SARASOTA -- Most dolphins appear as happy, active, vocal and playful creatures.
Mr. Feeny was the opposite as he laid at the bottom of a shallow tank Friday morning, occasionally coming up to the surface for air or flicking at a brightly colored pool toy with his fin and tail.
Even so, Friday was a marked improvement from Sept. 17 when Feeny was found stranded on a sandflat in east Tampa Bay by fishermen.
Gretchen Lovewell, stranding investigations program manager at Mote Marine Laboratory, said the adult male dolphin had likely been there five or six hours before he was found. He was alert but lethargic and couldn't swim or eat on his own when he arrived at Mote.
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"He's presented signs of pneumonia, he's underweight, he's anemic as well as dehydrated. So there's a lot to deal with," Lovewell said. "Pneumonia is fairly common in sick dolphins that we see, and some of the anemia and dehydration is probably due to him being so underweight because they get all of their hydration from food."
Luckily, the fishermen made the right decision and called the Flor
ida Fish and Wildlife Commission rather than putting Feeny back into the water.
"It is very important to never push a stranded marine mammal back into the water. We asked them to move the dolphin into an upright position and keep it wet until we could arrive at the scene. The fishermen volunteered to stay with the dolphin until we arrived, which was a huge help."
Officials with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium taking part in the rescue named the dolphin Mr. Feeny after the teacher in "Boy Meets World," because he had the demeanor of a "wise old man." Lovewell said they don't know his exact age, but believe Feeny is in his 30s. They have records of dolphins living in the Sarasota area into their 60s.
Feeny was transported to Mote, where he is still in critical condition. He is now swimming on his own and eating with help in a tank about 6 feet deep. He's improved a lot from when he first arrived.
"It's going to take him a while to battle those illnesses," Lovewell said. "This is minute by minute; as soon as he improved, he could also decline."
Mote has treated 71 dolphins and whales since 1992, and Lovewell said the shortest stay they've had with rehabilitating a dolphin so far was just under two months. Based on his condition, Lovewell said she thinks Feeny will remain at Mote for "several months."
"It's a huge burden to Mote to take on something like this because these animals don't come with health insurance. Depending on his medication, it can average $600 to $1,000 a day."
The public will not be able to see Feeny unless officials deem him unreleasable due to his health.
Anyone willing to help support Feeny's care can visit Mote's website at mote.org/donate.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.