As It Happens

Goldfish, penis museum and a car-starting dog: 5 weird stories to distract you from the news

Need a distraction from the pandemic news, or maybe just a reprieve from the boredom of isolation? We’ve got you covered.

Need a break from pandemic headlines? As It Happens has you covered with these interviews from our archives

A goldfish, a penis curator and a dog are the stars of this week's Friday feel-good listicle. (Yasser Al-Zayya/AFP/Getty Images, Bob Strong/Reuters, Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Need a distraction from the pandemic news, or maybe just a reprieve from the boredom of isolation? We've got you covered.

Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, As It Happens has been digging into its archives to find the weirdest and funniest interviews recorded during our 51 years of making radio.

So why not take a break from reading about ventilators and vaccines, and instead read about stubborn squirrels and unkillable goldfish.

The penis museum 

When Sigurdur Hjartarson's spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off in August 2007 about his quest to find a human penis for his Icelandic Phallological Museum, he already had three prospective donors lined up.

A 92-year-old "famous womanizer" from Iceland, a British TV personality and a German photographer all promised to donate their members posthumously.

Sigurdur Hjartarson, owner and founder of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, poses next to a stuffed elephant penis. (Bob Strong/Reuters)

But one American man said he would have his penis removed before he died and shipped to Hjartarson. To sweeten the deal, he promised to have it tattooed with the U.S. flag.

"I would appreciate that," Hjartarson said.

That interview inspired a 2014 documentary about the donors called The Final Member, which actually shows the American getting his stars and stripes.

But it looks like the old man beat the American to the punch.

As of 2018, Hjartarson's collection included the full twig and berries from the aforementioned 95-year-old Icelandic "gentlemen."

Was Dutch city nuts to spend $220,000 on bridge for squirrels?

Dog swallows fob 

It's been said that the key to a man's heart is through his stomach. But the key to one couple's car was lodged in their dog's stomach instead.

At least, that's what Juliette Piesley told Off in September 2006 after she and her husband took their key fob apart — and couldn't get it to work again. 

They called the British Automobile association, and were told the missing piece was likely the immobilizer chip, which is needed to make the car start.

Enter George. Or rather, the chip had entered George. As Piesley put it, "When we came inside to look for it, my partner Rob said, 'Oh no … George ate that.'"

For a laugh, they tried putting the Hungarian vizsla in the car to see if the ignition would start. It did, Piesley said, but "only with George in the front seat."

Like every good story, this one had a happy ending — although Piesley had the unhappy task of uncovering it. The following day, she found the chip after digging through George's excrement. 

"I had to watch very carefully as to where he was going," she said, "and rush over with a plastic bag to pick it up." 

After a quick wash the chip was reinserted and the key fob worked.

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but George's owner had certainly learned her lesson. "He's not coming anywhere near keys, or small pieces of plastic, again."

Dutch bridge for frisky squirrels

A bridge built for squirrels cost $220,000 and took four years to complete in The Hague, The Netherlands. But that wasn't what fazed city councillor Arjen Dubbelaar the most. 

"Somebody has taken a decision to spend a hell of a lot of money to build this futuristic bridge," he told Off in March 2016. "In the end, none of the squirrels are using it."

The squirrel bridge cost over $200,000 dollars to build. (Arjen Dubbelaar)

The city was worried about inbreeding amongst the squirrel populations, so they came up with an idea to help them cross a busy roadway safely and get it on without being killed. 

When Dubbelaar looked into the numbers, he found that in the two years since the tree-level structure was built, only five squirrels had ever used it. 

That's $44,000 dollars per squirrel.

"You could pick up the squirrel on one side and bring it with a taxi to the other side," he said. "That solution is cheaper than this bridge."

Grumpy the Goldfish saved by mouth-to-mouth

When Jessie Raynor of Portsmouth, England, went to clean out her fishbowl, she saw her beloved goldfish named Grumpy laying on his side

"I thought straight away that he was dead, done for, as his gills were motioness, his fins was barely moving, he was barely breathing," Raynor told then-As It Happens guest host Linden MacIntyre in August 1993. 

She wasn't going to let Grumpy go easily.

Goldfish swim in a tank as part of an art exhibition in Tokyo. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

 "I immediately thought that I wanted my goldfish to live because I have another goldfish. And if Grumpy had died, then probably the other goldfish would too. It had grieved," Raynor said.

So she gave her pet the kiss of life. Raynor removed Grumpy from the bowl in the palm of her hand, and with his face toward hers, gently blew air into his mouth. That was the start of nearly an hour of effort to revive the fishy.

Her quick thinking didn't only save Grumpy's life but it changed his personality too – possibly for the better. 

"He's as bright as a button," Raynor said.

Speaking of a goldfish who lived...

Duncan Baird should have been celebrating another year of life for his goldfish Hector, but instead he was just dumbfounded.

"We aren't too sure if he is 19 or 20. I got him when I was 11 or 12. We're not positive," the St. John's, N.L., man told then- As It Happens host Michael Enright in March 1988. "This one just seems to live and live." 

After two decades in the Baird household, Hector had grown to about 16.6 centimetres in length. The family didn't expect him to live past three or four years.

"I haven't done anything special with him, just feeding him twice a day, and he just seems to keep on going," he said. "I suppose our Newfoundland water has something to be said for it."

Hector had even survived the taunting of their pet cat and — at times — not the best swimming conditions. 

"Sometimes he almost had to wear sneakers in the tank because there was that little water in [it]," Baird said.

Written by Kate Cornick, Morgan Passi and Sheena Goodyear with files from Chris Howden.

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