We love our pets, but can animals really feel and express love? Science and anecdotal evidence suggest that love in the animal kingdom is stronger and more complex than we might think. Could this love be an expression of divine love, a love so vast and universal that it pervades every living thing? Check out these unusual animal companions and the ways in which they reveal that love knows no bounds.
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Cheetahs are social animals in the wild, but two-week-old Kumbali was all alone. Born at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia, his mother lacked the capacity to feed him, so zoo staff had to bottle-feed him in isolation. Kumbali was terrified by his surroundings, and his health was suffering, until the staff introduced him to Kago, a ten-week-old lab mix puppy. The two became fast friends—according to the zookeepers, Kumbali has adopted some of Kago’s dog behaviors. “Dogs are less fearful of new surroundings and embrace them with confidence. That calmness helps the cheetah remain calm as well,” according to the zoo’s press release.
Staffers at the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter in Tennessee were most likely concerned when their feline greeter, Pumpkin, jumped into a rat’s cage while the cage was being cleaned. But Pumpkin didn’t eat little Batman the Dumbo rat —instead, she nuzzled him and purred. Staffers believe Pumpkin, who has an immune-deficiency disorder called FIV, found comfort in her little furry friend. The two were filmed for a National Geographic special, Unlikely Animal Friends, scheduled to air on May 21st. Sadly, Batman has since passed away of old age. “In human years, Batman was an estimated 85 years old and is considered to have lived an outstanding, above average life span,” a shelter official told a local news outlet, “Batman’s best friend, Pumpkin was with him as he passed.”
The Bible assures us that, with the arrival of the Messiah, lions and lambs would live in harmony, as they did in the Garden of Eden. Well, it's not quite the same, but at the Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, a bear, a lion and a tiger—animals that shouldn't really get along in tight quarters—are the best of friends. Rescued as babies from a group of drug dealers who had illegally acquired the protected animals and abused them, Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan bonded together in a way never found in nature. Lions, tigers and bears are notoriously solitary creatures, but when the animal rescue staff tried to separate the animals, they grew agitated and refused to be pulled apart. If these guys can be friends, despite their differences, maybe there's hope for the rest of us, no?
One’s a 9000-pound African elephant, the other’s a 70-pound Labrador, but that doesn’t keep Bubbles and Bella from sharing the pool at Myrtle Beach Safari Park in South Carolina. Bubbles first came to Myrtle Beach in 1983 after ivory poachers killed her mother and left her an orphan. A contractor hired by the facility to build a pool for Bubbles brought his dog, Bella, along, and the two animals quickly became inseparable, choosing to cool off on hot days by swimming and splashing each other in the water.
These two friends became a YouTube sensation in 2010, an odd pairing brought together by their love of eating mice and a good game of tag. They met when both were only one month old at Camp de Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, when Fum’s pet parents began domesticating Gebra using the ancient art of falconry. “Their spontaneous relationship, that nobody helped to happen, has captivated the interest of thousands of persons,” says Gebra’s trainer. “If they understand each other, what’s the reason for us not to understand each other, too?” Fum passed away three years ago, but her example of love for her feathered friend lives on.
We usually think of seeing-eye dogs as highly trained animals meant to serve humans, but Leo, an 85-pound German Shepherd with no guide-dog training, has proven otherwise. Leo, who lives at the RSPCA shelter in Rochdale, England is generally protective of smaller dogs at the shelter, and when Ellie, a sight-impaired King Charles Spaniel puppy, arrived, Leo immediately took to her, guiding her on their walks and protecting her from larger dogs. Their special relationship is proof that our canine friends’ tendency to protect and serve goes beyond what they learn in obedience school.
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