Thursday, December 9, 2010

Childhood dreams

I've got a post in the works about how I broke a personal rule, made a fool of myself and managed to check number 18 off my list all in one go, but since I wrote it after about three glasses of champagne it's going to need some heavy editing before it gets published. You don't mind waiting, do you? In the mean time, here's a brief ode to a personal hero of mine - my Grade 2 teacher, Mrs McFadyn.

When I was 7 years old, I was lucky enough to encounter one of those truly wonderful, caring teachers who come along so rarely now. At one point early in  my second year of school, she introduced us to the world of whales and dolphins. Being an exceptional teacher, she did everything she could to get us excited, and man did it work for me. I was hooked from that first lesson, and spent the next several years obsessed with these graceful creatures. I was convinced that I would only find happiness and fulfillment in life while working with them, and so decided that I had to be a marine biologist when I grew up. There was no other option. 

This belief continued until I realized, with some consternation, that I don't like water very much. It's fine to drink, and I'd be lost without my morning shower, but present me with the prospect of a swim in the sea, or even a so called heated pool, and I start to shiver uncontrollably and break out in goose bumps. Eventually I realized that I'd have to reconsider my career choices, but I never lost my fascination with the under water world.

Enter the Wet and Wild Water Park in Cancun, and more to the point, the dolphin swim. Oh. my. My inner seven year old was squealing with delight so much that it completely drowned out the sterner, more adult voice of reason which makes me deplore these sorts of parks, since I've never been one to believe that animals are here for my entertainment. I'm always disgusted by tv shows like When Animals Attack, because they make attacks seem like such a freak occurrence, something to wonder at and blame the animal for, when really they are usually brought on by a combination of stupid humans doing stupid things, and the fact that we're encroaching so much on what is essentially their territory that they are left crowded into an area too small to meet their needs. 

Anyways, my point is, sober logic about the ethical value of animal parks aside, I was excited. I was going to fulfill a childhood dream. And I didn't care about the cold. 

For 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated heaven, I got to touch, swim with, and even kiss dolphins (no tongue please). I got to laugh at the way they didn't seem to mind us too much, but were really just doing it for the fish. I got to marvel at the fact that if one of them didn't want to do a trick, they didn't have to, since they are still wild animals. And best of all, I got to swim, belly to belly, with a beautiful Bottlenose dolphin named Pablo while he pulled me across the pool so quickly we were sending waves over the other swimmers. It was absolutely marvelous. I'm still reeling with delight.

In honour of Mrs. McFadyn, here are three facts I didn't know (or had forgotten) about Bottlenose dolphins before my swim with them yesterday:

1. They have spotted tongues.
2. They have between 80 and 100 teeth but swallow their food whole.
3. Their dorsal fins (the ones on their backs) are like fingerprints - no two are the same. 

What do you think about animal parks, and dolphin parks in particular? Are you for or against them? Would you, like me, ignore that inner voice for a chance to be so close to an animal you love?

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