Volunteers Dr. Robert Braun and Sharon Hughes helped the dolphin at Kaneohe's Marine Corp Base Hawaii.

Ailing dolphin euthanized
after it could not swim

By Pat Gee

Veterinarians who had donated most of their waking hours to nursing an ailing spotted dolphin since Christmas decided to euthanize it when it could no longer swim and they saw "no chance of recovery."

Dr. Robert Braun, the lead vet in the rescue effort that involved a variety of government agencies and volunteers, said he and Dr. Chris Dold euthanized the dolphin at 11 p.m. Sunday.

The stranded 4-month-old dolphin was rescued Dec. 25 in Pokai Bay, Waianae, and taken to the Marine Mammal Research Rehabilitation Facility on Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay. During the weekend, the dolphin, which suffered from severe pneumonia, had become "extremely weak," Braun said. Before that, it had taken three "precipitous turns for the worse" after arriving at the facility.

Braun said the likelihood that stranded animals survive is very small. "Certainly we're disappointed, but if we didn't have hope, we wouldn't be in this business," he said.

He was assisted around the clock by Marlee Breese, who works in animal care husbandry in the University of Hawaii's Marine Mammal Research Program.

Breese said when they began the rescue effort, it was like going "to bat with 2 1/2 strikes against you."

"When you strike out, you're always disappointed, but it's not surprising," Breese said, "and it doesn't make you not give it your best shot."

Both laughed when asked about working through the holidays, putting aside family time. Both had families who were used to their dedication and helped the rescue effort.

"Christmas? What was that?" Breese joked.

Braun added: "They carried on Christmas without me. It's not unusual."

Braun, who is contracted as a veterinarian for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said "all my actions (in saving the dolphin) were as president of the Hawaiian Islands Stranding and Response Group," a nonprofit group of volunteers who help rescue stranded mammals. Dold also volunteered as a member of the group.

The effort was an important learning experience, he said.

Braun added: "We used a variety of treatments and medicines that she had no adverse reactions to, that were actually helpful. We have a better understanding of the volume of formula an animal this size can take, as well as an understanding of her caloric needs."

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