The term “companion species” was birthed by Donna Haraway, in the scholarly work, The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness (2007). It is here where Haraway, explores the human-animal relationship not as an affiliation where animals are killed for meat, exploited and trafficked for medical research or viewed as plague-infested beasts. Instead, her work publicises the co-existence of dogs and people, who are bonded in “significant otherness” (Donna Haraway 2007). Haraway bases her manifesto on her personal viewpoint that “dogs as the most significant example of companion species, the cyborg being but a toddler in our world of inter-species relations” (Donna Haraway 2007). She explains that the roller-coaster comradery relationship between the 4-pawed creatures and people is a “not especially nice; it is full of waste, cruelty, indifference, ignorance, and loss, as well as of joy, invention, labor, intelligence, and play” (Donna Haraway 2007). Her thesis looks into unveiling the way dogs are linked to human-beings on a social and biological level and how these animals fluctuate human behaviour.
This photo essay investigates the theory proposed in The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness (2007). This analogy is accompanied with the stories and personal narratives of relations between pets and their humans.
This photograph shows Andre Jooste with his beloved cat, named Oreo. Oreo, named for her black and white jacket was once a refugee cat. She decided to adopt 23 Robin Street as her stomping ground, where she would put her street skills into play when breaking and entering and lounging on the Jooste family sofa. When Oreos frequent visitation became but the norm, the menacing creature quickly became attached to her self selected Master, Andre. Their human-pet relationship, became exclusive. Her ruffled attire at times allowed her new owner, some touch, briefly. One could call her fur bronx cat fashion. Although not very affectionate, even towards her beloved owner, she did show her pining for him by seeking-out his favourite chair, pillow and cupboard whenever he was traveling.
This photograph is taken by Jolani Kriek and her most admired, bearded dragon, Teabag. Although is id difficult to comprehend, a close relationship with a cold-blooded reptile, this owner is convinced that her Teabag has a distinct way of showing devotion towards her. He apparently blinks his eye more often when she enters the room. As Teabag has an affinity for crickets, Jolani has even bitten off a cricket leg to sample the taste of her reptiles lunch. Sharing your four-legged friends food, is perhaps the ultimate test of this peculiar companionship.
This photograph is of Mrs Gerda Erasmus and her fluffy, long-eared vegan friend, called Skool Haas. Their unique relationship started, as both joined the staff of Kiddies Academy. Skool Haas was adopted by the owner as a distraction for the toddlers when saying goodbye to their moms. This task and responsibility that Skool Haas has accomplished on many occasions, made Mrs Gerda’s task much easier. She soon realized that together the friendly creature and her made a formidable team. These two ‘educators’ of the tiny people have merged their talents and come to fancy each others potential. A white furry companion and beautiful grey-haired gran conquer the hearts of little ones.
It is easy to say, looking from this photograph of Divan Taljaard and his rather overweight patched friend Lulu, that this pet-human companionship was a match made in Heaven. Divan, the gentle giant who gobbles up anything he can find in the fridge instigates Lulu’s hobbies that include sleeping all day, seeing how fast she can hover up a plate of food and leaving rather indiscreet evidence of where she decided to lounge for the day. When Divan journeys to Johannesburg during the week for his studies, Lulu makes sure that all the neighbours knows that her best friend has abandoned her by belting out a howl that sounds like a religious call. The saying ‘The apple does not fall far from the tree’ applies to this canine-human duo.
Taljaard, D. student, University of Pretoria. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 15 April. Pretoria.
Erasmus, G. teacher, Kiddies Academy. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 16 April. Pretoria.
Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.
Jooste, A. engineer, AECOM. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 16 April. Pretoria.
Kriek, J. teacher, Kiddies Academy. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 16 April. Pretoria.