Nov 13, 2009

The Dolphin Doctor

by Sam Ridgway

Another older book I found at a library sale one time. The author of this one was a veterinarian for the Navy, and became involved in early studies of dolphin sonar and diving abilities, and training programs that used dolphins to assist scientists at sea (retrieving objects, delivering messages between divers, etc). The Dolphin Doctor is mostly about one particular dolphin named Tuffy, but also about the extent of dolphin work in the sixties and seventies, when the field was very new. Not much was known about dolphins; much of the work Ridgway did was just as much to learn about their physiology as it was to keep them in good health. He was the first vet to come up with a way to safely anesthetize a dolphin. It was really interesting to read about his work with the dolphins- and to see Tuffy's transformation. He was a wild-caught dolphin, at first truculent, resistant and fought off any human contact. Won over by patience on the part of biology assistant Debbie (and many fish), Tuffy became cooperative and proved to be intelligent and highly trainable. Remarkably, he was even trained to work at sea- swimming freely, following the boat, diving to great depths for tests. Eventually Debbie had to leave for graduate school, and when she came back to visit after three months their reunion was very touching. Dolphins are really incredible animals, and when this book was written scientists were just beginning to learn more about their abilities. It's a bit awkward in the beginning- jumping from one time period to another, and including a section about Ridgway's youth on a farm that felt a bit out of place- but overall an interesting book.

Rating: 3/5                      159 pages, 1987


Sandy Nawrot said...

Sounds like a book that you could learn something from! And that cover! All those old covers tickle me!

bermudaonion said...

I'm fascinated with dolphins so I bet I would enjoy this one!

Becca said...

I love going to library sales - you always find some different books!

Jeane said...

Sandy- I know. Sometimes I look for covers of more recent editions to post, because they're better- but the old ones are a kick, too!

Bermudaonion- It's only the third book ever I've read about dolphins. Each one teaches me a little bit more.

Becca- It really is a treasure hunt. You never know what you're going to find. I love it too.