Since 2009 the Dolphin Research Center in Florida has been partnering with the Wounded Warrior Project to ease severely wounded heroes into healthy civilian lives. Project Odyssey, named for Homer’s saga of a hero’s journey home, helps brain injured and PTSD warriors work through challenges and improve their outlook. The warriors participate with peers in a three day retreat which includes dolphin dock interactions and a dolphin swim. The atmosphere and activities are designed to invite warriors to connect with their outer world in a stress-free, nurturing environment. In addition to core goals of bonding with others on similar journeys, connecting with nature, and learning new skills in a novel setting, the program supports the warriors […]
A dolphin named Tanner whistled wheezy squeals as Emily Guarino, Administrative Director of Research, explained the research games we would ask him to play. Maybe because the sound came from his blowhole instead of his mouth, I couldn’t be sure where it came from. Emily said that the sound is associated with high levels of dopamine, meaning Tanner was indisputably HAPPY. He was excited to play research games with me. Imagine my dopamine level. Many thanks to the dedicated staff at Dolphin Research Center who engineered that joy-fest.
Both of the dolphinariums I visited last week host a couple sea lions amid their extensive dolphin collections. There’s obviously a far greater demand for dolphin time than sea lion. I asked Mary Stella, Director of Media and Marketing at Florida’s Dolphin Research Center what it is about sea lions that makes them less appealing than dolphins. She called that “an invalid question.” Sea lions, she assured me, are charming and so smart that DRC’s Kilo responds to over 150 different requests from his handlers. The only explanation Mary could offer for the disparity in popularity is that no sea lion rock star like Flipper has come forward to inspire mass adoration. I hope you won’t judge me when I admit that […]