When Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog met at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, they quickly formed a close friendship. Bella trusted the 8,700- pound elephant so much that she let Tarra rub her belly with her trunk. When Bella fell ill, caretakers carried Bella outside so the two animals could be in contact with each other. "Bella and Tarra gave each other unconditional love 24/7," says sanctuary cofounder Carol Buckley. But later, tragedy struck: Bella was found dead, presumably killed by coyotes. Strangely, no evidence of an attack—tufts of hair, bloodstained grass—was found near her body. Keepers did, however, find blood on the underside of Tarra's trunk—as if she had carried her friend home from the fatal encounter. No one knows for sure if this really happened, but one thing is true: Tarra honored her best friend till the end.
Her Brother's Keeper
When Stacy Corbin, a fishing guide in Alaska, observed a young male grizzly bear trying to catch salmon, he was worried. Grizzlies probe river bottoms with their front feet until they feel a fish, pin it down, and grab it with their teeth. But a hunter had killed this bear's mother and shot her cub in the foreleg, and the young grizzly was left nearly helpless. Because of his injury, he was only scattering the salmon. Without help, the grizzly would die. But then Corbin saw the bear's sister snag six salmon and drop them at his feet. "She fed him for weeks," Corbin says. "He wouldn't have made it without her." Normally a female bear her age would've gone off on her own, but she chose to stay by her brother's side and help him eat until he was strong enough to feed himself.
A Rockin' Dad
Some parents will do anything to have a child. This flamingo was so dedicated to becoming a dad that he tried to hatch a rock. Male and female flamingo pairs, which usually mate for life and raise chicks together, take turns warming their eggs until they hatch. But Andy, a flamingo that lives at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in England, sat on an egg-shaped stone. Nigel Jarrett, head of conservation breeding at the wetlands, thinks that the real egg was knocked from the nest into the water. Then the bird may have mistaken an egg-shaped stone buried in his nest for the egg. "When he saw it, he probably did what any other expectant daddy flamingo would do — he sat on it!" Jarrett says. The flamingo stayed with his adopted egg for two days until he caught on. His egg may have been fake, but Andy's devotion was definitely real.
Excerpted from True Love by Rachel Buchholz. Copyright 2013 by Rachel Buchholz. Excerpted by permission of National Geographic, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.