A scared and stranded dog needed help escaping a river after he’d gotten stuck one day. But when rescuers finally came to his aid, they saw that he was not alone. A large, ghostly shape was visible beneath the surface of the water – but what on Earth was it?
Back in September 2014, the pit bull in question, then, found himself in a spot of bother. He’d got himself into the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida, but was finding it tricky to get out again. Residents of Seminole Heights had reportedly heard a commotion during the night but were unaware of what the source of the sound was. However, all was revealed the following morning when they came across the hound, who was struggling to get out of the water.
Residents subsequently called Tampa Police Department, which sent a unit to help rescue the poor dog. Then, upon arriving on the scene, officers found the pup, named White Boy, scrabbling at the river’s wall. The structure was clearly too high for him to clamber up, meaning the safety of dry land lay just out of his reach.
Still, officers from the department’s Marine Patrol got to work with freeing White Boy. Specifically, using an extension ladder, Officer Randy Lopez climbed in to save the poor pup. Lopez, a 30-year veteran of the force, told ABC News, “It probably took about 20 minutes from start to finish.”
White Boy’s owners, meanwhile, were reunited with their pooch when they left their house to see what all the fuss was about. And thankfully, despite his ordeal, their pet had escaped relatively unscathed. He’d suffered a few insect bites, and he’d grazed his paws while trying to scale the cement wall, but other than that he was fine.
Owner Ronesha Keaton said the dog had bolted from her yard. She told local TV station WFTS-TV, “He bit through the back of the fence.” Keaton had then noticed stuff going on by the river and soon realized that it was her pet being rescued.
Some people reacting to the story online, meanwhile, were concerned about how long the dog was missing for. However, Tampa Police Department made it clear that there were no immediate concerns over the dog’s welfare. They wrote, “Animal Services responded, and officers on scene did not see any violations of the law.”
It is unclear exactly how long the animal waited to be rescued from the river. What is clear, though, is that he was not alone. Yes, another creature was in the water, keeping White Boy company until the authorities arrived – and various online commenters have likened it to a guardian angel keeping the dog safe. As one user wrote, “Angels come in all shapes and sizes.”
In this case, White Boy’s supposed protector was a large angel in the shape of a manatee. And while it’s not known how long the manatee stayed close to the dog for, the connection between the two creatures may have made all the difference in keeping the dog calm and safe until his rescue.
Indeed, it was almost as if the manatee was waiting for the hound to be whisked to safety before heading off itself. Lopez said, “Once I got in the water I could see it kind of turned away and gave one good little flutter with its tail and was on its way.”
Now while Lopez organized the equipment needed for the rescue, an officer named Jodie Maxim took the opportunity to snap a photo of the dog and his manatee mate. The picture was later posted on the Tampa Police Department’s Facebook page.
The department captioned the image as follows: “While setting up the rescue operation, look closely; this manatee kept our scared, wet pup company until TPD Marine Patrol could complete the rescue. You don’t see that every day, and it’s a great reminder… [of] the importance of kindness.”
Moreover, the event certainly struck a collective chord with the public. Hundreds of people who saw the photo online were moved to display their love for the story. One, Terry Burke Dover, stated, “Humans could learn a few lessons from kindnesses like these.”
Yet while many commended the aquatic mammal’s kindness and behavior, others wanted to thank the officers for their brave rescue. Wendy Smith wrote, “Thank you to the officer. One of my dogs fell in the canal behind my house, and there’s about an eight-foot drop off at low tide. The fire department had to come and get her out. They were wonderful.”
Meanwhile, a handful of commenters were concerned about the relationship between the manatee and the dog, with some suggesting that the marine creature might have tried to eat the pup. They were soon corrected by various others, however, who rightly pointed out that manatees are primarily herbivores.
People also began speculating about what had drawn the manatee to the dog’s side in the first place. Bill Hamilton Senior wrote, “There was probably an alligator in the area, and he or she was standing by protecting the dog.”
As it happens, though, manatees are naturally curious animals. And as Lopez told ABC News, “The sound of the dog splashing in the water trying to get up the seawall got his attention, and he came over to investigate, maybe calm the dog and tell him it was going to be alright.”
Evidently, then, the manatee’s behavior was fairly normal – albeit not the kind of thing that you see every day. As commenter Jamie Dooley explained, “[It is] likely the manatee was just curious about what was going on. Manatees often hang around humans, near docks and boats.”
Unfortunately, however, this does mean that the aquatic creatures often get hit by boats, as they are too slow to escape the path of fast vessels. Indeed, one Facebook user noted that the dog’s companion appeared to have “prop marks.” Joe Hughes wrote, “It looks like three white scars from a boat propeller. Most manatees have them.”
Meanwhile, it seems that this is not the only time a manatee has appeared to calm a distressed soul out of their depth. Lorraine Iwan stated, “When I was scared of the deep water a manatee and her calf kept me company until I calmed down. I will never forget that.”