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Trust. Possibly unquantifiable. Hard to earn. Extremely easy to lose.

This female White-Sided Dolphin [ the one in my pictures ] had picked up the habit of nipping at the fingers of people who were trying to feed her. Perhaps she had a mean streak, not every dolphin is as friendly as portrayed, though it's mostly captive ones that get a 'tude. Perhaps she had been poorly treated in the past and she simply distrusted humans now. Maybe another game, scare the human. Whatever the reason, this caused people to drop the fish they were feeding her in the water. She would then quickly pick it up and swim off.

I never saw her actually bite anybody besides me.

I had intentionally not pulled back as she expected and she wound up getting two of my fingers. I could feel the points of her teeth but she did not break the skin. Not that hard, about what I would think it would take to hold a struggling fish. My hand twitched at the contact and I think this surprised her as she quickly let go and swam off. Dead fish don't move on their own. I didn't pull back, I kept my hand where it was. The "bite" was accidental and unintentional. She swam by several times observing me. We had good eye contact. She tried couple more times to get a reaction out of me by acting like she was going to bite my fingers still failing to the reaction she expected out of me. She then started playing what I now call "The Keep Away Game". That staying just exactly one inch from my fingertips no matter how much I stretched out or pulled back. I had played this game with many other Dolphins by now and I had learned to hold my reach back just a bit and on the her next pass, I quickly closed the gap and touched her with one fingertip down her side as she swam by. Game won, first round. It apparently surprised her as she twitched slightly but didn't break stride swimming by. It's not easy to surprise a Cetacean when they can see you coming with their sonar.

A couple of passes later with some good eye contact from them, she finally came closer and pressed against my hand as she swam by. A nice long rub from just above her pec down her side to her flukes and off. This continued for a couple of minutes

Everyone, no matter the species, has that "One Spot" that they just cannot scratch when it itches and the love it when someone they trust knows what to do. Cetaceans seem to have several, around the base of the Dorsal Fin, where the Flukes join the tail, the corners of the mouth, the spot behind the Pectoral Flipper which also seems to be ticklish.

She began slowing down as she passed allowing more contact time. Trust was growing faster than usual it seemed this time. Perhaps she felt a bit guilty at having bit me and was trying to make up for it now that she realized I was one of the good guys.

On her next pass, she pressed her melon against my hand as she swam slowly by and stopped when my hand reached her flukes. There are several places in this area that are problematic for them to rub against to get rid of dead skin. The buildup even gives it a different feel than the rest of the body. I've learned the difference over time. I started rubbing one of the areas to get rid of the old skin, she went totally limp and just floated there. There is only a slight current in the tank but it is enough to cause her to drift away which she did. Even after I stopped because she was out of reach, it seemed to take her a few seconds to recover and be able to swim off for a moment and come back for more, like she was waking up from a trance or something. This went on for some time, I don't know how long, 10-15 mins maybe longer.

On her next pass she rolled over belly up and laid her flukes in my arms. A very vulnerable position for her. Trust was growing very rapidly. I must have made her feel real guilty about biting me with this quality of attention. This went on for several minutes. I stopped to give her a chance to roll over and breathe. She didn't move for about 10 seconds, then her pecs began waving a bit but slowly as she tried to roll over. I applied a gentle twisting motion to her flukes to which she pushed back. I pushed a little harder to give her leverage and she slowly rolled over to take a breath and without stopping continued the roll right back over for me to continue. Conservation of Energy and Momentum. Nice.

This continued for several more minutes. I again stopped so she could breathe. This time, 10 seconds and no movement… 15 seconds… 20 seconds… Now I start to panic a bit. Cetaceans are conscious breathers. This means they have to think about taking a breath, like a Human would have to think to hold their breath. Unconsciousness means they don't breathe and die. Did it feel so good she passed out? I reached down and rolled her over right side up and held her at the surface waiting. After what seemed like an eternity, she shook a bit and finally took a breath. She was still shaking a bit and stayed in my arms. I was so relieved I pulled her closer to give her a hug and a kiss on the melon.

I just stayed there holding her letting her recover. It was at this point that the other White-Sided came over. He came up between us and pushed her out of my arms. My arms were still in the water somewhat around him and I knew enough at this point to not move. He did a couple of jaw snaps underwater and I could see the whites of his eyes as we made eye contact. He was clearly upset at me with all the attention I was giving to the female. They were the only two White-Sides in the tank at the time. Mates perhaps? Does he see me as a rival or possible challenge to his authority? Got to be careful here. The female was bobbing on the other side of him rubbing against him occasionally with eyes wide as well in apparent concern of what he was doing as well. Perhaps trying to tell him she's ok and I'm one of the good guys. This tableau continued for a few seconds as I decided what to do while we stared at each other. So I reached around him and gave him a hug to say thank you for allowing me the encounter and began rubbing him under the chin showing him I'd gladly share the attention she was getting with him. All the while keeping eye contact. He tensed for a moment as this apparently caught him by surprise. Then he closed his eyes and relaxed in my arms letting me continue rubbing him under the chin. After a bit he let me move onto his Dorsal Fin and then Flukes. Giving him some of the same attention I'd been giving the female. He reacted the same way, seemingly taking a moment to recover and swim off when I stopped then turn around and came back for more. The female seemed relieved by this turn of events and began rubbing against his side again. This went on for a minute or two and then I had to say my goodbyes to them and leave for the day.

They were always glad to see me after this.
  • Listening to: Dustwave
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:iconselenethewerewolf:
SeleneTheWerewolf Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012
Where was this? I was just at SW Orlando yesterday going to Key West before my shift and I had one of the dolphins do a head stand with his/her fluke within my reach. I reached over and began to rub his/her tail down. Are there other places dolphins like to be rubbed? I gave a few other fluke rubs before one of the trainers thought I grabbing onto the flukes
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0rcinusorca Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012
It happened at SWC some years ago. There are several areas they might like, it depends on the particular Individual. Usually areas they are unable to rub against something to remove built up dead skin.

Around the base of the Dorsal Fin, at the base of the Pectoral Fin at the back, the human equivalent of the armpit, many are also ticklish here. The area where the Flukes join the tail.

You must have a good relationship with that particular Dolphin for it to present its Flukes to you in that manner. They don't do that for just anyone. It is sad that such "trainers" don't understand it would not be possible to hold onto their Flukes that way unless they let you. It is all about mutual Trust between you and the Cetacean. I've had them lay their flukes in my arms for a rubdown once we knew and Trusted each other.

Fortunately they were much less Draconian about it when I was visiting otherwise they would have burst a blood vessel when one of the Orcas in the petting pool grabbed my arm in its mouth.
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SeleneTheWerewolf Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012
that last paragraph made me laugh lol

But yeah, I try to visit Key West whenever I can and go to the underwater viewing area. I had also did the marine mammal keeper experience and we visited Key West, it could've been on of the dolphins I worked with and he/she remember me. And I've interacted with a few dolphins in the underwater viewing area.

I've also got a good relationship with one of the Blue Horizon dolphins, Clyde.
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0rcinusorca Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012
I'm waiting until Kasatka gives birth at SWC before I visit. It's been 32 years since I've seen her in the petting pool. Hoping she remembers me when I do.
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:iconselenethewerewolf:
SeleneTheWerewolf Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012
Wow.
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who-the-moon-is Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
great narrative. <3 thanks for sharing!
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:icon0rcinusorca:
0rcinusorca Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012
Thank You. Glad you enjoyed it.
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December 14, 2012
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