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Take Five: Swimming With Dolphins

by Mary McHugh

Once I cut an article out of Cosmopolitan called 101 Things to do Before I Die, and I decided to do as many of the things on that list as I could. Just the ones that appealed to me, of course. I was not interested in making love to someone in the bathroom of an airplane, for instance.  But I did fool around with my husband in the private swimming pool of a villa in Puerto Vallarta and he picked orchids from the side of the pool and put them in my hair afterward. I did not want to skydive or hang glide or bungee jump because I would like to be at my grandchildrens weddings. But I did surprise my husband with a ride in a red and green hot air balloon on our 30th anniversary. We drank champagne up there and decided to stay married for another 30 years. I did want to ride a camel in Egypt and see the pyramids and thats on my list of things still to do.

     But two weeks ago I checked off another of the things I had always wanted to do - I swam with dolphins. If you have never done this, I urge you to find some dolphins somewhere and do it.  I was in Miami writing about the city for honeymooners for Modern Bride magazine, and the Seaquarium there invited us to come and hang out with their dolphins. Its very safe.  They give you a little talk first about what to expect and how not to put your finger in their blowhole by mistake. Then they give you wet suits to put on - I love them because they pull your entire body up and keep it there. You jump into a lagoon with the dolphins, their trainers and some tourists.  The trainers are all young women who obviously love their work and the dolphins are incredibly sociable. They train the dolphins by rewards of fish noshes and pats on the head.  If they misbehave, we give them a time out, they explain. Thats three seconds without attention and the dolphins are back in line. Two-year-olds should be as easy to train.

     We stood on a wooden platform at one end of the lagoon and the dolphins came up close and we could pat them. They feel like one of those rubber toys children play with in the bathtub, and they look as if theyre smiling all the time.  Dont tell me about anthropomorphism - Im sure they really are smiling. Then they told us to hold our left arm out straight and to grab on to the dolphins fin when he swims past your body.  I did as I was told but wasnt prepared for my dolphin to take off at 65 miles an hour across the lagoon.  I held on to the fin for dear life and I was laughing so hard its a wonder I didnt fall off in the middle (you cant drown, the wet suits keep you up and the place is loaded with good swimmers). My dolphin stopped at the other end at a signal from the trainer over there, and I got up on the platform at that end. I was exhilarated and happy and wanted more. 

     The next thing you do is float on your stomach, your arms stretched out before you, and the dolphin comes up behind you and pushes your feet, still traveling 65 miles an hour because they dont know how to do slow, back to the other side of the lagoon.  By the time you have done this a few times, you dont flop over but sail smoothly across the water and feel like youre in one of the Flipper movies.  At the end, the trainer says, Would you like to give him a hug? Would I!  The dolphin comes and puts his head on your shoulder and you put your arms around him and hug him goodbye.  You feel like this dolphin really doesnt want you to go.

     I  have carried around the feeling of happiness I got from those affectionate creatures ever since my trip down there and will look for chances to do it again. 

     Whats still on my list of things to do?  Lets see.  I would love to be an extra in a movie. I would like to rent an apartment on the Ile St. Louis and live there for two months. I would like to allow myself to stay in bed all day when Im not sick.  Ive already walked in rain forests,  ridden on the Orient Express, lived in Kiev, taken a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio at sunset, and kayaked in Belize. Next month Ill hike in the mountains near Seattle with my grandchildren who just moved to Mercer Island.

     I would love to read your list of Things to Do Before You Die. Im sure youll come up with imaginative, creative, exciting adventures that I can add to my own list. 

      Move it or lose it, I always say.

 Email Mary with your list. We'd love to hear from you.



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