May 23, 2011
Introducing… Whiskie the Whale Spotter (TM). We'll let Whiskie pour out the story—it's not every day you run into a pooch with a trademarked name, after all—with just a little help from Amanda Banks, freelance writer from England.
Hello everyone. Let me introduce myself, my name is Whiskie the Whale Spotter. I'm not entirely sure how old I am, maybe about 5, and I'm slightly embarrassed to say I'm also not sure of my heritage. I think I am a boxer, shepherd, Rhodesian mix, but I wouldn't bet my collar on it. Anyway, that's not so important. What is important is that I am an amazingly talented whale-spotting dog and I do the best impression of a spy-hopping orca in the whole of California.
I am fascinated with whales and dolphins so I am very glad I chose Peggy Stap to be my owner as she works with these animals. When she came looking for a dog at a pet rescue center I liked her immediately, but she needed a little convincing as she was looking for a smaller dog. I made sure to bounce as high as I could and put on my cutest face so she would notice me and be enticed by my charms.
Well that trick worked a treat and now Peggy and I have been together for four years. Boy oh boy, what a time we have had. Peggy runs a whale and dolphin conservation foundation called Marine Life Studies, which means I see my ocean-bound chums pretty frequently.
I'm happiest when Peggy goes out on her research boat looking for killer whales. Not to blow my own trumpet but I am pretty indispensable on these expeditions. I start off by pacing around the boat just to make sure all is ship shape, then I take my place in the Captain's chair as we head out to sea. While it is true to say that I may take the odd nap, I am never completely off my guard. My senses are so much more acute than my human companions so, even if I've been dozing, I am awake and alert in a flash if I sense any cetaceans are present. ("Cetacean" is the clever word that us researchers use to refer to whales and dolphins.) The moment I know they are close I make sure to let the humans know by running to the front of the boat and performing my proudest pose.
I find some species more interesting than others. I love the northern right whale dolphins. I can hear their vocal sounds so distinctly (why you humans cannot I do not know), and I get so excited I can't help whining, barking and wagging my tail. You see, when they bow-ride in front of our boat, they roll over on their sides as they leap out of the water, so I can look them in the eye and they can get a good look at me too. I may not get to sniff their tails but it is the closest I get to saying "Hello" to them. The humpbacks can be pretty friendly too; they sometimes come up to the boat and stick their heads out of the water (us researchers call that spy-hopping) just to get a good look at me.
Because I have studied cetaceans so much I can, on request, perform Oscar-winning impressions of them. When Peggy and I go to events such as WhaleFest to educate you humans about cetaceans I perform my spy-hopping moves along with porpoising (leaping horizontally forwards out of the water) and breaching (jumping vertically out the water). I generally get a round of applause but try not to let the adoration go to my head.
I would say that I am also indispensable when it comes to Peggy's educational work with children. She gets children interested in oceans and cetaceans by teaching them how to be junior research scientists. Before they go to sea Peggy shows them a slideshow in which I am the exemplary model performing the jobs they will have to do on board ship. When they return from their expedition I am there to greet them and will happily pose for photographs with a sparkle in my eye and tongue hanging out.
All in all I would say I am quite an old hand at being a whale spotter and cetacean conservationist. It wasn't always that way of course. Oh, I do remember with some shame how I fell off the boat once. Luckily we were in port and I had my life jacket on but I did feel like such a fool as I lay tangled in ropes waiting for a human to come and rescue me. But it's all part of the process really and I know that as long as I learn from my mistakes I'm doing OK.
You can teach a dog of any age new tricks, that's my motto, so I aim to keep learning new ways to help Peggy with her work. I've heard a rumor that some cetaceans are pretty scarce nowadays so I know it is especially important that I assist Peggy as much as I can. I am proud of what she does and proud to be at her side. I sure hope that she and others like her, with a little help from me, will succeed in looking after these animals. I want to visit my wonderful ocean loving friends for many years to come and I guess you humans would probably like to do the same.
To find out more about Whiskie the Whale Spotter, Peggy Stap and Marine Life Studies please visit www.marinelifestudies.org. If you would like to volunteer with the organization please contact Peggy and Whiskie via 831.901.3833 or email@example.com. All images are protected by copyright and permit: © Peggy Stap / Marine Life Studies / NMFS Permit No. 1094-1836.
To read more of Amanda's accounts of cetacean conservationists in USA, Peru and Canada, please visit http://amandabanks.com/blog/.