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July 18, 2005
Of course people send me animal pictures over the Internet -- I write about animals a lot. And I open each one, in case it's one I haven't seen. I forward the best ones to my younger daughter, who shares them with her class of mentally disabled eight-year-olds, and to my older daughter who just loves animals, and to my grandchildren and to Q.

This one was about a baby hippopotamus, swept away from its mother in the raging waters of the Indian Ocean tsunami. It landed smack on top of a giant tortoise, a male estimated to be a hundred years old. The tortoise took it well -- considering that his sudden visitor weighed 300 pounds -- and the orphaned hippo, who ordinarily would have remained with his mother for the first four years of his life, decided that the tortoise would be a good substitute, and began to follow him around as he would have followed his mommy. The photos show them walking together, sleeping together. They swim together, and the hippo gets aggressive with anyone who seems to him to be threatening the tortoise. They look to me to be happy together, insofar as a human can read the features of species so different from her own.

And it seems not to matter to the hippo that his new mom is a turtle. Or that he's a boy. However hippos love, he loved his dead mother and he loves his new one. He needed love in order to grow up, and he made it his business to find it.

He didn't sit in a corner and die because there were no other hippos. He didn't hold out for something more suitable, or more like his mother, or more like his dream of the perfect hippo. He needed love more than he needed his ideal. Probably we all do.

Might this new friend be the perfect friend, become your perfect partner? Probably not -- perfect doesn't live around here. But can you find joy again after you have been cruelly used by life?

Yup. If you're willing to think outside the box a little.
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