2010-07-21 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Sponge Bob and Punx­sutawney Phil, make room for Paul the Psychic Octo­pus.

Better than seeing his shadow, the tentacled tipster chose eight out of eight win­ning

soccer teams in the re­cent World Cup, including Spain’s victory over the Neth­erlands.

How? Before each game, he correctly selected his mussel menu from a glass tank decorated with the flags to play each other. That’s one of the countries about to play each other. That’s one successful pick for each suction cupped arm. “Eight is enough!” declared ESPN. Paul’s perfect record brought him both worldwide fame and death threats. I just became his 205,594th fan on Facebook, despite Argentine sore los­ers despite Argentine sore los­ers warning they would turn Paul into fried calm­ari. As soon as the octo­pus predicted that Spain would win the Cup, the Spanish prime minister offered to send “Paulo the Pulpo” security guards. At two and a half, Paul is al­ready old for an octopus, so after his triumphant World Cup prophecies, the Sea Life Centre in Ober­hausen, Germany retired their precocious Paul as a prognosticator. Alas- the average life expectancy for octopus vulgaris, his species- octopus vulgaris, his species- the common octopus, is only about two years. Paul’s spokesperson at Sea Life said their oracle would “get back to his former job of making children laugh.” His keep-ers also declined invitations on Paul’s behalf. A Spanish village wants him to visit during their Octopus Festival next month to share the glory in what would be the equivalent of an aquatic ticker tape parade. (Or would they stage a running of the octopi?) Rather than risk his safety in a region where he is considered a delicacy, the sixth sense cephalopod celebrated at home in Germany, noshing on mussels nestled inside a tiny World Cup replica.

Is Paul’s common octopus “cousin” clairvoyant too?” Is Paul’s common octopus “cousin” clairvoyant too?” Paul has his critics. Not just gamblers; mostly aca­demics. Supposedly the food choice was the same in each test. Octopuses taste food and smell the water with their tentacles. Hence, varied taste should not be a factor. While octopuses are most likely color blind, some scientists feel Paul could have been attracted to a flag’s brightness, horizontal shapes or left/right placement. TheSpanish and German flag(which he had seen several times) are similar. Both have a yellow horizontal stripe. We will never know what influenced Paul’s decisions. Some biologists believe the flag shape theory is plausi­ble. According to the folks at Weymouth Sea Life Park in England where some claim Paul was hatched, octo­puses are the smartest invertebrates and may be able to recognize shapes on flags. Veined octopuses have been seen using discarded coconut shells as tools. Fiona Smith from Weymouth said: “Common octopuses like Paul are very intelligent. We equate their intelligence with that of a dog and they love problem solving and figuring things out.” Lassie the Collie and Charlotte the spider may be insulted by these IQ comparisons. There was brief psychic tension. Paul had a World Cup challenger. Mani the Parrot, an assistant to a road­side astrologer in Singapore, predicted that Holland would win the finals. Mani, who also has an alleged track record for predicting soccer matches as well as lottery numbers and lucky wedding dates, used his beak to grab the face down playing card that depicted the Dutch flag. No mussels. No Polly-wants-a- cracker pay off,but business sure was booming for his 80-year-old fortune teller/owner as soon as word of Paul’s feathered rival reached the media. In the end, Paul’s precognition prevailed.

It seems American football has its share of animal soothsayers. An announcer on Georgia TV has a cat that predicted six out of eight Super Bowls by deciding between identical treat dishes marked with the names of each team. However, a camel has better odds. Princess the camel lives at Popcorn Park where the Associated Humane runs this NJ refuge for domestic and exotic animals. Many are abandoned or abused but Princess was once the beloved pet of late heiress Doris Duke. Theuncanny camel has a knack for pick­ing

NFL wins. The park’s manager writes the names of the opposing teams on his hands and then holds tasty graham crackers. Whichever hand she licks first, will win. By fall of 2009, Princess was right 17 out of 21 times (81% accuracy). Princess has ethical standards too. She refuses to consider predicting any Philadel­phia Eagles games ever since the Eagles signed con­victed dogfighter Michael Vick as quarterback.

Final lucky picker: Although he wasn’t psychic, Pumkin the late orangutan at Primarily Primates, a sanctuary in Texas used to choose the winning ticket for the annual fundraiser ring raffle.About a dozen years ago, the prize was a lovely sapphire and dia­mond

ring, donated by a benefactor. Pumkin wasn’t in a helpful mood the day of the raffle.Thestaff coat­ed the tickets with apple­sauce yet he still refused to cooperate. In desperation, the secretary pulled out the winning soggy ticket- MINE- making me one of a fortunate few indebted to the whims of an orangetan.

For Adoption: Both poster pups this week have connections to Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon. “Rocky” #93109 is a gentleman Pit, a loving companion to the staff. He has been at the shelter since February, and has become the coopera­tive guy to “dog test” other dogs. “Victoria” was a stray Cocker Spaniel at the shelter but is now a Last Hope foster being boarded at a vet because there is no room at the Last Hope Dog Center. She is a LOVE. Contact me at the paper if you are interested in meeting Victo­ria. The rest of the pets are at the Babylon Shelter. Females: “Heather,” “Brownie,” “Star,” “Jinni,” who carries her bowl- all varieties of Pit mixes. Males: “Albert”- also a Cocker; “Bradley” Beagle; “Garfield” & “Snuggles”-declawed cats.

•Looking for a Pet-Friendly Career? Pet care entre­preneur Charlotte Reed is offering a seminar that can help transform you from pet-owner to pet-professional. Get an overview of the pluses and pitfalls of 12 pet-friendly career options ranging from dog walker to vet tech. Theclass will be held on both August 10 and Sep­tember

28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at TRS Inc., 44 East 32nd Street, NYC 10016. Cost is $35. For info or to reg­ister for either session, call 1-888-286-6475 ext. 83.

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