That’s what the cries coming from the examination room sounded like to those of us who were waiting our turns to see Dr. Neil Burnie. I have never heard anything like it.
Suddenly there stood Dr. Burnie, a self-proclaimed eccentric character. He burst into the room to save the day. Full of life, with a disarming smile, he scanned the room to see where his attention would be needed most—then his eyes settled on me. I was pale with worry as I held my 3½-month-old puppy even closer to my breast.
The doctor lifted his shirt to show me where he had taken a huge biopsy from his own belly the day before. This sight frightened me even more. “Who would biopsy their own stomach?” I thought, as I looked around for the nearest exit.
Dr. Burnie went on to explain that he had been out gathering 3-layer whale blubber samples for his new TV show Ocean Vet, being filmed here in Bermuda. In Episode 9, about humpback whales, he joins with whale experts in gathering vital data on their migratory journey. Inevitably, this brings Dr. Burnie into direct contact with this graceful giant of the sea … and a plug biopsy.
Dr. Burnie (who looks like a younger, more fit version of Kenny Rogers) speared himself on purpose to quiet any worries that doing this sort of data collection would or could hurt Bermuda’s much-loved whales. He went on to say that the show-and-tell of his belly was meant to set my mind at ease after hearing the tortured cries from a Chihuahua that had loudly protested getting a needle. He said that if the shrieking pup had been held in front of a pit bull while the needle was administered, the tiny dog would not have minded the needle one bit.
Still jovial, he walked over to the desk to read aloud the name on the clipboard, which was an indication of who was on tap: Brook Jade Royal Maroun.
Yup, we were next. My earlier panic quieted, I willingly followed him into the examination room with my precious King Charles spaniel, swaddled in her favorite blanket. The puppy loved him and tolerated every indignity, including the inevitable needle. (No cries, no pit bull needed — whew!)
We talked at length about fishing and filming, of course, as Brook waited patiently. I told him about my show What A Catch! and how I practice hookless fishing. I told him that I made a point of taking my new pup out in the boat the day I adopted her, and every day since, in hopes of making her a water dog.
And, so this is how I first met Dr. Burnie the ocean vet and learned about his deep compassion for and commitment to animals, and his joie de vivre. We decided that a coffee was in order at some point, and he cautioned me not to let my puppy get fat. I agreed as I walked back into a waiting room packed with worried pet parents.
I’m looking forward to learning more about Dr. Burnie’s experiences around Bermuda’s shores, especially any information he can add about the mysterious and fascinating Sargasso Sea. The Sargasso is the immense eddy formed by the North Atlantic Gyre, the system of ocean currents that swirl clockwise around the North Atlantic from the east coast of North America to the west coasts of Europe and Africa, and from the equator in the south nearly as far as Iceland in the north. Bermuda sits near the western edge of the Sargasso Sea, named for the floating Sargassum weed that abounds in the clear water.
I understand that in Episode 10 of Ocean Vet we are taken on a unique and wondrous adventure, as Neil explains how this free-floating jungle of pelagic Sargassum supports its own unique ecosystem, myriad species of fish and other marine life that ultimately support the islanders who call Bermuda home. Learn more at the Sargasso Sea Alliance website.
I took Brook to a koi pond later that day to see how she would react to seeing fish for the first time. She didn’t respond as I expected her to as she watched me hand-feed the colorful fish that matched her in weight and length: She seemed interested only in me. (Yes, Brook is already a great fishing buddy.)
As I fed the fish, I thought about what a great opportunity Bermuda has to create an environmental legacy in this very unique part of the world, and how the wonderful new TV show Ocean Vet will help to showcase the area and all is has to offer.
The Blue Halo Marine Reserve could be as large as 400,000 square kilometers (154,000 square miles) thus creating one of the most significant and highly protected marine reserves in the world, and the largest in the Atlantic Ocean.
Spring is such a wonderful time of renewal and hope.