Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dancin' with Dolphins

This spring break was like no other! I went to a placed called Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo for a class on marine mammal medicine. This was the first time I have ever been on my own and I was really nervous. However, I made quick friends with the other girls and we all got along really well throughout the week! I also learned so much about marine mammal medicine.

Island Dolphin Care's main focus is on special needs therapy. Every week they have several families come and do therapy sessions in the water with the dolphins. This was one of my favorite things to watch. The children were so happy and the behaviors the dolphins performed were to help the kids with their specific disability. The employees at IDC were amazing. We often got to help out during training sessions and the trainers were interested in our future goals and taught us the ins and outs of training. We also had discussions with the owner about animal welfare and the importance of conservation. The other students in the class were from all over the U.S. and had interests all across the marine field. I can't wait to work alongside them in the marine world in the future!

The best part of this course was being able to learn about marine mammal medicine, specifically on the bottlenose dolphin. The veterinarian and vet-technician were excited to teach us everything they could within one week. We had lectures on physical exams, ultra-sounds for kidney, reproduction, and gastrointestinal, and hematology. After the lectures, we took what we learned and applied it by performing procedures on the dolphins. Everyday we had a different dolphin and we did physicals exams, ultrasounds, and pr
acticed blood draws. By the end of the week I was comfortable with all of the skills. Being hands on with the dolphins and doing medical procedures and tests confirmed that this is the field of veterinary medicine I want to continue to pursue.

I connected with all the people I met over spring break, but the eight dolphins will also always have a special place in my heart. Two days towards the end of the week we were able to swim with the dolphins. The first time was similar to the therapy sessions. We danced, snuggled, and sang with the dolphins, and I giggled the whole time. My favorite dolphin's name is Fiji. He had a cool skill where he would have one signal, but do something different every time. He was also ticklish, which is adorable. The last day we did a "natural swim." This is where the dolphins are swimming naturally and we just swam with them. It was really cool to see how curious they were.

I loved my time at Island Dolphin Care and I am excited for my future as a marine mammal veterinarian where I can do these things everyday!

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