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'Like an underwater puppy': B.C. woman forms lasting friendship with octopus

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VICTORIA -

When Catherine Dobrowolski began doing daily walks by the water, she never expected to make an eight-legged friend.

“I just wanted to get some exercise,” Catherine says, “And enjoy the fresh air.”

But Catherine soon realized she wasn’t alone in being active by the ocean.

“Every day there was something new here,” she smiles, before pulling out her phone to show the photos of all the marine animals she took videos of. “It just became addictive.”

While the creatures that Catherine encountered were countless – from seals to orcas to crabs – there was one that really captured her imagination, a baby octopus.

“It was fascinating just watching it camouflage and the way it moved,” Catherine says. Her videos show the red octopus slithering around the rocks before fanning its body out and instantly changing to the same grey colour as its surroundings. “I was hooked!”

For the next couple years, Catherine kept her eye out for other little octopi, seeing an increasingly larger one, until one day she noticed a very big blob.

When she ran to the shoreline to get a closer look, she was surprised to find the biggest octopus she’d ever seen rushing to get a closer look at her too.

“I’m scared,” Catherine says in a video that shows the octopus charging in the water towards her, before reaching its legs out of the water to engulf her boots and wrap around her legs.

“The grip was so tight it felt like I was getting my blood pressure taken in my legs,” Catherine recalls. “I was petrified.”

Catherine says she attempted to calm herself down by taking big breaths.

“When I let go of my fear, I just all of a sudden started to relax,” Catherine says. “And then he did.”

The octopus loosened its grip, left her legs, and transformed its body into what looked like multi-colour balloons being blown up. Catherine says it felt like the octopus was starting a wordless conversation.

“There was a connection,” Catherine says. “He felt me and I felt him.”

They spent the next hour together. On the video you can hear Catherine complimenting the creature, while the octopus remains close.

“It was the best day of my life,” Catherine smiles.

Catherine says their conversation has continued over the past few weeks.

The octopus, which Catherine now calls Baby, seems to recognize her, regularly swimming up to the shoreline to embrace her boots.

“Now we’re buds!” Catherine laughs.

Their friendship intensified recently after Catherine felt compelled to return Baby’s embrace by gently stroking its head.

“It wasn’t gooey or slimey or yucky,” Catherine smiles. “It felt like a dry Swiffer mop!”

Baby kept close during the caress. You can hear Catherine’s voice on a video saying how “soft” the octopus feels and how “beautiful” it looks.

Baby has continued to approach Catherine since then, swimming up to her to give a hug and receive an appreciative pat.

“He’s sort of like an underwater puppy dog now,” Catherine laughs.

Catherine has shared Baby’s videos on her Instagram page, which have earned more than 15 million collective views.

She calls their enduring friendship “powerful” and a “privilege.”

“As we’ve become acquainted, I’m giving him love,” Catherine smiles. “And he’s giving me love back.”

A love that Catherine hopes will inspire others to connect with the natural world — with curiosity, appreciation, and respect.

  

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