First thing’s first: voting on the caption contest! I was worried that I’d put up a sub-par photo for you, in terms of being caption-worthy. I was also worried too many people would know the back-story. But even if I did, the entries were awesome, thus establishing one of my goals: to be able to produce mediocre work that’s then made great by other people. Hurray!
In any case: please vote for your favorite, and then continue below to learn the true story behind the photo. I strongly advise not reading the story until after you’ve voted.
Okay, ready? It’s a great, great story…
So, one day at the Berlin zoo, employees got to work and when they got to big, furry bear Mauschen’s pen, they discovered a cat sitting in there. Just sitting there, next to the bear with that ‘Yes? Do you need something?’ look that cats have. They had no idea where it had come from or how it gotten in. Employees were concerned, but didn’t know what to do about it. The cat stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
Quickly Mauschen and the cat, soon named Muschi, become close friends. They slept together, played together, sunbathed together, and even – incredibly – ate together. Cats can’t even share with other cats. And bears? Also not known for their food-sharing skills.
It was a pretty great deal for both of them, but the cat in particular. Lots of fish, people looking on him adoringly, and a pack-mate who was going to get harassed by ZERO dogs. (Also, you just have to love the self-esteem on cats. You know the cat is thinking, “Hm, you’re a big, tough predator… I’m a big, tough predator… yeah, we should hang out.”)
During a period when Mauschen’s pen was being remodeled and improved he had to be kenneled. Far from staying with the turf, Muschi sat outside Mauschen’s kennel, meowing, pacing, and rubbing against the bars. He wanted his friend.
For years they were inseparable. An amazing, unlikely friendship.
Of course, as stories of real life must, there is sadness. A little while back, at the age of 43, Mauschen passed away from an illness. Muschi, reportedly, was deeply grief-stricken. He spent his days yowling and searching the pen for Mauschen. Eventually, of course, the pen was needed for a new bear, and Muschi had to be removed, away from the new bear who would be frightened and territorial.
It’s sad that the story has to end that way, but they both got to have a life-long friend – something we all hope for. And this is one of those stories you think of when people talk about animals not having feelings, or complex thoughts, or having a sense of friendship.