Friday, June 9th, 10:50PM
Things went fairly well today, although fairly uneventful compared to the first few days. I feel like Ive started developing a routine now and things are becoming a little more predictable, but still very enjoyable.
The morning wasnt that busy for me. I worked on a few hand signals that I wanted to try on my next local, but other than that I just did a few assignments for the research they were doing. I was TAA for the angular resolution study with Hiapo (I handed the bar thingies to the guy who put them on the apparatus), and a general observer for the Delay Repeat study with Akeakamai. We also had another hand signs lecture and a lecture on dolphin senses.
I went for lunch at some sandwich shop by the facility across from the Ward center shopping mall today. Its supposedly a famous café, but I had never heard of it before. Ill probably go back tomorrow, so Ill get the name then. The sandwich wasnt particularly excellent though.
I was hoping to get a local today, and I got my wish. I was really hoping to get Elele or Akeakamai since I hadnt worked with either of them yet, but in particular I wanted to work with Elele I guess. Ellie was the one who I accidentally gave that squishy ball to, and who bopped me the other day. She is also Robin Williams favorite dolphin, and probably the youngest one there. She has a particular way about her that makes me think shed be fun to work with. I was right.
I had Robert as a trainer today, a fairly nice guy with particular views on most things. He asked me what I wanted to work on in this session, and he suggested I try general manipulation and adlibbing rather than just plain old commands. I told him that I had a list of things I wanted to try and he liked that idea, but he also said it can be a lot of fun if you just play around with the dolphin without using particular commands to do it. I asked Robert if I could be beside the fish bucket for the session this time, and he said that would be fine. I had a problem with Pheonix always looking at the trainer beside the bucket last time and I didnt want that problem this time.
When I was up with Elele, she was very VERY attentive. Even Robert said that. I was lucky enough to have the ENTIRE session for myself (in other words, no other participants to share the time with), but I was limited in what I could do with her. Hiapo was doing angular resolution training right across from us, so I couldnt send Ellie on any jumps or long swims while any particular trial was going on. That was almost the whole time too. I had written down a list of commands I wanted to try, but I couldnt use most of them because they were mainly high energy. That left me just sitting there, staring at poor Ellie wondering what I could do to keep her interested. She was very cooperative and did most of everything I asked her, but I was standing there thinking of things to get her to do while she sat there, looking intently at me, waiting until I made a decision. Its a really neat feeling when you know that shes looking at you and waiting for you, sitting there straight up and attentive. I just take one look at her and see just how cute she really is, and I forget everything.
Robert showed me how I can manually move her around without using any commands. If you just sort of point in the direction you want her to lye and put your hand on her side, shell sit there and let you move her around all you want. I tried rotating her, pushing her side to side and holding on to her tail as she floats past, pulling her back using her tail (gently of course), and all sorts of stuff like that. Once she knows how youre moving her, she tries to help you do it by either pumping her tail a little if shes moving forward, twisting her body to make it easier to rotate her, or arching her body to help you pull her back easier and quicker. Its amazing just how heavy she actually feels when youre trying this sort of stuff; kind of like trying to move a big log in the water, only with a vinyl covering =). She was kind of getting a little impatient after a while. I should have grabbed a ball or something, but I didnt think the angular resolution study would allow for it. Too bad too, cause shes quite good at it and we aren't allowed to play ball with "the girls" right now, only Elele and Hiapo, so this might have been my only real chance to try it. Oh well. Maybe Ill get to work with her once more. So far though I enjoyed working with Ellie more than I have any of the others. I anxiously await my turn with Akeakamai, the dolphin people describe as "the smartest non-human on the planet". I hear she likes to jump real high too.
Robert asked me while I was up on the stand whether I had ever felt a dolphins melon move when they vocalised. I had heard that they change their melons shape according to the kind of sound they want to produce. Robert had me put my hand on Ellies head, and give her the sing command. She started whistling a little (much more than Hiapo or Pheonix ever did), and sure enough I could feel her melon muscles contracting and her whole melon moving back and out. It was a cool feeling, especially given how her melon felt in the first place. Too bad they dont like to be touched there cause I would want to again if I had my choice. It felt like a really stiff water balloon that moved around.
Im finding out that a dolphins skin feels totally different depending on what part of them you touch. Anything with blubber underneath feels totally different than anything else, and even their backs feel different from their sides when you work from the side up.
We did the fish room cleanup today at the end of the day. That wasnt anything too exciting at all, but that meant that we were some of the only ones there afterwards. Ake was being quite vocal, doing her traditional short high whistle, and repeating a different short high whistle a half-second after that, and so on. I sometimes whistle back in the same way she did, and if you keep matching her whistles, she seems to keep going. If you miss, she stops. Anyway, that isnt why I was talking about her whistling.
She seemed like she wanted to play with someone or something, so I asked one of the trainers if I could put in a large spherical structure thing made out of flexible PVC piping that the lab called "the orbit". I washed it and started putting it in the tank, making sure Akeakamai knew I was putting it in. She came over and stopped right under it, I held it there for a few seconds while asking if she wanted it, and then dropped it in. No sooner had I done that that Ake had already soaked me, head butting the orbit out of the tank. I guess she didnt want that toy. I then went and grabbed four horseballs, washed them off, and put them in the tank. Immediately, Ake took one and started bobbing it up and down. I could tell she wanted to play around, but I didnt know what to do at the time. Hopefully next time Ill have a better idea.
No tank cleaning tomorrow after all, since Moday is a holiday and they have someone important coming on Tuesday or Wednesday. Im going to go in tomorrow to just hang out for a while. Maybe with hardly anyone there, the dolphins will want to play more. Well see
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