Alika; Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin

The lives of a young Wyoming cowboy turned Navy Mammal Handler, Brent Harris, and a delightful green-eyed southern girl, Katie Donavan, are woven together by the events in the life of a young Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, Alika, in this heartwarming story—a fable of loyalty, gallantry, hope, and love.

Brent, a horse trainer with a special gift, joins the Navy fresh out of high school to see the world. When a Navy notice asking for volunteers for the Navy's Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) is announced, Brent gives up a glittering career to become a mammal handler. His decision, not easily made, fulfills a long time spiritual oracle he believes has called upon him. He is assigned to Alika, a spirited, orphaned dolphin with some issues.

Through her unrelenting effort, Katie locates the little dolphin she helped rescue years before and coordinates a field trip for a group of marine biology students to a little known Navy command at Point Loma, California. There, she is reunited with Alika, now a certified Fleet Mk-7 Mine Hunter dolphin.

The reunion was a euphoric triumph but made even more spectacular by Katie's chance introduction to Brent, Alika's handler. Love blossoms for Brent and Katie, but the clouds of war form in the Mideast. On March 20th, 2003 the US coalition of nations initiate Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)—the second gulf war.

Brent, Alika, and other mine-hunting teams from NMMP deploy to the mid-east; they are integral to the OIF campaign and are of the first called into action. Three days after the task of clearing sea-mines from the port of Umm Qasr begins, Brent suffers a brutal attack from a bull shark. Alika exacts retribution and dispatches the shark then tows Brent to safety, saving his life.

Brent had a promising future. He had gained so many things—some through hard work, diligence, and good decisions but most through the grace of God. He had completed a mystical calling, which, five-years earlier had beckoned him. But now, it seemed, one by one, his life's greatest treasures were being systematically stripped from him. He'll recover from his physical wounds, but the real devastation is the reality that he will be discharged from the Navy, lose his job, his dolphin, and likely, his one true love—Katie.

But Katie has other plans. She comes to Brent with hope, salvation, and a promise.

For the first time Alika testifies to the unwavering bond of loyalty and trust dolphins share with their handlers. Alika is a must read for those kind souls who thrive on animal stories or who are allured to the majestic and mysterious mammals who live in the sea and befriend man.

--Donald E. Auten, Captain, USN (Retired)



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