My Friend Zoe


My friend Zoe lives in the apartments next to my house. We have a wooden fence between us and we love to see who is the fastest as we race each other up and back from our own side of the fence until we are flat out on the ground, panting and unable to move. I do a lot of barking as I run and that may be why Zoe often beats me. Zoe is a dog who likes to work. She has some experience in search and rescue and she is a good air scenter. At 10 years of age, she is still very active and loves to go to dog parks and to be out and about.

Zoe and her owner have been a team since 2000. Allan Corman was looking to adopt a German Shepherd, one who got along well with cats. Zoe was in foster care after having been given up by a family that was going through a divorce. They had owned a family cat and the foster family had cats so it appeared that Zoe might be a good match. Allan said that he felt like he was going on a blind date when he drove to Springfield to meet Zoe and that when he met her he just knew She was the one for me. In a couple of days Zoe was in her new home living with Allan and his tuxedo cat, Hampton. Hampton and Zoe quickly became best buddies. Over the years three more cats, Harley, Molly and Emily have been added to the family.

Zoe and I have known each other for almost two years and I just recently found out that she has a special job that fits right in with her owners career. Allan is an Animal Control Officer with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria and in his job he frequently rescues animals in distress, like abandoned kittens. It was after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 that Zoe found a tiny abandoned kitten in the bushes behind her house and discovered her true calling. The kitten was just a few days old and needed round-the-clock care. Allan took on the feeding duties and Zoe became a surrogate mom. She kept the kitten warm and safe and taught the kitten to go to the bathroom. Very young kittens are unable to do this without help. Together they raised the kitten into a young, healthy, well-adjusted cat that now lives with a loving family.

Emily, the youngest cat in the Corman household, came into Allan and Zoes life when she was two days old. Her umbilical cord was still attached and her mother was never found.

Sometimes a mother cat with a litter will get fearful and try to move her litter and one may get left behind. This may be what happened to Emily. At 2 1/2 years of age she still thinks of Zoe as her mom. Batting and chasing and sleeping in a pile of cats and dog, Hampton, Harley, Molly and Emily are good company while Allan is at work. In the past two years, Allan and Zoe have raised four litters of kittens that gone on to adjusted, happy lives, and they have an affinity for big dogs they think of as family. Zoe has become one of the AWLAs best-known volunteers and the perfect dog for Allan.

Zoes behavior with her kitten charges is an example of the collaboration that appears to exist between species. There is a great amount of research underway to explore these behaviors that are akin to interspecies altruism. Everyone living with a pet can testify that their animals seem to know and respond to their needs. There are amazing stories, such as the one about a gorilla who rescued a 3-year old boy who fell into her zoo enclosure, or the story of a 100-year old tortoise who adopted a baby hippo orphaned in the 2004 tsunami, and numerous other accounts of interspecies nursing. The exciting possibility and challenge ahead is in how we measure, understand and explore the prospect of interspecies collaborations. Zoe shows us that the journey is one worth taking.

Gentle readers, keep your tail high and your feet dry and write to me at