That well-worn descriptor is really the only way to frame what happened in Australia last week, when a pod of dolphins saved a retired policewoman and her dog from drowning in the waters off Perth.
Lynn Gitsham was walking her dogs on the beach in Carrickalinga, Australia, when Ramsay, her five-year-old Cocker Spaniel—doing what all dogs do—chased a flock of seagulls into the surf.
The tide was rough and Ramsay couldn’t make it back to the shore—so Gitsham followed him, walking on the shoreline’s wet rocks. But she slipped and fell in.
“I just remember falling and I’m in the water and the waves were just pounding me up against the rocks, and I could see him out there trying to get back in,” said Gitsham, to Perth’s Channel 7 News.
Horror turned to hope in an instant.
“I remember going under and coming back up I saw a fin, and I saw him, and thought ‘Oh great, it’s a shark.’ And then I saw another fin. Then I realized they were dolphins. These dolphins just formed this horseshoe and were guiding [my dog] in, pushing him in.”
Gitsham says the dolphins herded her and her dog to the safety of the shore before swimming off.
“Dolphins save people in distress because they are intensely altruistic to each other,” writes Dr. Naomi Rose, Senior Scientist at Humane Society International, to TakePart in an email. “Their instincts kick in when they see a distressed human—or dog—and they respond as they would to a pod mate, protecting them from predators or guiding them into shallow water.”
What you won’t find, however, is some version of this headline: “Taiji Fishermen Call It Quits Forever.”
So while it’s certainly a great day when a dolphin pod saves a stranded human, I’m still waiting for that triumphant day when the 26 fishermen responsible for the dolphin slaughter in the infamous Cove reciprocate the favor and stop butchering the planet’s second smartest mammal.