As a former high-school wrestler who has also covered the sport at the Olympics, I've always appreciated good grappling—no matter what species is involved (and with a couple of my opponents, I had to wonder). Our two late cats, Hedda and Hopper, regularly engaged in what Pamelia and I called Wrestlemania: a crazed, tumbling wrestle-brawl that would begin when one would leap unannounced upon the other. The bouts were complete with body throws, kitty half-nelsons and seemingly illegal rapid-fire kicking with the back paws. The friendly bouts would be punctuated by comical, momentary timeouts in which the two cats would stop, pretend nothing had just happened, not even look at each other—and then suddenly leap into wilder action than I ever saw on an Olympic mat.
This morning, looking out through our first real snowstorm of the winter, Pamelia and I saw two young foxes doing the same thing. They seemed exhilarated to be in the snow. One would occasionally jump straight up, as if he'd just stepped onto a hot griddle. Alas, their match ended when a neighbor's huge dog came bounding and barking in their direction. He too looked as though he just wanted to have fun.
Future snow permitting, we will again open The Naturalist's Notebook this Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We had another enjoyable day at the Notebook this past Saturday. Our giant stuffed-toy elephant, like one of Hannibal's pachyderms crossing the Alps, walked out the door into winter, accompanied by his new family. Our polar bear, however, is still chilling in the Arctic gallery with Ralph Fahringer's breathtaking photographs, and the Bengal tiger continues to hang out upstairs in our save-the-tigers display, pondering whether Russia's Vladimir Putin (http://news.in.msn.com/international/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4666275) really is serious about saving the big cats from extinction.