Stranger things: Are my dogs talking to dolphins?

By Janice R. Edwards

The Bulletin


I grew up watching “Flipper”, and I used to think how very cool it would be to have a dolphin as a pet; it didn’t matter that I could not even swim.


Little did I know that the dolphins who played Flipper on the TV series long ago had psychological problems, didn’t like doing the “work” and were sometimes a bit mean to the trainers and actors. I just saw the joyous stories that the T.V. producers wanted me to see.


Even when I found out all that bad stuff, in the back of my mind I still wanted to live on a body of water where dolphins played and would come when called.


I am one of the lucky people who answered the call from Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and I sat with sick dolphins, helped to feed and medicate them and went on a couple of trips to release them back into the wild.


There is nothing like that feeling – to see them swim a couple of circles of “thank you” before taking off to find their friends.


I also had the opportunity to play with Cole, a young dolphin stranded too young to be released back into the wild. To keep dolphins from becoming depressed, volunteers had to keep their very active minds busy. So, in a way, I kind of got as close as anyone legally can to having a dolphin for a pet. But all this was before we moved down here on the lower end of the San Bernard River.


We have seen dolphins coming upriver from the mouth several times, cruising past our dock.


The secret wishes for a pet dolphin, or at least one who would approach our dock, started to live in the back of my mind again.


After all, immature pelicans hung out and ate out of our hands when a cold snap caught them unaware, and then there was “Hank Heron”, who would stand at the end of the dock and wait for Roy to flip him a fish. But being an adult, I knew it would never happen with dolphins because of laws to protect them.


That still takes nothing away from the thrill of watching a pod of dolphins feeding or traveling upriver.


When we first moved here 20 years ago, that sight was often. But, over time, and the river mouth closing, seeing them happened less and less. And since Hurricane Harvey, we have hardly seen any. So, what happened recently was incredible.


As most of you know, Roy and I have two little rescue dogs - Skunk and Coon Dog. They have several jobs - besides eating and sleeping. They act as our doorbell and alert system. If they see or hear anything amiss, they bark.


Sometimes we can tell what they are barking about, such as a dog or raccoon walking about, a bird landing on our railing, or people fishing next door. Sometimes they bark at things that go bump in the night - and at Roy’s favorite - a seagull fart. But they love us and watch what is going on and tell us about it.


It was just getting to be twilight, and I was starting dinner. Roy stepped out on the deck to enjoy the view and our little furry girls went with him. Roy stuck his head back in the house and said, “Jan, come here quick, I want you to see something.”


When he says that, you drop everything and go, and I did. As I rounded the door going out, I heard them before I saw them. A group of three dolphins were playing around, chasing fish and chuffing in the river right outside our door.


The dogs watched my reaction, and they barked their “I’m happy” bark. The dolphins chuffed back to the sound of the dogs barking. I didn’t think too much about this until two days later.


I was up early starting the pot of coffee when I noticed both dogs were staring intently at something outside using their begging voice. They wanted me to come see. I started the coffee brewing and walked over to my girls to see what they were looking at. I could hear them through the door. I opened the door, and the girls and I went outside and watched the dolphins in silence for a minute.


There was the biggest pod of BIG dolphins I had ever seen headed upriver, looking for their breakfast.


Coon Dog then cried out a bit, hoping they would come back around. Two of them did just that. She was a happy dog, and she was “talking” with those two. The whole pod held back a bit, waiting for the duo to complete their conversation with Coon and Skunk. Then the dolphins swam off upriver.


Both pups looked up at me with their smiles, as if to ask, “Did we do good, Momma?”


They sure did. They shared their dolphins with me. I even forgot my coffee. They got double their morning “cookies”. I don’t really know if those two smart species were talking, but it sure looked like it. Maybe it wasn’t conversation, but love was communicated that morning.


(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. )Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)