When you think about love, if you are like most people, you are just thinking about romantic love between two humans. Time to crack that definition wide open to include all living beings and love that crosses species barriers. If we could clearly see how much other species love life and love others, it might change how we view them. This collection of love stories is the tip of the iceberg. The accounts of other species loving and risking their lives for those they love for their own and other species are countless.
1. Most people get that dogs know all about love. In the best situations, they are our familiars and part of our family. Our rescued dog, Bapu, left the yard of our less-than-caring neighbors and came through our dog door and never left. He doesn’t know that it is Valentine’s week. He thinks everyday is Valentine’s day. He lets me know I am his Valentine by following me around everywhere I go (hence his nickname: Barnacle Boy). He stares up at my eyes and always has at least one paw touching a part of my body. I was never crazy about needy guys, but Bapu is the exception.
2. While we get the dog love thing, most of us would not have a clue about fish emotions. Anyone who really understands fish emotions and intelligence knows that their world does not end at the glass when they are kept in an aquarium. Studies have shown that when violent people enter the room where an aquarium is kept, the heart rate in the fish speeds up and they avoid the surface of the water. But, when someone who has been kind to them enters the room, they relax. And, many fish, it turns out, love affection from non-fish companions. A friend of mine purchased an aquarium and fish before she realized that buying fish and keeping them captive is cruel, because it does not come close to what their life would be if they had freedom in the wild. She had them in her life for many years. When my friend would walk in the door, the fish would come to the surface, but not for food. She would gently pet their backs and they would compete for the spot under her finger. She tested their motives by adding more food to the aquarium after one of their meals. They ignored the food and came over to be pet.
3. We have been volunteering at Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary all winter. I thought I knew a lot about monkeys and other primates. If you had asked me if I loved them, I would have said yes. But, I had no idea of the depth of love I could feel for them until I got to know them personally as individuals. This cold winter has been rough on the monkeys. They are in large outdoor habitats with the companion(s) of their choosing. They have the option to go into a heated building, but they prefer to be outdoors. I have witnessed the love and caring they have for each other as one monkey spoons another monkey under a fleece blanket on a cold night. As I come by the habitats, they peek out from under the blanket to see who is passing by and then go back to their cuddling under the little fleece tent they make over themselves. Most of them have come from a history of suffering for decades in labs or as “pets” in homes that were not equipped to meet their needs. Many are physically and mentally/emotionally damaged. Despite the history of suffering, they learn what love is. They find the companion who will hug them through a cold night or nurse their wounds.
4. Lulu the pig heard a woman (Jo Ann) fall inside the house. When Lulu found JoAnn suffering on the floor, she squeezed herself through the dog door that scraped her skin and made her bloody. Once outside, Lulu opened a gate and laid down on the edge of the highway. Several cars drove around her. Unwilling to give up, she tried again in the middle of the highway. Finally a man stopped and got out of his car to make sure Lulu was ok. When he did, she sprang up and ran to the house with him following. He dialed 911 and Jo Ann lived.
5. Firefighters arrived at the scene of a building completely engulfed in flames. One firefighter heard the sound of kittens and came around the outside of the building to witness the mother cat coming out of the flaming building with the last of her 5 kittens. He quickly scooped the kittens and mother cat into a box in his truck and drove them to the emergency vetertinarian. The mother’s eyes had been burned and she was blind, but that did not stop her from touching each of the five kittens and accounting for all of them for the entire ride. The cat was named Scarlet. She and the five kittens all survived and lived long lives in a loving adoptive home after she was released from the hospital.
6. While living in Sweden, I had a neighbor tell me a story of love and loss. A male and female pair of squirrels had been living together for years at Lars and Roberta’s house. Each day they would hand nuts out the window to the squirrel couple. One afternoon, while Lars and Roberta were rushing to get ready to go to an appointment, the male squirrel started pounding on the window. Being in a hurry to leave, they ignored his frantic pounding, assuming he was just demanding a nut. This was the first time they had seen him pound on the glass. When they finally got out the front door, they looked to the right and saw that the female had drowned in their water collection barrel under the gutter. They realized that he had been pounding on the window to try to get them to help. The male continued to try to get her body out of the water, but she was out of reach. Lars pulled the female out of the water and placed her on the ground. The male squirrel tried desperately to revive her and cried out loud in a way they had never heard any squirrel cry. They decided to leave the squirrels there and rushed to their appointment. When they returned home, the male squirrel had moved her body to a spot next to their shed and he continued to cry covering her body with his. While Lars told me this story we both cried.
7. Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog found each other at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee in 2003. Newly arriving elephants normally choose another elephant as a companion. But, Tarra chose Bella and the feelings were quite mutual. They spent all their years eating together, playing together and sleeping together. When Bella was in the clinic with a spinal injury in 2010, Tara stood vigil outside the clinic for three weeks, rather than roam the sanctuary’s 2,700 acres. Bella was brought out to the balcony one day to at least see Tarra. She was so happy to see her companion, that it was decided they would bring her outside to be with Tarra for a short visit. Tarra took her giant elephant foot and gently pet Bella across her whole body over and over. On October 26, 2011, Bella was attacked by a coyote and died in the woods. Tarra searched and found Bella’s body. She carried her best friend back to the spot they had spent most of their time together and mourned the death of her dearest companion.
8. A hunter in Indonesia told the story of the last day he hunted gibbons. A gibbon (monkey) was up in a tree and he shot her several times. She would not die or drop down out of the tree until he had four bullets in her. When she dropped, he saw she was holding her baby. The hunter was shocked when the mother gibbon was crying “like a human” while clutching her baby with her blood soaked arms. Moments before she died, she held her baby out to the man until he took the baby into his arms. He never hunted again. This kind of love of a mother for her child is far from being just a human emotion.
9. There are stories from around the globe of mother cows going to great lengths to protect and be with their babies. In one town in England, a mother cow and her newborn calf were sold at auction. Unfortunately, they were sold to different farms 35 miles apart. The mother wailed as her baby was taken from her. The next morning the farmer who had purchased the mother went out to his barn and found that not only was the mother cow gone, but she had broken through a barn door and a latched gate. That morning he got a call from the auctioneer. The farmer who bought the calf said that when he went out to the barn in the morning, the door was smashed and the mother calf was resting with her nursing calf. She had managed to escape the other farm and find her way across 35 miles of unfamiliar territory to her baby.
10. There is a crazy and false myth about chickens not being smart or brave. They are in fact some of the most intelligent and caring animals in our big animal family. Chickens communicate with their unhatched offspring. By the time a chick is born, he or she and the mother hen understand each other’s complex language completely. They will risk their lives to protect their children from any danger. There is a call that is specific to a predator coming from the air and one for any danger coming on the ground. If the chicks are too far away to hear the danger call, hens have been witnessed racing to the chicks and covering them with their body to protect them from hawks and other predators.
If you want to laugh and cry and feel your own heart open wider to other species, you can do an online search for inter and intra-species caring. An orangutan and a dog, a crow and a cat, a hippo and a tortoise, rats loving being tickled, geese who refuse to leave their wounded mates, dogs dying while saving children from snakes, and so many more. Around the world, animals are expressing their love for each other and for us. They are our best teachers. They show us how to forgive, how to be present and how to love across our many differences.
Image Sources: Fish-Cutepics.org | Squirrels-Pageresource.com | Gibbons-Zooresource.com | Cows-Acuteaday.com | Hen-Mfablog.org | Lulu-Relfe.com | Scarlett-Dailykros.com