Random Thoughts

Dondi and Triton

... two patient animals

by Ann Robbins Talbot

Animals, employed for the entertainment of their human cousins, have to be
among the most patient creatures on earth.

One picture-perfect summer day I settled down to watch my three grandchildren
ride on an elephant in the Southwick Zoo. There was Dondi spending his day in
the company of a few handlers but no elephant family. Strapped on his back was
a small railing and large carpet, just big enough for four riders.  

From a tall platform the children mounted him and straddled his back. With a
trainer leading him, Dondi walked clockwise around a thirty-foot circle while
relatives waved and took photos from above. The children on the elephant ride
were thrilled, but the gentle beast looked as if he had been there – done that
– many times already that day. The kids who had waited a half hour for a
three-minute ride were quite satisfied.

Allowed to give Dondi an apple at ride’s end, the children could actually feel
him suck the fruit with his trunk from their small hands and watch him place
it in his mouth. What an adventure. They left him standing quietly as more
kids climbed onto his back for the next circular ride.

I was reminded of a day six years before when I had a chance to swim with the
dolphins in Cozumel with another grandchild. We stood in chest-deep water on a
wooden platform on the edge of a huge pool on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
Each section of the pool housed its own dolphin and its informative trainer.

Triton, our dolphin, swam slowly back and forth in front of our group of a
dozen people of assorted ages. He let us touch his skin on both his back and
his stomach. The trainer described to us hand signals used to communicate with
these very smart creatures.

Then, one by one, Triton swam up to each person. We indicated that we wanted
him to splash his fins and gave him a signal to give us a kiss. And Triton did
as he was told over and over again. Each behavior was photographed so that we
could remember the day we swam with the dolphins.

How long can this patience last? A whole lifetime? Do these gentle animals
plan a secret rebellion? Or are they content to exchange the daily repetition
for the competitive life in their natural habitat? Will there ever come a day
when Dondi and Triton will think -- I am not going to do this any more?

May 4, 2012

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