Sunday, November 11, 2012


Jack, a 16-year-old goat, formed a devoted relationship with Charlie, a blind 40-year-old horse. Jack essentially became Charlie’s eyes, and would lead him around the ranch property where they both lived. When Charlie finally died, Jack lost his sense of purpose and rapidly failed. They are buried together in one of the private meadows where they loved to graze.

When you wake up from a long headachy nap to a loudly-purring, velvety-soft kitten stretched solid across your chest, you take your time even opening your eyes. You whisper her name and feel her flex sheathed paws against you. You realize, once again, that love and communication are usually the same thing.

This week I watched Nature's Animal Odd Couples and was struck by how biologists who study animals have felt prevented from using the term "friendship" for fear of anthropomorphizing. Social sciences still flee from the spectre of not being real science. However, you'd hope they could realize the pounding emphasis on animal mating behavior, to the near exclusion of other equally significant bonds, is driven by our own heteronormative bias.

Species benefit includes company and love, however you define it. We can come up with those definitions if we stop prioritizing male-female reproduction as the only drive in nature.

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