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Jan 28, 2020

Unlikely Relationships: Our Best Friends’ Friends

By Diane L. Grigg

Fifty years ago, a Jesuit priest named Pierre Teilard de Chardin stated, “The world is round so that friendship may encircle it.” In this current world situation, the genuine meaning of friendship is needed now more than ever as we struggle to find our footing in the whirlwind of change and uncertainty. As the habitable areas of the earth are diminishing, we are witnessing animals in situations they would never naturally find themselves. Evolution and adaptation are in constant motion, and those animals who are able to go with the flow are the ones who will survive and thrive. Whether by necessity for survival or just by choice, animals establish unique relationships with other creatures, forming bonds that we as humans need to take notice and emulate.

The universe shares with us the sun, the moon, the stars and the air – all its beauty and bounty. What do we share with it? We have abused our earthly privileges, believing humans are the most important entity in the universe. This basic belief is often regarded as contributing to environmental harm and has become a hot topic in the field of environmental ethics. If the friendships we form were taken more deliberately, our earth’s future could be much brighter.

Even the most unusual animal friendships have a genesis in connection. Undoubtedly, unique relationships are formed in the wild, away from peering eyes. The establishment of strong social bonds is crucial to survival. The genuine fondness between species subliminally contributes to a partnership for both protection and moving forward. Whether it be location, either natural or artificial, animals realize strength comes in numbers. They have the unique ability to look beyond differences. In their own comprehension, they may take notice of the dissimilarity but move past it. They might see the lack of conformity a challenge. Once there becomes a mutual respect between two species, the guard comes down, the adrenaline level drops, and a friendship blossoms.

The unlikely friendships that animals form is cause for us to stop and take notice, especially when severe environmental occurrences take place. Animals are not looking on their cellphones, computers and televisions for guidance and instruction. They live in the moment, having a sense that something is greatly amiss and things are going to quickly change. They look to their environment and the other animals living there to mold some kind of survival affinity. They have the sense of partnership, a common shared understanding of mutual respect in the face of adversity. When assurances are established, friendships are born.

Animals design relationships similar to ours, but with much less mind-driven ideas of how things should proceed. Once the trust level is established between two species, a confidence arises, giving birth to dependence. Animals do better in situations when they are interdependent. Many zoos see unique friendships form, like the giant tortoise and the capybara, when animals that would never be together in the wild are housed alongside each other either temporarily or permanently. These remarkable relationships open up a world where one can witness firsthand the thought processes which give way to a true coexistence based upon acceptance and reliability.

Animals in shelters, foster care and rescues, after proper medical and behavioral evaluation, can be housed together with others that are nowhere near similar to them. And yet, they thrive. The added stimulation of forging friendships gives rise to healing both mentally and physically, contributing significantly to a better quality of life. Anybody who has lived in a multi-animal household is witness to the unique friendships and relationships that form. Just like human family, animals deal with each other on a daily basis, enmeshed in the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. They manage beautifully. Natural-born enemies end up cuddling on the couch or sharing a precious spot of sunshine. They know how important it is to be a part of a loving group – a collection of minds that perhaps evolved differently but is able to put aside survival instincts and relax and enjoy positive energy and confidence.

Animals are not greedy. They are grateful for food, shelter, water and affection. They know nothing of vanity unless it serves a purpose. They do not commit ingenious and grisly crimes. They live in constant awareness, living far enough in the future to ensure the present. They do not desecrate the environment. No money passes hands. They play by the rules of the universe, making full use of their instincts, intuition and valuable resources. The mutually beneficial relationships they form give rise to mindful contemplation. Sharing is the true spirit of graciousness. We are part of a whole, all in or all out. Animals are more than capable of feeling love, compassion and friendship – a lesson humanity needs to take notice of.