02/05/2013 09:20 am ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

Top 10 Ways Animals Taught Me About True Love


You can learn a lot from animals. For instance, I always know when it's 7 a.m. on a Saturday, because that's when my cat, Spike, starts pawing at my sleepy face for her breakfast. And I always know when it's 10 at night, because that's when her "fat alarm" goes off and she starts meowing nonstop for her dinner.

But animals can teach us much more important lessons than how to tell time without a watch (at least when there's food involved). They can teach us about love, friendship, devotion -- and how we humans should treat one another. I certainly learned a lot from animals while putting together True Love: 24 Stories of Animal Affection. Here's a top 10 list of what those animals taught me about how to treat those I care about and love the most.

Number Ten: Respect the baby sitter. Because if your baby sitter is a chicken, you might get a peck on the rump for misbehaving.

Number Nine: Do not mess with moms. Whether it's a lioness scaling down a sheer cliff to rescue her fallen cub or an otter swimming through a ferocious storm at sea to find her lost pup, nothing will stop a devoted mother from protecting her child.

Number Eight: Don't mess with dads. OK, so dads in the animal kingdom don't usually win the Father of the Year award. But the flamingo wanted to be a father so badly he tried to hatch a rock deserves something.

Number Seven: Your siblings can get you through anything. Take it from triplet Chihuahuas born without their front legs who help and encourage each other as they face everyday challenges.

Number Six: Love is blind. How else do you explain a tortoise that fell in love with a plastic toy turtle?

Number Five: Families aren't just a mom, a dad, and some kids. Just ask the family of puppies who accepted a pig as one of their own.

Number Four: Be nice to your brothers and sisters. Otherwise -- if you're a grizzly bear, at least -- your sister may not catch salmon for you after you hurt your paw. And if you're a bonobo, your brother may not let you use his knife to open a food box when the keeper isn't looking.

Number Three: Don't judge your friend just because she has a big butt. If one little dog did that, her elephant pal may not have nursed her back to health after she got sick.

Number Two: There's someone for everyone. Even if those someones are two grumpy, mean wild cats that no one else can stand to be around.

Number One: The road to true love never does run smooth -- but it's worth it. Literally, in some cases, such as the duck that waddled eight miles through snowstorms, wooded terrain, and animal attacks to return to his lady love.

Rachel Buchholz is the executive editor of National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Little Kids magazines.