At 5:00 PM we left Key West and headed back to Parmer’s, our boring hotel in Little Torch Key for our final night of four. The next day was the treat of all! Dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key. What to say that has not been said before!

We signed up for a Dolphin Encounter, where we interacted with a mother, Marena and her yearling calf Kyle. They did all the tricks with us, including Marena towing us around the pool hanging onto her dorsal fin. What a complete blast! These dolphins are caring gentle and love to play. Matt is really the one to tell how it changed him.

Matt approaches understanding his encounter from the evolution based frame of mind.  “First off, just coming into such close contact with another earthly life form that is so intelligent, more so than other domesticated animals. And you just can’t help but think that these beings didn’t follow the same chain of evolution as us, because they are as intelligent as us, how can this be unless it is a parallel path to us?” Matt went on to share his amazement at how the dolphins teach each other the behaviors, and how closely knit they are when doing group tricks like leaping and spinning.  Most of all I was taken by how curious the dolphins are about people, just as we are about them. They just sat and watched us, just as we do them. We appreciate each other as equals.

I was taken by how much they delight in our delight, in delight itself. My horses are clicker trained, and I have seen the reciprocal joy first hand, but not to the extent that I felt it here. These sweethearts want nothing more than for all of us to be in love and in joy. I believe it is a reflection of two things: the Dolphin Research Center is positive and  honoring, and the dolphins themselves are powered by native joy.  A crappy place could probably diminish this passion in them. Certainly dolphins are indeed wild animals with their own ways. I have known divers who were beaten up by wild dolphins. Maybe this was just the dolphins not realizing the diver was a fragile playmate. Maybe it was the dolphin expressing territorial rights. Or maybe the dolphin mirrored the diver’s attitude.

My communication with these dolphins was straight forward.  “Who is your favorite trainer?” A thin blond woman (There were two of them, but Matt thinks it was Jessica, who was very enthusiastic and sweet.) “Tell me about what makes you happy?” Getting a spin perfect, sliding on a slick surface (like a seal), sex, the quietness of night, a low whistle that one of the trainers gives when he comes out alone and gives back rubs, helping small kids who are “special needs”. This came from a large dolphin named Delphi.

In Bonaire this February I spent a morning interacting with a wild pod. They told me where they would be and when, and I went to greet them, and was always just a little bit late. Finally I was able to see them, swim out to them and be with the trailing members of the pod, a mom and her calf, as they dove beneath me. Nothing even close to touching distance. The Dolphin Research Center discourages all interaction with wild dolphins because it causes dolphins to loose their wariness of people. They cited cases where moms teach the babies to approach boats for food hand outs (the center implied that this was in replacement to teaching them to fish) and that the offered feed wasn’t the correct food for them. The more serious concern to me was that the dolphins would then be unafraid of the wrong people – people who would molest them by plugging their air holes, and worse. This is a concern that I must ponder as I head for Hawaii in August, with the hope of connection with spinner dolphins.