What Did You Love About Cuba? A Dolphin Named Nina!

We met Nina on a trip to Cuba back in 2017. We stood in line like the rest of the tourists to hang out inside a giant concrete pool in the middle of the ocean. It was both super random and pretty fun. At first we felt kind of bad for these dolphins locked up. Until we heard the stories as to how they became trained dolphins rather than bait or trapped and killed in fishing nets. . For 45-minutes we became fast friends engaging on all the right levels.

We learnt that Nina was 10-years old and she weighed nearly 300 pounds! She had a huge heart and was extremely patient with each of her new found friends sure we paid a premium to be hauled out here on a catamaran and to some fancy island where they were serving up lobster tails like the ocean has an unlimited supply of fresh seafood... but to spend time with a dolphin watching her swim around, jump happily in the air and receive a plethora of fish for her showmanship and willingness to kiss 50 tourists. I mean would you kiss 50 tourists on the cheek for free food, free housing, and a nice training facility? Maybe you would. 

Every time she got close to my right shoulder I would lean a little to the right then she would kiss my cheek and make this funny little squealing sound. She’d swim around and around me, unlike other tourists. And unbeknownst to her trainer she’d move back in next to my right side and kiss again!

The staff were ALL astonished and frightened because Nina had just gone rogue. This was NOT a part of her routine and their faces said it all, “what in the hell is going on? why is she not listening?” 

The real problem here wasn’t their demands, or commands, or even Nina’s training. It all came  down to how animals interact when they are near me. It’s true. Ever since I was a small kid I have always had this interesting power whenever I am around domestic or wild animals. They are attracted to my large smile, kindred spirit and communication through a variety of body language and sounds that I can make!

Nina loved every second we were together!

The trainers were prodding her with new pieces of fish to stop this now annoying routine but her chirps and kisses said “no, no, no… I’m not finished with this one yet!” 

The trainers continue to blow their whistles and attempted to attract her attention. I patiently continued to complete an egg-beater motion with my legs (lifeguard training pays off again!) which kept me afloat in the same spot. All the while I was watching my wife standing behind the trainers with her own smile on her face. Because she knew exactly what was happening too.

She had watched this same routine occur with other trained, domestic and wild animals. Their personalities connected with my own and we were just enjoying the others company.

Eventually I turned my head, again to the astonishment of the trainers whispered to Nina, “I love you Nina. But its time for me to go.” She chirped one last time, then sprint to her resting spot and splashed me with her tail as I swam back to the stairs to exit the pool of water.

They all stood up rotating their heads between where Nina was now hanging out in her chill spot getting some rest before the next tourist came to hang out with her. Then they looked at myself climbing up the stairs with a very large grin across my face.

No one said a word.

Everyone just shook their heads and smiled.

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb