Amazing Animal Stories

One thing is for sure, we LOVE our pets. Statistics show that over two thirds of Americans have an animal in their home (whether it's a dog, cat, or even a lion - yes a lion!) and 90% of pet owners consider them a member of the family. When they get sick, we rush them to the ER (some of us even have pet insurance) and when they are naughty, we scold them like children. We wonder what they're thinking, analyze their expressions (like each time a dog tilts its head to the side), and we let them sleep with us in our beds, even when they have a perfectly new pet bed in the living room. Let's not even talk about food. Sometimes they eat better than we do. We have in many ways "humanized" them.

But why? Why have we gotten used to them being around and continue to make them such an important part of our lives? Maybe it goes back centuries when human civilization greatly depended on animals; in Ancient Egypt, a cat was the best companion, in the 19th century messenger pigeons delivered important news, and a dog acted as a bomb detector and therapist (and still does to this day). We have needed them for our survival. Or maybe it's because we know instinctively that being around an animal is good for our general well-being. We feel love, joy and friendship with them, and studies have actually shown that companion animals have a positive impact on our health, both emotionally and physically. Koi fish are pets, world class sushi swimming in our backyard ponds. Speaking of sushi, here in Los Angeles, we can now have Sugarfish sushi delivered by this very cool company called Postmates. They are the bomb diggity bomb!

Let's look at how similar they are to us humans. Yes, they have 4 legs, are furry, and lick themselves constantly, however in many ways they are much like us. They see, hear, smell and feel. They eat, rest and play. They give birth, raise their young and eventually die….just like us. We share the same new life experiences. We have all heard many animal stories about dogs who continue to look and wait for their owners after they pass away. The movie, Hachi; A Dog's Tale, tells such a tale - and there are many more stories about animals like this one. Year after year, the dog waited at the train station for his owner to arrive from work and they would walk home together. They became best friends. After the man unexpectedly dies, the dog continued to wait for him at the train station, every single day for ten years! His love and devotion never faded. Many animals, such as elephants, wolves, chimpanzees, dolphins and sea lions, have been found to grieve and mourn the loss of one of their own. Some even bury their dead. Animals feel emotions like sadness and heartbreak. Whether we leave our dog alone for two minutes or two days, they are extremely happy to see us each time - they are one happy animal. They miss us when we leave them, and we miss them when we are without them.

Another reason we might feel drawn to an animal is because we feel the need to protect and nurture it, like we would our own child. Like children, they cannot always defend themselves when in danger (well except for a lion or a feisty cat), or speak up each time they need something. They have an innocence and vulnerability that we innately feel we need to protect. They also give us unconditional love. They don't care if you have money (or don't), if you're skinny, smart or drive a fancy car – they want your affection, your time, your touch- they just want you!

Now, let's talk about how cute they are. Of course, all animals are amazing, but some are just so darn adorable. They possess certain aesthetic traits like big eyes, fuzzy coats and podgy bodies that turn us into a pile of goo. I mean who doesn't love those videos of panda bears rolling around playing together, kittens playing with a new ball of wool, and fluffy ducklings behind their mama crossing the street. They go viral instantly. Each time we see one, we will literally stop whatever we are doing to watch them because the cuteness factor is just too high.

We love animal stories too. In a world with not the best of news coming at us constantly, it's nice to read about something good and heart-warming. Like the animal story about the dog in England who found nine chicks wandering around with no mother and decided to carry these new adoptees around on his back. Or the story of Jack and Diane (no not the couple from the famous song), the emu and the donkey who found new love. After they quickly became inseparable at a shelter, they were adopted so they could stay together. Today they live on a farm as one happy family. What about the dolphin who saved several beached pygmy sperm whales on the coast of New Zealand? Conservationists were trying for hours to get the whales back in the water, however they were not successful. Then the local friendly dolphin, Moko, showed up and used his magic to steer the whales out to sea. How he did it, we are not sure. But he communicated with them and somehow convinced them to follow him. Thanks to Moko, the whales were saved. This is only one of many of the animal stories out there that deepen our fascination and wonder with them.

Oh, and how about those unlikely animal friendship stories? You would never think that certain critters could be best buddies, but then you hear stories that truly amaze. Like Hemingway, the sick one year old goat who was being nursed back to health at a Farm Sanctuary and who one day became besties with a goose named Ryan. A goat and a goose. That's new! And then there's Bea the Giraffe and Wilma the Ostrich. They both reside at Busch Gardens and although they have a huge enclosure where they could roam freely, they choose to hang out together. They have become BFFs! And we cannot forget Milo the 11 pound weiner dog and Bonedigger the 500 pound lion. The lion is partially crippled due to a metabolic bone disease and Milo has been by his side since day one to comfort and love him. Bonedigger has even gotten used to Milo's kisses! However one of the all time sweetest stories is of Bubbles the African Elephant and Bella the Dog (black Labrador). They were both brought to a safari reserve in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and immediately became best pals. Although there is quite a big difference in size between them, they love to play together. Their favorite game is playing fetch in the water. Bubbles acts as the pitcher and throws the ball with her trunk, then Bella jumps off of Bubbles' back (or head) and swims to get the ball. As far as animal stories go, that one is beyond endearing.

These animal stories (it seems there is a new one to read about every day) just prove that an animal is able to feel love and compassion just like we are. Aside from being great stories that we love to share with each other (we are all guilty of forwarding those YouTube videos), the interesting question is what makes them form their friendships? We know that monkeys, dogs and elephants establish strong social networks in the wild, so it makes sense that they seek out other animal friends outside of their own species. When there is no pack order or drive to hunt prey, dogs can co-exist peacefully with animals they might not typically think of as a friend. More independent ones, such as the cat, fox and moose, whose parents are no longer present, may look to form a parent-child relationship with animals who helped raise them or they have spent time with.

Whatever the reason is, animal stories about these odd couplings only confirm human beings are not the only members of the animal kingdom that are complex emotionally. They, like us, are capable of showing deep love, understanding and creating long-lasting bonds. They see past each other's differences and focus only on the beauty within. A lesson to be learned.