Throughout history, different species and humans have lived side by side, sharing mutual space, and have more recently fused together to coexist as a unit (Harraway 2007:12). In the past dogs, for example, were there for humans to use a sort of tool, mostly for hunting and protection. As these species and humans became more intertwined, the relationships between them grew and developed (Harraway 2007:12). Dogs and other pets are now considered companions more than just another species (Harraway 2007:12). These animals become a huge part of a person’s narrative, and the two species weave in and out of each other’s lives (Harraway 2007:20). The following photographic essay aims to showcase the kind of bonds people make with their animals, and the companionship and loyalty that is more often than not evident in these relationships.
From day one, Layla was the most loveable dog I have ever owned. She has a need for human contact at all times, and goes as far as lying between your legs while you are cooking and trying to break down doors when she is put outside. This tends to become problematic when the 75Kg puppy at heart collapses at your feet and sends you flying. Her need for our love and attention became particularly evident when we left on a family holiday for the first time since we got her. After many calls from my grandfather saying she would not come out of her kennel to eat or drink, we sent a vet to check on her, thinking she was ill. To our surprise, the vet said that she was suffering from depression. After only five days without her family, she could not function. This photograph was taken the day we returned from that holiday. She slept nestled into my dad’s neck for almost three hours. Needless to say, my dad was happy to oblige.
My aunt had been going through what she describes as the worst day of her life. She had just had one of her ovaries removed after many complications and over a dozen failed pregnancies, and to make things worse, she had just moved into a new house that was unfamiliar to her. Maxi had always been a rather aloof cat, only really paying you attention when she felt like it. But that night, as my aunt got into bed, with the painkillers starting to ware off, Maxi stepped onto each each of her hips, being careful not to touch her stitches, and curled up over her wound. She purred and lay there all night. To this day, my aunt says that that was one of the most special moments she has witnessed between a human and an animal, and although it might not be clear to us all the time, our pets know when we need to comfort us.
Roxy was a rescue dog that my father bought home for my mother as a celebration gift for their engagement. My mother was furious, struggling to understand why he would get a dog when they and so many other things on their plate at the time. little did she know, that dog became like her child. Her and my other became inseparable. Before my mother even knew she was pregnant, Roxy would lie on her stomach and bark at her, as if she did not know what was going on. My mom still sticks to her guns that Roxy pretty much told her she was pregnant. Her barking and howling continued all through my mother’s pregnancy. It was once I was born that she started acting even stranger. Roxy would sleep under my cot, keeping guard. My mother would often walk into my room with Roxy just sitting, staring at me, as if just making sure that I was okay. She also used to growl and snap at the other dogs if they tried going into my room. This also applied when my father tried walking into my room. Roxy always caused a huge commotion if my father tried to get into the room. Roxy had this need to protect me from the time I was in my mother’s stomach, and was by my side until I was twelve.
One of my best friends has suffered from Epilepsy her whole life. Her seizures are severe and she struggles to participate in the most simple everyday activities, with fear that the smallest thing could trigger an episode. After a nasty divorce between her parents, her and her mom went to the SPCA to pick out a puppy. While strolling around the grounds, they came across Pickles. The man working there told them that he was epileptic, and had been there for many months. It seemed too fitting, and they took Pickles home the next week. Pickles became a companion and friend, and seemed like a fellow comrade, with both of them suffering from the seizures. More than that, the most amazing part of their story is that Pickles developed this ability to warn my friend when he sensed that a seizure was coming. It was the most amazing phenomenon, and was a true testament to the special bond that the two of them shared.
Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.