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Public Transportation is for the Birds (and Dogs and Goats)

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We've all heard of snakes on a plane, but what about cats on a bus? Or dogs on a subway? Here are the stories of some crafty members of the animal kingdom who have found that public transportation is the only way to travel.

New Kid On the Bus

Just like Mary, who had a little lamb that followed her to school each day, Jordan Lamp of Ohio had her own four-legged tag-along, Nanny, a goat that repeatedly jumped on the school bus with her in 2008. The new "kid" in school was always quickly dismissed, despite protests from the rest of the students on the bus, but she became quite famous nonetheless. Thankfully, the school took the minor disruption in stride, offering to sign Nanny up during the Spring open enrollment period. However, as Superintendent Chuck Swindler pointed out, the arrangement probably wouldn't work in the long run: "The big problem he has is he tends to eat his homework..."

Where Everybody Knows Ratty's Name

As the Cheers theme song put it, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And for Ratty the Jack Russel Terrier, that place was the Black Bull Pub in Dunnington, UK. At least twice a week, Ratty would hop on the No. 10 bus across the street from his house and take it five miles to the pub, where he had his own water bowl and was fed his favorite sausages. However, like so many barflies, Ratty could never seem to find his way back home. A friendly barmaid would usually give him a ride at the end of the night, or the pub's owner would simply call Ratty's owner to come get him. This went on for years, until 2006 when the Black Bull was sold and the new owners banned the dog from the pub.

But it wasn't long before the terrier found another pub to call home—the nearby Rose and Crown, where the owner said he was always welcome. Sadly, this April, 10 year old Ratty was struck down and killed while crossing the street to board the No. 10 bus for his regular trip to the pub.

A Different Kind of Passenger Pigeon

We all know the old joke, "I just flew in and, boy, are my arms tired." The pigeon comedians of London can't really use that joke, though, since many of them use the Underground subway system to save themselves some flapping. The birds, especially on the Northern and Piccadilly lines, will walk into the car at one station, ride it to the next, and then get off. The birds will even stand and wait patiently for the doors, indicating they know which side of the car will open for their stop.

But the Brit birds aren't the only ones who ride the rails. In New York City, pigeons have been seen on the A line for years. The train car stops for cleaning at the Far Rockaway station and the birds take the opportunity to get on board and scrounge for crumbs. As the train returns to service, it takes the birds with it, and the pigeons have simply learned to get off when the doors open again at the next station. Some employees say the birds will fly back to the Far Rockaway station so they can get back on when the train returns.

There's no question the YouTube sensation known as Henry, a pigeon on the Toronto Transit Commission subway, commutes like an old pro. As he waits for his stop, he patiently stays near the center pole. But he begins to pace around once the overhead voice indicates the train is arriving at Runnymede Station. And, as if he's done it a thousand times before, he simply walks right through the doors just before they close behind him. Obviously he's a native.

Percy Peruses the Penguins

If you were a cat, where would you take the train? To the aquarium, of course. That's exactly what Percy, a cat in Scarborough, UK, does when he hops the North Bay Railway and travels from his home to the nearby Sea Life Centre. There, Percy sits in front of the large tanks, watching the colorful fish swim by. And once he's done with the fish, he'll go watch the penguins until his presence makes them nervous and an employee has to shoo him away. After Percy's had his fill of marine life, he somehow knows when his train is coming, and heads back to the station to catch a ride home. The park and railway employees say he's one of the best-behaved visitors they have. [Image credit: Purr-n-Fur.]

Casper the Commuter Cat

Susan Finden was boarding the No. 3 bus across the street from her house in Plymouth, UK, when her cat Casper followed her on. She tried to shoo him off, but the driver informed her that Casper was a regular rider. According to the driver, Casper would consistently "queue up in line good as gold "“ it'd be 'person, person, person, cat, person'" for the normal 10:55am departure. Once on board, the cat took his favorite seat in the back, curled up, and slept through the 11-mile, hour-long journey. After the bus returned, Casper would simply get off, or, if he was still asleep, the driver would nudge him awake to remind him it was his stop. This wasn't a fluke thing, either "“ Casper had ridden the bus every day for going on four years, traveling an estimated 20,000 miles. Unfortunately, Casper's bus-riding days were numbered. In January 2010, Casper was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street for his daily commute.

Moscow's Metro Mutts

There are approximately 35,000 stray dogs living in and around Moscow today; about 500 of them live in subway stations where there's plenty of food and no dangerous vehicular traffic like on the street above. Of these 500, a few have developed a very special skill "“ riding the subway. The dogs generally take the train from the suburbs to the city center, where the best food can be scrounged and begged for. According to Andrei Neuronov, an animal behaviorist, the dogs have figured out how to ride the subway by using their keen instincts. They have memorized the different smells of the stations and can recognize the station names as they're called out over the loudspeaker. They even use their own internal clocks to know approximately when the train they want is coming, as well as when to get off when they return home that night.

While other cities might find the dogs a nuisance, many Muscovites show great admiration for their subway strays. For example, after the brutal stabbing of a well-liked subway dog nicknamed Malchik in 2001, money donated by Muscovites helped erect a bronze statue of the dog inside the station he once called home. Even today, it's not unusual to see flowers left there for the beloved canine.

Hachikō of Shibuya Station

Hachikō, a rare breed of Akita, never got on the train at Shibuya Station in Japan, but his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, boarded to go to the University of Tokyo where he was a professor. Every day, the dog walked with his master to the station and would be there again when Ueno got off the train that evening. This went on for a little over a year before a cerebral hemorrhage killed Ueno while he was at work. Although Ueno never came home again, Hachikō waited for him. Even after Hachikō had been taken in by new owners, the dog still came to the station every day for the next nine years to wait for his beloved master's return. As employees and commuters began to take note of Hachikō's vigil, his story spread and he became something of a role model to the people of Japan, admired for his loyalty.

On March 8, 1935, Hachikō was found dead in the streets of Shibuya. As an honor, his body was mounted and put on display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Tokyo. Additionally, a large, bronze statue was erected at Shibuya Station, where an annual ceremony is held on April 8 to commemorate this incredibly faithful dog. In 2009, his story was the subject of a Richard Gere movie, Hachi: A Dog's Tale.

So, a Monkey and a Bulldog Walk Onto a Train...

Still not impressed by these mass transit animals? Check out Pan-Kun, a chimpanzee, and his buddy, a bulldog named James, as they not only ride a train in Japan, but even figure out how to buy the ticket, with very little human assistance. It's all part of a TV show where Pan-Kun and James are given human tasks to accomplish and, more often than not, pass these tests with flying colors.

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Ever ridden the bus with a goat? Or the subway with a pigeon? How about an airplane next to one of those yappy-type dogs? Tell us all about your wildest animal travel experiences in the comments below.




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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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