If it’s #NationalDolphinDay, you better believe I’m gonna post my dolphin friend from the Bahamas!
This was a typical touristy thing to do, but ended up being a really humbling & amazing experience…
The dolphins lived in the ocean, but were “tamed” enough to be taught tricks and to come to the little “swim with the dolphins” area every day. It was impressive on the dolphins’ part.
During the boat ride to the dolphin area, we were all assigned a number and told it would correspond to a dolphin buddy that would swim around with us. They explained how the encounter would go: we would be introduced and then swim around, accompanied by our dolphins buddy, for awhile, we were NOT to expose our stomachs (“no swimming on your back”); before we finished, we would all line up in the water, our dolphin buddy would take a command from us, do the corresponding trick, get a fish from the trainers, then go back to its regularly-scheduled programming.
We got to the dock of the dolphin arena, and everything started rolling exactly how they explained.
We swam around, doing the typical thing. I got in trouble for doing a spin underwater / how they saw me, I’ll never know (stupid beautiful, clear, perfect water). But my dolphin did it, so why couldn’t I??
We lined up for the closing act. I gave my dolphin buddy a command, it did the trick… then… it just stayed, suspended in the water in front of me.
I looked right into its eyes.
It was looking right back at me.
It laid on its back, letting me pet its rubbery belly. “Ha! It’s like a wet tire!”
The trainers were less-than-thrilled. They slapped the water, blew their whistles, shook the fish bucket. But my friend stayed. It had other plans, wanted my phone number, or something. Maybe it was like, ‘I’m gonna kill me a Texan today’ – who knows.
In that moment of eye contact, though, I was as scared as I was humbled. That thing had home court advantage. I was in its house. It could have done terrible things to me. But it didn’t. I remember getting the chills in the warm ocean water as a sense of peaceful realization washed over me.
I became aware of exactly how small I was.
But I showed up to face the moment. All my senses were heightened, and my inner voice told me something like, “You better tune into what this dolphin is doing.”
So, I looked at it again, right in the eyes, and took my best crap-I’m-in-the-water-but-have-to-seem-authoritative position. I gave it another command, swirling my fingers in the air – “Do a spin.”
It seemed like a lightbulb clicked in its head – “She’s talking to me!” – and it retreated a few feet before doing a few 360s.
It did a few tricks, unprompted… the “talking” thing, a dorsal wave, all with that dolphin smile on its face.
I rubbed its belly some more, uncomfortably aware of how much the trainers were trying to get it back under their control.
I gave it another command then, after it did it, gave it the motion I had seen the trainer use to tell it to swim in a certain direction. With two fingers, I did my best traffic cop impression, trying to send it to the trainers. It lingered for a second before going to retrieve its fish. Then, it disappeared around the dock that separated our area from the cove and great big ocean.
I’ll never know what that dolphin saw or felt, but this picture – and the attached memories – gives me the chills every time.
[Also, thank goodness my pants were already wet, cuz…]