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Bucky’s Animal House: The Wonders of Wildlife

We know that things at UW-Madison can get a little wild… so much so that a stroll to class, or home from an evening out, can be quite an adventure.

October 06, 2015

Badger Insider readers share their wildest stories

More on Bucky's Animal House

We know that things at UW-Madison can get a little wild… like horses-running-around-residence-halls-wild. From dairy cows on the agriculture campus to sewer-dwelling garbage bandits, campus is crawling, literally, with animal activity. For this issue, we asked readers to share their most memorable animal-interaction stories.

Robin R. Arnhold ’69

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

I remember well my late mother, Edith Arnhold MA’67, telling about an unplanned adventure she had one summer's night (morning?) maybe forty years ago. Mom had left the doors and windows open one hot night in hopes of catching a cool breeze off the lake. She was roused from a sound sleep by Charlie, our Maine coon cat, who was yodeling very loudly. As Mom described it, she had never before heard Charlie, normally a soft-spoken gentle cat, emit such a loud, plaintive wail. Pausing only to put on her slippers and housecoat, Mom rushed downstairs, grabbed a flashlight from the drawer near the front door, and headed outside in the direction Charlie's yodels were coming from.

Behind the neighbor's outhouse facing off roughly equidistant from each other in a circle were Charlie, another neighbor's German shepard-wolf mix, and a badger, all 'singing' their respective 'war songs'. Mom knew this was a battle the cat was destined to come out third best in, so fixing the badger and wolf-dog with a stare she normally reserved for misbehaving students, she scooped up Charlie and backed up quickly before turning and running for the house. The badger and the wolf-dog apparently decided their contest was a draw and went their separate ways. At any rate, the wolf-dog didn't sport any injuries when he made his rounds of our rural neighborhood and there were no stray badger parts next door.

Janet Ruth Heller ’71, MA’73

Portage, MI

During the gap between classes on a pleasant spring day, I was sitting on the sunlit grass of Bascom Hill. I was feeling sad because my boyfriend had ended our relationship. Suddenly, a male mallard duck with a beautiful green head flew toward me and landed at my side. I wrote a poem about the experience, because it felt like some kind of annunciation.

James Podgers ’73

Chicago, IL

One day at the start of the fall semester in 1970, I was walking up State Street to attend one of my classes on Bascom Hill when noticed a guy with a box next to him sitting at the entrance to Memorial Library, which fronted State Street at the time. In the box was a litter of kittens and their exhausted mother. He was giving the kittens away free to any takers. On an impulse, I stopped to check them out, and one of them — a little orange Tabby — caught my eye.

A friend from high school and I had just moved into an apartment on the 400 block of West Dayton Street, a decided a pet cat would make a perfect addition to our household. I named her Judy, after the singer Judy Collins, with whom I was enamored at the time (if it was six months later, I would have named her for Linda Ronstadt). There was only one problem: Judy loved to get out of the apartment and wander around, hunting down some of the neighborhood’s local vermin. And then one day as fall turned to winter, she just disappeared.

But one day the following March, I was walking to the Mifflin Street Coop when I noticed this scrawny little creature sitting on the steps to a house. I looked at it, and then said, “Judy, is that you?” And sure enough, it was. I took her home, washed her down and fed her, and within a few days, she was her old self again. She still liked to be outside, but she never wandered very far again. She was a terrific companion while I studied, often sprawling across my shoulders while I hunched over my desk reading a textbook or writing.

She lived at my parents’ house for several years after I graduated, and ultimately spent her “retirement” years being spoiled by a family who lived next door to my family’s summer home in Marinette, and she would actually come over to our house when I was up there. She lived to be about 22 years old, and 45 years after I picked her out of that litter, she is still the best pet I ever had.

Marv Danielski MA’78

Chesterfield, MO

The real "animal house" was the sewer system around fraternity row. Raccoons would poke their heads out of the Langdon Street drains and stare at you as you walked by at night. It wasn’t unusual to see two or three raccoons jammed together in one drain, their eyes flashing yellow and green from passing car headlights. The raccoons made "food raids” to nearby garbage cans, an abundant local food source, to go along with their favorite "watering hole:” Lake Mendota.

Rick Stowell ’85, MS’88

Lincoln, Nebraska

In 1984, I was working on a computer programming assignment, which at the time meant signing up for a 1 a.m. time slot at the Computer Lab. About four hours later, I wearily set out for home and a few hours of sleep. But upon exiting the building, I came face to face with a hissing opossum on a pedestal. The critter apparently was hired onto the night security shift! My trip was a bit brisker than normal.

Surprised by the Syllabi

For the Spring 2016 issue, we’re wondering which UW-Madison courses threw you for a loop. Did you register for Nutrition Today as an easy way to fulfill a general-education requirement, only to find it was easily the hardest class you’d ever take? Or maybe it was Biochem 612: Prokaryotic Molecular Biology that made you realize, “You know, I’ve always wanted to be an English major.”

Let us know what was the most surprising class you took at the UW and why. Send your stories to insider@uwalumni.com, or share them with us on social media at @WisAlumni, using #Badger Insider.

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