Cute Animal Videos Just Got Classier

by Laura Rosenfeld

You know when you come home from a rough day, and your cat or dog looks at you like "I feel you," and sits in your lap to comfort you? We've all had moments like these when animals just seem to get us because, although we're different species entirely, the bond between an animal and a human being can be extremely close and special. We all know this often occurs with pets, but it's pretty amazing when it happens with animals that are bigger and wilder than those living in captivity. My Wild Affair captures these incredibly true stories in a four-part documentary series that kicks off on PBS Wednesday, July 16.

The relationships depicted in the series are not those kind of affairs with animals, like the story of Margaret Howe Lovatt that made the rounds on the Internet last month, describing her sexual experiences with a male dolphin while researching the animal in the 1960s. Thankfully, PBS' docuseries captures relationships with wild animals are much tamer than that. This series is really about how having close bonds with animals can help humans see the world in a whole different way.

Wednesday night's episode follows the story of Aisha, a baby elephant orphan, and a woman named Daphne Sheldrick, who would become her human foster parent. This story is partly heartbreaking in that Sheldrick's absence for a few days made Aisha believe she had abandoned her, and the young elephant starved herself to death. However, there is a silver lining to this story as Aisha's death inspired Sheldrick to save more than 150 orphans during the next 40 years. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, named after her late husband, and its "Orphan's Project" are still in operation today.

The other episodes of My Wild Affair will feature Chantek, an orangutan raised as a human child on an American college campus in the 1970s and 1980s who learned how to speak sign language; Rupert, an orphaned black rhino raised in the suburban home of vet Dr. John Condy and whose eventual release back into the wild would prompt Condy's children to investigate what happened to him; and Andre, a two-day-old harbor seal who was rescued on the brink of death by arborist Harry Goodridge from Rockport, Maine, and whose friendship with Goodridge would last for 25 years.

If reading all of those descriptions doesn't make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, I don't know what will. My Wild Affair will remind us that animals are more like us than we think and that their welfare is not only extremely important to their lives but also to our own.

Image: Courtesy of The Sheldrick's