7 Famous And Fabulous Tulsa Animals
‘Tails’ of Tulsa’s furry, feathered and famous
Humans have long been infatuated with famous animals, whether it’s a talking horse or a grumpy cat. Fawning over your own pet is one thing, but some animals get love and adoration from a much larger audience.
Tulsa happens to be home to a few of these “celebrity animals” that capture the imaginations of everyone they meet. A local Pomeranian is putting Tulsa on the map with her Instagram adventures. The cats that prowl the grounds of Philbrook Museum of Art have purred their way into visitors’ hearts. The Tulsa Zoo has a new long-legged baby boy. A German shepherd is hoping for a call from the majors. And a local owl might look familiar to fans of the “Harry Potter” films.
They say blondes have more fun, but many don’t realize that this popular idiom applies to dogs, too. Emmylou the Pom is Tulsa’s own doggy debutante, hitting the hot spots of Tulsa and sharing her adventures with 4,500 followers on Instagram.
Emmylou’s owner, Sarin Crump, started her 2-year-old Pomeranian’s Instagram page on a whim.
“I was always taking pictures of her, and she loves to go places,” Crump says. “So we thought it would be fun to highlight all the fun, pet-friendly places in Tulsa. I really thought it would just be friends and family who followed her. I didn’t really know it would grow like it did.”
Sarin and her husband, Brett, already have two senior-aged dogs, a Golden Retriever and another Pomeranian, and had been talking about wanting a puppy. On Sarin’s birthday, her husband surprised her with Emmylou. She was instantly a hit with her new furry family.
“We call her ‘the Pom Boss’ because she bosses the other dogs around,” Crump says. “She’s always making us laugh, which is another reason we put her on Instagram. She was just so funny to us.”
Emmylou’s perfectly coiffed mane and thousand-watt smile are just a couple of the reasons her Instagram account has become so wildly popular. But Crump also has discovered a few tricks of her own when showing off her posh Pom on social media.
“She’s already really funny and feisty, and does her own thing,” Crump says. “So when I decided to start her page, I studied the other dog accounts I personally follow. We are sure to tag anyone we see or anywhere we go, and we also use lots of hashtags. Or if she’s got a toy or is wearing a cute outfit in the picture, I always tag the company. She meets new online friends and we follow them back.”
Now Emmylou boasts followers from all over the world. But Emmylou is a Tulsa gal, through and through, taking her owners out to some of her favorite places in town.
“We go to Stonehorse and Queenie’s in Utica Square. And we probably go to Bohemian Pizza in East Village at least weekly,” Crump says. “We also love all the new breweries, because they are all pet friendly. Emmylou loves American Solera, Cabin Boys and Welltown Brewery.”
You can follow Emmylou’s adventures on Instagram by following @Emmylou.the.pom, or you may even spot her out and about at one of Tulsa’s many pet-friendly locales.
In early June, Emily Diacon, a junior at Inola High School, was invited by her church group to Drillers Stadium for Bark in the Park, an event where guests can bring along their furry friends. She thought it was a wonderful opportunity to take along her German shepherd, Verena, who was still a puppy at the time.
Diacon and her pup were invited to go down onto the field during the game for a little fun while the Arkansas Naturals were warming up. “I didn’t realize they would be playing catch on the field,” Diacon says. “Fetch is her favorite game. We get on the field, and she is OK for a hot second. Then, she loses her mind.”
Nicky Lopez, the shortstop for the Arkansas Naturals, threw the ball toward third base, and it was too much for Verena to resist. She ran full force after the loose ball. “I wasn’t afraid that she was going to hurt anyone,” Diacon says. “I just didn’t want the players to be afraid. She would lick someone to death if she could.”
Verena proved to be a very good girl and immediately brought the ball back to shortstop Lopez, eagerly waiting for him to toss it again.
While Diacon was occupied with fetching Verena, all the action was caught on the jumbo monitors at the stadium.
“I was just so engrossed with her and making sure that nothing bad would happen, I didn’t realize we were on the big screen,” Diacon says. “I just assumed that this sort of thing happened all the time.”
The video quickly went viral, jumping from local news, to Twitter, to ESPN’s Sports Center.
“I had to actually create a Twitter account just to see what was going on,” Diacon says. “I was so blown away because I didn’t think it was that big of a thing.”
Since that fateful game of fetch, Verena has gained many local fans of her own. “We went back to a Drillers game later and everyone recognized her as the one who ran onto the field,” Diacon says. “But really, she loves the attention, by any means.”
The opening scene in the first “Harry Potter” film features an ominous owl, swooping through the night sky. The owl’s presence heralds the first glimpses of a cast of characters children and adults have grown to love. Though the on-screen appearance seems magical, the owl itself is very real — and lives right here in Oklahoma.
The owl, Ulysses, is under the wing of Ash Cary, a life-long falconer and owner of Knightwings, an organization that travels the country with its collection of birds of prey. They focus on Renaissance fairs, traveling about 10 months out of the year to be part of eight different festivals.
Ulysses is an eagle owl and is among 22 birds that travel with Cary. “I’ve had Ulysses since about 2002. He was born in Great Britain in captivity for education purposes,” says Cary, who inherited him from a former partner. “Eagle owls are one of the largest owl species on the planet.”
Eagle owls are most recognized for their striking orange eyes and intense gaze. Before coming to the U.S., Ulysses was tapped to be one of the hundreds of animals and birds used in the “Harry Potter” films. Ulysses makes another appearance in the second “Harry Potter” movie, playing the part of Bubo, Draco Malfoy’s owl.
“There were probably close to 160 different birds in those films,” Cary says. “But since the use of CGI (computer-generated imagery), it’s been a steady decline for use of animals in films.”
After wrapping up filming, Ulysses made his way to the United States, where he has been an important part of the Knightwings mission to teach the public about birds and bird conservation through public demonstrations.
“He can do lots of things, but it’s important to remember that they’re birds of prey,” Cary says. “They fly from one place to another and hunt. That’s what they do.”
The Knightwings crew travels with a variety of birds, like hawks, barred owls, great horned owls, falcons and eagles. Then, the avian entertainers come back to roost in Luther, Oklahoma. The crew also takes time to work with wildlife rehabilitators, and operate a wildlife conservation project called the One World Raptor Conservancy.
“We come home in December then leave in February to Florida to start our season,” Cary says. “And everywhere I go, Ulysses goes with me.”
To get an up-close experience with this feathered phenom, make plans to attend the Renaissance Festival at the Castle of Muskogee this spring.
Few things on this planet are cuter than baby animals. At the Tulsa Zoo, they’ve gained one big baby — coming in at 5-feet, 10-inches, and 150 pounds — and zoo guests are enamored with the long-legged addition.
Lexi the giraffe, an 11-year-old first-time mother, gave birth on July 22 to a baby boy, Ohe (pronounced OH-hee), which means “to win” in Osage. This is definitely a win for the Tulsa Zoo, as it is the first giraffe birth at the zoo in two decades. Zookeepers weren’t the only ones thrilled with the birth. The Monday after Ohe was born, zoo attendance doubled from the previous Monday.
During the 15-month gestation, zoo staff worked to keep mom healthy and happy, and they were prepared for the big moment when she gave birth. The process of a giraffe giving birth is an intriguing natural
“It can seem pretty awkward, because giraffes give birth standing up,” says Eric Flossic, giraffe keeper at the zoo. “But the calf is already 6 feet tall, so it’s not that dramatic of a fall. The fall itself actually helps break up the embryonic sac from the calf, while also severing the umbilical cord.”
And, like a doctor’s pat on a human baby’s bottom, the impact from the fall helps the baby giraffe take that first breath.
Since his first breath, Ohe has quickly become a beloved member of the zoo family, and he has caused quite the commotion. “It has been super busy in the giraffe exhibit,” Flossic says. “He is full of energy, and you’ll often see him bucking around the exhibit. Sometimes he’ll just take off and run laps around the yard, which is adorable.”
On a recent rainy day, Tulsa Zoo officials posted a video to its Facebook page showing that motherhood can be similar across species. The video shows Lexi in the center of the screen as Ohe runs circles around his mom.
Ohe also gets some socializing with his dad, 4-year-old Hekaya who hails from the Bronx Zoo, and his honorary “Aunt Pilli,” the other female giraffe in the zoo’s herd.
“Right now, he’s been in the reserve with Mom, so we haven’t let him into the main exhibit yet,” Flossic says. “We’re letting mom have some time off to let her body recuperate, before putting her back with dad too soon.” Lexi and Ohe will go on exhibit together soon.
Zookeepers hope Ohe will be ready to venture out in the large main yard of the zoo sometime this fall, to be introduced to his fellow giraffes. Zookeepers also will be hosting intermittent giraffe feedings, so to find out dates and times, visit tulsazoo.org.
Acer, Perilla and Cleome // Courtesy Philbrook Museum of Art
Along with its grand paintings and artifacts, the Philbrook Museum of Art also is home to a trio of performance artists who roam the gardens. These three felines, lovingly known as “the Philbrook Cats,” are nearly as popular with guests as the art on the walls.
Sheila Kanotz is the director of horticulture for Philbrook, but she and her team also are in charge of keeping the three kitties happy and healthy. Two of the cats — Acer and Perilla — have been at the museum for about 12 years. The third, Cleome, was left during the winter of 2013 with a note and some cat food.
“With the addition of Cleome, we reached our capacity with cats,” Kanotz says. “We originally had them around for keeping pests away, but thanks to social media, the cats’ popularity has really blossomed.”
Each cat is named after a type of plant or flower, and each has a personality of their own. Acer is the black and white male who loves to see activity in the garden.
“If there is a wedding, he wants to be a guest. And he is known for photobombing,” Kanotz says. “He has gotten in cars with employees, and even stowed away once with a photographer who had to bring him back.”
Acer’s sister, a calico named Perilla, is more of a homebody. She stays near the horticulture department shop, and perhaps there is good reason.
“Perilla is missing the tip of her tail,” Kanotz says. “We don’t know what really happened, but the morning we discovered her injury, we found her detached tail right outside the cat door. We ocassionally have foxes that roam the grounds, so she may have had a close encounter.”
The youngest of the three is Cleome, a female black and white cat, who has proven to be Philbrook’s most effective huntress, catching pesky rabbits with ease.
“We really appreciate her efforts in the garden,” Kanotz says. “She’s more of a loner, but in the wintertime she enjoys being in the shop during our meetings. In fact, all three cats like to be in our laps during our meetings.”
A few years ago, the cats notoriously donned cameras to give viewers their perspective of the museum grounds and guests. It might come as no surprise that the cats weren’t fans of the cameras.
The three cats have gained popularity on Philbrook’s Instagram page and might have even inspired Executive Director Scott Stulen to bring the Internet Cat Video Festival to the museum. If guests don’t happen to see the kitties roaming the gardens, they can load up on special Philbrook Cat memorabilia at the gift shop.