Now that 2015 is here, meaning it will be at least three months before we stop writing 2014 on our checks, it is time for a look back at the top stories of the past year.
These are not goofy little news items dealing with such inconsequential matters as health care, the midterm elections and various conflicts around the world. Rather, they are the kind of important, socially significant and absolutely true stories that are the lifeblood of this column.
So here, without further delay, are the top stories of 2014.
As proof that last year was for the birds, our fine feathered friends made plenty of news. That includes Nigel, a parrot that spoke with a British accent when he disappeared from his home in Torrance, California, in 2010. But when Nigel was reunited with his owner last year, he spoke Spanish.
Nigel's owner, the appropriately named Darren Chick, said the bird seemed happy to be home and that he asked, in Spanish, "What happened?" As Nigel also might have said, everything turned out muy bien.
In other avian news, police in Epping, New Hampshire, sheltered, then released a confused homing pigeon that went the wrong way in a race. But it didn't go far after rainy weather affected its ability to navigate. The birdbrain, a male that obviously refused to ask for directions, could have used a GPS, which stands, of course, for Global Pigeon System.
Not to be outdone, dogs found out that 2014 was a ruff year. One of them was Cato, a Siberian husky that was apprehended after robbing a convenience store in Clinton, South Carolina. According to police, Cato was seen on a surveillance camera taking pig ears, beef bones, dog food and treats.
The four-legged bandit left the store, buried the stolen goods nearby and returned for more. Police filled out a report, but they couldn't get Cato to confess, even though he was caught red-pawed.
Cato never would have been nabbed if Cash had been on the case. That's because Cash, a Belgian shepherd in Cannon Beach, Oregon, was fired from the police department's K-9 unit for dogging it on the job.
"You can't get anything done when you're trying to get him to find dope and he's just barking in your face," said officer Josh Gregory.
Seems like Cash was the real dope.
In dopey human news, a man in Albany, Georgia, contacted the wrong person while looking for marijuana. He sent his probation officer a text message that read, "You have some weed?"
The probation officer notified police and the pothead ended up back in prison. I wonder if his case was tried in a high court?
At least he didn't steal a car to get there, which is more than I can say for an idiot in Sonora, California, who was arrested after allegedly using a stolen car to get to court, where he was ordered to appear on a previous charge of -- you guessed it -- auto theft.
That wasn't the case with two would-be carjackers who almost who got away with a vehicle in Ocala, Florida, but didn't know how to drive a stick shift. I hope they got accelerated rehabilitation.
Other important -- and absolutely true -- stories from 2014:
-- A herd of gassy dairy cows nearly lifted the roof off their barn in central Germany when methane released by the animals caused an explosion. Fortunately, they weren't hurt, but it could have been udder devastation.
-- A naked Australian man who became stuck in a washing machine as part of an ill-planned practical joke was freed with the help of olive oil. It must have been applied down under.
-- A motorcyclist brought traffic to a standstill on one of Madrid's busiest highways after he pulled over to look for his false teeth, which flew out of his mouth when he sneezed. It had to be the first time a chopper lost a set of choppers.
Finally, I am proud to say that one of the best stories of 2014 happened in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, where a city man fabricated his own demise to avoid marrying a woman he met in college. Till faked death did they part.
In that same stupid spirit, here's hoping 2015 is another great year.