So…My plotting friends had just left, and the ocean was wild, the tide very high. I thought, hey, I’ve been inside most of the past two days, plotting and laughing (and laughing and laughing) with Huntley and Stacia, eating lots of carbs and such. My doggy, who was in mourning because his two other mommies had just left, could use the exercise. And hence, I rode my bike to the beach.
As I walked down toward the waves, a man called to me. “Miss! Miss! There’s a baby dolphin stranded on the beach! Don’t let your dog get too excited!”
Baby? Dolphin!?! Stranded, as in needing rescue?
We were on the job.
Turns out our baby dolphin was actually a harbor porpoise, but Ivan (my new best friend, despite his Boston Red Sox baseball cap) and I didn’t know that. I called 911 and reported it, then got a call from Animal Rescue, but the call kept dropping before I could give the information. I didn’t know if they got the location, or if they were coming, or if it was just Ivan and me.
The tide was coming in, and the waves were rough. No one else was around. Poor Flipper! She was wriggling and breathing through her blowhole, making Luther so, so excited to play. But, given that she’d probably never seen a dog before, and he definitely had never seen a dolphin before, I tied him to an iron pipe and went over to the beautiful little creature. “Don’t be afraid, honey,” I said. “We’ll help you..”
“Let’s turn her,” said Ivan, as she was facing the beach, rather than the ocean.
And so, we gently, gently, tried to turn her. When the next wave came, it sloshed into our boots, and we got Flipper a little closer to the water. Then a huge wave came in, and pushed her right back…and knocked me down.
Let me tell you something about the northern Atlantic in February. It’s not warm. On the other hand, it never is, not even in August. Ivan helped me up, laughing, also drenched, and we tried again. And again. “The tide will take her into the ocean eventually, right?” I asked.
“As long as she doesn’t dry out, I think she’ll be okay,” he said.
But it was hard to watch her struggle, so we tried again. She was cool and slippery, and the whooshing sound of her breath from her blowhole was strange and beautiful. Both Ivan and I had taken to calling her honey by that point, and every time a wave came, we pointed her to the ocean, hoping she could get deep enough to get back in, cheering her on. But she just wasn’t big enough to overcome the power of the waves.
Then, blessedly, we heard a shout! It was the real animal rescuers, and they had a sheet to carry her. We lay the sheet next to her and gently rolled her onto it, then carefully, carefully, lifted her up and carried her to the sand.
“They’re coming with a pickup truck,” the rescuer explained, and they would examine her to see if she was sick, then release her if she was healthy. I wish I had more photos, but my phone was drenched and irritable and didn’t want to turn on.
Did I mention I was soaking wet? Hair, glasses, pants, phone, parka, everything. I went to my faithful pup, who was terribly excited, and emptied the saltwater and rocks out of my boots. “Did you drive here?” Ivan asked.
“No, actually,” I said. “I rode my bike. But it’s not far.”
“I’ll drive you home,” he said, and because he was the type of guy who would go into the Atlantic Ocean to save a small mammal, I figured he was good people. And he was. Not only did he let me ride in his Jeep, sopping wet and grinning, but he let Luther in, too, and put my bike in the back, then drove me down the long dirt road to my house.
“What an experience!” he said, as exuberant as I was. “That was incredible!”
We shook hands and then hugged, and he said goodbye to Luther and went off.
I have a lot of laundry to do now, folks. Both Luther and I needed baths. I hope my boots will dry eventually, and that my parka can be washed in the machine.
But being so close to a porpoise, hearing her breath, talking to her, and feeling like you had, maybe, a small part in helping her…I’d do it again tomorrow.
Godspeed, Flipper! May you live a long and healthy life!