This article discusses Donna Haraway’s notion of the ‘companion species’, through the form of a photo essay, in which four personal stories of the relationship between pets and humans are documented as examples. These four, short stories will be discussed in conjunction with the provided photographs taken of each narrative.
Haraway describes the notion of ‘companion species’ as an implosion of nature and culture (Haraway 2007:16). She uses the term ‘species’ instead of ‘animal’ as humans have been affected by many different species. Companion species are those whom are part of a very particular historical relationship, that between animals and humans, and their work is cohabitating an active history and inhabiting their stories (Haraway 2007:20).
This photo is of a friend of mine and her two horses, Shorty and Newro. For this example, I will focus on her relationship with Shorty. Shorty is a miniature pinto whom my friend rescued from an abusive life as a carting horse. He was the first horse she had after being without horses in her life for four years due to imprisonment. Having had horses her whole life, this time without being allowed with them was very difficult for her and when she was released she was a damaged human being. Rescuing Shorty brought her out of this dark time, bringing her back into her life with horses, working with them and teaching riding lessons again. She often says that by rescuing him, he rescued her.
This photo is of my beloved cat, Biscuit and I. We adopted her when I was seven years old. She was born deaf and has a very dog like personality, loves water, begs for food and follows me around everywhere. During High school, when I had no friends, Biscuit was always there for me. We do everything together and have explored many places and done many things. She sleeps by my side every night and sits beside me when I study. She has been a rock in life when I had no one, always supporting me and making me smile with her mischief.
This is a photo of my best friend’s dog, Cherry. My friend’s face always lights up when she speaks about her dog. She tells me that when she was young and she went to adopt Cherry, she had to make the choice between two miniature schnauzers, Cherry and another one. She said that Cherry was very quiet and shy and sat in her cage calmly while the other dog was very happy, running around with lots of energy. My friend said that for some reason though, she was more drawn to quiet, calm, Cherry as she reminded her of herself. In the end, she adopted Cherry and says that as they’ve grown up together she sees Cherry as a dog version of herself.
This final photograph is of myself at 13 and a horse named Silhouette. He was not my own horse but was the first horse I had ridden after 9 years of not have ridden a horse. He had such a gentle temperament, patient as I got back into the feel of riding after so many years without being in the saddle and was always peaceful. He was beautiful and he knew it when he was being ridden, always holding his head high. But he still always made sure to protect his rider above everything else. I had the privilege of re-learning to ride on him for 3 years. However, on the 3rd of November 2013 he passed away from a serious case of colic, due to cancer. I was heartbroken It is always hard to lose a companion who has played such a pivotal role in one’s life. RIP Big grey.
Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.