Monday, March 4, 2013

Unlikely Friendships: A great little book of Animal Stories

A few years ago, I was out shovelling the driveway after a storm not unlike the one we just experienced, when my peripheral vision picked up an unexpected flash of movement. 

I looked up and across the street to see what a few seconds of observation told me was a large brown animal, quite possibly a dog, galloping right at me. 

My own dogs were with me and off-leash (something I rarely do these days), so I wasted no more time to assess the situation further. Instead, I leaped into action. Swinging around, I attempted to grab hold of the two older and more territorial dogs. 

The problem was that they had seen the same flash of movement and had already determined to defend our property from an immanent attack. 

In truth, the boys are quite possibly the biggest cowards on the planet, but boy, oh boy, they can sure put on a mighty impressive show. Buddy began leaping up and down, "B- barr-barr-oooh! B-barr-barr-ohh!", while Scrap filled in as his boisterous sidekick.

Despite my best efforts, the situation was instantly out of control!

I looked up in sympathetic apology to the approaching animal. Much to my surprise, I saw that it wasn't a dog at all. 

It was a young doe! 

As the young doe came into sight of the barking dogs, it screeched on its brakes and slid on the ice at the end of the driveway. It was then I saw the blood. The poor thing must have been hit by a car minutes before! There was blood all over its left hip and leg.

Amazing to me was the fact that, in its distress, it hadn't run by me. 

It had run right to me!

As chance would have it, I was the only other living creature insight that morning (the picket fence blocking the doe's view of the dogs) and it had run to me. 

For the briefest of seconds, I met eyes with the terrified animal. I wanted to reach out and stroke its neck (though I thought better of it) and to whisper some words of comfort: to say that it was all going to be okay, even though I knew the leg injury meant that everything probably wasn't going to be okay at all.

Sometimes fate has the way of throwing creatures together and that brings me to the true subject of today's post: Unlikely Friendships a book of touching animal stories by author Jennifer S. Holland.

The pictures in this book are guaranteed to make you sigh awwww! 

The stories in this collection are all fairly short, which is just perfect if, like me, you like to keep a book on your bedside table and read a few pages before you fall asleep each night. 

Each story details a surprising and unusual bond between animals: for example, there is a story of a young bobcat and a fawn who spent an evening huddled together in a cage after being rescued from a fire in the Santa Barbara area in 2009. 

Often the animals are young or orphaned like the those in the unbelievable tale of the leopard and cow on the banks of the Dhadhar River in India 

or the young lioness and the baby oryx in Samburu National Reserve in Kenya.

In her introduction, Jennifer Holland says we are built to melt over tender animal stories like these, but that the appeal of these surprising bonds goes much deeper than mere cuteness. The author then continues on to quote the noted biologist and primate specialist Barbara King, "I believe people crave examples not just of cuteness, and not just of tolerance- but of true compassion and sharing. These stories help us get in touch with our best selves."

I wanted to tell you about Unlikely Freindships because I know that most of my blogging friends are also nature lovers. I have yet to meet a gardener who dislikes animals: we love our dogs, we love our cats, we love watching the birds that take refuge at our winter feeders. 

I feel confident in saying, this is one book I know you will enjoy reading!

So what happened with the young doe in my driveway?

It turned and ran into my neighbour's back yard. Perfect, I thought! With its injured leg, it probably won't be able to jump the back fence. Hopefully, I will be able to call someone for help. 

I went to my neighbour's back door and knocked. While I waited for her to answer, I looked down the yard and saw the doe pacing up and down the back fence. Then, she turned and sailed cleanly over the fence, never to be seen again.

I still think of this injured doe sometimes and marvel that she sought the compassion of the only other creature in sight that morning. 

I think it speaks to the deep connection that we share with all living creatures.

I approached Timber Press, who distributes Unlikely Friendships, and asked them to provide a giveaway copy for one lucky reader. They graciously agreed.

To enter the draw for a copy of Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland, please leave a comment below. I also ask entrants to make sure there is some kind of link available to their email address. I need to have a way to get hold of you should you be a winner! 

More Information and Links: 

Author, Jennifer S. Holland is a science and nature journalist who is currently a senior writer for National Geographic magazine.
Read an interview with Jennifer here.
There is also a kid-friendly version of this book of stories called Unlikely Friendships for Kids: the Monkey and the Dove and Four other stories of Animal Friendships (also by Jennifer S. Holland).


  1. I have heard about that book but never seen it. I LOVE stories like that and photos like that. There are so many too. The elephant and the dog in TN, the turtle and the hippo, so many 'unlikely friendships". I would love to be entered into the drawing- what a great idea!!!! Very sweet story of the doe. I have never understood people that are not animal lovers. Says a lot about them I think....

  2. I'd love to read this! I've heard the story about the fawn & the bobcat rescued from the fire. I'd really like to read the rest of them. Thanks for offering the book!

  3. This is my kind of book! I love reading these kind of stories. I often think we could learn a thing or two from some of the animals we share this planet with.

  4. Wow Jennifer...I am already crying after reading your post so I know this book will be a real tear-jerker for me. However, it's a must read!! Thank you so much for sharing this story and telling us about this book.

  5. Sounds like a lovely book, and one that would feel good to read. I enjoyed your story, too. Since the deer jumped the fence, I'm hoping it was fine, and just in shock for a moment from the hit.

    1. Unfortunately Holley, this is a story that I think had a sad ending. The doe was in shock when it ran in my direction. The injuries to its leg were substantial and I doubt it could have survived for long. I only wish I could have done something to minimize its suffering.

  6. I too love to read a few pages before turning in. This does sound like the perfect book for that - I actually saw that photo of the bobcat and deer online recently. I really like the description though, that it's more than just cute. There really is something amazing about the connection between these animals.

  7. What an interesting book, unlikely friendships is a great topic. I had an animal encounter this morning. A tiny bird hit our window and I watched it for the longest time as it struggled to right itself. I didn't want to go out and scare I waited and waited. After I got back from walking the dogs it was gone. I sure hope it was just stunned, but I don't know.

  8. I hope the doe was OK!

    It is amazing the bonds that can be formed across species.

    1. Sadly, the doe's injuries were such that I doubt that it could have survived. I just hope it didn't suffer long.

  9. Oh my, I LOVE stories like this! If it´s possible to enter for me (since I´m swedish) I´d love to do so! :-)

  10. I'm always a little suspicious of people who don't love animals!

  11. What an absolutely beautiful post.The story of the little doe is heartbreaking and I wish her well, how lovely that she ran to you though. Hopefully if she can jump the fence the injuries may be superficial.

    I fully intend to read that book, it sound fantastic.....awwww....I'm too late for the draw!!!!

    In the words of Francis of Assisi,
    "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their feelow men." xxxxx

  12. This was a touching story even if it had a bad ending. You just might have shown a moment of compassion and sense of safety that the doe needed at that moment. I feel that animals have a sixth sense about certain people and just know those not to hurt or to trust. I have seen many pictures of the stories in this book and they are remarkable. Animals have feelings, no matter what science says is likely.

  13. This sure seems a delightful, heart-warming read! :)
    I will see if I can find it here, I am sure my friends will love it as a gift! :D

  14. I've heard of this book and thought it would be a great read but now I want it even more! I love that the doe sought you out. I wonder if she picked up on your energy or just expected you to be kind. What a commentary from an animals point of view as compared to humans who are often surprised by kindness in another.

  15. What a beautiful story and fabulous book. I love to encounter wildlife and make a connection...pure bliss!

  16. Hi Jennifer, it is more than just cute, isn't it? It suits some people to write off animals as not having feelings or intelligence, because then they can justify treating them badly. I don't know if the publisher wants me in the draw, postage to Australia a bit expensive, so this can be taken as a disinterested comment.


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