It's that time of the year again to review this year's wacky and woeful en route to bestowing our annual Turkey Award:

  • The cat who knew too much. Rusik, a “sniffer” cat with killer olfactories, was a key cog in Russia's campaign to curb caviar smuggling. In September, Rusik was run over by a car in which he had previously detected illegal sturgeon. The driver claimed he didn't see the fish-sniffing feline, but police suspect Rusik's rub out was an organized hit.

  • How I spent my summer vacation. When 14-year-old Svein Tore Hauge headed back to school this fall in Norway, we bet no classmate could top his summer experience. As a summer job, Hauge followed cattle around with a pan to catch their excrement for a research firm that needed uncontaminated samples. Hauge says he learned the hard way about splattering feces, but, as he puts it, “Working outdoors is right for me because I like fresh air.”

  • Italy's version of The Three Stooges. Three Italian horse thieves were nabbed this summer when police in Giardinelle di Matera became suspicious as the thieves' automobile passed by. The three were tucked into a Fiat as a horse's head poked out of one of the car windows.

  • At his peak weight, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY) topped out at 338 lbs., reports When you're only 5-ft., 4-in. tall, you've got a problem.

    During his 16-year stint in the New York State Assembly, Nadler says he played second base on the softball team. That's something he hopes to do again, presumably upon reaching his target weight of 160 lbs.

    Nadler says he didn't used to take the subway before because he didn't like to walk the stairs. But he's walking more now that he's had his stomach surgically reduced, followed by a surgical bypass of a section of his small intestine.

    “Obesity is a great public health menace in our country … and people ought to think more about doing this kind of thing,” Nadler says of his surgery.

  • A cure for writer's block? Early in 2004, Valerie Laws will paint various words from one of her poems on the backs of pastured sheep in England. Standing on a platform nearby on the Whitehouse Farm Centre in Morpeth, Laws plans to then watch the animals move around and see what new poems they create. The project is backed by a grant of more than $2,000 by a local art charity.

  • The bell-tower bad boy of St. Mary's. Last spring, an African Grey parrot moved into St. Mary's Church in West Yorkshire, England, to roost with a flock of pigeons in the bell tower. That was all well and good until the parrot, apparently schooled by its former owner in the fine art of street insults, began directing the foulest of language and wolf whistling at passersby from his bell-tower perch.

    The pastor says complaints have been numerous but most folks find it humorous. But, he adds, “We're a working church and when it flies about at funerals, it can cause problems.”

  • “Hey, Raji, I've got an idea.” In southern India this summer, rain was mighty scarce. So residents of Magadi decided on a new approach to squeeze a little precip from the skies — marrying up a pair of donkeys.

    The residents massed at the temple, where a Hindu priest married Ganga and Varuna. Ganga, the blushing bride, wore a green sari with a glittering gold border, while her groom was also suitably attired for such a formal occasion.

  • “Honey, you're such an animal tonight.” In April, a scared wild boar ended up in bed with an elderly German couple after crashing through a glass door in its mad dash to escape a chasing Yorkshire Terrier.

“I thought a bomb had dropped. I sat up and there was a wild pig in the bed, tusks and everything, trying to hide under the duvet,” recalls Andreas Janik, 71, of Minden, Germany.

Once Janik and his wife leapt out of bed, they saw the small dog barking outside. “We had to chase it off before we could persuade the pig to leave,” he says. “I can't believe it was afraid of such a little dog.”

And our winner is Rep. Nadler. With the U.S. obesity rate and health care costs both skyrocketing, the congressman could have set a lifestyle example of more exercise and better eating habits.