Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Middle Flipper Is.... (Part 1)

 ...the look on my face as a young dolphin refuses to do anything but a footpush.

If I approached dolphin training the way I do driving, it would involve a lot of expletives, explosions in heart and respiratory rates, and wondering frantically about the future of humanity on this the planet Earth.

Luckily, my patience is rarely tested with dolphins or other animals*.  Call it my devotion to yoga, a deep-seeded love for all creatures that do not sting or have formic acid in their abdomens, or maybe my intensely cathartic road rage, but when a dolphin decides they want to do something that is totally opposite of what I am asking, I'm okay with it.  You simply cannot argue with a gigantic, heavy, and intelligent animal. 

So in the moment my dolphin friend in the above photo became fixated on pushing my disgusting Dolphin Trainer Feet, my goal is to calmly and expeditiously exit the water and allow the little dolphin to do whatever is she does (play with footballs? socialize with other dolphins? plot the end to the looming nuclear war in the Koreas?).

All kidding aside, I have learned a lot from Middle Flipper Events.  I've learned you should not let those moments get to you.  It's not about your "pride" as a trainer.  It's about what the animals are communicating to you, and how it will make you a more effective trainer and caregiver in the long run.  No matter how the trainer feels after a dolphin has told them to go fish** and peaces out from The Important Show, or The Training Session the Boss Is Watching, or The Routine Husbandry Behavior, having a dolphin tell you to fly a kite is what makes this job incredible.  Does it not support what we know as trainers to be true?  That this is all voluntary?  That the animals with whom we work have a mind of their own?  That they can say, "My, what pretty feet you have! The better to push endlessly on, my dear!" 

* This does not extend to my sun conure Cher.

** Haha, get it?