The beautiful giant of the sea came up to the side of the boat. I put my hand down and placed it on her nose. She blew air out. Venus was a 15-year-old, Orca who had her first calf one year ago.
She nudged my hand like she always did when she wanted to play. I took my water bottle off the floor and squirted her gently in the face. This was our ritual when we met. I had been studying the pod for the last four years. Over that time trust had been built up and the game had begun.
Three years ago as Venus came up to me I accidentally squirted water from my bottle on her. She had come back for more and so our personal greeting had started.
The other Orca’s were a little shy but, not Venus she had no fear of humans. We had tried to follow her story to find out if she was a released Orca but, we hit a dead end. Her dorsal fin was standing up, a curved fin being a classic sign of captivity. We didn’t know, for whatever reason Venus and me had a bond.
When her calf was born I watched on the boat from a distance. I wondered if this would change our relationship. It hadn’t she was always careful to keep herself between me and the calf but, our friendship remained the same.
She nudged my hand again and I squirted her with the bottle. Looking her straight in the eye was like looking into a deep intelligence.
“What’s up girl? You feeling a bit under the weather.” I asked.
Venus nudged my hand again. The bottle was empty but she settled for a nose rub all the same.
For the last two weeks, Venus had been showing signs of being unwell. She wasn’t looking after her calf as much. For the last couple of days, she had been on close monitoring. She was unwell, swimming behind her pod. I swore when I looked at her there was a sadness in her eyes. This beautiful black and white creature was suffering.
Whilst I kept her calm, Sam the vet, administered her an antibiotic shot to try to help. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed.
“I’m sure this will do the trick, try not to worry.”
Saying goodbye to my beautiful girl I promised to bring a full bottle with me tomorrow to play with her. We moved the boat away from the pod and headed for shore. I followed the silhouette of my girl for as long as I could.
Karl woke me early the next morning. There had been an incident with Venus, Sam was on his way but, they needed me, to keep her calm. Grabbing yesterdays clothes I threw them on and raced down the path to Karl’s jeep. As we turned out of the drive I realised we weren’t heading to the marine but, to the beach.
We drove in silence I didn’t trust myself to speak. Ten minutes later Karl explained that they had a call from a local. Venus had been grounded on the beach. With my help, they were sure they could get her back into the water.
I rushed down to the beach. I only remembered I had no water bottle when I tripped over three left discarded on the shore. Still, I’m sure my girl would forgive me this once.
When I reached Venus, Sam was finishing his examination. Locals had a constant train of water keeping her moist. I threw myself to my knees beside her and looked into those beautiful eyes.
“Hey girl, whats going on?” I asked.
She looked back at me staring into my soul. Nudging my hand, she took her final breath and died on the beach.
I only remember sections of the rest of the day. I remember Sam and Karl getting me back to the jeep. I remember Karl giving me a tiny blue pill and I woke up the next day.
That day the pain was more intense. I knew I should go and check on her pod but, I didn’t have the strength. At 5 pm Karl rang to see if I wanted to go and get the autopsy results with him. We once again drove in silence.
When we arrived we went into the marine room. Sam gave me a hug. With tears in his eyes, he handed me two black sacks full of empty bottles and rubbish. I’m sorry Ash but, this is what we found in her stomach, she didn’t stand a chance I’m afraid. Human laziness and ignorance had killed this beautiful sea creature.
I knew then that if Venus had eaten rubbish the rest of the pod were in danger, especially her calf. At first light the next day I was back in the boat heading to find them.
We found them within an hour. Sam checked them all over and they appeared to be OK. We would have to watch them closely for the next couple of months. Then, as we were leaving, her calf came to me and nudged my hand. I smiled and reached for my bottle to squirt him. Looking at the bottle in my hand I put it down.
“No fella, I think it’s best you have no interest in these killers,” I told him stroking his nose.
We were lucky he was now one, with the right monitoring he should survive without his mum.
That night I sat with Karl writing up my notes. We talked about the bond that Venus had with me.
“Ash it was special. I have worked with Orca’s for many years and not seen a connection like that,” he said.
I smiled when I thought about my sweet sea angel. It was only when I wrote the date for my next observation that it hit me. No, it can’t be that late in the month, already.
“Karl, I think I know why we had a connection.” I said, “I think she sensed that we were both going to be mothers.”
Karl looked at me rubbing my stomach and lunged off the sofa. Sweeping me up in his arms.
“If it’s a girl, we can call her Venus,” he chuckled.