When one dog kept swimming out into the ocean, his owner had no idea what he was up to. But, as he looked on one day, he noticed something else in the water. And the special reason his pet loved swimming so much suddenly became obvious.
Tory Island is a small, sleepy island off the coast of Donegal in Ireland. Lying almost ten miles off the mainland and home to just under 150 residents, it’s safe to say Tory Island isn’t the most happening place.
However, in 2007, a strange phenomenon on the island caused the location to hit the headlines. The incident revolved around a local Labrador named Ben. Ben belonged to hotelier Pat Doohan and usually preferred hanging out on land rather than by the sea.
But then Ben suddenly developed a love for the ocean. He began to enjoy playing on the island’s pier in Middletown. And, according to his owner, he spent up to three hours in the water several times a day.
But it wasn’t until later that Doohan learned the reason why Ben had started his infatuation with the sea. After watching the dog, he realized that Ben had made an unlikely friend. And their relationship was a real sight to behold.
As word of Ben’s unusual swimming buddy spread, media outlets came to catch a glimpse of the strange spectacle. And crews from the BBC television show Countryfile caught the whole situation on camera.
The show’s footage began with Ben sprinting down the harbor walls. He came to a stop at a set of steps before climbing down them and into the sea. Once fully immersed, he started to paddle away from the shore into the open water.
As Ben continued to swim, there was a sudden splash in the water beside him. Then, from the waves, up popped a gray nose. It appeared for just a second before returning underwater. But it soon became clear the shiny snout was that of a dolphin.
After a few moments, the dolphin reappeared and the pair began to frolic in the sea. They swam together side-by-side and the Labrador looked on as the dolphin bobbed in and out of the water.
The spectacular show only came to an end when the dolphin followed a local fishing boat out of the harbor. At that point, Ben returned to shore and clambered back onto dry land. However, that wasn’t the last he saw of his aquatic acquaintance.
The dolphin in question is well known on the island. The majestic animal was first spotted in Tory Island’s harbor in April 2006. And locals there believe the creature had a tragic story behind her.
The dolphin first appeared around the same time that the body of another dolphin was washed up on the island. “People think it was probably her partner,” Doohan told the Irish Independent in 2007. “Because they are believed to have only one mate in life, that is why she has stayed behind.”
But, in the waters surrounding the island, the dolphin found a new lease of life. Islanders took the dolphin in as one of their own and even named her Duggie, after local resident Willie Duggan. Soon, Duggie began to stay near to the shore.
“Occasionally a school of dolphins will go by and she will join them,” Doohan revealed. “When I see them I think she will forget the island and go back to her wild ways. But she never does.”
One of the things keeping Duggie on the island is all the attention she gets there. “Last weekend we had a large group of visiting adults and children all out in wet suits wanting to swim with her,” Doohan revealed. “She definitely stays around longer if she has an audience. She starts going around the harbor bringing her tail up and splashing away.”
And, with her best friend Ben around, it looks like Duggie has even less reason to leave Tory. The pals’ daily swims together are the stuff of legend on the island. However, theirs is not the only dog-dolphin friendship on the planet.
In Perth, Australia, a golden retriever became famous for splashing around with a dolphin on Rockingham Beach. Meanwhile, footage emerged online of a black Labrador puppy swimming with a pod of dolphins off the coast of Mozambique.
However, neither of those relationships come close to Ben and Duggie’s. The pair are so finely tuned that his owner claims the Labrador can sense the dolphin approaching the land. “Ben was always on alert,” Doohan told National Geographic.
“You know, whenever he was hanging around the hotel, he’d be lying there quite calmly. Next thing, he would jump up and the ears would be sticking out in the air,” he added. “The dog then would take off. He would run a couple of hundred yards down the pier, under the water.”
“He’d be swimming around and the next thing you’d see the dolphin coming in and jumping about. How did the dog know that the dolphin was coming? It was amazing.” Or, perhaps, it’s just a sign of true friendship.