Over the weekend, my wife, my daughter and I watched this episode of the PBS series “Nature” called “Animal Odd Couples” and it left me a sobbing wreck. It examines the emotional life of animals by looking closely at a handful of cases where mammals of different species have formed bonds — even friendships.
Despite the odds, there are countless stories of the most unlikely cross-species relationships imaginable: a goat guiding a blind horse; a doe who regularly visits her Great Dane surrogate mother; a juvenile gibbon choosing to live with a family of capuchins, and so on. Instincts gone awry? The subject has mystified scientists for years. Now, ‘Nature’ investigates why animals form these special bonds. Informed by the observations of caregivers and noted scientists Temple Grandin and Marc Bekoff, the film explores what these relationships suggest about the nature of animal emotions.
This sounds like a naïvely wishful realization of every talking animal Disney movie ever, but it’s much, much more affecting than that. The story of a “goat guiding a blind horse” mentioned above is monumentally heartbreaking, and could possibly change your understanding of what an animal is entirely.
The episode is available on streaming services like Netflix. Helpfully, since “Nature” is a PBS show, you can also stream it for free at the show’s Web site or, if the embed code is working, right here.