A DOG is man's best friend, but this dog's best friend is a dolphin.
An unlikely friendship has blossomed between a labrador dog and a bottle-nosed dolphin that has made its home off Tory island, 16km off the north-west Donegal coast.
In recent months, the normally land-loving labrador called Ben has taken to pacing the island's pier and then jumping into the water as soon as Duggie the dolphin appears.
According to his owner, local hotelier, Pat Doohan, Ben and Duggie could spend up to three hours at a time and several times a day frolicking and playing in the sea. And now two island collies have begun joining in the fun.
"They'll be out there swimming around and the dolphin will come up behind Ben and get a fix on the direction he is going.
"Then she'll pop up on the other side. It is just wonderful to watch. They seem to be having great sport," he said.
Since she was first spotted by islanders in April 2006, Duggie the Dolphin has become Tory's answer to Fungi, the bottle-nosed dolphin that has thrilled tourists since first appearing in Dingle Bay 21 years ago.
Duggie's appearance coincided with the body of another dolphin being washed up at the back of the island.
"People think it was probably her partner and because they are believed to have only one mate in life, that is why she has stayed behind," said Pat.
washed up at the back of the island.
"Occasionally a school of dolphins will go by and she will join them. When I see them I think she will forget the island and go back to her wild ways but she never does." he said.
Named after island dancer, Willie Duggan, when they thought she was male, the name Duggie has now stuck.
And the fun-loving dolphin is proving a big hit with the island children.
"Last weekend we had a large group of visiting adults and children all out in wet suits wanting to swim with her," he said.
"She definitely stays around longer if she has an audience and she starts going around the harbour bringing her tail up and splashing away," he said.