From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2000:
Leo II, 12, African lion mascot of the University of North Alabama football team, died on March 1 while anesthetized for a medical check at Auburn University. His death provoked discussion not only of the propriety of using wild animals as quasicheerleaders, but also of Auburn academic standards, after the Birmingham News bannered “Leo II dies during exam at AU.”
Maverick, four, German shepherd police dog for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department in Santa Rosa, California, trained after rescue from a local pound, was killed on February 11 when struck by a car during hot pursuit of two suspects who allegedly discarded a loaded handgun and a half pound of cocaine in their flight. Despite his fatal injuries, Maverick continued the chase until called off by handler Theodore Van Bebber.
Hercules, 25, the grizzly bear star of numerous Walt Disney Studios productions, beer commercials, and the James Bond thriller Octopussy, died on February 4 at his home with Andy and Maggie Robin in Glen Devon, Perthshire, Scotland. Andy Robin, 58, then a fading professional wrestler, bought Hercules from a Highland wildlife park in 1975 and initially used him in a wrestling act, billed as “Stronger than Superman, heavier than the Incredible Hulk.” But Hercules proved a natural actor, and too friendly to be a fearsome wrestler. Escaping from the set of a Kleenex commercial made in the Outer Hebrides in 1980, Hercules survived on the lam for three weeks, and was named 1981 “Personality of the Year” by the Scottish Tourism Board. The Robins nursed Hercules at home for three years after he lost the use of his hind legs due to a spinal abcess in 1996, resisting veterinary suggestions that he should be euthanized.
Nim Chimpsky, 26, died of heart failure on March 10 at The Fund for Animals’ Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas. Taken from his mother at the University of Oklahoma when he was three days old, and sent to a New York laboratory as part of an experiment to see if chimpanzees could learn sign language, Nim had mastered more than 300 signs by the age of nine years––but when the project lost funding, he was sold for use in hepatitis research. The Fund prevailed upon the buyers to retire him instead. After 1983 Nim lived at the Black Beauty Ranch. Nim is survived by three other rescued laboratory chimps––Midge, Kitty, and LuLu Belle––who were his companions in recent years. “He even taught them a bit of sign language,” said Fund executive vice president Mike Markarian.
Leo, 10, a bichon frise, was killed on February 11 near the San Jose International Airport in California when a man who was irate that Sara McBurnett, 38, had bumped his vehicle in heavy traffic seized the dog from McBurnett’s vehicle, as she tried to apologize, and hurled him into fast-moving traffic in the oncoming lane. As word of the incident spread, members of the public contributed $40,000 to a reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer, described as a young white male with a goatee, driving a black sport utility vehicle with Virginia license plates.
Filene, a severely abused pit bull terrier who was apparently used as a breeder, died during emergency surgery on February 24 in New Haven, Connecticut, two weeks after animal warden Patricia Liptak found her abandoned in freezing weather outside a downtown department store. Articles about her plight in the New Haven Register brought $700 in reader contributions.
Farrah, 23, a much-loved giraffe born at the former Marine World site in Redwood City, California, and sold to the San Francisco Zoo in 1981, died under sedation for hoof-trimming on February 17.
Shiva, 18, a tiger noted for killing a human intruder into his cage in 1996, died on January 8 at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in India, his home since 1983.
Bud, 19, brown Swiss steer mascot of the Iowa State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, died on February 6 from a lung abcess. Used as a donor of rumen fluids, helping to treat other cattle who suffered bloat, Bud came to the hospital and had a plastic door to his stomach installed in 1983.
Charlie, Labrador companion to severely disabled Caitie Curell, 5, died on February 10 in Rich Township, Michigan, from multiple gunshot wounds apparently inflicted by a deer hunter who was in the Curell family farm woods without permission.