“How we need another soul to cling to” Sylvia Plath
The term philos (companion) is not exclusive to humanity; it is interwoven into what is known as the companion species. The companion species refers to the relationship –historical and otherwise- between dogs and humans (Haraway 2007:12). The history is not particularly positive, containing stories of neglect, cruelty, loss and indifference. However, with these aspects there are also stories of kindness, joy and great unity (Haraway 2007:12). What I hope to convey in this following account is that humans and animals are not that different, because they both feel and sense and they both have a heartbeat-a life story. This blog post is more of a photographic essay and an account of various narratives of cohabitation (Haraway 2007:20), which depict the intricacies and affections, as well as challenges and hardships, between humans and their companions.
Mellisa (to the left) and Almar’s (to the right) fates were tied in 2013 during two very difficult adjustments periods in their lives. Mellisa and her family adopted Almar from a farm in the Easter Cape where he was abused by the staff on the premises, leading to a distrust in people. As Almar grew tame, he and Melissa grew closer. Melissa said that Almar was a comforter to her in times of hopelessness, and visa versa. These two kindred hearts are a testament to the companion species, in loyalty and affection.
“A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh” Ecc. 3:4
Karla lost her three month old Maltese poodle puppy, Mikey, to a car accident the same year she got this companion. On a windy Autumn day, we took her on a surprise journey as she waited in anticipation. Holding out her hands, she suddenly felt a soft, small creature that was about the size of the palm of her hand. She broke out into tears. This was the small Yorkshire terrier (who was the rejected runt of the litter), which she later named “Shane”, meaning grace, which symbolized the grace she felt for being given another chance to share her life with a loyal friend, and a loving companion.
“In my darkest hour…”
These three beautiful creatures, a combination of black Labradors and Great Danes are named after the three musketeers, Porthos (the one in the back), Athos (front right) and Aramis (left). They came at a time which Georg needed companions, because he and a friend of his were attacked at that time in their home, waiting at death’s doorstep. They were full of life and joy, which helped Georg to find peace and healing. He could reach out again, feel and love. Now, being strong sturdy guardians of his home, they are loyal companions to a heart once overwhelmed sorrow.
My Heart’s Point
This story I left for last, because it is one that is very dear to my heart. I adopted Gabriel from the SPCA about 7 years ago. When we found him, he showed signs of abuse and neglect which absolutely tore at the core of my soul. He was a very lovable dog, but also very troubled, constantly running away and causing trouble through aggressive behaviors. He helped me through so many difficult times. I felt like his stubborn nature mirrored that of my own, as well as his will to fight and never give up. He had to be put out a year ago, and it was a terrible time for me. He showed me what a true companion can be, being loving and affectionate, fearless and loyal.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but words are the inner force of the impact.
Special thanks to Mellisa, Georg and Karla for sharing their stories with me. The memories and hardships each went through are significant footprints in the trail of companion species, where a bond is formed, transcending all perceptions and boundaries, and entering into a shared, equal companionship of respect and loyalty.
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.