I was 7 when the movie Flipper hit theaters. I was 8 when Flipper appeared weekly on TV. I fell in love with dolphins, the smartest, happiest, most talented animals in the world. I wanted nothing more than to swim with a dolphin.
During the summer that I turned 10, my family traveled to Florida. I was the family photographer, with my Instamatic camera. I asked someone to take pictures of me, posing with any dolphin I could find.
On the back of this photograph, my mother wrote,
Me, standing next to a dolphin statue! I can still feel the excitement of standing beside a plaster dolphin. And making a plastic dolphin at a vending machine that molded the dolphin of your choice while you waited.
We visited the Florida Keys right around my birthday. My fondest wish came true: at Santini's Porpoise Training School I got to hold onto the fin of a dolphin while he swam through the water. It was short, too short, but it was a dream come true, my best-ever birthday present. "Amy riding Flipper," reads my mom's note on the back of the photo.
Dolphins still hold a special place in my heart. I love this pair of dolphin earrings that I bought long ago, in Savannah, I think. To me, the dolphins seem to be protecting the waters of the Earth.
Today, I heard the horror story of a man who kept wild animals in inhumane conditions on his property in Ohio. Before committing suicide, he snipped the wires of the animal's cages. Forty-eight lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, and other animals were shot and killed by law enforcement officials.
The same emotions that inspired my love of dolphins leads people to adopt exotic pets. We humans have trouble recognizing that truly loving animals means ensuring their freedom to roam their native habitats. I hope this tragedy can lead to better understanding.