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A whale of tale and other tails

Published August 06. 2011 09:02AM

Did you all see that amazing video about a group of boaters who saved a hunchback whale?

If you didn't, and you have access to the Internet, look up The Great Whale Conservancy and you can catch the whole thing on video.

Michael Fishbach, co founder of The Great Whale Conservancy, spends two months every winter, photographing, tracking and observing complex behaviors in the wild of the Blue, Finback and Humpback whales in the Sea of Cortez, a body of water that separates the Baja California peninsula from the Mexican mainland. He and some of his family and friends, were on a small boat in the Sea of Cortez on Valentine's Day, when they encountered a humpback whale entangled in a fishing net. They believed it was on the verge of death.

All they had was a small knife but they worked continuously for over an hour cutting away until they finally managed to free the whale.

Then they watched in utter amazement as it breached over 40 times, flinging it's huge body out of the water, twisting in the air and crashing back into the water. According to researchers, breaching is thought to be: an assertion of dominance, courting or warning of danger; allows the whale to breathe in air that is not close to the surface; to dislodge parasites from the skin; may also be a form of play.

I think, after viewing the video, Valentina, as the group called the whale, was doing a joyous dance of freedom. I'd like to believe she was very much aware that humans helped save her life and she was expressing her thanks in the only way she knew how.

A friend's family took her on a three-day birthday trip to Chicago where her grandson lives. She was excited about the trip, yet reluctant to leave her two special friends, Rocky and Spunky, her 11-year-old Chihuahuas, who were with her since they were a year old.

She said she had a wonderful time but was glad to be home, and Rocky and Spunky were happy to have her back. Both dogs sleep with her. So when she awoke the next morning, her hand went to stroke Spunky. She felt cold to her touch. Spunky had passed away peacefully in her sleep, next to the person who loved her best.

"All I could do was cry. I cried all day," she said.

That was a Tuesday. Sunday she went to the flea market.

"I went down an aisle I never go down on my way to take some things back to my car in the parking lot. I saw a sign that said, 'Adopt Molly. Chihuahua. $100.' I held her and it was love at first sight. I held her in my arms all the way home. The day I took her to the vet to be checked, they gave me Spunky's ashes. It was meant to be," says my friend.

Molly By Golly, as my friend calls her, is doing beautifully.

"Rocky and Molly By Golly are adjusting nicely to each other," she adds.

I asked her what it is about pets that makes us so emotional. She said she thinks they fill a void in our lives that nothing else can.

"They give unequivocal love. They give give give. I believe God puts them in our lives for a special reason. I know I'll never be without one."

I had reported about Hannah, the American Bulldog, who had her left hind leg amputated when she was only a few weeks old. Suzie Gilbert, vice president of Waggin' Tails of Brodheadsville, a pet rescue organization, and founder of Hope for Hannah, took Hannah home and saw to her care.

2010 was a rough year for Hannah. After the original amputation, she had major surgery on the right hind leg. She underwent four months of physical therapy, to no avail. In December Suzi took her back to the University of Pennsylvania to see if anything else could be done for her since she was unable to walk or really get around.

"I was beginning to wonder if I had done the right thing in keeping her alive. But I always felt Hannah had a purpose."

A wheelchair was suggested. They took her to Massachusetts and had one custom made for her.

"In typical Hannah style, she absolutely refused to use it. Stubborn would be her middle name. I was quite discouraged as I knew how badly she wanted to move around. Then about eight weeks later she started to stand upright. She began to take steps and now she is actually walking. One day she was in the yard actually playing with my other dogs and running! I couldn't believe it. She is one amazing, determined puppy."

Recently, Hannah has been displaying an amazing aptitude as a puppy disciplinarian. Suzi calls her the perfect natural surrogate mother. Two young Chihuahua's came to the rescue and displayed unacceptable behavior. Then another puppy came to them and just couldn't get along with any of the other dogs. Suzi says that when Hannah sees bad behavior on their part, she comes over, puts them down with her front paw and seems to be giving them a good talking to. Their behavior has undergone dramatic changes.

"It's pretty remarkable how she has this ability to correct puppy behavior," says Suzi.

She calls Hannah her hero.

I think Suzi, my friend and Michael Fishbach and friends are all heroes, too.

Why are animal stories so touching?

I think they hit our nurturing nerve. Whenever we hear about an animal in distress, or how a beloved pet brings so much joy in someone's life, it touches a soft spot, reserved for all the Valentinas, Spunkys, Molly By Gollys and Hannahs in the world.

I leave you with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi ..."The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Need I say more?

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