First a penguin washed up on a Brazilian beach covered in oil. Then he decided he didn't want to go home.
Many of us have special places in our hearts for pets. And for most of us, it's a dog or a cat that greets us when we come home or wakes us up with slobbery kisses.
There aren't a lot of people, though, who can say that their kindred animal spirit is a penguin. But João Pereira de Souza, a Brazilian widower, is one of them.
João lives in a small fishing village near the Brazilian coast, and he formed an unlikely friendship with a penguin named Jinjing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, João found his soon-to-be companion on the beach covered in oil in 2011. He scooped the little guy up and moved him to a shadier spot, where he fed him some sardines.
Then he took the penguin back to the beach so he could swim back to wherever he came from. There was one problem, though: Jinjing didn't really want to go back. He waddled right back out of the ocean and toward João.
"He never left me again," João said of his little penguin friend.
It's been four years now, and Jinjing does occasionally take trips "out of town." He tends to take off for a few months around February too. But he always comes back to the village and to João.
Why is this story so great? Well, first of all, because it's an adorable penguin friendship. But second, João and Jinjing's story really highlights how important it can be to have a companion — even if that companion is an animal.
Spending time with an animal pal can be therapeutic, especially for people who are lonely, anxious, or depressed.
Plus, having an animal buddy can also help connect people to each other. Anyone who has a dog knows that it's almost impossible to take a pup for a walk without meeting at least a few people. In a study published in 2000, researchers found that simply walking a dog outside can help spark conversations with strangers.
João and Jinjing can vouch for that therapy.
When they're not swimming together in the ocean or walking on the beach, they hang out with other members of the community, where Jinjing is known as the "village mascot."
Having a pet can make you more physically healthy as well. It's hard to avoid exercise when your dog or cat wants to play every morning, after all. And one study found that having a household pet could even help control blood pressure.
So you don't need a penguin to find heartwarming companionship (and, in fact, you probably shouldn't try to get one).
But there are plenty of rescue animals in shelters that need forever homes and new best friends! You can even start the adoption process today. And if you want to live vicariously through João, you can check out this video of the two BFFs from the Wall Street Journal: