|You know you're having fun when dolphin toys go flying.|
Not every interaction with guests is the same, thankfully. Most of the time, the exchanges are pleasant. They ask questions, we answer. If they're doing an interaction program, they follow directions well and enjoy their time with the animals. They are polite and friendly. Occasionally, we get people who are not in a great mood for a variety of reasons. And then, every so often, we get Guests Who Say The Funniest Things.
If I wrote here all of the hilarious stuff I've heard guests say since I started in this field in 2005, this blog entry would reach lengths rivaling a Proust novel. So I'm going to divide it up into categories, and today's category is:
WHAT DOLPHINS FEEL LIKE
|Dolphins feel like……...|
I ask this question all the time. I don't remember why I started asking it, though. Maybe a mentor suggested it as a good conversation starter when I first started learning how to do dolphin interactions. Sometimes it's hard to engage guests in conversation when you're first learning, so it helps to have little key phrases to get people talking. One of the more awkward periods of time in a trainer's new career is when you're setting up for your encounter guests to touch the dolphins. You'd think this would be the easiest scenario in which to have a chat about dolphin conservation, or physiology, or behavior. But it's not usually like that. Why?
Well, I want to let you all in on a little secret about dolphin interactions: most guests don't want to touch the dolphins that much.
"What???" you ask. "You're crazy, that's crazy, you are dumb."
Okay, I'm not saying all people get bored of touching dolphins. The people who are nuts about dolphins (and let's face it, most of you reading this blog are of that ilk) want to interact with the dolphins as much as possible. They love the animals, and our idea of showing affection towards animals in our culture is to give them a good rubdown. When us animal nuts meet someone's pet for the first time, we're going to want to pet them and play with them for a long time (unless, of course, they are venomous and/or are fire ants*).
But here's the thing, while many people who come to do interactions like dolphins, I'd say at least 50% of them are not animal lovers (but most of them leave with a greater appreciation for animals that they wouldn't have had without the animal encounter). In addition to that, many of our interaction guests are kids. Here is a short list of what kids would rather do than pet a dolphin:
1) Play in the water, as though there is no dolphin there
2) Give a couple of hand signals to see if the dolphin responds
3) Toss a toy around for a dolphin to play with
4) Tell you about their weird uncle who eats wood chips
That's not to say people aren't curious about how dolphin skin feels. But once they've had a couple of seconds of touching the dolphin, they usually stop themselves. Since our interactions are mostly with the animal needs in mind first, and then the guests', it can be tricky to figure out how to tailor a program to an individual person's interests. For example, if I have a dolphin who is gaga for tactile, and a guest who would really rather just see what the dolphin can do, I have some mitigating to do to keep that dolphin's interest. The same goes for the reverse scenario.
So anyways, because not everyone a) wants to touch a dolphin for 15 minutes and b) has an interest in animals, I began to get some interesting reactions to how the dolphins felt. There were so many interesting reactions, that I make it a point to ask every guest I have what they think the dolphins feel like.
And so, on this day the 4th of August, two thousand and thirteen, I present to you the Top Ten Answers To The Question "What Do Dolphins Feel Like"?
10) A wet hot dog
9) An eggplant
|The grossest vegetable around|
8) A giant olive
|Now THAT'S a giant olive!|
7) "Exactly like a shark"
6) A liver (three guests who were doctors have said this)
|Sure, clean it up, maybe dry it off a little.|
5) "My wife's legs"
|The product that can turn your skin into dolphin skin|
4) A dinner plate
3) Ice cubes covered in vaseline
|No google search could handle these keywords. Nor do I think you want to see Ice Cube in vaseline.|
2) A sink that has been drained for one hour
1) ….. The reproductive erm, area, of the guest's girlfriend
|Not even Mr. Cage could deal with this answer|
Now it's your time to share, animal trainers! What are some of the best responses you've gotten to this question (with any animal)?
* If you know someone who has pet fire ants, please contact your nearest Psychiatric Hospital for immediate action