COMPANION SPECIES

This article will discuss Donna Harraway’s approach towards the companion species concept as in ‘The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness, 2007’. Thereafter the article will proceed as a photo essay where four images will be documented as well as their stories and personal narratives of relations between pets and humans.

Donna Haraway used the term ‘companion species’ as an exploration into the historical emergence of animals who are not meat animals, lab animals, wilderness animals, war dogs, vermin or pariah dogs, but who are part of a very particular historical relationship (Harraway 2007: 12). Harraway believes that there have to be at least two companion species to make one (Harraway 2007: 12). According to her, the ‘Companion Species Manifesto’ is a kingship (Harraway 2007: 8-9). The work of companion species is the way humans live with animals, inhabiting their/our stories and trying to tell the truth about relationships, co-habiting an ongoing history (Harraway 2007: 20).

The first story to identify and confirm pet-human relations, is one of my own narratives. When I was a young girl, we bought a few baby bunnies that we tamed in our back yard. As they grew older, their first offspring were born. Unfortunately the mother continuously rejected the babies. She didn’t feed them nor kept them warm or had any motherly instinct. We hand raised the babies, feeding them every 5-6 hours, keeping them warm with a hot water bottle and weighing them to ensure the grew at the correct rate. The babies are now all grown up and still hopping around.

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The two bearded dragons called Smaug and Michael, are the hobby of one of my best friends and his brother. One word to describe them, is ‘spoiled’. Bearded dragons are characterized as exotic pets- they need a lot of attention, specialized care- attending to their exclusive nutritional needs, artificial lightning and controlling their body temperature. The owner of the bearded dragons are even able to distinguish their unique personalities: Michael is a bit more aggressive and don’t like being handled whereas Smaug is the opposite and also a bit shy. They bought the reptiles when they were still infants and are obviously the first owners.

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The third narrative that highlight pet-human relations, is the story of my sister’s dog. She has a dappled duchund named Ashley. This type of dog is seen as an albino duchund by many people which is actually not correct. They are in fact very carefully and attentively bred. Ashley has the most loving and caring personality. Since people have the perceived idea that they are albinos, Ashley remained at the pet shop without an owner week after week. Ashley became my sister’s first dog which she bought with her first salary. Needless to say, they have a very special bond.

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My last example confirming Donna Harraway’s companions manifesto is the story of our own Duchund called Guicci. We adopted Guicci when he was one year old from people who emigrated to Australia and couldn’t take him with. Since he was treated with a lot of love by his previous owners, he has a lovely personality. He adores kids, likes to catch ball and go for a walk. He was in a serious motor accident when already advanced in age, but made a miraculous recovery because we put our puppy with him in his recovery bed. Gucci wanted to be there for the puppy and was fortunately motivated to recover. Guicci is now 15 years old and time is wearing on him. Each morning he needs to drink his arthritis pills to keep his back ache intact and unfortunately is physically not as active as he used to be.

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Sources Consulted

Harraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.