Valentine’s tips from the animal kingdom

Joyce Pemberton Columnist

My original intent, on this Valentine’s Day, was to talk about love in some form or fashion. But, as this seems to be a predictable approach, I’ve decided to come at this subject from an entirely different angle. One that will make you smile and teach us all a thing or two about relationships.

Did you know that beaver's mate for life? Ha! You weren’t expecting that, were you?

Truly, they do.

So do swans, wolves and barn owls, among others. And swans are totally monogamous. Which explains why they are so calm and serene. Theirs is a relationship entirely void of suspicion, expectations or pressure. Which makes for calm waters indeed.

Wolves mate for life and are totally devoted, but unlike the gentle swans, Mr. and Mrs. Wolf are the Alpha pair and share dominance in their pack. Just goes to show that two strong personalities can make it work, even in a huge family that knows way too much of your business.

Of all of the devoted species, my favorite is the French angelfish. These cuties are so content with their mate that they spend all of their lives swimming next to each other. And when they finally do separate for a short time, they get so excited to see each other again they circle around and around each other.

When’s the last time you were so excited to see your significant other that you jumped around in circles in the middle of the living room?

May sound fishy, but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Could make for a very memorable reunion.

The bald eagle, our national icon of patriotism and pride, also mates for life and is monogamous. But they come together only during mating season, preferring to migrate alone. Sounds like a great deal to me. Separate vacations and passionate reunions. Maybe they are onto something.

While we could learn a few things about commitment from some animals, there are also some very curious and sweet mating rituals that give pause for thought. And concern.

Elephants, true to their meandering personalities, take their time in finding a mate – seems they are pretty selective. Once he finds the lady of his dreams, the male elephant spends weeks wooing his chosen by showering her with attention and gifts of food.

Now that is just as sweet as it can be.

We could all take a lesson from this big fella in taking relationships a little slower.

There’s a type of parrot, that, once they choose their mate, they start kissing. And if that goes OK, the male then proceeds to spit inside the mouth of the female.

And while that sounds entirely disgusting to you, consider this. Can you think of anything that would illustrate love, devotion and trust more than letting someone spit into your mouth? I thought not.

So don't judge what you don't understand.

OK, enough of that. Mating rituals aside (please), it seems we could seriously take a lesson in love from some of the creatures with whom we share the planet.

So here's some food for thought and discussion on this special day:

If some animals have a primal instinct to mate for life – then I wonder if there could be something innate in us that gives us the same desire. And if there is, why does it allude so many? What makes love and loving so hard?

Love is a mysterious and wonderful thing. It can also be predictable and frustrating. And yet, we crave it. We all want to be the other half of a whole, no matter how much we say we don't.

We want a relationship that is as comfortable as the swan's, as exciting as the wolf's, as trusting as the eagle's and as sweet as the French Angelfish's.

We want someone who will be content to swim side by side for the rest of our lives, and run around excitedly in circles when we come home.

Now that's love.