Monday, July 19, 2010

True Stories of Interspecies Animal Friendships

By Julia Williams

There are so many things about animals I love that it would be hard to pick just one thing I admire most. But when I see examples of unlikely animal friendships, particularly those of two natural born enemies, it really touches my heart. I’m convinced these incredible beings are much more evolved than most people think. Humans could learn a lot from these “animal odd couples” that play together, eat together, show affection for one another, and give and receive motherly attention. If dogs and elephants, ostriches and giraffes, hippos and tortoises, and birds and cats can get along so well, why can’t we?

While humans are busy warring with others we consider “different” than us, these animals are simply enjoying the companionship of another. They don’t consider race, or country, or religion. One could argue that animals don’t have the intellectual capacity to consider such things, and this is why these unlikely friendships can develop. I think this inability to reason might be what makes animals so special in my eyes.

Human beings think too much. If only we’d listen to our hearts instead of our heads, things would often go so much better. This is because the heart is never wrong. It never steers us down the path of war or conflict. It steers us toward love, kindness, affection and trust. I believe this is what interspecies animal friendships are all about. The cat listens to its heart, which tells it that a mouse can be its companion instead of its lunch.

Below are some of my favorite examples of interspecies animal friendships. These true stories of animals that form unlikely bonds are sure to touch your heart and make you go “awwww.”

The Dog and the Deer: this super cute video shows Buddy the black Lab playing in the yard with a white-tail deer who was found alone and malnourished when it was just a baby. Buddy’s owner bottle fed the baby deer and it bonded with the dog as well as their cats. In the video, Buddy and the deer chase each other around the yard and engage in hilarious mock sparring with their front legs. The deer is now free to wander and has been seen hanging out with his own kind, but frequently comes back to their house to play with the dog.

The Cat and the Deer video features an orange kitten licking a deer all over its face, then the two of them curl up together and fall asleep, but not before the deer gives the kitten an endearing lick on its nose. The Louis Armstrong song “What a Wonderful World” makes this footage even more charming.

Bea the Giraffe and Wilma the Ostrich live at Busch Gardens Theme Park in Tampa Bay, Florida. The park’s 65-acre Serengeti Plain is home to herds of giraffe, zebra, rhino, antelope and countless species of birds. Just as they do in the wild, the animals usually hang out with their own species. But zookeepers noticed an unusual friendship between a three-year-old giraffe and an ostrich, who seem to really adore one another. Photo by Matt Marriott / Associated Press

Owen and Mzee is the true story of an unlikely animal duo who found comfort and love in each other’s presence after the 2004 tsunami. Owen, an orphaned baby hippo who got separated from his pod, was rescued and taken to an animal sanctuary in Kenya, where he meets Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise. The book, Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship shows photos of the pair eating, swimming, snuggling, and playing together. You can also see a delightful photo montage of Owen and Mzee here.

The Kitten and the Crow: a young stray kitten about four months old is videotaped for many months with its best friend and protector, a big black crow. The two saunter along side by side, they wrestle together in the grass, the crow feeds the kitten a worm (ewww), and takes care of it to make sure it survives.

Why do these unlikely animal friendships occur? I think this quote from the “kitten and the crow” video sums it up nicely: “If you are able to gain trust in someone or something, or each other, then anything is possible.” For some unknown reason, the crow had a motherly instinct. The young kitten was still a baby, and it trusted the crow, who was the only mother figure in its life. A bond developed between the two, and the rest is history. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be that simple for the rest of us?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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