Unlikely Animal Friendships Teach Lessons in Love

Stories of animal friendships are popping up everywhere. Some are wild animals brought together by fate or circumstance, and others are domestic animals in unexpected situations, but all of them remind us of the power of compassion and acceptance.

Hearts Open After Loss

Many stories of animal friendships begin with loss. Take Miwa and Uri-bo, a macaque monkey and a wild boar, who came together after they’d both been orphaned. As babies, both were brought to the Fukuchiyama City Zoo in Japan, and when Miwa kept crying out at night, caretakers thought to put the two together to see if they could comfort one another. Now Miwa rides on Uri-bo’s back, and the two friends are one of the zoo’s primary attractions.

Losing an important person in your life can lead to isolation while grieving, but many interspecies friendships grew out of tragedies. Even at our most vulnerable and sad, there is hope for love and companionship.

Man’s Best Friend

There are a lot of stories of dogs caring for and playing with other animals. There’s Bella the dog whose best friend is Bubbles the elephant, greyhound Torque who adopted baby owl Shrek, Fred the Labrador who took in duckling Dennis, dachshund Milo who plays with disabled lion Bonedigger, and Candy the terrier and best friend Manni the wild boar. Seeing dogs become friends with all kinds of animals isn’t a surprise for dog lovers. Dogs have a huge capacity for love with humans, so why not with other animals? Seeing animals take care of each other reminds us of the joy of caring for our own pets.

Enemies Can Become Friends

“If a turtle can go with a hippo, maybe a Christian can go with a Muslim.” These words are spoken during a documentary on the unlikely pair Owen and Mzee. Owen the hippo lost his family in a tsunami and was taken to an animal refuge in Kenya. Caretakers decided to put him in an enclosure with an older tortoise, Mzee, and hoped the two would just ignore each other and live independently. Then, baby Owen began to follow Mzee, whose name means “old man” in Swahili, as if the tortoise were his mother. The two became inseparable, and Owen nuzzled and licked Mzee to show his affection. Hippos can be extremely aggressive and dangerous toward other animals, so this friendship surprised even the experts. Eventually, as Owen grew, he was moved to an enclosure with another hippo and made a successful transition.

When animals aren’t meant to be friends and act as predator and prey, we see self-preservation at work. But when enemies become friends, we see powerful and meaningful compassion that puts another above the self, even when the other is supposed to be dinner.

Whether our differences are inside or outside, these unexpected animal friendships show us the universal need for love and acceptance.

Image source: Flickr