Mother love

When elephants walk so gently

Upon their chosen path

Should man forget the harmony

Shared by mother and calf? – Denis Martindale

Humans may be the only sentient beings who actually celebrate Mother’s Day with presents, cakes and cards, but we can’t claim to be the only worthy mothers on planet Earth.

There are amazing nature photos that prove mother’s love is universal. In the animal kingdom, to which all humans belong, maternal instinct is so powerful and profound that it transcends languages, hieroglyphics and other traditional methods of communication developed by our wise ancestors. We really don’t need to be educated to recognize the deep motherly love revealed in these wild but gentle creatures whose intuitive body language speaks louder than words. Perhaps the best way of illustrating this is that of a mother wolf teaching her eager pups to speak her language. Just throw back your head and howl.

Such “instruction” demonstrates that four-legged animals, like two-legged ones, have strong familial bonds. Moms of every species are extremely protective of their young. It is often said that the most dangerous place to be is between a mother and her child, be it a lion and her cubs, a goose and her goslings, an elephant and her calf or a woman and her infant. Moms have been seen to manifest extraordinary courage and strength when their children are endangered.

 Animal Planet is filled with stunning videos showing moms rescuing their young at the risk of their own lives. There is one showing a giraffe saving her child by fending off a pack of hungry lions and winning. Another displays a wildebeest protecting her calf from leopards. An elephant saves her calf from a crocodile. Mama duck attacks crows threatening her ducklings. A courageous mouse attacks a serpent slithering off with a baby mouse in its jaws and, even after the snake releases her pinky, little baby, mom mouse ferociously chases the coiling scoundrel into the woods. 

Apparently, animals — like humans — have both good and wicked maternal instincts. According to Google, snakes have no maternal instinct and abandon their freshly laid eggs forever. But the wolf spider, unlike some other spiders, is a good mother who wraps her multiple eggs in an egg sac to carry on her back. Even after they hatch they ride on her abdomen. A mother walrus maintains close physical contact with her baby for two to five years after giving birth.

Perhaps giving birth to another being that began life as a tiny embryo, sharing the same energy for months while it evolved inside the womb, her body enables the mom to develop, or at least sense, an intimate, spiritual connection with her progeny. 

We are all the sum of their ancestors but unique individuals. Dogs often show us things they seem to discern from their collective memory. When I was a child, my father found a beautiful Collie pup standing alone on the railroad tracks after the circus train had just left. The dog followed him home and when he saw us six kids waiting for Dad, he wagged his tail joyfully, ran up to each one of us and offered his right paw to shake hands. From then on, to our amusement, Shep performed remarkable tricks he must have learned from his parents in the circus. Needless to say, we were hooked for life. 

We once had two beautiful white German Shepherds, the male, called Loki, insisted on bringing The New York Times to my husband, Seymour, its former managing editor, every morning. Loki reminded us of a Marine as he obeyed every command as if he had been through basic training. His twin sister, Minka, however was a loveable but obstinate one who only did what she felt like doing at the moment and was pronounced “untrainable” by her trainer. 

Or perhaps she had a mother who spoiled her.

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