Animal Heroes and Odd Couples

Jul 23, 2015

When Solon resident Lauren Hanna first saw her dog Clifford taking care of a blind rooster named Hedwig, she didn't believe it; but the two became fast friends.

"Hedwig will get lost out in the yard," Hanna says. "After a night when an animal attacked Hedwig and pulled some of his tail feathers out, Clifford took him under his wing."

"To see it be this ongoing relationship is amazing."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Hanna about her animal odd-couple. Nebbe also hears the story of Raincloud, the lifesaving cat, and a world-record breaking lab named Jordan.

Jordan, the world-record breaking lab from Riverside, IA
Credit Courtesy of Sean McCarthy

Rachel Buchholz, editor of National Geographic Kids, and Ed Wasserman, a psychology professor at the University of Iowa, also join the conversation. Buchholz recently compiled a magazine issue focused on the stories of amazing pets - featuring a lifesaving dog, a goat who skateboards, and a Golden Retriever who raised a litter of tigers. She says it is really hard to explain animal stories when the animals act in a way they are not trained to do.

"Especially dogs - they're such social creatures, they really become a part of our families. They really do sense when things are going wrong, and they want to help and want to protect the people they live with," Buchholz says.

In his job studying animal cognition, Wasserman often brings credibility to animals that have been looked over in the past, but he approaches amazing animal stories with a bit of scientific skepticism.

"Animal cognition takes these stories as the seed for study for systematic understanding," he says. "There's always truth to the story, but it's often much less exotic than what the storyteller intends."

When it comes to interspecies pairs, Wasserman says animals form bonds early on with whatever and whoever is around.

"Nature may have prepared animals to form bonds, but not necessarily with a particular member of their own species. So, these interspecific connections are extremely interesting."

Listener submission:

"When I was in my last month of pregnancy with my son, I adopted a Golden Retriever. I was walking outside with my 2 year old daughter, who was on her tricycle. She decided to take off and ride as fast as she could go on the sidewalk towards a very busy street. I ran after her as fast as I could. I could not get to her, but Kella ran to her, ran in front of her, and then sat down before her and would not allow Amanda to go any further. A big truck passed by the intersection, just then.There was no doubt in my mind that Kella knew exactly what she was doing. Kella was always watching after the children!" - Julie Wierson