A Highly Unusual Animal Friendship

It goes without saying that for a Belgian Shepherd and an Owlet to be friends is highly unusual. For me, there is something intriguing and possibly even compelling about inter-species friendships. This is due to my fascination with what sparked the decision to become friends and how they handle the fact that their behavioural cues are so vastly different.

Main picture: Ingo the Belgian Shepherd with its avian friend Napoleon or Poldi as its owner Tanya Brandt of Germany affectionately calls him

Often the trigger is maternal instinct. This is especially intense within 24 hours of giving birth. In the case of a cat, it will willingly suckle a puppy without qualms within that vital window period. After that it will reject the puppy. Perhaps in certain species this window period is longer. In exceptional circumstances a predator which has recently given birth has been photographed showing pity on its newly-born prey. At that precise moment it is battle of the visceral: maternal instinct versus satiating its hunger. For that fleeting moment, maternal instinct triumphs over hunger.

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#1

Even more intractable, it is the matter of species specific behaviour. Take the simple matter of wagging its tail. In the case of the cat is signifies extreme annoyance whereas in the case of the dog, it is a forms of greeting, welcome and even joy.

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#2

As unlikely as it appears, the fact remains that for a bond to arise at least one, if not both, of the animals must possess some empathy or even some understanding of the other for is this not the nature of relationships. Perhaps the maternal instinct produces an exaggerated sense of offering protection to the other, to nurse it or to offer it assistance. It is not a foregone conclusion that the relationship is symbiotic but as likely as not, it is mutually beneficial in some way which is indiscernible.

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#3

Certainly all of these suggestions played a central role in the forging of this special relationship between a Belgian Shepherd Ingo and an owlet Napoleon or Poldi for short. Their owner is Tanya Brandt who lives in Germany.

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#4

As Tanya openly concedes, Poldi almost never was. “Napoleon was the smallest hatchling of 7. All six of his brothers and sisters had hatched, but a couple of days later he still had not, so the breeders almost threw his egg out. But just as they were getting ready to, Poldi cracked open his shell.”

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#5

Hence Napoleon has always been vulnerable due to its size. The partner in the unlikely pair is Ingo, the guardian of Poldi. Tanya categorises the relationship between Ingo and Poldi as somewhat of a ‘protector-protected’ bond.

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#6

Tanya even admits that “They respect each other and they can read each other.” How is that possible? If I battle to understand my wife, how am I able to understand another animal unless the emotional content of their relationship is pure without the games playing of human interactions? Imagine the difference between the reaction of one’s dog and one’s wife when one is five hours late! A facetious comparison perhaps but nonetheless illustrative.

Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#7 Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#9 Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#11 Belgian Shepherd and an Owl#12


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