I would like to return to St. Francis and the connection between saintly people and animals. When I was in Italy I visited the beautiful medieval town of Gubbio where St. Francis arranged the pact between the townsfolk and the wolf. If you don’t know the story you can read it at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ugolino/flowers.iii.xxi.html It is a charming story.
There are stories about saints and animals helping each other in the Buddhist tradition too. Here is one of the less well-known ones ‘Now at that time Venerable Sariputta was suffering from a fever. Then Maha Moggallana went to him and said; “When you had a fever before what did you take to cure it?” “I took lotus stalks” he replied. Then as easily as a strong man might stretch out his arm or bend it back Moggallana disappeared from the Jetavana and reappeared on the banks of the Mandakini lotus lake. Now a certain elephant saw Moggallana coming and said to him; “Honoured sir come, you are welcome. What do you need? What can I get for you”? Moggallana told him and the elephant instructed another elephant to get lotus stalks for him. Then that elephant plunged into the lake, pulled up lotus stalks with its trunk, washed them clean, tied them into a bundle, and went over to Moggalana and gave them to him. Then as easily as a strong man might stretch out his arm or bend it back Moggallana disappeared from there and reappeared in the Jetavana and gave the lotus stalks to Sariputta. Venerable used them and his fever abated’. (Vinaya I,114-5) The photo is by Rog from http://www.flickr.com/photos/onemoreshotrog/4660805195/