Friday, March 10, 2006

Tears for a soldier and a whale

It was an awfully sad day. In the morning I watched the funeral of Cpl. Paul Davis live on Newsworld. One of his friends was talking about their childhood together, when he choked up and started to cry. He cried a lot. Afterwards the dead soldier's mother came over to him and gave him a big hug. It was the kind of stuff that rips your heart out.
But at least there was some small measure of consolation to be had.

Cpl. Davis' life was too short, but he died doing what he wanted to do. He was celebrated by his friends. Honoured by his country. It was a sad story, but an uplifting one too.

Then I read this little Canadian story. And it was just sad. I admit I shed a couple of tears for Luna as well.

You see, a few years ago I went out of my way to catch that little orphan's act. I had flown my folks out from Victoria to Tofino for a couple of days. When I heard about Luna, I decided to use the floats on the way back, and checkout Gold River. We arrived just before noon, and spent most of the day hanging out at the docks, along a with a few others. But Luna never showed.

I thought he might have learned his lesson. He was already a bit of pest. He was fascinated by the bubbles propellers make. And he liked to turn upside down and rub his belly against the bottom of boats. Maybe the little orphan thought they were his mother, I don't know. But a lot of people didn't want him around. And some of the ones who did, were feeding him garbage, and pouring beer down his blow hole.

The sun was getting low in the sky. Everyone was on board, and I was preparing to cast off, when suddenly about thirty feet away, I saw a big white chunk of plastic foam start to jump about. The water rippled and I saw it was him. I didn't dare move the plane. Instead I knelt on a float and slapped my hands on the water to see if he would come just a little bit closer. At first it didn't work. He was too interested in his new toy to pay any attention. Then I had a brilliant idea. I had this waterproof flashlight in my pocket. One that flashes from white to red, and makes a loud clicking sound when it does. I held it underwater. And in less than ten seconds he was there.

At first I was kind of frightened. He was an awfully big baby! I kept my mooring pole handy, in case he got too close to the rudders. But he just swam around a few times. Turned over on his stomach. Came close enough just once for me to reach out and touch him. Then went back to his toy.

I let the plane drift away a bit before I started the engine. I was afraid he would try to race alongside as he sometimes did with speed boats. Then just as I was about to takeoff I looked back and saw that the chunk of plastic foam wasn't moving anymore. I had visions of him surfacing ahead of me just as I was about to lift off. So I jumped on to the float, and threw the clicking flashlight into the water behind me, before jumping into my seat again, and gunning the engine. I like to think he had a lot of fun with his new toy. Until the batteries ran out...

You know the rest of the story. It turned into a classic only in Canada story. And a bit of a media circus. Luna never went back to his Washington state pod. He stuck around in Nootka Sound, to annoy some humans, and enchant others -- like he did me.

Oh I know he could have been dangerous without even knowing it. He might even have hurt someone, by mistake some day. He was only six years old, and he was getting kind of big. But he never did hurt anyone.Only himself.

I hope it wasn't him that boat mashed up. If it was, I hope Luna never knew what hit him. So he wasn't shocked or disappointed. Like that poor old dog I saw at the SPCA once. They were taking him to be put down. But he must have thought they were taking him for a walk. Maybe he even thought that somebody had decided to adopt him after all. So he was happy and wagging his tail.

I hope that Luna met a better end. That one moment he was chasing those bubbles he loved. And the next moment he was dead.

Call me a sentimentalist. But in this miserable, increasingly ugly world, there's got to be something to celebrate about Luna's short life. There's gotta be something uplifting too.

About the story of a lonely but playful little killer whale, who thought humans were his friends.

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