Drop the Chalupa, and the Coat

The frigid winds whipping across lower Michigan a couple of weekends ago did nothing to warm a Taco Bell (search) manager's cold heart.

He fired 17-year-old high-school junior Holly Cook — for daring to put on a coat.

"It was so cold that my hands were going numb," Cook told the Lansing State Journal, describing her shift at the Charlotte, Mich., fast-food restaurant's take-out window on Jan. 25.

The problem, explained her manager, Mike Swank, was that she wore her own coat, not one of the Taco Bell-logo coats the store kept on hand for cold days.

"I wouldn't have been so hard on her if we hadn't gone over this before," Swank told the Journal.

Cook said the regulation coats were taken that day. Swank doesn't believe that — though he concedes Cook was a good employee otherwise — and thinks she just wore her own jacket because neither he nor other managers were around that day.

But Cook hadn't counted on an undercover visit by what's known in the trade as a "mystery shopper" — someone sent by the restaurant chain to check up on franchises.

The inspector cost the restaurant 28 points out of a perfect 100, Cook said Swank told her.

Still, Cook told the newspaper, "I couldn't believe they fired me."

The Handcuffs Will Be Real

Note to would-be robbers. A stick up requires a gun. 

Sheriff's deputies in Greenville, S.C., are looking for a man who tried to hold up a liquor store — with his finger.

The suspect walked into the store Monday, pointed his hand at the cashier, and asked her to empty the register, Greenville County Sheriff's Sgt. Shea Smith told the The Greenville News.

Instead, Smith said, the clerk just ran past the unarmed robber and out the door, where she tried to flag down passing cars.

The man, described as a black male about 5 foot 8 inches tall, then left the store himself without having a shot at the suddenly unattended register.

Lest readers suspect it was just a joke on the handman's part, he did wear a stocking cap over his face.

Authorities are asking anyone with information to call (864) 23-CRIME.

Large Guinness, Not Warm

Guinness the golden retriever has had a rough couple of weeks.

Around 10 p.m. on Jan. 14, Guinness popped out of his owners' Hillsdale, Ont., home to use the great outdoors, reports the Toronto Star.

The 8-year-old dog got hit by a car, which broke his pelvis and a rear paw and put a 10-inch gash across his abdomen.

"It was extremely cold outside, but he didn't come back in," said Terry Coward, who along with his wife Eileen owns Guinness.

The Cowards put up missing-dog signs and called animal shelters, but over the next several days, as temperatures plummeted to 10 below zero and snowstorms moved in, they began to give up hope.

On Jan. 25, a neighbor called to say something was moving in a snowdrift across the provincial highway.

It was Guinness, just barely hanging on. Terry Coward carried him to Barbara Ann Chidiac, the village's veterinarian.

The cut on Guinness' belly was so badly frostbitten that the skin had peeled away from the muscles, Chidiac said, but the dog's excess body fat may have helped to insulate him in the snow.

"His survival defies any explanation," Chidiac told the Star. "I have never seen anything like it before. It's miraculous."

Quick Breakup Guaranteed

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) — Looking for a little something special for your Valentine? How about a hissing cockroach? That's the suggestion from the folks at the Ross Park Zoo (search) in Binghamton, N.Y.

The zoo is running a Valentine's Day adoption program called "Give Your Beauty a Beast."

For $10, you can adopt a hissing cockroach for your sweetheart. The adoption includes a photo, cockroach fact sheet and a free pass for your special friend to visit the little hisser.

If a roach doesn't say "I love you," the zoo has some romantic alternatives. There's a bearded dragon, a black vulture and a bleeding heart dove.

Saving the Whales, One Fish at a Time

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska are letting humans do all the work.

Researchers are investigating what commercial fishermen have long known: that the whales have learned to pluck sablefish off hooks attached to long fishing lines.

"They somehow just pick them off like grapes," said fisherman Dick Curran. "I don't know how they do it."

No one knows how the whales have come to target sablefish, also called black cod, whose oily, rich flesh has become a lucrative product in Japanese markets. So a coalition of commercial fishermen and biologists has begun to investigate.

"My interest is biological," said whale specialist Jan Straley, a lead investigator in the project, "and I really want to understand what these whales are doing."

To harvest black cod, fishermen sink a 2-mile-long line with baited hooks every 3 to 6 feet. Each end is anchored to the sea floor along the continental slope and buoyed at the surface. After an 8- to 12-hour "soak," fishermen haul the line, sometimes harvesting hundreds of sablefish in a single set.

Over the past few decades, some of the gulf sperm whales apparently realized that fishermen were bringing this deep food source to the surface, and learned to remove a 20- to 30-inch fish from hooks.

Straley and her partners have found that male sperm whales may patrol the edge of the continental shelf, where the water is 1,200 to 3,000 feet deep, and wait for fishing boats.

"For sure they know the sound of hydraulics engaging. ... It's like ringing the dinner bell for them," said Linda Behnken, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association (search), which is coordinating the study.

"Everyone knows whales are smart, and they're proving it," she added.

Compiled by Foxnews.com's Paul Wagenseil.

Got a good "Out There" story in your hometown? We'd like to know about it. Send an e-mail, with a Web link (we need to authenticate these things), to outthere@foxnews.com.