The Dolphin Who Saved Me

Melody Horrill / Greystone Books / 296 pages

In The Dolphin Who Saved Me: How an Extraordinary Friendship Helped Me Overcome Trauma and Find Hope, author Melody Horrill holds nothing back with her blunt and unrelenting descriptions of the violence and trauma she experienced growing up in a deeply dysfunctional home. Yet, just when her suffering seems too much to bear, she takes the reader into another reality: the time she spent with the dolphins of Australia’s Port River—in particular, a scarred and solitary male bottlenose named Jock. For much of the book, Horrill alternates between these two experiences. As she dives into her time with Jock and the other dolphins, one begins to see how her journey to Port River helped heal her, teaching her empathy for others and giving her a belief in her own strengths. 

The dolphin sections are not all joyous, however. Horrill learns firsthand about the trauma and suffering caused to her beloved dolphins from human activities, including vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglement, and even outright attacks. Jock eventually died after accumulating high levels of PCBs and other contaminants from years of living in waters befouled by industrial pollution. Horrill comes to the realization that something must be done to protect the Port River dolphin community. In collaboration with her mentor, the well-known researcher Dr. Mike Bossley, she helped establish the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, a marine protected area in South Australia.

Although The Dolphin Who Saved Me is not an easy read, Horrill manages to find hope and compassion, both for herself and for the dolphins of Port River. One important message she leaves with the reader is that in the decades since she first swam with Jock, people are now advised (as with other wild animals) not to interact directly with wild cetaceans. From a respectful distance, their grace and playfulness can still delight and inspire us all to do more to protect marine life.

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