Manatee Keeps Watch Over Dog Before Rescue

The dog was stuck clinging to a seawall in the Hillsborough River.

— -- A moment of kindness between two animals was captured by a Tampa police officer just before a colleague rescued a stranded dog from the Hillsborough River.

Residents in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood heard a strange noise coming from the river this past Friday night and then saw the dog, named White Boy, struggling to climb out of the river the next morning.

The photo, posted to the police department’s Facebook page, shows the dog clinging on to a cement wall at the river’s edge while a manatee appears to stand guard behind him.

“You don't see that every day, and it's a great reminder ... the importance of kindness, reads the department’s Facebook post.

The officer who rescued the dog, Randy Lopez, a 30-year veteran of the department’s Marine Patrol Unit, said both the fresh water and the commotion likely drew in the manatee.

“They’re curious by nature so I’m sure the the sound of the dog splashing in the water trying to get up the sea wall got his attention and he came over to investigate, maybe calm the dog and tell him it was going to be alright,” Lopez told ABC News.

Lopez said the dog was “clinging” to the makeshift sea walls with his front two paws. The officer used a nearby resident’s extension ladder to climb in and grab the dog.

“It probably took about 20 minutes from start to finish,” Lopez said of the rescue.

A police department spokeswoman told ABC News the dog was reunited with its owners after they came out of their house to see what all the commotion with police in their neighborhood was about.

The dog suffered bug bites and had bloody paws but was otherwise not injured.

It is not known how long the dog was in the river, or how long the manatee was there beside him before help arrived.

“Once I got in the water I could see it kind of turned away and gave one good little flutter with its tail and was on its way,” Lopez said.

Commenters on the widely-shared Facebook post marveled at the image of the manatee.

“Kinda looks like an angel!,” wrote Karen Farjeat.

“Animals have feelings, too,” wrote Alegcy Salgado.