While growing up, I always had a very strong determination that I was going to become a Dolphin Trainer. Little did I know just how hard getting my “dream job” would be. Entering Elon, I thought I had it all figured out, however, there was not a major set up just for my career that laid out an exact path to reaching my dream, like going through the Education program to become a teacher. Using my opportunities in the past to find out the best educational path to take to become a trainer, I decided to major in Psychology.
I am sure you are going “HUH?” like every other person I have encountered when I tell them I studied Psychology only to become a dolphin trainer. In training we use the behaviorist theory of Operant Conditioning (think Positive Reinforcement), which I studied during my years at Elon.
Like any other college student I participated in an internship to get a feel for the career. Unlike any other college student, my internship experience required me to work with cold, dead, slimy, fish! I quickly learned that the dream job I had always viewed as such a glamorous position, was not as glamorous as it appeared. I would say the glamor is only 25% of the job! The other 75% is cleaning, prepping fish, and maintaining the environment around where the animals live. However, I stuck with it, and a couple months after my internship ended, I got the break of my life.
In September of 2004, I started my career as an Assistant Dolphin Trainer at The Dolphin Connection in the Florida Keys. This career has been a complete journey. I can’t say that any 2 days were exactly the same in the 5 years I have been here. At The Dolphin Connection, we conduct dolphin interaction programs for guests that stay at Hawks Cay Resort. We have a number of interactions that guests can choose from, and as a trainer we are responsible for educating the guests all about the dolphins, but at the same time having fun.
In our programs, guests get the opportunity to listen to a trainer teach them all about the dolphins in our lagoon. Then, they get the opportunity to meet the dolphins, whether it is from a wooden platform that is waist deep in the water or from the docks. I thrive on teaching our guests about the animals that I am passionate about. Within our programs, we allow the guests to pet and feed the dolphins. Through this experience, our guests take home a love for these animals and a drive to help protect them. I love seeing the reactions people have when they touch the dolphins for the first time! It brings a smile to my face. Often a guest will tell me that I have the “best job in the world.” And you know what? I have to agree!