For a short time, I wrote a column called PAWS AND CLAWS. I told animal stories based on interviews with pet owners and my own experiences. This was a favorite one of mine.

ducksKeep in mind the word, caring, as you read this story.  Yesterday, while I was in our back yard, I observed an egret on the shore of the lake. Right away, I knew something was wrong.  Further observation told me that the white egret had a limp as he dragged his long left leg with each step.  This concerned me and made me sad.

As I looked further, there swimming next to the walking bird was a black duck.  His stroke synchronized with the egret’s limping steps.  They proceeded around the circumference of the water in company of each other.

Watching this reminded me of another story in Africa.  On our last day on safari, we were safely tucked into an observation tower.  We were observing the river and riverbeds of a large park.  A mother hippopotamus and her baby were resting on the shore.  Her head was on the land and her body submerged in the shallow water.  Her baby snuggled next to her swollen body.  She did not move.

The rest of the pod of hippos swam quietly nearby.  At one time, the baby left his mother’s side and attempted to join the others. However, he quickly returned to her.

elephantsAs we continued watching, a large gray adult bull elephant approached the quiet pair.  He hesitated, alert, and stopped in his place on the shore. Bending down, he filled his trunk with cool river water and carefully sprayed the little family.  Not a movement from the mother, but the baby wiggled in delight. Getting this response, the elephant continued to amble along the riverbank and crossed to the other side not looking back.

Many times, we have talked about this event still wondering what happened to the mother and baby. However, the memorable part of this story was what appeared to be a caring, nurturing gesture from elephant to hippo, two giants in the animal kingdom.

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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