Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time to Paint!

We’ve all heard the saying, “monkey see, monkey do”, but what about “dolphin see, trainer do”? We’ve learned to get creative when introducing something new to the dolphins.

Paint with a Dolphin is one of the most popular programs Dolphin Research Center offers. In this dock session, guests pick two colors, hold out a t-shirt, and watch as a dolphin creates a work of art. As you can imagine, the dolphins don’t use their flippers to hold the paintbrush; they use their mouths! To keep the process “dolphin safe” we use non toxic paint and created a brush that our gray faced friends can maneuver easily and not swallow. We’ve recently introduced a new paint brush to the dolphins and are training them to use it. As a brand new object, some of them are a little reluctant to use something slightly different. This paint brush had a much larger base than the ones the dolphins typically use.  

Aleta and Merina love to paint!

 During a training session, Merina and Aleta were shown by their trainer, Linda, how great it is to have a new paint brush. Linda asked them to open their mouths and then hold the object. This resulted in several splashes in the lagoon as both girls hesitated with the new object. Linda decided to place it in her mouth first to show them that it was absolutely safe. It was quite a sight to see. Linda held the brush and pretended to paint like a dolphin. Merina and Aleta watched their trainer and became interested in the new object.

After a little persuasion, Merina decided to give it a try. She held the handle in her mouth for about ten seconds before she let it drop. Then it was Aleta’s turn. Miss Aleta wasn’t as interested as her sister and didn’t hold the brush on her own. Linda asked her to touch it, and when she did, congratulated her.

This was the first time that Aleta and Merina saw the new paintbrush and we’re thrilled with the first step in the training process. DRC wants to always keep experiences positive for the dolphins, so after each of the girls at least touched the brush it was time to play. It may take a couple more sessions to get the girls comfortable with the new item, but they’ll be painting with it in no time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reese Raspberries

Reese loves to observe his environment.
As a baby dolphin, Reese explores his surroundings. This not only includes his other lagoon mates and the critters in the water, but also his trainers. Every trainer has a unique relationship with the dolphins and brings something new to the table. Recently one of the trainers, Christina, brought out Reese’s silly side.

At the end of a session, Christina stuck her head in the water and blew bubbles. This was a brand new experience for little Reese and at first he wasn’t quite sure what to do. He stared at her for a bit and seemed to be interested but didn’t know how to react himself.

Later on in the day, Christina tried it again. Once more, she stuck her head in the water and blew raspberries at the little guy. Reese, again, was interested and this time got closer to her face. She looked at her from side to side and then stuck his face in the bubbles. All of a sudden a switch went off in Reese’s head. He backed up and imitated her.

After the exposure to raspberries, Reese went bubble crazy. He started to make huge bubble trains and learned how to make the raspberry noise outside of the water. He loves to blow bubbles underneath the water then come up and raspberry at the trainers.

Dolphins learn through imitation of their mothers and peers so now that Reese is raspberrying on his own, the trainers give him the signal every time he does it. We hope that he begins to associate the signal with the raspberry.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Item of the Week

The featured item of the week is a DRC/American Flag tee. Available in both adult and child sizes. This 100% white cotton tee proudly displays the AMERICAN FLAG and our name, DOLPHIN RESEARCH CENTER.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Best of Marathon Awards

Many thanks to everyone who voted Dolphin Research Center Best Tourist attraction in the Best of Marathon awards! President and CEO Rita Irwin proudly shows off our award.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A.J. and Sandy Go Crazy!

A.J. is known for is his crazy dolphin impression. For those of you who have never seen it, it’s very similar to a splash except he goes absolutely berserk! His entire body wiggles and he rapidly moves his pectoral flippers. A lot of times he does this behavior in conjunction with a splash fight or back tail walk.

A few months ago, we changed the boys’ living situation. A.J. still lives in a lagoon with Tanner and Jax, but has now welcomed Sandy and Rainbow into his social unit. Since then, we’ve seen a shift in who the boys hang out with. Sandy, who is the least dominant dolphin of the more mature males, enjoys spending time with A.J. and seems to have picked up on some of his moves.

When Sandy was asked to splash, he responded by doing a crazy dolphin routine. When he insanely splashes, he gets everyone soaked. For a brief second, you could swear it was A.J. showing off his signature behavior. Sandy’s become such a fan of it that he goes off into his own little world as he plays.

However, when A.J. and Sandy pair up and act like crazy dolphins together, it is an incredible sight! The two go back and forth, shake, wiggle, thrash, and have a grand time. It’s cool to see that the boys get so big a kick out of imitating each other.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aleta Gifts

Aleta gave her trainer a beautiful flower.
We often wonder what is at the bottom of the dolphin lagoons. Whenever we ask for a present, and even when we don’t, the dolphins always manage to find something unique to give. Whether it’s a rock, a clump of sea grass, or a once-lost toy, you can tell that each dolphin “shops” with intention.

During a session with her trainer, Debbie, Aleta snagged a beautiful flower from her hidden stash of presents. When she presented it to her trainer, Debbie said thank you, told her how beautiful it was, and then put it back into the water so that Aleta could re-gift it to someone else. Each time that it was put down, Aleta grabbed it and showed it to her once again as if to say, “No, I want you to hold onto this forever.”

After a few nudges from Aleta, it was clear that this was no ordinary flower, but was meant as a token of love. To please Miss Allie, Debbie put the flower in her hair and showed her how gorgeous it looked. It was a dolphin fascinator!

Aleta watched as her trainer kept the flower in her hair throughout the rest of their session. When Debbie left the dock, she showed Aleta that she was taking the flower with her and thanked her once again for such a wonderful gift.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Item of the Week

Have you checked out the awesome new merchandise in our online gift shop recently? This white cotton tee shirt lets all you friends and family know that you were swimming with the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center. It's a great wardrobe addition for our younger DRC members!

I Swam With Dolphins T-shirt

Second Hand Wardrobe Day!

August 25th is Second Hand Wardrobe Day and it looks like Santini found one of Molly's famous scarves! Today is a great day to go through your closet, or someone elses, and see what treasures you can find. What's your favorite second hand item?

National Dog Day

Today is National Dog Day. No need to leave your furry friends at the hotel or in your car or RV. Dolphin Research Center is pet-friendly and welcomes responsible owners with their pets that are leashed or harnessed. Next time you're thinking about a vacation with your pooch, bring them with you to see the dolphins!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Sandy!

Happy Birthday to this awesome big guy, Sandy! Today he turns 34. Sandy is one of the most creative dolphins when it comes to ad-lib sessions. While he sometimes comes off as the silent type, Sandy has a larger than life sense of humor. He loves to make people giggle and will do anything to put a smile on someones face. We love this handsome man so much! Happy Birthday Sandy!

Congrats Joan!

We are delighted to announce that DRC's Director of Special Needs Joan Mehew has been chosen by the Wounded Warrior Project as one of the 2013 Carry Forward Awards recipients. Joan and DRC are deeply honored by this recognition. Many thanks to all of you who supported Joan with your votes during the public voting period.

Fetching Cayo

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and all you want to do is get out of bed and play. This happened to Cayo one day at Dolphin Research Center. Cayo has shown us that she has a very independent dolphinality. She likes things on her own terms and if she doesn’t want to do something, she won’t.

As people stopped by the front lagoon to say hello to the maternity pod, Cayo swam over. She showed off a large leaf she had found in the water. As she fluttered back and forth in front of the tiki-coveredsection, she began to make clicks from her blowhole.

To make her motives clear, Cayo took the piece of foliage and threw it onto the concrete area where guestsstood. Unable to resist her charm, a woman threw the leaf back into the lagoon. This sparked a game of fetch. Each time, after Cayo threw the leaf back, she excitedly swam further and further to indicate she wanted it tossed out as far as possible. Each new round resulted in an even more enthusiastic Cayo.

The game went on for several minutes before it was time for the guest to move onto her interactive program. As she walked away, Cayo began to scream as if to say, “Hey, we were having fun. Come back!” The woman waved goodbye and thanked Cayo for the memories.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Caleb's Dream Trip

Sophia and Caleb share a special moment with Santini.
At the age of 13, Sophia Young embarked on a mission to give her older brother, Caleb, his life wish. Caleb, who has Tetrasomy 18p, has only asked his family for one thing in life: to swim with dolphins. Last July, Sophia decided to make it happen.

Sophia started a Facebook page entitled “Caleb’s Dream Trip” in July of 2012 and sold dream catchers for $3 with a goal to reach $15,000 to fund Caleb’s trip. The Young family thought it would take several years to reach the monetary amount needed to take a trip to the Keys, but with incredible support from the local media in Fort Wayne, Indiana, neighboring Ohio areas, and her Facebook fans, Sophia and her family raised the money in less than a year.

The majority of the money came in after January of this year. After a radio spot, Sophia raised over $1,000 in three days. By March, she’d brought in  $10,000.  The family decided to make plans for their trip.  It wasn’t until the day before they left that Sophia reached her goal.

Sophia’s mother found Dolphin Research Center while searching online last November. They felt that DRC had the right atmosphere for Caleb and that the Special Needs department would make it possible for them to do several interactions with the needed assistance. While here, from July 6th to July 13th, 2013, the family participated in a Dolphin Dip together, and Caleb had the opportunity to do two Dolphin Encounters as well as Paint with a Dolphin. Sophia and Caleb did an Encounter together with Santini and baby Reese. As their family looked on at the siblings, there were tears in their eyes. After each behavior, Caleb excitedly hugged his sister. He couldn’t believe his dream was coming true!

One of the purposes for taking this trip, besides Caleb finally swimming with dolphins, was to see him relax in the water. Like others with Tetrasomy 18p, the clusters of nerve fibers in Caleb’s spinal cord that regulate voluntary and reflex muscle activity do not function appropriately. As a result, affected individuals exhibit several neuromuscular abnormalities, such as increased muscle tone (hypertonia); increased reflex reactions (hyperreflexia); and/or muscle stiffness and awkwardness in movement (spasticity). In addition, in some individuals with Tetrasomy 18p, electrical disturbances may occur in the brain, causing involuntary tightening and relaxing (clonus) of specific muscles or muscle groups (motor seizures).

Due to his condition, Caleb has never been able to fully relax his body. The family felt that interaction with the dolphins in the water would allow this to happen. As Caleb swam out into the lagoon, with assistance from a member of our Special Needs department, and held onto Santini by himself, the relaxation that his family had hoped for was apparent. Sophia and the rest of the family began to cry as he was pulled around the lagoon. Not only was Caleb’s dream realized, but theirs was too.

To reward Sophia for all her hard work and dedication to Caleb’s Dream Trip, her family surprised her with Trainer for a Day. She spent an entire day with trainers learning all about dolphins and partaking in sessions. Sophia told us, “I don’t deserve anything because I did it all for Caleb.” The two, while a decade apart in age, are as close as twins. Sophia tells him all of her secrets and their love for one another is visible to even strangers.

This was the Youngs’ very first family vacation. “What better way to go on vacation than to fulfill my brother’s dream,” says Sophia. While here, the Youngs took in the sights that the Keys offer, visited local restaurants, soaked up the sun, and, of course, gave Caleb the opportunity to live his dream.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Item of the Week

Here's one of the awesome t-shirts we have in our online gift shop! The Naval Chart Pocket Tee is 100% cotton and has a pocket on the front with our DRC Logo. The back shows a chart of the Florida Keys. Check out this item and many others online.

Naval Chart Pocket Tee

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Happiness Happens Day!

Happy Happiness Happens Day! Happiness is contagious, so share your smile and laughter with everyone around you.

What makes YOU happy today?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bradford's Worm Stand

This is Bradford. Last spring he visited DRC and met Jax, a victim of a shark attack. Jax was found in the Saint John’s River in Jacksonville, FL and estimated to be around six to eight months old. Jax had lost part of his pectoral flipper, dorsal, and tail fluke and was not with any other dolphins. After Jax was rescued and rehabilitated, the government deemed him un-releasable due to his age and... the DRC family was thrilled to welcome him with open flippers. Jax’s story touched Bradford so deeply that he wanted to help him after his visit.

Bradford, as a summer fundraising project, wanted to make and sell cookies in his town. He made chocolate chip cookies on his own, with only his moms help with the oven. He then set up a stand in town with lots of signage and got lots of traffic. To continue his efforts and raise more to send to Jax, Bradford also created a "worm stand" He collected worms from the yard, put three in each baby food jar with dirt and sold them as "pets" in his neighborhood. He sold out in 30 minutes!

He earned a total of $25.56 all on his own which he has sent into the Dolphin Research Center. Bradford would like to raise more in order to earn a commemorative brick on DRC’s walkway of donors, so he will continue his efforts in the fall.

Great job Bradford! From Jax, and the rest of the DRC pod, thank you so much for your support.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Item of the Week

The item of the week is a DRC Logo 1 GB USB Flash Drive. It is preloaded with photos of our DRC residents and allows space to load your own photos. It' a great way to take a piece of DRC with you, everywhere you go.

DRC logo USB

Sisters Day!

Happy Sisters Day! Pandora and Calusa are not only siblings but best friends too. Share this fun photo with a sister you love.