Hats off at New Year to the buzzard that played dead at the opera and the Chihuahua that mated with a Rottweiler.

Or, if human foibles are more to your taste, raise a glass to the Brazilian who tried to kill his toothache by shooting it, the Briton who gave her goldfish the kiss-of-life, and the stressed-out Thai traffic cop who turned all the lights to "Go."Some of 1993's strangest stories involved animals, of course.

There was the case of the buzzard that keeled over from stagefright at a production of "Mitridate" in London's Covent Garden opera house.

Not a critical review, a spokesman said, just typical buzzard behavior when panicked. The bird was fired.

In Miami, Rocky, a lusty Chihuahua, and Canella, a love-struck Rottweiler, stood testament against all who refuse to tilt at windmills.

Sadly, their union was not allowed to produce a pint-size yapper with teeth of steel. A vet said it was not safe or desirable and prescribed a hysterectomy.

Mouths got some people into trouble.

A New Zealand scofflaw bit a police dog's ear as he was being apprehended.

A man in Ottawa learned not to stick his nose into other people's business. A good portion of it was bitten off by an angry passenger when the man tried to stop a fight between him and a taxi driver. Doctors sewed it back on.

Near Buenos Aires, a man died after eating an entire piglet. His family said his eating habits had got out of control.

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Elsewhere, 1993 turned out to be the year of the unobservant, starting with the Brazilian prison escapee who died when he ran headlong into a lamppost. He had been looking back to check whether he was being followed.

Less serious was the plight of the South African who won a $330,000 prize in a fishing competition - or thought he had until he noticed the competition had closed three weeks earlier.

Failure to check also hurt the man in Texas who was caught trying to sell a camping van while the body of a man he had allegedly killed was still in it.

Then there was the judge whose doodlings triggered an appeal from a Death Row inmate. He had drawn a happy face on the letter setting the date for the inmate's execution.

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