As for seafaring animals, dolphins have always been a 'friend' to humans. They live amongst us, they entertain our children, they have even taken up arms with humans in our human vs human conflicts ...
Essentially, Dolphins are the puppies of the sea ... which is why retribution should not come as a surprise to humankind ...
"It was one thing to witness nature," McCulloch said. "It's another thing to watch the people who spent their last (seven) months caring for the animal see something so horrible and have to put him to sleep."
Midnight, Christmas Day, 2008. Gulf World was cold, dark and quiet. In a large, heated pool, Walsh floated Dunham in his arms. Nearly all 245 pounds of the dolphin were dead weight. Let him go, Walsh knew, and he'd sink and drown.
For three weeks, caregivers at the Panama City Beach facility wouldn't leave Dunham's side. He was weak with pneumonia, parasites and ulcers, and his gray skin was burnt, scabbed and scarred. "He was basically bones with skin," Walsh said.
His caregivers, for their safety and his, kept their distance. He was still under heavy medication and could die any minute. In case he did recover, he would need to fend for himself. Instead of hand-feeding, they tossed his fish in the water. They watched but never made eye contact.
Hidden from Gulf World's visitors, Dunham's life stretched on. His wounds healed. He didn't need 24-hour care anymore, but maintenance and security workers watched him overnight. Holmes kept her phone close when she slept and could rush to Dunham in 10 minutes.
Sadness gave way to anger. Dunham's caregivers, mocked for challenging nature's cruelty, became defensive. Some people poked fun at their work and questioned how Dunham was released. Their work was being made by some into a national laughingstock. Why, the handlers wondered, did everyone else care about Dunham only after he died? Where were they for the seven months before?
They're trying to move on now. Gulf World's crew returned to the Panhandle as soon as their time with the necropsy finished. They had planned to rest after Dunham's release but stayed awake a day longer.
McCulloch and the ambulance drove back to Harbor Branch, on the Fort Pierce campus of Florida Atlantic University. He still remembers massaging Dunham's muscles and whistling with him on the trip to his Dunedin Causeway release. The memory of the veterinarian's face when she saw Dunham's blood hasn't faded.
Just further proof that the animals are watching us, and no one, not even our friends in the animal kingdom, will be spared ...