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Couple survives (natural) disaster honeymoon
Posted: Apr 05, 2011 10:12 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 06, 2011 2:12 AM EDT

By LOUISE NORDSTROM
Associated Press
STOCKHOLM (AP) - Honeymoons aren't always easy for newlyweds, but six natural disasters?

When Stefan and Erika Svanstrom of Stockholm set out on their 4-month-long honeymoon with their baby girl on Dec. 6, they say they got more than they bargained for: Immediately they were stranded in Munich, Germany, due to one of Europe's worst snowstorms, he said.

But that was just the beginning.

After that, he said, they experienced the devastation of a cyclone in Cairns, Australia, and the flooding in Brisbane, and narrowly escaped the bush fires in Perth.

"We escaped by the skin of our teeth," Svanstrom said, recalling how they were evacuated in Cairns and were forced to spend 24 hours on a cement floor in a shopping center with 2,500 others. "Trees were being knocked over and big branches were scattered across the streets."

Just before they arrived in New Zealand, the 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch and in Tokyo, they felt Japan's largest temblor since records began, he said.

"The trembling was horrible and we saw roof tiles fly off the buildings. It was like the buildings were swaying back and forth," said Svanstrom, who also said he survived the devastating tsunami that hit southeast Asia in 2004.

On March 29, the family returned to Stockholm after a much calmer visit to their last destination, China. Their story was first reported in Stockholm's Expressen newspaper.

"I know marriages have to endure some trials, but I think we have been through most of them," Svanstrom said.

For newlyweds "we've certainly experienced more than our fair share of catastrophes in a marriage, but the most important thing is that we're still going strong," he said.

Horse dreams dashed, German teen turns to cow Luna
Posted: Apr 05, 2011 5:32 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 06, 2011 2:12 AM EDT

By VERONIKA OLEKSYN
Associated Press
LAUFEN, Germany (AP) - When Regina Mayer's parents dashed her hopes of getting a horse, the resourceful 15-year-old didn't sit in her room and sulk. Instead, she turned to a cow called Luna to make her riding dreams come true.

Hours of training, and tons of treats, cajoling and caresses later, the results are impressive: not only do the two regularly go on long rides through the southern German countryside, they do jumps over a makeshift hurdle of beer crates and painted logs.

"She thinks she's a horse," the golden-haired Mayer joked on a recent sunny afternoon as she sat atop the impassive brown-and-white, grass-munching cow.

It all started about two years ago, shortly after Luna was born on the Mayers' sprawling farm in the hamlet of Laufen, just minutes from the Austrian border.

They started off with walks in the woods during which Luna wore a halter. Then Mayer slowly got her cow more accustomed to human contact and riding equipment.

About six months later, it was time to see how Luna would respond to a rider on her back. Mayer sat in the saddle, and all went as planned - at least at first.

"She was really well behaved and walked normally," said Mayer, decked out in riding gear. "But after a couple of meters, she wanted me to get off! You could see that she got a bit peeved."

Luna and Mayer are now soul mates, spending most afternoons together once the teen - who aspires to become a nurse one day - comes home from school.

Their extensive routine involves grooming, petting, jumps and a roughly one-hour ride. That's also the case in winter, when Mayer lovingly drapes a blanket over Luna to keep her warm.

It's a lot of work "but I enjoy it," Mayer said.

Her efforts have paid off.

Now, Luna understands commands such as "go," ''stand" and "gallop." If she feels like it, that is.

"When she wants to do something she does it, when she doesn't, she doesn't," said Mayer, who proudly says Luna thinks of her as her mother. "And she's often very headstrong but can also be really adorable."

Luna's stubborn streak meant that teaching her pony tricks wasn't always easy, Mayer noted, saying she sought tips from a cow expert in Switzerland on how to deal with "steering" problems.

Anne Wiltafsky, who trains cows near the Swiss city of Zurich, said Luna's talents are not particularly surprising and that, historically, it was quite common to ride cows and use them as workhorses.

"Especially younger ones can jump really well," Wiltafsky said in a telephone interview, adding that cows are lovable companions because they're easygoing, have strong nerves and are "unbelievably devoted" to people they like.

Being - and owning - a cow-turned-pony isn't always easy.

Take the somewhat skeptical neighbors, such as Martin Putzhammer, who had to be won over.

"At first I thought it was kind of weird - a kid on a cow?" the 17-year-old said during a break from repairing his moped. "Had to get used to it but once I did I thought it was pretty funny."

While Mayer's friends quickly warmed to her passion after laughing at her, Luna's fellow cows weren't so open-minded.

"Cows don't really like her ... they're jealous because she always gets goodies," Mayer said.

And horses? Many run away in fright, but others often join Luna on rides.

"She really enjoys that and gets totally into it," Mayer said.

Mayer hasn't given up her hopes of having a horse and may soon get one. But she says Luna will always have a special place in her heart.

"She'll stay my darling," she said.

Man delivers decomposing body to NM emergency room
Posted: Apr 06, 2011 2:12 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 06, 2011 2:12 AM EDT

ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) - Police in the northern New Mexico city of Espanola say a man tried to get help at a hospital emergency room for a woman who had been dead as long as a day and a half.

Officers say Jerry Maestas drove to the hospital Tuesday with the 33-year-old woman's decomposing body propped up in the passenger seat.

The 64-year-old Maestas asked hospital staff to come outside and help his sick friend. Police spokesman Jeremy Apodaca says the staff could tell by the smell that the woman had been dead for some time.

KOB-TV reports that the woman may have been dead for 24 to 36 hours, and Maestas will face charges of failing to report a death.

Efforts to reach Maestas at two phone numbers Tuesday night didn't work.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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