People often say they're working like a dog. Usually it means they're working very hard for little reward. But some dogs have all the luck. They make lots of money working on TV or in advertising. Moose, the Jack Russell terrier who played Eddie on the television show "Frasier," pulled in a cool $10,000 per episode for his work, which was likely quite enjoyable and not all that taxing [source: Dingman].
And it's not just dogs that have it so well. Cats, horses, pigs, monkeys, dolphins, bears and even whales may also work in TV or movies. Beyond the entertainment industry, some animals perform richly satisfying jobs, such as providing companionship or therapy to ill, aging or disabled folks. Or they may offer assistance to those with, say, visual or auditory impairments, or assist with scientific endeavors (we're not talking lab rats). These animals might not earn a cent, but they're very much loved.
Is your own job starting to pale in comparison? Let's see if one of these 10 animals has (or had) a job you would covet.
Felicia the Ferret
In 1971, scientists at the National Accelerator Laboratory (NAL) had a problem. The NAL's new Meson Laboratory was nearing completion, but its piping — through which subatomic particles would fly — was dirty. And it needed to be spotless to work properly. Someone had to figure out how to remove the innumerable tiny steel particles, dust and other debris from the pipes' interior before they could be used. The first idea: Create a mechanical cleaner to wipe out the 12-inch (30-centimeter)-wide, 300-foot (91-meter)-long tubes. A good idea, but an expensive one. Then, visiting British physicist Robert Sheldon came up with another idea: a ferret [source: Fermilab].
Ferrets are small, curious creatures that love to duck into holes and burrows, which they'll zip along until they reach the end, just to see what's there. Sheldon recalled how, back home, ferrets were sent down rabbit holes to, um, ferret out bunnies. The scientists agreed to give the inexpensive option a try, and so the NAL purchased Felicia, a petite 15-inch (38-centimeter) ferret, for a mere $35. Employees taught Felicia to scurry down the piping while fitted with a special collar and string; as Felicia ran through the pipe, she pulled the string with her. When she emerged at the other end, workers fastened a tight-fitting swab soaked in cleaning fluid to the end of the string, then pulled it back through the pipe to clean it [source: Fermilab].
How does Bodhi the Shiba Inu rake in $15,000 per month? This Japanese hunting dog is a talented model that goes by the moniker Menswear Dog. Owners and fashion designers Yena Kim and David Fung first clad Bodhi in a stylin' outfit in 2013 on a whim. Unlike most canines, who would scratch or shake off any such adornments, Bodhi seemed to enjoy the duds, and actually began posing for Kim and Fung. The couple posted a photo of the engaging pooch on Facebook, instantly launching Bodhi's career [source: Gayomali].
Today Menswear Dog has a Facebook page with more than 200,000 "likes," 254,000+ Instagram followers, and nearly 10,000 Twitter followers — and a very busy schedule. He's often out doing campaign shoots for brands such as Coach, Victorinox Swiss Army, American Apparel, Hudson Shoes and Purina. Then there are his individual photo shoots for publications such as GQ, Time, Esquire and Fast Company, as well as personal appearances at events like New York Fashion Week [source: Gayomali]. Oh, and his first book came out in 2015, titled "Menswear Dog Presents the New Classics: Fresh Looks for the Modern Man."
Jimmy the Groundhog
Over in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil has been hard at work predicting the duration of winter on Groundhog Day since 1886 [source: The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club]. But Phil has a rival in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, a critter with a little more bite in his "bark." Jimmy is a furry, brown groundhog residing in Sun Prairie, a city of 30,000 just outside of Madison. Every February 2 (Groundhog Day), Jimmy predicts whether Americans will have six more weeks of winter or an early spring, just like Phil.
The first Jimmy began his weather duties in 1948, as part of Wisconsin's celebration of its centennial year. As the lifespan of a groundhog in captivity is just nine to 14 years, new groundhogs are regularly recruited for the position of whispering the weather forecast to the town's mayor [sources: City of Sun Prairie, Chambers].
All went well, until one groundhog decided to not play along. On Feb. 2, 2015, Jimmy XI's handler moved the furry beast next to Sun Prairie mayor Jonathan Freund's ear so he could whisper his prediction. Instead, Jimmy, apparently in a foul mood after having his wintertime slumber disturbed, bit the offending ear. The resulting viral video put Jimmy on the map, all right. Not only that — authorities realized Jimmy's owners didn't have a permit to keep wild animals, so they had to release him back into nature. In an abundance of caution, the replacement, Jimmy XII, was forced to give his 2016 prediction to new mayor Paul Esser through a cage [source: NBC 15].
Cheesecake the Capybara
The world's largest rodent might not seem like an ideal foster mom. But for the puppies at Rocky Ridge Refuge, Cheesecake the capybara is just that. Around Christmas 2010, Cheesecake took up residence at Rocky Ridge, a 15-acre (6-hectare) animal sanctuary in Arkansas, run by Janice Wolf. Shortly afterwards, Cheesecake began serving as surrogate mother for the puppies who were brought or born there [source: Fears].
Capybaras, native to Central and South America, look a bit like hairy pigs sans tails and snouts. The rodents stand about 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall with slightly webbed feet, and are generally rather social [source: San Diego Zoo]. When Wolf first acquired Cheesecake, the large rodent began hanging out with Wolf's rescued dogs, playing, eating and sleeping with them. Then, when some motherless pups arrived, Cheesecake's maternal instincts kicked in and she quickly began to mother them. Gentle, yet firm, she cuddled with the babies, watched over them during the day and taught them manners, such as not being so pushy around the food bowl. Interestingly, even when puppies arrived at Rocky Ridge along with their mothers, the mama canines all trusted Cheesecake with their pups [source: Fears].
A lot of people dream of being a NASCAR driver. Jocko Flocko, a Rhesus monkey, got to be the next best thing — a NASCAR co-driver. The year was 1953. Stock car racer Julius Timothy Flock, aka Tim Flock, decided to race with a monkey as a gimmick. Flock nicknamed his pint-sized co-driver "Jocko Flocko" and outfitted him with his own uniform (No. 91). He even gave him a custom-designed seat [source: Tim Flock].
Jocko sped around the track with Flock during eight exciting races. Unfortunately, Jocko wasn't destined to make this new job a permanent career. Flock explains on his website what happened: "Back then the cars had a trap door that we could pull open with a chain to check our tire wear. Well, during the Raleigh 300, Jocko got loose from his seat and stuck his head through the trap door, and he went berserk! Listen, it was hard enough to drive those heavy old cars back then under normal circumstances, but with a crazed monkey clawing you at the same time, it becomes nearly impossible! I had to come into the pits to put him out and ended up third. The pit stop cost me second place and a $600.00 difference in my paycheck. Jocko was retired immediately. I had to get that monkey off my back!"
Flock, meanwhile, went on to an illustrious career as a two-time NASCAR Grand National Champion and the only driver to win in every NASCAR division on Daytona Beach [source: Tim Flock].
Ruby the Vet Nurse
Sometimes we don't know what our true calling in life is until something dramatic happens. For Ruby the purebred Kelpie, that moment came when she showed no interest or aptitude for herding sheep. When her owner realized this (having paid good money for a herder), he was less than thrilled and sent her away to be shot. Fortunately for Ruby, the man he asked to do the deed couldn't bring himself to shoot her and instead shipped her to Edgar's Mission, an Australian farm sanctuary [source: One Green Planet].
Timid and scared in her new surroundings, Ruby eventually blossomed when she began working at her true calling: veterinary nurse. Ruby began intuitively performing a variety of tasks at Edgar's Mission, such as welcoming new animals, snuggling with them and acting as a surrogate mom to baby sheep, and even a pig. Her comforting presence often helps those on the mend grow stronger more quickly.
But her work doesn't end there. Ruby typically sits in on all staff meetings and presentations. And while she is sometimes required to work overtime — new charges can arrive at odd hours — she's always happy to do so. Because when you like what you do, it's not really work [source: One Green Planet].
Magic the Therapy Horse
She might stand less than 34 inches (86 centimeters) tall, but her sleek, ebony coat and the snow-white blaze streaking down her nose will catch your eye. And once you gaze into those gentle, blue eyes, you'll be hooked. Magic the miniature horse isn't a model, however, but a therapy horse. She visits kids and adults in hospitals and hospices, at assisted-care and Alzheimer's programs, and even in high-crime neighborhoods alongside law enforcement personnel. And her presence is, well, magical [source: Garcia-Bengochea].
One resident in an assisted-living facility hadn't left her room in six months. But after meeting Magic, she made her way into the lobby to wait for the equine on her next scheduled visiting day. A woman in an assisted-care facility hadn't spoken a single word in three years, but began talking to Magic the day she first visited — and hasn't stopped talking ever since. These stories are part of the reason Time magazine named Magic one of the Top 10 Heroic Animals in History, one of many similar accolades the tiny horse has received. Magic is part of a group of more than one dozen miniature horses at Florida's Therapy Horses of Gentle Carousel, which provides therapy services to some 45,000 people annually [sources: Garcia-Bengochea, Therapy Horses of Gentle Carousel].
Bosco, the Mayor of Sunol, California
Humans aren't the only ones who can become elected officials, at least in Sunol, California, a town of 828 residents, located just a little north of San Jose. In 1981, two residents signed up to run for the position of honorary mayor, which would allow them to represent Sunol's interests at Alameda County meetings. As the election drew near, the race grew increasingly bitter. Partly in jest, resident Brad Leber said his black Labrador retriever mix, Boss "Bosco" Ramos, would win the election if his (Bosco's) name appeared on the ballot [sources: Thomas, Sperling's Best Places, Smith].
People took Leber's words to heart and, since most of them knew and liked Bosco, wrote in Bosco's name on the ballot. Running as a "Re-pup-lican," Bosco won the election in a landslide, resulting in international news coverage. The China People's Daily cited the election as proof of the failure of American democracy. For the next 13 years, Mayor Bosco wandered the town during the day, often stopping in at the taverns for some food. When ill health caused him to be put down in 1994, the locals did not forget their unique elected official. They erected a bronze statue of the former mayor in front of the post office in 2008, where it still stands today. Also, the tavern Bosco's Bones & Brew opened in 1999 and features Bosco's Brew suds [source: Thomas].
Notty the Military Dolphin
The United States military uses sea mammals — mainly bottlenose dolphins — to assist in a wide variety of tasks, such as locating underwater mines and alerting seamen and others when enemy swimmers are gliding around protected harbors. Dolphins make exceptional assistants because they are intelligent and trainable, swim fast and have sonar abilities that far outstrip what's available in modern technology [source: Bienaimé].
Notty, a female white-sided dolphin, was the U.S. Navy's first finned employee, added to its ranks in 1960. Initially, Navy officers were merely going to study Notty's biomechanics so they could create faster torpedoes. But as they learned from her, they realized she could be used in the field alongside humans.
While much of dolphins' military employment has come during peacetime, they did participate in the Vietnam War (five guarded an Army ammunition pier) and in the later stages of the Iran-Iraq War (protecting a ship in the Manama Harbor in Bahrain). They were even used to provide security in the waters off San Diego during the 1996 Republican National Convention. In 2015, the U.S. Navy reported it had 85 dolphins (and 50 sea lions) in its employ [source: Bienaimé].
Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel
Animals have long been in showbiz, but Twiggy takes things to another level. Twiggy is a waterskiing gray squirrel who hits the road nine months of the year not only to entertain boating aficionados across North America, but also to promote water and boating safety [source: Welowszky].
Twiggy got her start back in 1978, when Chuck and Lou Ann Best found a squirrel blown out of its nest due to Hurricane David. Chuck had recently purchased a remote-control boat for the couple's daughter, and on a whim he taught the squirrel to waterski behind it. Suddenly in possession of a waterskiing squirrel, the couple began hitting the boat-show circuit with the squirrel, whom they named Twiggy. As her fame increased, Twiggy began accepting offers to make guest appearances in movies, commercials and music videos. Two of her most famous credits are for her performances in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" [sources: Welowszky, McCarthy].
Although Chuck has since died, Lou Ann continues rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned squirrels, training new Twiggys as needed. As of 2016, they're on the eighth generation [source: Recreational Boat Building Industry, Daily Texan].
3-D printing is helping animals recover from injuries that might once have meant euthanasia. HowStuffWorks looks at how it's being used.
Author's Note: 10 Animals With Better Jobs Than You
I'm not surprised at all of the jobs held by animals. As the owner of a German Shephard, I know how smart nonhuman animals can be. And loyal. And hardworking. But I wouldn't have guessed that you could teach a squirrel to waterski. That's pretty unbelievable. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) isn't a fan of the Bests' work with Twiggy, by the way, even though they're trying to teach water safety. PETA also opposes the Groundhogs Day tradition, and likely would have make a flap about Jocko Flocko's racing career, had the group been around then (it was founded in 1980). I can't say which jobs animals might truly enjoy performing, and which ones feel more like forced labor. But surely the therapy-type jobs benefit all involved.
More Great Links
- Bienaimé, Pierre. "The US Navy's combat dolphins are serious military assets." Business Insider. March 12, 2015. (April 2, 2016) http://www.businessinsider.com/the-us-navys-combat-dolphins-are-serious-military-assets-2015-3
- Chambers, Meredith. "5 Things You Didn't Know About Groundhogs." New Jersey 101.5. Feb. 2, 2013. (April 1, 2016) http://nj1015.com/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-groundhogs/
- City of Sun Prairie. "Groundhog Day & History." (April 1, 2016) http://www.cityofsunprairie.com/840/Groundhog-Day
- Dingman, Lisa. "The Highest Paid Animal Actors." The Richest. Nov. 1, 2013. (April 3, 2016) http://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/money/the-highest-paid-animal-actors/?view=all
- Fears, Danika. "Rescue puppies get surprising stand-in mom: A capybara." Today. July 12, 2013. (March 31, 2016) http://www.today.com/pets/rescue-puppies-get-surprising-stand-mom-capybara-6C10619427
- Fermilab. "Natural History – Wildlife – Felicia Ferret." (March 27, 2016) http://history.fnal.gov/felicia.html
- Garcia-Bengochea, Jorge. "Animal Hero: Magic The Therapy Horse." My Hero. Aug. 22, 2011. (April 1, 2016) http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=Magic_2011
- Gayomali, Chris. "Why This Dog Makes $15,000 A Month." Fast Company. Oct. 20, 2014. (March 29, 2016) http://www.fastcompany.com/3037084/pet-week/the-business-of-owning-worlds-most-stylish-dog
- McCarthy, A.J. "Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel Is a Superstar." Slate. July 2, 2015. (April 2, 2016) http://www.slate.com/articles/video/video/2015/07/twiggy_the_water_skiing_squirrel_dominates_x_games_performance_in_austin.html
- NBC 15. "UPDATE: Sun Prairie makes new plans for Groundhog Day." Jan. 28, 2016. (April 1, 2016) http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/Jimmy-the-Groundhog-turns-on-the-mayor-290547131.html
- One Green Planet. "Meet Ruby the Incredible Dog Who is the Ultimate Vet Nurse for Rescued Farm Animals." Sept. 8, 2015. (April 1, 2016) http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/incredible-dog-who-is-the-ultimate-vet-nurse-for-rescued-farm-animals/
- Recreational Boat Building Industry. "Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel." (April 2, 2016) http://www.rbbi.com/folders/show/04tulsa/twiggy.htm
- Smith, Richard and Janet. "Sunol History." Sunol Treehouse. (April 2, 2016) http://sunoltreehouse.com/sunolhistory.html
- Sperling's Best Places. "Sunol, California." (April 2, 2016) http://www.bestplaces.net/city/california/sunol
- The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. "Groundhog Day History." (April 1, 2016) http://www.groundhog.org/about/history/
- Thomas, Jeremy. "Bosco, Sunol's dog mayor, lives on in spirit." San Jose Mercury News. Aug. 22, 2013. (April 1, 2016) http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23923692/bosco-sunols-dog-mayor-lives-spirit
- Tim Flock. "The Story of 'Jocko Flocko.'" (April 1, 2016) http://www.timflock.com/
- Tim Flock. "Vital Statistics." (April 1, 2016) http://www.timflock.com/
- Welowszky, Jane. "Meet Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel." The Star. Jan. 11, 2016. (April 2, 2016) http://www.thestar.com/life/2016/01/11/meet-twiggy-the-water-skiing-squirrel.html