.   


For a while this year, it seemed like the country was being invaded by New Zealand fur seals - some might go so far as to call it Sealmageddon.

They turned up everywhere – an Auckland car wash, Waikato farmland 50km from the sea, on someone's front doorstep in Papakura, relaxing in the rare Wellington sun and attacking an 8-year-old boy in Gisborne.

It wasn't just in New Zealand that a fur seal made itself at home on someone else's property. A juvenile took up residence on the steps of Sydney's Opera House.

Meanwhile in Timaru, it was a pregnant elephant seal on a beach at Caroline Bay gaining the public's attention. Police were so concerned about its welfare they were keeping an eye on it via CCTV. It gave birth to a pup on the beach, however it died shortly afterwards. Sorry to be a down buzz.

A special mention:

For some people, animals are the most important things in the world; others prefer international politics. Those who like both would’ve been thrilled to see cats roaming across the G20 Summit stage in Turkey – the three wayward felines managed to slip through the tight security and quite literally take their place on the world stage.

And that is that. Like many year-enders, there were a lot of important stories which didn't quite make the cut – for example the talk of giant pandas for Wellington (we'll believe it when we see it) and the apparent craze of urban Aucklanders keeping very rural lambs in their backyards.

It was an eventful year for animals in New Zealand and across the world. Here's to another one in 2016.

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