Abigail Dillon from Devon, England has become a regular visitor to Dingle over the last four years and both her attitude to life and her relationships with other people have changed dramatically as a result of her experiences with wild dolphins in Ireland. She wrote to us in July 2002 to tell us something of her story.
All my life I have been quite an introverted person, though less so as I have grown older (I'm now 17). After just one term at secondary school, my family moved from the village near Swindon where we lived to a village near Yeovil in Somerset, where I had to start a new school and make new friends. I suppose because I was such a quiet person, my 'vulnerability' showed, and I suffered bullying for a few months, and the whole being liked/ feeling accepted thing was a bit of a struggle. Although the friends I made were close, I didn't have many of them.
I then went on a family holiday to Ireland in August '98, and spent a week in Dingle. I was amazed to find that a real dolphin was living in the harbour there, and couldn't resist the signs advertising boat trips to see him. I only saw a couple of glimpses of him, when he surfaced a few times, but this was enough to keep me happy, and I then used these memories to cheer me up if I was down while back at home.
It was by now a year and a half since I'd started at that school, so I'd made friends with more people and settled in fairly well. The experience of seeing Fungie however produced in others a new-found interest in me, which boosted my confidence further.
I returned a year later to Dingle, because my mum had fallen in love with the area, which suited me well, and this time I ventured out on the swimming trip, which was a strange experience for me. I wasn’t used to swimming in deep and murky water and the thought of unseen fish and slimy seaweed lurking beneath me was quite daunting – never mind the possibility that a great big dolphin would scare the life out of me by suddenly appearing out of nowhere! I made the mistake of expecting Fungie to jump around everybody, and so of course he hardly showed himself at all. I was quite disappointed, but went out again the next day, and had better luck; he surfaced a lot, often close to me.
For the next couple of years, I gradually gained confidence, and also visited Dingle twice or three times a year, which helped a lot I think. Each experience with Fungie was better than the previous holiday, so after each visit I came home with a renewed happiness, and love for Fungie. Every time I left, I always dreamed of staying, until one time I realised that one day I will be able go there with no obligation to return if I choose, and this also helped me when I was caught up in trivial everyday traumas. At the time I was supposed to be working for my GCSE's we also moved house again, down to near Exeter, Devon, and so I then had the prospect of more disruption in my life before starting college in September 2001. I tried to stay focussed though, and thought of swimming with Fungie to keep me happy in the middle of all the chaos of moving house, leaving my friends, and taking my exams.
Right after my GCSE exams in summer 2001, I went back to Ireland on a much needed holiday, and this was the time that I saw Dony playing in the harbour at Dingle with Fungie. This was better than any of the times I had seen Fungie before, because not only did he have another dolphin with him, but he was jumping around and being playful and happy! I returned home happier than usual, because of witnessing this fantastic sight, and probably relieved as well, because my school life was over.
I started college much more confident and independent than I had been a couple of years before, and though during the past year I have faced yet more problems - getting used to city life, making new friends again, etc - I have grown up a hell of a lot from my experiences. Now, whenever I am feeling at all overwhelmed by it all, I still refer to my collection of dolphin memories, to keep me sane! And I'm sure there will be a few more yet to add to it!
So I feel that this is perhaps why I want to spend my life helping dolphins, because Fungie, the first dolphin I encountered, helped me so much, even if not deliberately, and I think that the love dolphins seem to be able to give freely to us should be returned somehow.
I'd like to make it clear that I am very sceptical of any ideas of 'using' dolphins to help people who have problems, as if they are for us to use at our disposal, as some kind of experiment, but I think that dolphins do make people happy, if they are approached with the right frame of mind (not expecting to be 'miraculously cured'), and the happiness that can be gained somehow puts trivial everyday events into perspective.
Contact Abigail here
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