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!
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).