Showing posts with label interspecies love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interspecies love. Show all posts


you can never have too much interspecies love

I'm working on a few actual posts, where I actually write something and you might actually read it. Until those materialize, please enjoy these fine examples of interspecies love.

First, the incredible story of Mr. G. and Jellybean.

Read more about it here. Bring a tissue.

Next, friendship is not just for funny little grass-eaters. Big carnivores have friends, too.

And finally, a beautiful German Shepherd and an adorable piglet are in love in BC. Slide show here.

Many thanks to Steph and Miss Essie Ash for sharing these!

(Can any code-friendly readers tell me why there is a huge space after that second embed?)


interspecies love, adorable baby elephant edition

If this doesn't tug at your heartstrings, better call 911. You might be dead.

Many thanks to Stephanie for helping me stay afloat.


children's books # 6: the return of interspecies love

It's been a while since I've written about children's books, and an even longer while since I've done an interspecies love post, so why not combine the two? There's a spate of children's books depicting cross-species animal friendships, some excellent, some better avoided.

Children love these stories for the same reasons we do. There is something so touching - and off-the-charts cute! - about these friendships between animals who should, by nature, be afraid of each other, or even in a very different kind of relationship - at mealtime.

For kids, some of these books have a moral overlay, teaching about difference and tolerance. That's fine, as long as its done with a light touch. Children's books don't need to be didactic to get their message across.

I've seen at least a dozen animal-friendship books, and there are probably a dozen more I haven't seen. I've chosen four good ones, and highlighted two others that are noteworthy for the wrong reasons. Don't miss the bonus tracks at the end. (Anachronism alert! You might have to be over a certain age to know what a bonus track is.)

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom, Jennifer Holland, 2010

Jennifer Holland's Unlikely Friendships is noteworthy for the outstanding photography and perfectly concise text. A writer for National Geographic magazine, Holland avoids sentimental or cutesy language, focusing on animal behavioural explanations for how such unusual bonds may form.

Holland includes some of the more famous interspecies friendships, like Owen and Mzee (see below), and some that are total cute overload, like a horse and a fawn. But surely the most remarkable friendship stories are those between animals who normally interact as predator and prey. A leopard returns to an Indian village every night to sleep with its friend... a calf. A female lion raises a baby oryx. There is a friendship between a snake and a hamster!

This book is marketed to all ages. Although an adult could read it to a young child, and the child would undoubtedly enjoy the photos, the language and the subject matter is more appropriate to older children with strong reading skills. The very young child would not understand why these friendships are so unusual, or, for example, why a snake who eats a hamster rather than befriending it isn't mean or bad.

Holland also adapted her book for children. Unlikely Animal Friendships for Kids is a series of chapter books, each with five animal-friendship stories, retold in simplified language. Unfortunately, they read like dumbed-down versions of the original, or something that was hastily thrown together. I'd avoid them.

Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships, Catherine Thimmesh, 2011

Catherine Thimmesh's book, on the other hand, is a children's book written by someone who knows how to write for children. Each animal friendship is told in a short story written in simple rhyming verse. Although the photographs are not as striking as the ones in Holland's book, they are still beautiful and engaging.

The author's website has a promotional video where you can see some of the animal pairs. Who can resist a sad-eyed monkey cuddling with a white dove? Children of almost any age would enjoy this book.

Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, Craig Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, Peter Greste, 2006

These days, the most famous interspecies love stories have their own books, or series of books, or maybe a mini-franchise. Owen and Mzee was one of the first. It tells the story of a baby hippo who was orphaned during the 2004 tsunami, and rescued by an animal rehab centre in Kenya. Rescuing a 600 pound baby is no small feat, and that story is well worth telling. But those animal workers were amazed when a giant tortoise, thought to be around 130 years old, adopted the hippo. The two became fast friends, spending all their time together, including swimming and playing together.

This story is not only happy and sweet. The baby hippo is separated from its pod (a hippo family), the fate of the mother is unknonw, and the baby is lost and alone. The choice of photographs by Greste, a photojournalist for BBC, helps prevent the sad part of the story from becoming overwhelming. Ultimately, of course, this is a story of love triumphing over pain, and friendship helping to heal loss.

Craig Hatkoff has written several lovely children's book about animals, including Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captured the World (website here) and Leo the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue. Owen and Mzee is not only about animal friendship; it's full of well written information about hippos, animal sanctuaries, tsunamis, and more.

Isabella Hatkoff, listed as co-author or contributor, is Hatkoff's daughter. When she was six years old, Isabella saw photos of the friendship between the hippo and the tortoise, and persuaded her father to write this book.

Another book, A Mama for Owen, treats the same story in picture-book format, without success. Author Marion Dane Bauer over-simplifies the story, portraying the baby hippo as meeting the tortoise by accident. Although I often argue in favour of introducing children to difficult concepts, I'd approach this book with great caution. Should very young children see a baby separated from its mother, who gets swept away in a huge ocean wave? The baby hippo finds a new friend, but friends are not mothers. This book isn't particularly well done, but more importantly, it could be extremely upsetting, even traumatizing.

Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends, Carol Buckley, 2009

This post wouldn't be complete without Tarra and Bella. You've probably seen video of this inseparable pair, who were YouTube superstars.

Tarra had been a circus elephant. When she was allowed to retire, she was put in sanctuary. Tarra avoided other elephants and didn't make friends - until the appearance of Bella, a stray dog and new sanctuary resident. It was, as the cliche goes, love at first sight. When Bella was hospitalized after a serious injury, Tarra sat outside the dog's recovery room, every day. When Bella recovered, Tarra was waiting for her, ready for them to walk together at Bella's new slow pace.

This is a beautiful story, beautifully told, with excellent photographs, including frames from video of the moment the friends were reunited after Bella's recovery. The book contains great, brief information about the Tennessee animal sanctuary where it took place, and the URL of an "EleCam" on the sanctuary grounds.

* * * *

Bonus tracks! A collection of interspecies love sent by wmtc readers over the past year.

Dog and river otter at play!

Animal odd couple photo gallery from the New York Daily News: here. Turns out that paper is good for something after all!

Dog adopts abandoned tiger cubs: here.

Lions and tigers and bears oh my: here.

Thanks to Eric, Stephanie, Allan, James, and if you've sent me one that I've forgotten, thank you, too.


what is it about love?

I was looking my dogs, thinking about how each came into our lives. How one day a dog is living in a shelter, and that's its pack and its life, and then one day it is put in a car and taken somewhere else, and now it has a new family, and a new life.

The dog loves its new people and its new packmates, because that's what dogs do. That's what it's programmed to do, so to speak. That's its dog way of being. Even if the dog is stressed from the huge change, or depressed over the loss of its old family, after a period of adjustment, the dog will grow to love its new pack with the same loyal, intense dog-love, because that's what dogs do.

And for us, the day we bring the dog home, we're excited and we like the new dog, and we anticipate is life with us. But the longer the dog lives in our home, the longer we take care of the dog, the longer it depends on us, the deeper the bond becomes, and the more we love the dog. Because, I think, that's what humans do.

I like all animals, especially all dogs, but when I look at my own dogs, I feel a unique and profound love. And if another dog were to appear in my home, and it depended on me and I took care of it, I would eventually feel a deep and special love for that dog, too. One day a dog is just a dog, and another day, it's part of your family and part of your heart.

And that's the way it is with people, too.

How do we love, where does love come from?

People talk about "maternal instinct," the drive of a mother to love her children. I don't doubt that a mother's love for her biological child can be a unique force. We've only to check YouTube for all those animal mothers nurturing orphaned babies of other species to see how that works.

But that's a partial explanation at best. "Maternal instinct" doesn't explain a father's love, or the love of adoptive parents for their children. Or how I took a job as a nanny, and grew to love the boy in my care, how he came to be part of my heart's family. Or why I love my dogs.

We could say it's caring for another being that forges that special bond - but that, too, would be but a partial explanation. It wouldn't explain the protective love of a young child for its new infant sibling. Or my love for my nieces and nephews. Or, for that matter, our love for our partners.

It's a mysterious force - so powerful, intrinsic to us, and beyond our control.

On the one hand, love keeps replenishing itself: the more you give away, the more you have. The more you love, the more you can love. There's limitless room for love in our hearts.

And on the other hand, the more we love, the more potential there is for loss, and for pain. The loss can be devastating. But knowing that, most of us continue to love and to seek love. Those who don't - people who try to avoid love, in order to avoid pain - are seldom happy.

I recently finished reading this excellent book, the literary zombie novel. In the end, I saw the whole story as a search for human connection, the human's relentless search for love. In a world filled with misery and death, with the knowledge that whoever he connects with will soon die or disappear, our hero keeps searching. He keeps telling himself he's through, that he wants nothing further to do with other people, yet he continues to make those connections, in spite of himself. He can't help it. It's what humans do. I can't rightly call this a metaphor for life: more like a simple description.

When I was a teenager, and avidly collected quotes and sayings that felt profound to me, I loved the poetry of Kahlil Gibran. All these years later, I re-read The Prophet and the verses still speak to me.
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet, On Love


tala plays with a grizzly bear cub!

Psyche! Not that Tala! This Tala is a wolf pup, now a full-grown wolf. Watch more inter-species love.

Thanks, James!


more love among the species

Just your typical boy meets goose story...

Animals never cease to amaze me. What is the goose thinking? Why did she choose that one man? How does she feel about him? I wish we could know. But I honour the mystery, the not knowing.

Many thanks to David Cho.


seals, dolphins, cats and other adorableness

Is there anything sweeter than inter-species love?

Check out the penguins in the background! The vid was filmed in South Georgia, which should be in Argentina but is actually part of the United Kingdom.

Many thanks to Stephanie for both of these.


non-human animals showing us the way

Love is all there is
it makes the world go 'round
love and only love
it can't be denied.
- Bob Dylan

Have you seen the orangutan and the hound dog?

And in case you missed it the first time I posted it, more cross-species love.