Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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Friday, 29th of March

It may seem strange that for someone who has been brought up around the sea, on the sea, by the sea and who took it for granted that all children knew the difference between a sea squirt and an anenome the idea of actually getting into the sea would fill me with abject horror and literally terrify me. A phobia is very hard to explain to anyone unless you have one, but suffice to say that the mere mention of paddling my feet at the waters edge would make me feel physically ill.

For as long as I can remember, despite having hypnosis, beginning to learn to swim and trips out in a friends yacht, I have always remained on the beach in Dingle, in all kinds of weather, watching my friends and family swimming and enjoying their stories as each of them would get out of the water, their faces filled with the joy and excitement of their encounter with Fungie. As much as I enjoyed watching them, joining in the camaraderie we all shared on the beach, something was always missing for me, and despite my deep rooted fears a part of me wanted to be in there with me. So on Good Friday, in perfect conditions, with two good friends I finally took the plunge!

Myself, Graham and Keith decided to take a trip up to Fanore to visit Dusty. It was my first time up there, and as my involvement in had increased over the past few months I thought it was about time that I was introduced to one of our star players. I borrowed a suit thinking that in the highly unlikely event (based on my track record) that I actually wanted to get in the water, better to have some gear with me.

When we arrived in Clare the conditions were perfect, the sun was out, the sea was flat calm, the tide was low, I had a wetsuit with me and I was with two friends who I trusted and knew would look after me – my list of excuses for not getting in were diminishing fast! Then as soon as I realized that I could stand in the water, not going out of my depth and the fact that Keith said he would stand with me – the suit was on and next thing I knew I was in the water! How did I feel? – terrified, excited, stunned that finally I was actually doing it and before I had anymore time to think, there she was – swimming gently around me checking out this rather fetching vision in neoprene, who was holding on to a boogie board as if it was going to save her life. Then I began to realize how ridiculously buoyant I was in the suit as I desperately tried to simply sit down on a rock and not float away. But with Keith literally holding me down around she came and as I bobbed on top of the water I watched her swim around me and let go of the board long enough to even give her a bit of a scratch.

I had finally done it, after all these years I was in the water with a wild dolphin. I didn’t even think about whether I was scared or not, all I was aware of (apart from the fact that I was now the amazing floating woman!) was that this beautiful creature was choosing to swim around little, terrified of the water, me! I didn’t stay in too long, I guess after a while she wanted Keith to play with her rather than have him act as my anchor, so he towed me back in and I sat on the rock and watched, not really noticing that I was wet and getting cold – I didn’t care, I had overcome a huge personal hurdle, I was now the swimmer getting out of the water, filled with excitement telling people on the beach what I had experienced, and as I watched her play with the other swimmers a part of me still couldn’t believe that a few moments earlier I had been in there with her.

So I’ve been back to Clare since then, but unfortunately weather conditions didn’t allow me to get in, too rough for a nervous, bobbing swimmer – but next time maybe I’ll stay in longer, maybe I’ll swim around a bit, maybe we’ll even play together, but whatever happens, the day I floated around the cove in Fanore with Dusty the Dolphin will stay in my memory for a long time and watch out Fungie, the amazing floating woman will be making her way out to you one of these days!

Laura Murtagh
April 2002.
Date Posted: 29/03/2002
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