Dolphins at Dolphins Plus, Key Largo, Florida
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love dolphins. In fact, if I met such a person, I would probably run fast in the opposite direction. Over the years, we’ve had experiences with these incredible mammals – swimming with them at Key Largo’s Dolphin Plus and in Venezuela. The initial swim came about as a result of an email from a reader of my novels, Vivian Ortiz, who subsequently became a friend. The swims resulted in as novel called Vanished, which was about what would happen if dolphins and other mammals suddenly rebelled against us.
This synchronicity involving dolphins came from Renee Prince. Here’s her website. Last year, her blog came up in a google alert and we left a comment. She recently got back to us with this remarkable story. We’ve edited it for length.
Years ago, I was jogging along the shore of the southern California beach where I lived at the time, checking the ocean every few seconds for dolphins, hoping to see them and perhaps go bodysurfing to share a wave with them. My interest in dolphins is an obsession, one that I have had ever since the age of seventeen, when I decided I wanted to work on interspecies communication with cetaceans. I worked with dolphins and orcas for years, earning a Masters degree in experimental psychology in order to study dolphin cognition, with the hope that this would lead to building some sort of mutual communication system between their species and ours.
Unfortunately, after working with dolphins in captivity I came to realize that life in the tanks is ultimately an early death sentence for dolphins, and the brief life they do have is impoverished and intolerable. After two of my dolphins died, I left dolphin research, in part because I couldn’t face another death of another one of my friends, and I had no power to change their situation. Captive dolphins and whales are, to the rest of the world, simply property, to be sold, used, and disposed of quickly when they no longer can serve human purposes. Since then I’ve lived with the guilt and pain of having left the dolphins behind.
But I have never been able to forget them, or my love for them. After I actually came to know dolphins, swimming with them every day, working with them on cognitive testing, they revealed themselves to be much, much more than I could have imagined when I first became interested in studying them. Decades later, even though I had changed careers to work in the film business, I lived next to the beach in order to be near them and, like I did that day, often jogged along the shore, always looking past the waves for the tell-tale arcs of fins or exhalations that meant dolphins were once again visiting my section of the beach.
I would see them once in a while, and would rush out to meet them, hoping they could stay and play. Often they moved on past, intent on making it to some destination or fishing for the next meal. Sometimes they might ride a wave or two with me, illuminating my life for days to come with the memory of our eyes meeting briefly, a flash of contact and then gone.
This day it was getting late, and I was the only person on the beach, a strange event in and of itself—I lived on a popular beach in the LA area. I first noticed the dolphin in the waves, and I could tell something was terribly wrong. The surf was washing over him, tumbling him over and over. He was trying to get to shore. I knew immediately what was happening. The dolphin was in serious trouble, and had to reach land because he was too weak to keep himself afloat. He was in eminent danger of drowning.
I ran into the water and pushed out toward him. When he saw me, his eyes widened in fear, just for a moment, and then he headed directly toward me. At that second, I had the odd, yet utterly certain feeling that this dolphin had been waiting for me. When we reached each other and I put my arms around him, in just way I had always done with my own dolphin friends so many years ago, he relaxed against me and looked up at me with complete trust. I held him upright, keeping his blowhole above water, and he helped us head toward shore, moving his pectoral fins to steer us and slowly pumping his flukes.
We kept in constant eye contact as I talked to him, telling him all the things I had planned to say on a day like today. I promised I would not leave his side. I would call the marine mammal rescue center—I knew the number by heart—and I would ride with him to wherever they could keep him, even if it had to be Sea World, the place I had fled long ago. And this time, I wouldn’t let Sea World keep him captive—I would make sure he was released back into the sea when he was well.
But as we reached the shore, in water only a few inches deep, my dolphin wanted to turn around, to face back out to sea. I helped him turn, and he came to a stop. He lay back in my arms, looked deeply and calmly into my eyes, and died. I saw the light go out of him. Somehow this dolphin, who never would have been near shore—he was a deep water species, Delphinus delphis—had traveled untold miles away from his world and had, in an utterly alien world, met the only human on this beach who could have seen him, who knew what he wanted and could help him get to shore. He died in the arms of someone who, he must have known, loved him instantly and without conditions; someone who knew dolphins and for years had longed with all her heart for another chance at contact with his kind.
It took me a long time to process this incident. I had thought I was there to save him. I made promises to him and made plans to give him back his life, to make him well. When that didn’t happen, I was horrified, angry at God, fate, the Tao—whatever. I was angry at myself. What if I had seen my dolphin earlier, before he was too weak to make it? Was there something I could have done differently or better so that he could have been saved? But I was left with no explanation, only the power and soul-wrenching synchronicity of our encounter.
I’ve come to believe that my dolphin wanted to die in the presence of love. I had given him that, I was sure.
The results of this synchronicity are many and still on-going.
When I first read her email, my heart cried. Then I began to wonder where this story fit into the complex realm of synchronicity. And I think it fits in the realm of Gaia – the earth as a living, organic being that speaks to us constantly. Its messengers are the creatures of the planet – with dolphins and whales as the messengers that probably surpass us in intelligence and spiritual understanding. I also feel that Renee is right – this dolphin chose to die in the embrace of love.
An odd postscript to this synchro. Hours before we put Renee’s synchro on the dashboard, I read about a funeral for a dolphin in New Zealand that was attended by hundreds of people. Then, on the way into my office after a break, I stumbled on one of Noah’s doggie toys – a little dolphin.