The main reason we chose Mexico for our trip was for the dolphin therapy. My friend Betsy already had a dolphin trip planned for her family and somehow it fell into place for us to go at the same time. Our vacations were separate, but our stays overlapped, so that we shared our second day at the dolphin center with them. It was perfection to share such a special experience with such a dear friend! Betsy’s son is 18 and profoundly affected by autism. Her husband is an MD who specializes in overall wellness and also autism. They do good work.
This is us on the first day, getting acquainted with the dolphins. The woman with us is Macy Jozsef, Director of The Dolphin Experience, Living from the Heart Dolphin Therapy. She is awesome. Riley took to her and trusted her immediately. We’d walk down the streets of Cozumel with Riley holding her hand, leaning all over her. It’s an energy thing. Riley responds to love.
Riley was excited to see and interact with the dolphins, but still quite tentative in the water. She absolutely did not want to swim in the deeper section and was content to stand on the shallow landing. This dolphin’s name is Amizcle (Uh-MEEZ-Clay). He is huge. About 600 lbs. He eats 75 pounds of fish per day. Riley said many times throughout our time with him that he reminded her of her service dog Jingle. Again, it’s about energy and both animals are sweet, playful, helpful (and she liked that they both have pink on their noses).
We had three sessions our first day. In between sessions we were allowed to go to a tiny private beach on the Dolphinaris property. It was there Riley found her own bouyancy for the first time in her life. She had a breakthrough earlier this year, and was finally able to put her face in the water but had not yet gotten the buoyancy concept in her body. We kept the life jackets on, and I carried her out onto the soft waves. She straddled my waist, like a much littler kid, and we bounced and floated, and twirled. Looking up into the blue sky, I couldn’t help thinking, “This is what I wanted for you when you were tiny.” We missed this developmental stage. Her nervous system was so very jangled at the time. She had always been so anxiety filled in the water, she was not light or bouyant at all. She was certain she would sink, and she would have, all contracted like that.
In and out of the water all day. She played in the sand. Laughed and played with Seth. Ate PB & J. More dolphins. Back in the water, holding my hand she finally, truly, got the feel of floating. She was sitting back, relaxing, bobbing along in her life jacket. Holding my hand, but basically doing it herself.
During dolphin therapy, there is a lot of time to socialize with the dolphins, interspersed with moments of receiving sonar. Hear, Amizcle is offering sonar directly to Riley’s head. Sonar is similar to an ultrasound. If you’ve ever had ultrasound used on a sore muscle, it’s kind of like that. It immediately relaxes the body. Sonar would be for a minute or two, and then more playing and fun. Todd and I tried it and both of us felt like wet noodles coming out of the water. It puts you in a total zen state. Beuno cool.
Our next session with the dolphins, we all swam out to the middle of the pool, with Riley clinging to mine and Macy’s hands. We were proud of her for stepping off the landing and coming into the deeper water. I held the back of her life jacket to stabalize her as the dolphins swam past so she could reach out and pet them with one hand.
The third session, we did the same, only this time, she deliberately let go of my hand. There was Riley, floating in 13 foot deep water, reaching out and petting humongous dolphins which slowly kept weaving their way around us.
And then…she surprised us all by agreeing to do this:
Seth did it first and his bravery surely inspired his sister. Todd and I both took a couple of dolphin rides too. They are so strong! Their bodies are pure muscle, and they go super fast, although Riley’s went a bit slower with her, thank goodness. It was a smaller female dolphin that she rode. The dolphin trainers were very intuitive and respectful about what the kids needed. They didn’t push, but at the moment they felt there might be receptivity, Riley was on that dolphin before she could even think about it. And she was so proud!
Seth recieved many sonar session too. We hoped it might help his PANDAS and at the very least, anything that relaxes the body is going to have a positive effect. They even did some sessions together, head to head or feet to feet.
This next photo is one of my very favorite photos from the trip. I just love the tiny boy juxtaposed against the enormous dolphin. Such a gentle majestic, beautiful creature Amizcle is. And any time I can see Seth without his hat, I love it.
Here is HT, getting a smooch from a sweet girl dolphin.
Here I am, loving my good, good kids.
Macy joined us for dinner a couple of times. Her story is interesting. She survived breast cancer decades ago, and felt a strong pull toward dolphins as part of her healing process. She continues to use meditation fueled with dolphin imagary to maintain her vibrant health. This was particularly poignant to me since my friend Clarissa, who made the trip possible, died of the very same disease.
Is there anything more beautiful to a parent than the sight of your children sleeping peacefully? Especially with sun kissed cheeks? I think not. Dream, dream, little ones. Dream of dolphins and floating, and blue water and sky.
Tomorrow, we hit Cancun.
Just love all the pictures and reports on your amazing trip! So great you did this!
TEARS of joy, Michelle. Choked up!! I am so happy you all got to do this. And, just knowing where Riley has been — when you said that you had missed some milestones and were able to catch up on one — I SO get that, and I SO hope that my son can catch up on them too. You have now made me want to go full guns on doing dolphin therapy here on the gulf coast. I have the brochures in my file; must have kept them for a reason. LOVE to you and your beautiful family. PS – and I too love that picture of Seth holding the flippers! Love the sonar. Wow.
You certainly had a wonderful and meaningful trip! It is wonderful to see you all enjoying the Dolphins. The kids really look like they are having such a good time. It is amazing how Riley was able to go in the deep water. We love it!! The pictures are awesome and we enjoy seeing them so much.
This is awesome! I was just thinking about how much the kids have grown up. What a young lady Riley is getting to be 🙂 You are such a cool mom for letting the kids try so many different things. Very cool.
Wow. Just wow. This story is sending shivers down my spine. I cannot even begin to imagine how magical this must have been for all of you.
Love. Love. Love.
So incredibly amazing, awe-inspiring. Kinda like you, Michelle. Like all mothers, I can feel the joy and love of this experience with depth and recognition. Love! Love!
That is it. I am GOING to find dolphins where Bear can reach them and BY GOLLY I’m going to take her!
This just looks so amazing and such a brilliant positive experience for you all. 😀
Amazing! What a wonderful experience, and I love the photos. The kids are really growing up — they both look so mature in that beautiful pic of the four of you. So glad you are having such a fabulous trip — enjoy the rest of it!
Oh Michelle. This whole post gave me CHILLS. I can’t even put it to words. Just. Amazing.
Awesome! So Awesome.
Everything about this posting–the story of Riley and her buoyancy, of Seth without his hat, of riding the dolphins, of your friend who made this possible, of Macy’s journey from cancer to creating peace, and the photographs–everything is as Ron would say in “Harry Potter”–“awesome” or “excellent”!
And by the way, you’re a gifted writer. What about turning all this into a children’s story? There’s a lot here that could be turned into more than one story about the adventures of Amizcle and how she helps others. Think about it.
This looks amazing! I’ve heard of dolphin therapy before and know that it’s really beneficial. It’s nice to see such an up close and personal look. Thanks for letting us glimpse in to this experience!
OK, I’ve done some research and turns out we have a pile of work to do on behaviours before we can get to dolphins who would help with said behaviours…. there is a real 90% chance we wouldn’t be allowed on the plane as we are and there’s no other way to get to a Dolphin centre from the Highlands which is really annoying as they swim past all the flippin’ time… grrr!! Off to make more enquiries….
Wow! I got choked up reading about her going into the deeper water. What an amazing experience!