Animals are undoubtedly important to humans and humans are important to animals in one form or another as well. After all, humans are technically animals too.
All animals can show love, hate, anger, sadness, self preservation and compassion to some extent. The first thing we think about are dogs and cats, while that is certainly true, dolphins, elephants, pigs, lions, and even chickens have been known to show compassion and / or interact with humans in a seemingly friendship manner. If you break it down to the basics it could be the old, “I need something from you and you need something from me” or “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” so-to-speak.
I remember when my oldest son was little, he took care of our hens and he would hold them like pets. He would pet them, kiss them, pick them up and carry them around. They wouldn't struggle or fight and seemed content the entire time. If he didn't pick them up one time they would follow him around and jump in his lap when he would sit down. Perhaps the chickens appreciated the kindness and in turn my son learned compassion for another living creature even if they were a bit different. On the flip side lions have been known to show compassion to humans, especially if raised from cubs, but at some point they begin to look at their human friend as a tasty meal.
Of course there are some animals that are just plain nasty to every other animal in existence, including humans. However, they have been known to show compassion to their own species now and then. And every animal can turn on any other animal and / or their own species at any time. Many animals will kill and / or eat their own.
Henceforth, there is no need to look any further than ourselves, after 17 years as a body removal specialist I am still amazed at what people can and will do to each other. So this begs to question how much is instinct or environmental? Meaning, how much is natural and how much is learned or reactive? Is it how they were treated and / or what was done to them? For instance I picked up a gentleman that had died in a locked house and he was partially eaten by his own dog! However, on the same token and same situation with another dead person the guys dog wouldn't let me near him and protected him even after death. I ended up having to throw a blanket over the dog to keep from getting bit and carry her out in the blanket like a bag full of laundry and let me tell you that’s not easy to do with a German Shepherd.
When our boys were growing up we had an Aussie / Chocolate Lab mix pooch named Bailey. She was the family dog and loved us all, but she protected and watched out for those boys as if they were her own. We live out in the country and they had a fort that they had built on our property. One day she was out there with them and “on duty” so-to-speak when my youngest son walked past her “doggie property line”, which was a line she seemingly established that the boys were not to cross. Interestingly enough it was, in human comprehension pretty close to the property line itself. Anyway, she came up behind my youngest son and bit the seat of his pants and dragged him back across the “doggie property line” and then let him go, but watched to make sure he went back to the fort. And when someone would come over to our house she would give them a “look over” and perhaps a sniff test. After that if she sat or laid down in front of them they were fine. But, if she ever laid or sat behind them, or between them and us, I knew immediately something wasn’t right and I do have to say, Bailey was never wrong.
I truly believe she loved us with all her heart especially “her boys”. She passed away from cancer and died in my arms. All I could do was hold her and tell her, “thank you for everything, for being our dog, I love you so much”. Some would say she didn’t understand, but anybody that has owned a dog would disagree. One would wonder what Bailey got out the relationship and humans may never know for sure what the motivation for dogs and / or cats to interact with humans in such a manner gives them, but I know she taught us plenty.