Monday, September 29, 2008

Kids Who Grew Up to Work Together

We often talk about the fact that we are one family at Dolphin Research Center – footed, finned and flippered! Most of you know that we have two and three generations of dolphins. You might not realize, however, that we also have two generations of dolphin trainers. Kelly Jayne Rodriguez is the daughter of the DRC co-founders President/CEO Jayne Shannon Rodriguez and Executive Vice President Mandy Rodriguez. Jennifer Erb is the daughter of Vice President of Animal Care and Training Linda Erb.

Kelly Jayne and Jenn both grew up at DRC, playing here with their siblings as well as the DRC dolphins. (Something that Jayne and Mandy’s granddaughter/Kelly Jayne’s niece Madison now does, too!)

As young adults, they now work with dolphins as a career. Recently, KJ and Jenn engaged in some informal playtime with the dolphins up in the front lagoon. Jenn threw out an oversized inflated beachball and the game was on. Ras and Gypsi chased after it, batting it around, and then steering it back to the dock so Jenn could toss it out again and again. Santini got into the act, playing with the ball and screaming encouragement at Kelly Jayne and Jenn. Maybe she remembers when they all used to play as kids.

Eventually, Ras steered the ball into the far corner and got it stuck in the mangroves. Kelly Jayne carefully walked the narrow boardwalk ledge across the lagoon to rescue the ball. She tossed it back to the dolphins, and what do you think Santini did?

She knocked it back into the mangroves again for KJ to retrieve. Tina smiled as if to say, “See what I made you do?” Definitely the dolphins like to turn the tables and train us!

Jenn came over to help and a new game started. Whenever one of the young women tossed back the ball, one of the dolphins took aim and tried to knock it under the boardwalk or into the mangroves.

The fun continued for quite sometime while guests and other staff members laughed and applauded the action. Finally, KJ and Jenn had to go off to do a “real” session with other dolphins, but everybody – dolphin and human – knew that another chance for playtime would come around soon.


Cheryl said...

I had the pleasure of running Dolphin Day Camp in the summer of 1995. Jennifer and Kelly Jane were in my camp, and were definitely a challenging pair to work with :-). It has been amazing to watch them blossom into beautiful, talented, terrific young ladies over the last 13 years. I look forward to seeing them when ever I have the chance to get down to DRC.

Jenn & KJ -
I am so proud of both of you!

Cheryl Wickstrom