A Dolphin’s Tale

When we woke up this morning at my sister’s condo near Clearwater Beach, my son, Brian, and I went out onto the balcony for our morning coffee. We saw a large mammal on the beach with a couple of people standing near it. It seemed to be dead but then there was a little flip of its tail. Little did we know we would be part of a real life Disney movie.

With binoculars, we couldn’t tell if it was a shark or a dolphin. Curious, I went down to join the growing crowd on the beach. Officials drove up in dune buggies and all were on their smart phones, getting instructions from their various local, state and federal agencies. Of course the growing crowd was all busy on their smart phones, taking pictures (I have a lot on my camera which I’ll send later.)

Soon officials in blue shirts were kneeling beside what was a juvenile dolphin, still alive, with no apparent wounds.

They distributed leaflets about stranded animals and what to do as the ones tending the dolphin smeared him with a white cream, zinc oxide I think,  to keep it from sunburn, and oxygen from a portable tank was sprayed nearby to help his breathing (I’m assuming it was a male.) We waited for an hour and a half for the Clearwater Marine Rescue boat to arrive, but apparently they’d shifted to Plan B, which involved carrying him across the beach in a sling to a waiting specialized truck to take him to Sea World for “rehabilitation.”

While waiting, they took blood, gave him an injection to calm him, and four men held him still. One of the men holding him was black with a shaved head, and the sun was strong. One of the cops walked into the water, shoes and all, to give him a cap, a nice thing to see in the face of all of the bad news about cops this past year.

The crowd interacted with each other and I met some locals who said this was an unusual event. The children were awestruck. One neighbor from the tall condo next door, (where units start at $1 million) said a couple of weeks ago he’d watched a 400 pound loggerhead turtle move from the water up the beach to deposit her eggs there. The trip back and forth took two hours.

Finally the truck arrived, maneuvering through the many security fences, backing up, awaiting its VIP. Eight people carried it gently across the hot sand in a blue sling; some commented that they thought it weighed 300 pounds though I thought it was more like 200 pounds. The crowd followed like a group of mourners and we watched as he was gently lifted into the truck. I asked one of the guys carrying him what it felt like to touch him. He said his skin was soft and felt delicate to the touch and he seemed deeply moved by the contact. I asked him if he’d ever heard the theory some have that dolphins are extraterrestrials and he said no, he was surprised and mulled it over.

I asked one of the staff what they would have done if it had been a shark rather than a dolphin and she said she didn’t know as that was another agency.

I imagined they would no doubt tow it out to sea, maybe euthanize it and release it to Mother Nature for recycling, the Circle of Life. Before pulling away, they warned us to wash carefully if we’d touched him since they had no idea what was wrong with the dolphin and bacteria was probably released from its bodily fluids. As the truck pulled away, the sweating crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.

A woman from a town further down the beach said that there are at least 5-6 injuries a day on her beach from Sting Rays; that people ignore warning signs and go into the water there anyway. She said she only goes into the water in winter months when they aren’t there.

I called my friend, Gale, who’d been here at my sister’ condo with me several years ago. I asked her if she remembered a pesky raven when we were on the beach; it kept trying to get at something in our beach bag. Finally she got so annoyed that she chased the bird down the beach with a large, floppy hat. I told her either the same bird was here or its grand-raven baby, for the same kind of bird was annoying people all over the beach, trying to steal things from bags. When the raven flew over our pool, small birds quickly zoomed around him, chasing him away as if they were security guards, every time. Of course Gale remembered the bird, for I’d written a poem about it.

Later I commented to Brian how back in our “real” lives I doubt if we’d even notice what was going on with the birds around us and how much we missed in our hectic pace. I also found myself wishing we could show as much gentle caring for the 60 million refugees struggling for survival in today’s psychotic world as is devoted to one ailing mammal. Before they left, the crowd asked how to find out how the dolphin was and they all felt it should be named “Summer” since the movie had been made about “A Winter’s Tale.”

I felt honored to have had such an experience.

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