One Big Happy Family

“One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another,” by Liza Rogak. St. Martin’s Press. $15.99.one big happy family cover

If you ever doubted that sometimes we could learn something from other species, this should dispel that uncertainty.

In two-and three-page earthy vignettes accompanied by photos, Rogak details the incredible mothering instincts of a wide array of animals and how they put those into practice with unlikely offspring.

For instance, here’s just a sampling of the match-ups: a greyhound and a fawn; a hen and ducklings; a cat and a squirrel; a boxer and a goat; a springer spaniel and lambs; a goat and a wolf pup; a German shorthaired pointer and an owlet.

There are countless others in this upbeat volume, much of it tied to wildlife sanctuaries. The majority of the stories take place in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland and England. Some will leave you shaking your head about a love fest matching what you would normally regard as predator and prey.

The Introduction includes a nice mix of experts’ take on this behavior, including Stanley Coren, a University of British Columbia professor of psychology and author of numerous books on canine behavior.

“Dog has been genetically modified by us to be extremely sociable and extremely accepting,” he says. “Generally speaking, the issue is something we call neotony, which simply refers to the fact that we have bred our dogs so that they are effectively puppies for their entire lives.”

He goes on to note that those breeds with fewer resemblances to wolves are more likely to play a surrogate parent role to another species.

“One Big Happy Family” is an engrossing series of portraits of survival captured in a rich context of hope and heart that will leave you smiling and feeling richly nourished.