Unlikely Friendships
Forty-Seven Remarkable Stories
From the Animal Kingdom

Jennifer S. Holland
(Workman Publishing)
Ms. Holland has culled photographs of birds and beasts (and in a couple of cases, fishies) who one would never think of as being best of pals. We find a horse and a baby deer in Montana, a French poodle and a deer in Ohio, and an owl and a gorgeous spaniel that we could fall in love with as well ... if we only lived in Cornwall, England.

There's a wolf and a Rottweiler (playing with sticks), a polar bear and a sled dog in Canada, a leopard and a cow (India, naturally), a rhesus macaque and a ringneck dove in the Guangdong Province of China, a guinea pig and a rabbit in Missouri, and most fetching, a tabby and a macaque in Bali.

Cats, if we are to use this book as our guide, are apparently willing to tolerate (if not love) most anything: not only do we find them paired with dogs and a macaque ... but a black bear, a cockatoo, a gorilla, and an orangutan. No rattle-snakes or jelly-fish, though.

There are a couple here that might be more a case of flirting than real love. A family in Oregon claimed that their golden retriever fell for a koi --- an overbred carp --- although the dog had been trained to bring food to the pond which may have had something to do with their love-affair.

And a diver by the name of Sean Payne was filming some groupers off the coast of Florida, and got groped by (and he in turn groped) a manta ray. "As he ran his hands over her skin, her wing tips vibrated like a dog's leg during a particularly good belly scratch."

    Her skin felt like velvet cloth stretched over ribs and muscle, an incredible texture.

The author fails to note that, according to Manta World, rays "can lose their protective mucus membrane if they are touched by humans." Payne may thus have killed his sweetie.

As you may note, Unlikely Friendships is very romantic, stays away from realities like this. Most of the images and stories are tilted towards possible affairs between lovable animals with big eyes and shiny pelts ... although there is a squirrel monkey in love with a capybara (a big rat-like creature from South America) and a duck in Australia nestling with a kookaburra --- a homely if disinterested kingfisher.

What we would like to suggest for Ms. Holland's next project to find love-affairs between one of those ghoulish fish-of-the-deep, or perhaps a warthog or an aye-aye (Figs 1 - 3, above), or between any of those (or anything else, if there is a possibility) and one the most homely, dangerous if not malevolent unlovable creatures in the universe [Fig. 4, below.]

--- Richard Saturday
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