Dolphin Into the Light

Death of a Dolphin Friend

June 9, 2002

by Joan Ocean


Jack and I drove to K Bay today for a long awaited swim after completing a seminar at the Ranch yesterday. We were happy to see that the dolphins were there.
Entering the water, I felt the resistance of the waves and undercurrent as my body slowly responded to my kicking strokes. I hadn't had a good swim for four days.

In just two minutes time, I felt the dolphins' sonar on my body, followed by one shrill shriek of a dolphin whistle. Hearing the call, I looked to my left, and there they were! First two, then seven more, coming to meet me in the shallow ten-foot water. How beautiful they looked. My heart opened with overflowing joy as I acknowledged that they had come to greet me. They had sensed my presence in the water and had swum directly to me, as they do with all swimmers who enter the Bay. They have unconditional love for humanity.

We began swimming joyfully together. I silently thanked them for their welcome and their presence in the Bay this morning when I was wishing to see them so much. Together we dove and turned beneath the waves, as we headed toward open waters. More and more dolphins were arriving; to my pleasure I counted over 100 Hawaiian Spinner dolphins in the Bay. I reflected on the fact that this is June and it is the month when the most dolphins play in the Bay, year after year. I have been a member of their pods here for 14 years. I know them well and we swim as a unit. June is a time filled with many close dolphin swims and leaf games. Today there are so many babies swimming quietly beneath their Moms, and then suddenly they are rocketing to the surface to practice their leaps out of the water. There is so much to look at as I watch the dolphins playing tag beneath me and coming up to breathe alongside me. They accept my presence, as they do with all people in this Bay. We swim as one unit. I am surrounded by their loving presence, 25 dolphins on my left and 19 more on the right, with untold numbers coming up behind me. It is truly a most unique place in the world. People and dolphins loving each other, loving life, loving the ocean and the freedom to fly and play together. I KNOW THEY LOVE US AS MUCH AS WE LOVE THEM.

Swimming on and on, we are having a great time on this brilliantly sunny morning. It is early -- About 7:30 a.m. The Bay is still quiet, as most of the tourists have not arrived, as yet. The water is so blue, a little murky today, but nice and warm, predicting a hot summer to come.

I hear a voice calling and I look up. My friend, Anita, here from Oahu is calling to me and pointing down in the water. Anita and I have swam together many times with dolphins and whales and I know she wouldn't interrupt my communication with the dolphins unless there was something very unusual happening. She is pointing down and I can't quite hear her words as I begin to swim over. It wouldn't be a turtle, or an octopus, or a manta ray - we have seen those beautiful animals often. It must be something else. As I approach she says she thinks there is a dolphin lying on the bottom. My heart stops momentarily as I look down. I see many dolphins swimming by beneath me. They are sideways and upside down and moving. Looking past them, I see a dolphin on his side. He seems to be lying on the bottom. Is he? Or is he just playing with the others? No. He is not moving. The other dolphins have moved by and he is still there. My heart feels gripped with pain. I stop and focus, as the water becomes calm below. His left eye is open and his white belly is clearly seen as he lies on his side. I dive down to have a better look. I see he is motionless, lying heavy on the bottom, not moving at all. I gasp with concern, making me have to surface to breathe.

Surveying the situation I remind myself that dolphins can remain under water for at least a half hour between breaths. I take a moment to evaluate what is going on. My first thought is, what does the dolphin pod want to do. Are they in the midst of a ceremony or procedure of their own to assist this dolphin? I observe their behavior carefully. I see that they are complete with there interaction with their fallen podner. They are swimming past him and not making contact physically in any way.
Looking around, I see a group of tourists, young adults, treading water nearby. They are curious about what is happening. I ask everyone, especially directing my question to the stronger men -- can any of you dive down and pick up that dolphin? Are any of you good divers? Everyone just stares blankly at me. It feels like time stands still. Then Anita's husband, Mike is next to me. He will try to lift the dolphin. My friend Jack is there too. We all dive down. Mike reaches the dolphin and gently puts his arms around him. It takes a moment to get an easy hold around the dolphin's girth. I am there deep, to assist. Jack and Anita help too and we slowly, carefully bring the dolphin to the surface to breathe.
The dolphin's eyes are open. I immediately notice there is no heartbeat. Bringing the blowhole above the surface, I kick my fins to elevate myself and begin to administer artificial respiration in the blowhole. The breathing orifice is tightly closed. With my fingers I try to gently pry it open. The muscle holds it closed, tight against the rest of the skin and body of the head. I continue to blow my breath into the closed blowhole.
The dolphin pod is all around us now, circling us on the surface, splashing and even playing. They have completely surrounded us and we are in a whirlpool of swirling water. We receive their message of appreciation for our help. I have seen baby dolphins who are still born being kept on the surface by the mother dolphin. She will keep the baby with her for many days. And when she is too tired to keep pushing the body along, other members of the pod, take over to assist her until the time when she is ready to release the decomposed baby and let it go. The dolphins seem ready to assist us now if we need them. It is a very touching moment.

Anita notices that blood is coming out of the mouth and as I look toward the mouth, I see blood coming out of the blowhole also. Thinking that if blood can come out, than perhaps air can get it, I continue to breathe into the blowhole. No response. At the same time we are all softly sending healing to the dolphin. Feeling the love in our hearts and sending it to the dolphin while I hold my hand on his heart. I am on his left side and Jack is on his right as we cooperatively hold him on the surface. Anita and Mike remain with us, making suggestions and sending their love. Wondering if he may have swallowed something, Anita looks in his mouth. We can see nothing there. The tongue is swollen and fills the back of the throat area. His mouth cannot open all the way and we feel it is unnecessary to force it. He isn't breathing. As if hoping the dolphin may somehow remember how to swim, we move along, holding him upright, escorting him along the surface of the water as if he is still alive. No one else notices us.
There are the four of us and the dolphin. We are holding him gently in our arms, loving him and thanking him for all the gifts the dolphins have given us over time. I determine that he is a male as I run my hand beneath him. He has no injuries on the outside of his body except for superficial scratches. Whatever led to his death must be internal. He appears to be a young adult. I look for familiar markings, but he is not one of the dolphins I know.

I have never seen a dolphin die here in the Bay in all these 14 years of living here and so I wonder why he chose to die here. And IF he did.

We decide among us to take his body out to deeper waters and the large pod of dolphins seems to be leading us there - perhaps even putting that thought into our heads, as they swim ahead of us showing the way. It takes a long time, during which we are holding the dolphin body strong and carefully in our arms as we swim. His body is warm against my side. I feel his tail near my knees as I swim with my hand on his heart. It sometimes feels like he is moving his tail, but it is just the movement of the surface waves. His eyes remain open. His mouth is slightly open also and blood runs out from time to time.

Finally we reach the place where it feels appropriate to return him to the sea. The four of us say prayers and a blessing. Then we let him go. He rolls to the side and floats. Jack carefully swims forward and gently tips the dolphin's head down as if he were diving. Holding his tail momentarily in the air, the dolphin begins to go down. Bubbles rise in the water from his mouth. I let them break on my heart, as I usually do with the dolphins. But this time I am wondering if it is my own air from my breath in his blowhole, that is leaving his body. As we all watch we are mesmerized at how natural he looks. Going down slowly, straightening out, swimming slowly to the bottom. We watch to see if he will completely disappear in the depths. Our eyes strain to see him to the very end. Then finally he is out of sight and deep into the blue ocean. He is at rest.

We remain on the surface in a circle holding each other and sending the dolphin soul into the light with our Love. The feel of the wet rubbery body still on our hands, the look of his gentle eyes still in our minds, the love we feel for him, still in our hearts.
Goodbye dear friend. We love you.

Eventually we swim back to the center of the bay. As we do, we see a beautiful sight. More than 100 dolphins are spread out, side by side, in a single line on the surface, swimming toward us as if in ceremony. We slowly swim forward to meet them -- glad to be immersed in their loving frequency, glad to be with the family at a time like this. As they reach us, we slowly turn, joining them and swimming as one with the pod in a quiet procession together. No words are needed. The love fills our hearts and souls with an understanding that we are one species. There is no separation.