Birds of a feather flock together

“Human beings who developed a relationship with animal species tend to share similar reactions towards older perspectives regarding the purpose of these companion species – birds of a feather flock together.”

Introduction

Domesticated animals and animal companions is a relatively new notion of only three decades old which, when taking into consideration the primitive nature from which the companion species is rooted, is not such a long time ago. These species are historically linked to human beings on a social, natural and behavioral level which should also be considered when discussing companion species and the human attraction to them. This photo essay aims to not only discuss Donna Haraway’s notion of “companion species” (2007:8-9) but to show the interactions between human beings and their animal companions.

 Concept statement

The term “companion species” refers to a claimed relationship between human beings and animals (Haraway 2007:8-9). The relationship was not always a kinship and began but three decades ago. Before then the dog, specifically, was used to aid farmers with herding, was a source of food or fleece and served as intelligent weapons systems – facts that the contemporary dog lover prefers to forget (Haraway 2007:13). The relationship between human beings and animals is still variable which makes it interesting. The companion relationship depends on the co-constitutive type of relationship as well as the relation that never really ends (Haraway 2007:20) and is the simplest basis of understanding of the companion species. It comes down to the idea that humans no longer view these animals as a source of food and neither are they consumed, in the primitive sense, by them and it has therefore become difficult for animal lovers to accept the opposite occurrence (Haraway 2007:14). By sharing our life with that of an animal both our stories as well as theirs are inhibited and we are living a shared “active history” (Haraway 2007:20).

 Hatchling the Tortoise

Skillie 02
Figure 1: In the morning twilight on a farm, Hatchling the tortoise was discovered by Danny along with its creep that were all settled comfortably because the habitat is ideal. The discovery of the creep came as a bit of a surprise because tortoises seldom travel in groups. Danny considers herself to be “very lucky” in having had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with this tortoise family before letting them alone. Despite the brief encounter with these animals Danny grew fond of the hatchling represented in the photograph as she says that it was the “smallest of the lot”. [Sl], 2015. Photographer unknown.

It only took a brief encounter for Danny to develop a sense of kinship with a baby tortoise which she affectionately named Hatchling. With reference to the social link, Danny empathised with Hatchling because she is also very petite and have come to learn that being smaller has challenges. Even though Danny let the animal be to live in its natural environment she whole-heartedly believes that it loved being in her hand when she picked it up. Danny considers Hatchling as a long-distance pet trusting that it was content with her but had to be let alone so that nature could take its course. Hatchling was never seen since and Danny assumes that it had no further interactions with human beings.

 Mickey the Yorkie

Sammy & Micky
Figure 2: Photograph portraying Sam and Mickey the yorkie lying on her face, in their home. Sam bought Mickey the Yorkshire Terrier from humane breeders about three years ago and has not had a moment of regret since. Mickey and Sam are inseparable from the day they met. She leaves him at home with a heavy heart only to find him ecstatic when she returns. She says that over this period she has experienced less anxiety and believes that her relationship with Mickey is one of the main reasons why her stress levels are not through the roof anymore. Pretoria, 2016. Photographed by the author.

Sam loved her yorkie from the first moment she saw him explaining that he was a small, furry ball of energy that she enjoyed to play with and still does. Historically (Haraway 2007:20), Yorkshire Terriers were bred as small canines for hunting rodents in small spaces, these days they have become somewhat of royalty and are described to be very picky and temperamental not to mention only choosing one human being as their master. Mickey does have a very unique character according to Sam; he refuses to eat Royal Canine’s Yorkshire Terrier pellets because she thinks that he believes he is not one and demands her nightgown to be made up in a nest-like manner for him to sleep in. Mickey, being bought as a puppy is mainly loyal and obedient to Sam. However, many yorkies and other dog breeds are not as fortunate who miss the comforts of home living in rehabilitation and rescue facilities all over South Africa and the world.

 The Dolly Dolphin

Chanè Dolphin
Figure 3: Photograph showing the dolly Dolphin playfully swimming alongside Chanè. She explains that when she first encountered the dolphin he acted in a “dolly” manner; showing off by splashing about and doing tricks. Even though Chanè was frightened to get into the water with the dolphin, its response upon seeing her won her over immediately because it seemed very excited to interact with her. The dolphin calmed down once Chanè got into the water and she thinks it was to prevent from frightening her and this made her trust the animal further. Chanè describes her interaction with the dolphin as “life changing”. Orlando, 2011. By curtesy of Chanè Badenhorst.

Human beings are not accustomed to dolphins because it is not a general companion animal however there is little question that Chanè and this mammal developed a relationship. In some countries dolphins are considered a source of food and entertainment which refers back to more primitive human activities (Haraway 2007:13). Many animal lovers find this idea unbearable. Chanè felt a kinship with the dolphin because she believes that it attracted her attention without pressuring her do anything as people sometimes do, it let her decide, a quality which she admired because she does not cope with fear well. Her experience with the dolphin in the water helped her to have courage to try new things. Chanè did not learn much about the mammal’s history but that it was rescued and will remain in captivity until it is ready to be released and based on her experience with the animal she assumes that it has had previous interactions with human beings. The dolphin is described to have a cheerful personality, without which Chanè might have never found it within herself try something new.

 Ellie, a finicky feline 

Zhan Kitty 05
Figure 4: Photograph of Zhan-Mishal and her feline, Ellie cosily settled on her couch. Zhan raised Ellie from a kitten and sees her as a very important part of her life. Ellie climbed her way into her arms and heart. Zhan can almost not imagine a day without Ellie. She says she finds comfort in her pet companion during times of need; when she has to work late Ellie’s restless little body makes her feel less lonely. Ellie is a very finicky feline and is used to getting her way from getting extra milk because it is a Monday to sleeping in pillow forts because it is cold, the duo is in each other’s pocket. Pretoria. 2016. By curtesy of Zhan-Mishal Viviers.

Zhan-Mishal describes herself as being a cat person and when one considers her companionship with the feline, Ellie it is understandable. Zhan and Ellie’s kinship result in two happy living beings respectively. They co-exist in the same environment as far as possible and are only separated when life interferes every now and then. Cats’ history with humans (Haraway 2007:20) date back to early Egyptian times when they were domesticated to catch rodents. This feline apparently does not take a great liking towards people an Zhan is the exception. Ellie is said to have a mind of her own and prefer certain things to be just so such as only lying on Zhan’s chest unless the weather forces her to find a cooler spot.

Concluding thoughts

Antoine De Saint-Exupéry wrote “[b]ut if you tame me. [T]hen we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…” (1995:64). This quote simply illustrates that once an animal is domesticated it is likely to develop a kinship with at least a human being. This photo essay discusses Donna Haraway’s notion of “companion species” (2007:8-9) and shows the interactions between human beings and their animal companions.


For further information regarding orphaned animal companions please visit: http://www.wetnose.org.za/ or http://www.nspca.co.za/page/spcas-in-south-africa and also feel free to search #DigEcoAction for further interest in blog posts that attempt to create awareness.


Sources consulted

De Saint-Exupéry, A. 1995. The Little Prince. Ware: Wordsworth Editions Limited.

Shelton, D. 2001. Pioneer pets: the dogs of Territorial Tucson: a photo essay. The Journal of Arizona History 42(4):445-472.

Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Badenhorst, C. 2011. The Dolly Dolphin. Orlando.

Thompson, N. 2016. Mickey the Yorkie. Pretoria.

Viviers, Z. 2016. Ellie. Pretoria.

[Sn]. 2015. Hatchling the Tortoise. [Sl].

Martin, G. 2016. A list of phrases about animals. [O]. Available:
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/animal-phrases.html
Accessed 17 April 2016.

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