An inspiring dolphin's tale
By PATTIE MIHALIK
I am drawn to dolphins as much as I am drawn to sunlight. I think they are smart, amazing creatures.
A recent Internet story tells us dolphins are also loving and caring.
I was moved by the story to the point where it made me think about my own actions. I think it's important enough to share the story with readers, so here it is, just as it appeared on Yahoo.
Members of the Cetacean Research Institute in Ulsan, South Korea, were surveying cetaceans in the Sea of Japan when they encountered a pod of dolphins.
A female dolphin was clearly hurting, wriggling, and tipping from side to side, and sometimes turning upside-down, and its pectoral flippers appeared paralyzed, according to New Scientist.
The other dolphins crowded around it, often diving beneath it and supporting it from below. After about 30 minutes, the dolphins formed into an impromptu raft: they swam side by side with the injured female on their backs. By keeping the injured female above water, they may have helped it to breathe, avoiding drowning.
After another few minutes some of the helper dolphins left. The injured dolphin soon dropped into a vertical position. The remaining helpers appeared to try and prop it up, possibly to keep its head above the surface, but it soon stopped breathing, say the researchers.
Five dolphins stayed with it and continued touching its body, until it sank out of sight.
"It does look like quite a sophisticated way of keeping the companion up in the water," says Karen McComb at the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K. Such helping behaviors are only seen in intelligent, long-lived social animals. In most species, injured animals are quickly left behind.
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That touching tale made me ponder this question: How many of the hurting have I left behind?
We all like to think we are always there for people. It's not true. Not always. My friend Wanda lost her husband three months ago. I loved Tom and still care deeply about Wanda. I promised I would call her and we would often get together.
I did it once. Once in three months.
She doesn't live in the same town I do and I have to cut a full day out of my schedule to see her. Between doing newspaper interviews, writing, going to medical appointments and keeping physically active, it's hard to carve a full day to be away. That's my excuse. But it's only an excuse.
In truth, if Wanda were a hurting dolphin, I would be like the dolphins that swam away, letting it drown.
But you might say, the dolphin was going to drown anyway. True. But the caring dolphins that stayed with it gave comfort to the sick dolphin until the very end.
That's a very big thing to do.
I remember when my late husband Andy first suffered two strokes and two cancer operations, he worked so hard to improve. It was a happy day for him, after long months of rehab, when he could drive to his best friend's house then walk slowly with a quad cane to his friend's door. He anticipated how happy his good buddy would be to see his progress.
But the man's wife came to the door and wouldn't let Andy in. She said it would be best if my husband went home without seeing his friend. Her husband, she said, would be "too upset" to see Andy's frail condition.
Andy didn't tell me about that incident for almost a year. He said it was too painful for him to admit. And I know it caused him to lose hope that he could recapture a normal life. That was his longtime friend and he thought they had a strong bond.
Back to the dolphin analogy. I guess his good friend and his wife would be like the dolphins that swam away. Maybe it was "too painful" for them to see death coming.
When Tom was dying, my husband and I were there for him. We could do nothing to help him but we held his hand and told him we loved him. His wife said he was comforted by knowing he had caring friends and by knowing he touched lives in a positive way.
We were like the caring dolphins in staying with Tom as he neared death. But we are not following through by visiting his lonely wife.
Because of the newspaper interviews I do, I am privileged to talk with people from all walks of life and even more privileged that they share their life with me.
So many widows tell me the same story: They are abandoned after their husbands die, even by so-called good friends they thought would be there for them.
"This is a couple's world," said one woman. "When I was no longer a couple, my friends wanted nothing to do with me. So much for caring."
Maybe you're like me. Maybe you have so many good intentions. But you don't turn those good intentions into deeds.
The story about those dolphins resonated with me. It made me think about all the good intentions I have.
I want to be like the caring dolphins that didn't abandon one of their own.
What about you?
What kind of dolphin are you?
Have you swam away from a hurting friend?
Or, do you help form a raft of caring?