What Goes Around
By S M Chen, posted 1-26-17 by D Kovacs
Nature Channel recently aired a program called “Animal Odd Couples,” featuring odd and sometimes improbable interspecies animal friendships. Almost any animal you can imagine has, at one time or another, formed friendship with one or more members of other species. Some are with a natural predator/prey (tiger, piglets; baby orangutan, baby leopards). Others are with species that, if not antagonistic, are usually marked by indifference or benign neglect (hippopotamus, tortoise; lion, bear). Others are simply bizarre (ostrich, giraffe; zebra, giraffe; tortoise, goose).
Some believe animals lack emotions. Observers of close friendships between animals say differently.
They cite examples of a deer which befriended a blind golden retriever. During the period of blindness (the dog eventually regained sight, which had a nutritional cause), the deer was highly nurturing, and provided a much needed closeness. After the dog became sighted and could see its nurturer, did the friendship terminate? Not at all. The deer continued to lick the dog with tenderness and affection, and its actions were reciprocated.
For years, old goat Jack guided blind horse Charley about. Jack would lead Charley to favorite grazing grounds, then lead him back to the farm. From all appearances, Jack got nothing out of the friendship, and would, atypically for goats, refrain himself from grazing en route to and from the pasture.
Some human observers believe certain animals are capable of compassion (just as are some humans). They maintain, we’re all from the same planet, and need the same things. Why should different species of animals not interact with friendship and kindness?
Which reminds of something Rodney King (the acquittal of whose beaters on the LAPD force resulted in the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which resulted in 50 deaths, 4000 injuries and $1billion in property damage) once asked, “Can we all get along?”
For certain members of the animal kingdom, the answer is clearly “yes.”
These friendships often appear to be individual-specific, not species-specific. For instance, the bond between fawn Pip and black Great Dane Kate did not include other dogs – only Kate.
There is much we don’t understand. Perhaps this is a prefiguring of things to come, when various species will interact in a manner not frequently observed here (‘The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion…’ – Isaiah 11:6).
If animals other than humans can interact with kindness, compassion, and disinterested caring, might we do likewise?
Which leads me to how a Midwest woman acquired some old, wet boots.
On January 3, Kelly McGuire spied a homeless woman, Amy, outside Millennium Railroad Station in Chicago. Amy was holding a cardboard sign that read: “I am in need of winter boots and winter clothing items.”
With hesitation, McGuire, 24, immediately offered Amy clothing, including her own waterproof winter boots. Kelly said, “My initial reaction was ‘that could be any one of my friends or my family.’ We have an obligation to help everyone we can because we never know when it’s going to be us.”
She added, “I asked her what size shirt she wore and she said 8 ½ (same as me). I asked her what size shirt she wore and she said medium (same as me). I had everything in that bag that she needed. Shirts, sweatshirts, gloves, scarves, etc. She stood up and cried. I sat down with her, untied my boots… and handed them to her.
“I started to walk away and she said, ‘I don’t want your feet to be cold; can I give you my old boots?’
“She, who had nothing, offered me these boots. Her boots. I wore them all the way home. I just cannot stop thinking about her.”
But wait; there’s more.
Entertainer/comedian Ellen DeGeneres heard about the above (on occasion the Internet does have some socially redeeming value) and was so inspired she decided to have McGuire on her show.
Turns out McGuire’s good deed was not an isolated incident.
Christmas Eve she takes cookies to firemen and trays of veggies to healthcare personnel at a local ER. On Valentine’s Day she prepares cards and flowers for widows. She spent three hours in an ER with one of her father’s students whose parents were unable to be there. She organized donations for thirty children whose parents are incarcerated.
On the show, Ellen gave Kelly a pair of her own boots (part of the “ED by Ellen” shoe line), which just happened to fit.
Inside one boot was $10,000 (“I always keep my money in it,” explained Ellen). Ellen’s only request was that Kelly give 10 friends $1000 each to pay it forward to someone else in need, thus widening the ripple effect.
Inside the other boot was another $10,000, which Ellen gave Kelly for herself.
You can access this heartwarming encounter here.
People like Kelly McGuire and Ellen DeGeneres help restore one’s faith in humanity.
Actions by such individuals recall, in a different context, Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s comment upon landing on the moon in 1969: “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”