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Swimming with Dolphins

     Christina Jacqueline Johns


   
There are a few things, not many, but a few that you must do in your life.  Swimming with dolphins is one of them.  I don’t care how you have to do it - beg, borrow, steal, if all else fails save, but find the money to swim with dolphins.  It’s better than dancing with wolves.  It is absolutely magic.
    My experience with dolphins came several years after I stopped teaching full time.  I was invited by a small private college in
South Florida to teach a class.  I searched the internet for “swimming with dolphins,” picked out the nearest one, packed my bags and never looked back.  A few weeks later, I drove out of Ft. Lauderdale south for a weekend in Key Largo with visions of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and dolphins in my head. 
    I didn’t plan it, but fortunately it was the middle of the winter and therefore off season for the Keys.  I arrived at Dolphins Plus and there was only myself and a couple waiting in line for the scheduled dolphin swim.  I couldn’t have been happier. 
    Because there were only three of us, the couple was assigned to swim with two dolphins and I was assigned to swim with a mother dolphin named Dinghy and her son Julian.  During the season, I would have had to share the mother/son team with several other people.  As it was, I got them all to myself.  I wouldn’t take anything for that hour I spent with the two of them and the young trainer, Peggy.
    As we were walking out to the dolphin area, we encountered a seal, Sugar.  There is nothing that can prepare you for just how lovely a seal is in person.  The skin is silky and rubbery at the same time and the eyes are just so lovely and full of fun you can’t believe it.  I’m sure there must be depressed seals in the world, but I’ve never seen one.  This girl was happy as she could be and was even doing the traditional flipper-clapping as we left her to go to the dolphin enclosure.
    Then, I let myself down into the water and was introduced to the female dolphin, Dinghy, and her son Julian.  I don’t know if they were excited, but my heart was fluttering.  The trainer, Peggy, introduced me to each one and gave me some basic instructions on dolphin/human interaction.  One of the important rules was not to reach out towards the dolphins.  It was, she said, just a matter of good manners.  Since the dolphins when they are at the top of the water receiving instructions have mostly their heads out of the water, you are, if you reach out your hand, reaching out to put your hand virtually in their faces.
    Just as you would not think of suddenly reaching out and touching a person’s face you had just been introduced to, you should not reach out and try to touch a dolphin.  I was careful not to do this.  It seemed a matter of common dignity, and I wanted so to be careful to treat the dolphins with the  respect I felt for them. 
    The “not reaching out” part was not difficult to remember.  I am a cat person and anyone who knows and loves cats realizes that you don’t reach out and touch a new cat, or one to whom you have just been introduced.  You might do that with a dog, but with a cat, you wait until the cat presents itself.  If you reach out for a cat, it will disappear, but if you are patient and receptive, it will come to you, in its time, not yours.
    This is one of the reasons I have always thought cats were great therapy animals, even if a particular cat is not especially outgoing.  Impulse control is an important lesson.  It’s good training for children, especially juvenile offenders with whom I worked.  We should all learn to be quiet, observant and patient with other creatures.  None of us should grab, emotionally or physically.
    (Dolphins Plus in
Key Largo, Florida 1-866-860-7946.)

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