They say dogs are a man’s best friend. But on Monday, one dog turned out to be a sea turtle’s best friend.
Veda, a 2-year-old giant Newfoundland, found a stranded loggerhead turtle while taking a walk with her owners on the beach near Ellisville Harbor State Park in Plymouth Monday morning.
The beach, littered with seaweed and other ocean debris from a weekend storm, made the cold-stunned turtle difficult to see. The loggerhead’s light-brown shell camouflaged the turtle in the sand, but Veda noticed it. She sauntered ahead of her owners, Leah and Brad Bares, and lay down next to the 40-pound turtle, Leah Bares said.
“It was something she had never seen,” she said. “That’s just the nature of a Newfoundland ... instincts that it needed to be saved or helped.”
Bares said she and her husband “freaked out” and didn’t know what to do at first. After covering it with seaweed for temporary warmth, Veda’s owners contacted the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. A volunteer soon arrived to retrieve the turtle and transport it to the aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy.
Due to the low temperature and intense wind chill, the loggerhead would have only survived a few more hours if not found, according to New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LeCasse.
“We were very lucky,” he said. “If that dog hadn’t seen that sea turtle ... they probably would have never noticed.”
LeCasse said Veda’s heroics are typical of giant Newfoundlands. The breed is known for their rescuing ability and thick, furry black hair.
After four days of slow re-warming at the Animal Care Center, the sea turtle is “bright and alert,” the aquarium said.
The turtle has been named Newfie, after Veda’s breed.
The South Shore, where Newfie was found, is an unusual place for sea turtles to beach. The aquarium said 99 percent of sea turtle strandings occur on Cape Cod.
It was also the latest recovery on record of a living sea turtle off the state’s coast, the aquarium said.
“It’s still really bizarre when you think, there are still sea turtles coming onto beaches of Massachusetts in the middle of January,” LeCasse said.
Sea turtles have been washing up on the shores of Cape Cod later this winter than ever before, the Mass Audubon said earlier this month. More than 50 turtles have been recovered since the beginning of the year.
It was also the first time Bares and her husband — who walk on the beach three or four times a week — have seen a sea turtle ashore.
“We’ve never really seen any crazy wildlife ... we were exhilarated by seeing [the sea turtle],” she said. “We’ve never seen anything more interesting than a sea urchin.”
Though she had previously only seen a loggerhead in the aquarium, Bares has a special connection to them. As a watercolor artist, she likes to paint turtles and other wildlife, and donates 20 percent of her business’ proceeds to the National Marine Wildlife Center.
For now, Bares said, she will just keep bringing her attentive dog with her to the beach.
“There’s some people in the neighborhood who are against dogs on the beach,” she said, “ but this is all the more reason to keep bringing her on walks.”