My toddler loves to play “peek-a-boo.” For humans, the game teaches object permanence. Just because Mommy is hidden by her hands, she’s still there behind them. It makes me wonder if that’s what the dolphins are doing in the Dolphin Nursery at SeaWorld.
As a frequent visitor to the park, I make it a habit to drop in on the bottlenose babies. Which ones are still nursing? Who’s growing up fastest? How tired is that mother of her child? Whenever I visit I usually go to the same spot on the wall… then wait. It may sound absurd, but I swear some of them recognize me. I’ve found that a lot of the time two particular dolphins would make their way to my spot by the wall and begin bobbing up and down out of the water.
The behavior is called “spyhopping” and scientists believe it is done for obvious reasons… to view the world above the water (after all, echolocation is not useful in air). They seem, though, to be interested enough in the motions to continue as I “play” back. One bobs down and up. I crouch down below the wall and up. Dolphin. Human. Dolphin. Human. One day we took turns for at least 4 minutes. Back and forth. I see you. I see you!
I may be anthropomorphising by thinking they enjoy our little game of peek-a-boo. Maybe they just want to see if that lady is still there. Maybe I look like a trainer or, more likely, someone with food. I think that what I spy with my little eye is a beautiful creature who, whether or not she intends, allows me to feel connected with the sea and with the world in a soul-inspiring way.