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Thursday, May 17th, 2001

Open Mouth
Ashleigh, one of the participants, greets Phoenix. (click here for a lager version)
Today wasn't as busy a day as the last couple of days at the lab, but we certainly weren't standing around.We were kept busy with research paradymes and the like, a usual lab day. The highlight of the day was definitely my local with Phoenix, along with Geoff and Ashleigh. Because of the rather active night we had, I'm writing this journal on Saturday, so most of the details of this day are a little clouded for me.

Ashleigh went first out of the three of us.She was still learning her signals, so most of her session was tactiles and the like with some occasional jumps and pec touches. Geoff and I kept ourselves busy with videoing and photographing the session for her. One of the pictures I took of Ashleigh is so good, dare I say it might be one of the best pictures I've ever taken. Julia had asked Geoff to film Ashleigh's session with her video camera, so that's what he did.

Open Mouth
Phoenix doing a straight jump. (click here for a lager version)
I decided to go second after Ashleigh. I stepped up, and immediately I could tell Phoenix was quite docile and not as high energy as I've seen her before. Actually, this has stayed consistant for every time I've ever worked with her, including last year.Robert was my trainer and was helpfull in suggesting things to try when I was running low on ideas. I told myself that one of the things I would try with her was some ball play, so once Phoenix had done a few jumps and swims, I stepped down and got a ball from the dolphin toy area. This is probably one of the most fun things you can do with a dolphin. Not only do they seem to really like doing it, it adds a very personal feeling of playing with them in a way they enjoy.

One of the things they have put on hold for the dolphins is any kind of mouthing on any toys. A few years ago, Phoenix and Ake had developed some mouth sores at the very back of their mouths that they eventually found to be nothing serious and was treatable with some mild medication. Nonetheless, to help prevent the spread of these sores to the other dolphins, they had been trying to keep the dolphins from using their mouths to pick up and play with balls and other toys. Sometimes they do use their mouths to make things easier on them, but usually they find other ways.
Open Mouth
Robert always has unique games to play with the dolphins. Here, he moves the raquet through the water making bubbles. (click here for a lager version)
Phoenix has developed her ability to toss a ball with her pecs and her rostrum beond my wildest imagination as a result of this. When I first tossed the ball in the tank, I asked her to catch it with her pecs. No problem. I then gave her the fetch command, and she popped out of the water and flung the ball at me with ease.She was squeaking and clicking her head off. Then, Robert suggested I give her the ball and ask for a swim. When I did, she started dribbling it underneath her with her mouth, and when she came back, she popped it up on her melon and tossed it at me again. I was impressed! Next, I asked for a behavior I hadn't tried before... whabap! I asked for it, Phoenix submerged in front of me, and I tried to time it so I'd throw the ball when she brought her tail up... BAM!She hit it with her tail, but it wasn't a direct hit and the ball didn't go very far. We tried it again, and after that I realised the basketball I had chosen was probably a little heavy for this behavior anyway, because again it didn't go to far. Phoenix had amazing power with her tail though. I would hate to be at the receiving end, that's for sure! I did a few hugs and kisses after that, and that's about all Phoenix was interested in doing. Most of the higher energy behaviours i asked for she chose to ignore at first and I had to repeat them.To me, that meant she just wasn't interested in the session, so I kept it simple and tried to cater to her wishes instead.

More than anything else, this session helped me to understand that developing the ability to assess what it is the dolphin wants to do is without a doubt the hardest thing to learn.
Open Mouth
Geoff gives me a strange look when I called for his attention. (click here for a lager version)
Robert has a way with the dolphins; he seems to be able to invent games and do things with them that keeps them interested even when they otherwise seem bored. In my next session with one of the dolphins, I hope to try allowing them to control the session... rather than giving them basic commands they have to follow. I watch some of the older interns play all kinds of games with the dolphins that make me totally envious.The dolphins seem so much more enthusiastic when you allow them to play with you rather than constantly asking for behaviours. I tried to do this a little more in this last session, but hopefully next time I'll be better geared towards doing this the whole time.

When I had stepped down, I wished Geoff luck with Phoenix. I told him she wasn't in the best mood and he'd probably have to keep things simple. I'm sure anybody, not just dolphins, would get a little frustrated having a bunch of novices come up and tell you to do a bunch of stuff they barely know the commands for. Ake is certainly a lot more patient than Pho is in this regard.

I video'd Geoff's session and managed to get a few pictures. Most of what he did was low energy behaviours, since Phoenix had to have most of the high energy behaviours repeated to her.
Open Mouth
Here's a shot of the AMAZING view from Dr. Herman's house. (click for bigger picture)
Even when she did them, they weren't as enthusiastic as I've seen her do before.She was probably just lazy from being chased around by Haipo all morning.

I spent 3rd session entering behaviour observations into the computer. They have quite a backlog of sheets that they haven't entered into their database yet, most of which is nothing more than the dolphins rubbing along the tank and chasing each other. It's quite tedious, but necessary if they hope to understand the dolphin's behaviour. I was entering in data from about 2 months ago along with Leonard and Geoff.

We left early so we could prepare food for a party the lab had planned for the departing spring interns.We all took a taxi over to Dr. Herman's house about 15 minutes down the highway from the participant house at around 8 pm or so. The party was a lot of fun, and everyone brought food so there was plenty to eat. Most of the people from the lab came dressed up as something or another, following the costume theme of the party.I grabbed the shorty wetsuit Geoff had brought and put it on so I at least looked a little dressed up. The best dressed person there was probably Mattias, who still denies even being there.He came as a clogged toilet, or so he said, with every part of his body covered in toilet paper pieces and a white plaster mask covering his face.Other than telling a few people what he was supposed to be, he didn't say a word to anyone all night, and he left early so no one was able to find out for sure if it was him. I was fairly sure.

Open Mouth
The aloha party for the interns was a lot of fun. The video the interns made was absolutely hilarious!
Dr. Herman's house was a very nice place. It was built on the edge of a cliff, with lots of stairs to climb to get to the inside. The view was SPECTACULAR. Part of the features of the party was a video the interns had made up to characterise their time at the lab, all done from the perspective of Kai, the dog at the lab.I could relate to a lot of the jokes made about a lot of the staff after getting to know them last year. The whole thing was quite funny, but probably the funniest part was at the end, when it showed the interns throwing one of the cross-modal boxes into the ocean beside the facility.I can see why those things would get on your nerves after a while, lifting them in and out every day. Everyone laughed hard at that one!

It was a fun party, and I'm happy to have been included.

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