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admin Posted on 2:41 pm

Bottlenose dolphins named Bogie and Bacall and their amazing rescue

The next adventure took place in Florida in 1995, although the memory of it has lived on quite vividly in my mind and heart.

It was a dark and stormy night. No, it really was! It was also a night filled with apprehension, doubt, joy, excitement, fear, and a healthy dose of pride.

It was also my 52nd birthday, and one I will never forget. No gift, no matter how expensive or unique, could compare to the gift I received this birthday: being part of the team that helped bring Bogie and Bacall, two bottlenose dolphins, back to their original pod in Indian River Lagoon. , in Palm Bay, Florida.

Bogie and Bacall had been captured many years before, and as is often the case with our unsuspecting animal counterparts, they were sent to one of those roadside aquariums that seem to dot the Florida landscape, and where they were to spend the rest of their lives. . lives performing for people, instead of frolicking and reveling in their freedom.

After many years of trying to release them, the Dolphin Alliance was finally able to get permission to return them home.

My husband and I were unaware of the plight of the dolphins until we read that the alliance needed volunteers to bring these adorable creatures back to their natural environment. We didn’t know what we could do to help. We just knew we wanted to do what we could.

As luck would have it, we had exactly what the alliance needed: a 24-foot pontoon boat that was needed to transport Bogie and Bacall to a large containment enclosure at Indian River Lagoon where Bogie and Bacall would remain until they could retrain to fish for their own food. They would then be released to join their original pack. This was the plan.

Many, many people were involved in this humanitarian enterprise and it was exciting to be a part of it, no matter how peripherally. Volunteers did all the hard work, building the pen, organizing the release of the dolphins, and transporting them from South Florida to Palm Bay, Florida.

On the day set for its launch, the folks at the Dolphin Alliance were on the phone with us all day.

The call for us to leave in our boat came at 9:30 pm, just as my head had hit the pillow. Well, there would be no sleep now. Bogie, the first dolphin, wasn’t supposed to arrive until 3 am, but the Alliance folks wanted our boat to be there at 2 am in case they were early.

The emotion coursing through my body was almost more than I could bear. Here was our chance to do something worthwhile, to make a difference, to help Bogie and Bacall experience freedom once again.

Earlier I had been trying to read, to relax, while I waited for the phone call, but every word on the page seemed to say Bogie and Bacall. I tried to watch TV but realized I was looking at the screen and seeing nothing. My head was filled with two frolicking dolphins!

But wait, what was that rumbling noise that was slowly permeating my conscious thought? Well of course I suddenly recognize that sound…it’s thunder! That light that I thought I saw blink? Yes, lightning. We were going to be on our boat at 1am in the middle of a thunderstorm in Florida.

We arrived at the marina, got our boat underway, and set off to partake in this once-in-a-lifetime thrill. We slowly made our way through the Turkey Creek Sanctuary, straining our eyes, making sure there were no manatees around. We finally made it to the Indian River Lagoon breakwaters and realized we had to be crazy to go out on a boat in the early morning in stormy weather with breaking waves, knowing we would be tossed around.

And thrown we were! I’m not particularly known for my bravery, but my enthusiasm and strong desire to be a part of this team effort overshadowed my fear.

As the boat lurched, rolling from side to side and then tumbling from stem to stern, the lightning flashes allowed me to see the magnitude of the waves. I swear they were 50 feet tall. At least in my scared mind, they were. All I know is they were BIG!

Suddenly, the bow light went out. I’d run to the front of the boat, turn on the light, the waves would crash over the bow, spilling salt water on my face, and then I’d run back to the shelter of our hardtop. Then it would happen again.

Then the unthinkable happened. The engine stopped. Here we were, in the middle of the river, in the middle of the night, not to say in the middle of a nightmare, with people eagerly awaiting our arrival with two large dolphins in their charge.

Once again, my husband’s determination and skill got us going. He found the problem; some water in the engine. Wow, what a surprise.

Then, just as suddenly as the storm fell upon us, it was gone, the waters calmed, and we were on our way. Now I can hear the main theme of “2001 A Space Odyssey” playing in my head. We are almost there. We’re going to make it. We did it!

Bogie arrived first between 3 and 4 am The decision was made to now wait until dawn to release her. Bacall followed later.

My husband and son, along with many wonderful volunteers, gently lifted Bogie onto the stretcher and then into our boat for the short ride to the holding pen. The process was then repeated with Bacall joining Bogie in the pen.

Bogie and Bacall spent weeks, if not months, being retrained in fishing techniques and being visited by members of their pack who swam up to the holding pen as if welcoming old friends.

I wish the story would end here, with the long-awaited release of these two special dolphins, but it doesn’t. Some wrong person or people probably, thinking they were doing the right thing, at least I hope their intentions were honorable and not malicious, crept into the pen at night and cut it down so Bogie and Bacall could escape.

They escaped and we can only hope they were fully trained and ready to be on their own again. No dolphin carcasses were seen in the waters and some of the volunteers even saw Bogie and Bacall swimming in the lagoon, identifying them by their distinctive fin markings.

So we can hope that this story has had the fairy tale ending that we all hoped and worked so hard for. I am reminded of a line from a Jimmy Buffet song: “Come on, let’s have some fun, the hard work is done.” In fact, it was hard work and perseverance that made this rescue possible and we are sure Bogie and Bacall had many years of fun and most important of all, freedom!

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