Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interacting with Dolphins

It’s been a while since I’ve posted; sometimes things happen that you can’t talk about, and yet they weigh so constant on your mind that it keeps you from writing about anything else.

On March 1st, my ex-husband Chip died (more on that later), and this past weekend Mr. Man, Amanda and I went to the Florida Keys to scatter his ashes in the ocean he so loved, on what would have been his 51st birthday. While we were there, we spent time with a group of people who were, up to that point, strangers to us. This could have gone any number of ways; it could have been awkward or uncomfortable and possibly even confrontational; it wasn’t. Far from it, by the end of the first day we felt we had known each other for years, we all just connected.
Mr. Man, Lynn, Me, Amanda & Peggy
On Saturday we spent the morning at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key where Peggy (an ex-girlfriend of Chip’s) works. Peggy is a truly remarkable, kind and genuine person. I think we were all a little nervous to be meeting for the aforementioned reasons, but we all hugged each other and immediately felt it was going to be okay. Peggy showed us around and went out of her way to make sure we had a good time; even getting us a private session with some dolphins and a trainer. This was an incredible experience for us all. The closest we’ve ever been to a dolphin is watching them swim off the shore of St. George Island in the Gulf of Mexico. How many times have I fantasized about swimming out to them; I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard.

Santini & her trainer
The dolphins are so eager to learn and respond to the encouragement of their human audience. We applauded, and laughed, and smiled until our faces hurt. We watched as Santini, a 24-year-old female born at DRC, interacted with small children and did tricks for us; jumping through the air, standing tall in the water, and speeding backwards on her tail. She was awesome! Her trainer would ask her to imitate us and then directed us to spin around; Tini spun around. We bent our knees and bobbed up and down; Tini bobbed up and down. We could have watched her all day.

Santini watches to see what we will do next
Did you know that dolphins make all sounds through their blowhole? They only open their mouths when making sounds in imitation of humans. And you would never hear a dolphin call or make sounds above water in the wild.

During our private interaction, we met Merina and her seven-month-old son Flagler. If a dolphin isn’t enough to make you act like a drooling idiot, a baby dolphin certainly will. So cute! Everything the trainer asked Merina to do, Flagler would tag along and come back to the trainer for a reward of fish alongside his mother, squealing excitedly. He kept coming up to Amanda nose first and it was so hard for her to resist touching him as he was just inches away and so obviously wanted her attention, but the trainer asked that we refrain so that he can learn the proper way to approach a guest. Amanda showed great restraint and loved leaning down to talk to him almost nose-to-nose. We were able to touch Merina—they have a rather rubbery feel—as she passed under our hands. It was over all too quickly and we will forever be grateful to Peggy for adding beauty and friendship to what would have otherwise been a somber occasion.

Merina & Flagler
The center has a young male dolphin that was rescued from the BP oil leak in Louisiana—appropriately named Louie—injured and covered in oil. He was given only a 5% chance of survival but we watched as he worked with his trainer learning signals and seemed in excellent health. The center does great rehabilitation and research, and you can see just how much everyone loves these incredible animals.

Louie learns the ropes

No comments:

Post a Comment