Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Volume III: Shards from the Mirror



Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Book III: Shards from the Mirror

By David C. Holroyd and Tracy J. Holroyd. 2016, Matador Press.

In the mid-1950’s, Leon Festinger, an American psychologist, infiltrated a UFO cult. The leader channeled a warning of the end of the world – but the cult’s members would be saved by a flying saucer. When the expected deadline passed, the Earth endured and no saucer materialized, the leader issued a revelation: Their faith changed the aliens’ minds! No Earth cataclysms! The members of the previously media-shy group went out… and began to proselytize.

What does this have to do with dolphin-training and Shards from the Mirror, the final volume of David and Tracy Holroyd’s The Perfect Pair trilogy?

Oh, plenty!

Festinger labeled the mental anguish that comes from holding two mutually-exclusive concepts “cognitive dissonance,” and those two words popped to mind as I read about “David Capello’s” downfall. That was the stage name of an English dolphin trainer who shot to fame in the early 1970’s for his “perfect pair,” two dolphins who performed in flawless synchronization.

Because, by the time this book opens, Capello is experiencing growing cognitive dissonance. On one hand, his dolphins’ act wows audiences, makes him famous and makes a lot of money for the entertainment conglomerate he works for. On the other, he knows a concrete tank is no place for dolphins, he’s seen them suffer and die and he’s totally fed-up with bottom-line managers who have no fondness for them.

Volume I, The Enchanted Mirror, chronicles how young Capello falls into the job and succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. The first dolphins he meets, Duchess and Herb’e, are not only a perfect pair, but can communicate with him mentally!

As its title suggests, The Mirror Cracks recounts not merely Capello’s increasing success as a trainer but his growing frustration with the callous corporate bureaucracy. Particularly troublesome is his general manager Tommy Backhouse, a besuited corporate suck-up more concerned with the dolphinarium’s profits than the welfare of his performers, dolphin or human. Backhouse’s attitude is best summed up by his oft-repeated remark “Anybody with a whistle and a bucket of fish can be a dolphin trainer.”

This rather grates on Capello, who not only slaves to make his dolphin show the best in Europe but teaches Scouse, a blind dolphin, to perform using his unique “psychic training” method!

Backhouse, who fancies he knows everything about dolphins, isn’t impressed with Capello’s Jedi mind-tricks, and his requested raises (he’s a “presenter,” not a “trainer,” Backhouse reminds him) keep getting denied by the main office.

Worse, Backhouse pinches pennies by physically endangering the dolphins, like refusing to dump the dirty tank water, or expecting them to perform to exhaustion. And Capello suspects his boss is just waiting for the right moment to grab all the credit for his achievements.

When Shards opens, Capello is wondering if he hasn’t gone too far. He’s thrown his weight around trying to get what his performers need, and now the head office is talking about his mysterious way with dolphins… dolphins who won’t work for anyone else!

Even with all this hanging over him, Capello pushes forward, trying to train Duchess and Herb’e to do a double forward somersault. It proves difficult for an unexpected reason: Herb’e gets the trick, but wanting to perform solo, he won’t teach Duchess how it’s done! Duchess, in turn, has started courting Capello, and won’t allow a woman presenter he’s fond of in the pool! And earlier, Capello was freaked by the way his dolphins ignored a dying comrade.

These revelations mark Capello’s growing disenchantment with dolphin ethics. As marine mammologists are fond of reminding those of us who have dared read the late Dr. John C. Lilly’s scientifically embargoed books, “Dolphins are not little humans in wet suits!”

Like those of us who have been close to them need to be reminded! Once you’re in their environment, they appear quite large, and they’re happy to let you know they are now in charge!

Only something as dissociating as knowing you are harming the creatures you love could explain why, when Backhouse gets in his face once too often, Capello grabs a fire hose and blasts the man off his feet, then has to be physically restrained from pushing him into an empty concrete tank.

Backhouse, of course, tries to fire Capello, but the head office intervenes, instead transferring their golden-boy trainer to another dolphinarium far from Backhouse’s lair, a place called West Coast, where seemingly nothing ever goes right.

Reluctantly preparing to move his pair, Capello recounts one of the book’s strangest scenes. With the dolphins slung in canvas stretchers, the attending veterinarian notices that Duchess has outgrown hers, and he proposes to cut an eye-hole in the fabric to avoid a possible injury. Almost immediately, Duchess starts screaming in Capello’s head, projecting images of blood and pain. When the surgeon pulls out a scalpel and goes to make the cut, Capello, acting as if entranced, slides his hand between Duchess and the blade. Need I say he ends up at the local emergency room, bleeding profusely? The veterinarian, it seems, slipped.

What happens next becomes the crux of Capello’s disenchantment with the “magic mirror” of dolphin training. While he and the vet are tending his wound, Backhouse vindictively orders the helpless dolphins placed in an unheated truck on a cold night. When Capello returns two hours later with a few new stitches, he finds to his horror that his dolphins are freezing, and they have shut him out of their minds. Especially Herb’e, who has fled where humans cannot follow, a dark corner of the dolphin psyche that marks a fatal disengagement from life.

Having previously dealt with force-feeding other dying dolphins, Capello is determined not to give up on Herb’e, and to restore his perfect pair to their former glory.

It takes lavish care and a diagnosis of Herb’e’s illness, a viral infection, to bring the pair back from death’s jaws, and during this interval Scouse worms his way onto Capello’s center stage. Now the trainer must juggle not only human politics but the politics of his dolphins, too! (In defense of dolphins at large, I will ask the reader not to judge them by their behavior in captivity.)

In an odd twist of fate, the determined young trainer makes Scouse a star in spite of his disability. The dolphin is eager to perform, and while directing him through mental images, Capello has the bizarre experience of bi-location – of seeing both himself and Scouse performing their act from a remote point of view…

By this point, the reader may be granted some skepticism, and rightly so, if the reader has no experience with ESP or dolphins. However, some of us who have are sharing notes and rapidly approaching the conclusion that what Capello calls his “connection” with his dolphins and I call my “telepathy” with Dolly bear striking resemblances that can’t readily be explained by chance alone. It was even investigated by the U.S. military at least 31 years ago, yet it’s still classified! What did they find, and what methods did they use? While I have no ready explanation for this, I am working to make it a recognized phenomenon.

In this final volume, Capello at last muses about the dolphin behaviors that have puzzled and infuriated him, something he’s only given passing thoughts to before:

What if dolphins view life and death differently from us humans? That would explain why your Atlanteans constantly show indifference when in the presence of a dying colleague – a phenomenon you’ve never been able to get your head around.

 What if they view their bodies as a mere conveyance – temporary vessels to be discarded when deemed no longer of use? An ethos that could well explain their suicide beachings in the wild. A view of death not as an end, but as a new beginning… in which case, you’ve been totally wrong in your previous evaluation of their attitude…

 It’s not that they are uncaring; it’s simply that they have a different set of beliefs.

 Blimey, Capello, what an idiot you’ve been – some expert you turned out to be!

As is often the case, dolphins are full of surprises, and Capello, unlike some people, is humble enough to admit it. For a while he’s finally able to concentrate on training the mostly rehabilitated perfect pair for the double forward flip, the culmination of a “shadow ballet” performance that will win them (and their proud trainer) a permanent gold star on the Dolphin Walk of Fame. But he can’t get Herb’e back to his old self, and soon Duchess is battering her former partner and showing an unwelcome interest in teaming up with Scouse for work and play.

When his latest request for a raise is rudely refused, Capello realizes he’s being played, that Backhouse and his people have out-maneuvered him. He has two equally repugnant choices, to remain in the sub-par trainer position under the thumb of a man he hates, or to quit and cut his telepathically-trained performers loose with the same man. Reluctantly, he decides to deprogram the dolphins for his inevitable departure. Cognitive dissonance seems to be the inevitable fate of any dolphin trainer stupid enough to care.

But the next blow is fatal: bad fish. Not just a few, but a prime supplier sending its good fish to restaurants and the rest to the dolphins, who only rate “animal feed.” This disruption is too much for the barely-recovered Herb’e, and Capello realizes to his shock that his beloved performer is slipping away. When management learns they’re about to lose half their top money-making duo, they do what any sensible executives would do: they throw gas on the flames. They send Backhouse to manage West Coast.

The confrontation, as inevitable as a Main Street shootout in an old western movie, takes place with Capello in the water supporting Herb’e, who is clearly on his last legs (pardon the meaningless expression). Distracted, Capello loses track of him, and the dolphin sinks. He somehow drags the 180-kg creature back to the surface, but it’s too late. Shattered, Capello stalks off, leaving Herb’e’s lifeless body for the others to deal with. He makes the last entry in the dolphin’s logbook, and in a final act of defiance, steals all of Herb’e’s logs from the company.

But like the inevitable resurrection of an immortal monster in a horror movie, things aren’t quite over yet. Capello goes home, where his dolphin odyssey started four years before with his mother’s innocent suggestion he answer a classified ad. And for several nights, he’s bothered by dreams where he violently attacks the props and scenery at West Coast. And early morning phone calls, which his mother answers, asking what he’s doing there when he’s been banished from all the company’s dolphinariums?

The dolphins have apparently taught Capello how to astral project, or create what Tibetan Buddhist monks would call a tulpa – a copy of a person composed of mental energy but capable of acting in the real world. And one last frantic “call” from an agonized Scouse sends him rushing back to West Coast in person, where he finds the dolphin just deceased. A nameless caller later informs Capello that an autopsy showed Scouse was horribly murdered, and that Duchess has followed her partner Herb’e into depression and death.

This being a true story, nobody gets what they deserve in the end. Capello goes back to his father’s sign business and tries to forget he ever trained dolphins. Backhouse buys the first dolphins sold by the notorious Taiji drive hunts, and winds up a celebrity dolphin expert and honored naturalist on a popular English TV show.

Years later, Capello visits an American uncle who drags him to a dolphin show at the local zoo. Capello reluctantly attends, only to find his fame precedes him: his success with the perfect pair hasn’t been forgotten after all. Capello closes with every ex-dolphin-trainer’s powerful suggestion: Don’t buy a ticket!

And now, after four decades of silence, he is sharing this tale with everyone. It is a truly remarkable story as much for his achievements and perseverance as any paranormal content, but my high praise for Capello’s telling of it doesn’t change the fact that, at 350 pages, Shards is not only the longest of the three volumes, but the weakest stylistically.

In contrast to the first two books, which open with vivid flashbacks, the beginning of Shards is scattered and unfocused, which leads to confusion about where Capello is and what’s happening. When the narrative finally settles down around page 10 and the paranormal themes emerge, the Holroyds, an unusual brother-sister writing team, seem determined to spin out Capello’s descriptions of his astral encounters by employing every ellipsis (you, know, those three dots…) in the United Kingdom! I know they’re trying to capture the disoriented, shifting feeling of an interspecies mind-meld, but the scene where Capello saves Duchess’s eyesight goes on with ellipsis after ellipsis for four bloody pages, and we get the point, already!

I can’t blame the Holroyds too much, because I tried the same literary tactic in my novel Wet Goddess for exactly the same reason, and concluded there were better ways to achieve the same result without annoying the reader. Compared to the first two volumes, Shards feels a bit rushed and padded, in need of some good stiff editing. Perhaps if the Holroyds do another printing, they will consider this suggestion.

But in relation to the importance of Capello’s moving and momentous story, this is minor carping. I’m thankful that he’s finally chosen to share his saga to create the perfect pair with us, not only because it validates my own strange experiences, but because we cannot have too much truth about how the dolphin enslavement industry destroys and consumes the self-aware beings it employs. Along with the revelations of Frank Robson and the confessions of Ric O’Barry and John Hargrove, The Perfect Pair trilogy deserves a space on every true dolphin-lover’s bookshelf.

(Malcolm J. Brenner is the author of the 2010 novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Loverand two other books. He lives in Punta Gorda, Fla.)



Book Review: “The Mirror Cracks”


Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Book II: The Mirror Cracks.

By David C. Holroyd and Tracy J. Holroyd. 2014, Matador Press.

Reviewed by Malcolm J. Brenner

Excuse me, I need to calm down. I’ve just finished reading David and Tracy Holroyd’s non-fiction novel The Mirror Cracks, the middle volume of their trilogy The Perfect Pair, and I was startled to be reading pages from my own life.

Of course, I’ve had some astonishing, almost unbelievable experiences, but that’s the point! Your opinion may vary, but you’ll be entranced by this story.

The books recount one young man’s involvement with the English dolphin enslavement industry in the 1970’s, when small oceanariums were springing up all over the land, when anyone could become a dolphin trainer (and did), but before the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act made dolphin lives expensive, or public opinion in the U.K. made the sorry business illegal.

(Would that my country showed such compassion, but with the current administration I’m not holding my breath. I’m a writer, not a sperm whale!)

Book I, The Enchanted Mirror (reviewed earlier on this news blog) introduced us to “David Capello,” the show name of a man once known as the greatest dolphin trainer in England for having a “perfect pair,” two dolphins who could perform in synchronization. He found them in the first dolphins he met, Duchess and Herb’e, and something more: Capello realized the dolphins could get into his mind and respond to his thoughts. He claims to have trained them telepathically, and before you jump to a conclusion that he’s bullshitting the reader, I’ve had similar things happen to me. So have other people. This type of experience, which almost drove me crazy, is real. And if you’re skeptical, I don’t blame you, so was I!

The “enchanted mirror” of the title refers to the glittering reflections on the water surface of Capello’s dolphin training facility, improbably located in an English mining town (all names of places and humans have been changed, the authors say, but not the actual names of the dolphins, as Capello wanted to honor them). Book I introduced us to Capello, a common sort of lad thinking about joining the family sign-painting business when the allure of dolphins beckoned in a classified ad. He responded, and due to a combination of hard work, talent, and sometimes sheer luck (not to mention other people getting fired), Capello soon found himself the lead trainer – and then the only trainer – for the three dolphin shows owned by the vast, unnamed entertainment conglomerate he worked for.

His boss, a corporate sycophant named Backhouse, keeps telling Capello “Anyone with a whistle and a bucket of fish can be a trainer,” thus disparaging not only all Capello’s hard work, but his dolphins’ too! Once all the dolphins were trained, Backhouse says, the show could be run by “presenters,” who work for less. Worse yet, Capello’s charges (he thinks of them as his dolphins) have to swim in a cesspool half the time because the cheap filter in their pool isn’t up to the task. Dumping the water is a costly corporate no-no, but when his dolphins’ skins start peeling, Capello does what he has to, muttering “Screw the establishment!” while he pulls the plug.

In spite of this, at the end of Book I things were going swimmingly for Capello, his perfect pair and another pair of unlikely performing dolphins. Then Bonnie and Clyde were shipped in, to board at Capello’s pool until their new oceanarium was completed. They were the imperfect pair, two show veterans who already knew where all the humans’ buttons are and how to push them.

Capello is able to win Bonnie over, but Clyde is a serious problem. He seems to be receiving his trainer’s mental commands, but not responding, and he radiates a cold contempt for show business. During one memorable performance, Capello throws out several rings, which the dolphins are supposed to fetch on their snouts. Clyde, instead, elects to use his penis.

The arrival of this pair doesn’t so much change things as it marks a stress point in Capello’s career. He finds his telepathic method effective with his dolphins, but the concentration required leaves him exhausted. Dealing with Backhouse and the bureaucracy is so frustrating that Capello turns to valium, which affects his connection, as he calls it, with Duchess and Herb’e. And while his staff are being whittled down, he’s constantly being called to do more with less, and put out fires at other oceanariums, with trainers far less talented than he.

When David is ordered to send his backup team to another pool, he snaps. They are Baby, a talented juvenile, and Scouse, a dolphin accidentally blinded by bashing his head on this plywood shipping crate. Fuming with rage, he does it, only to find Scouse still mentally calling him from 100 miles away! This so closely resembles my own experience with my dolphin lover that I freaked out when I read it. I’m sure other dolphin trainers have felt this, but no-one other than Capello has had the courage to write frankly about it!

Slowly, Capello’s little empire begins to crumble, and he is forced to acknowledge that the dolphins he’s trained with his own sweat and tears aren’t his. The realization seems to break him, but as one of the characters in Book I told him, “Dolphinariums don’t just break dolphins, they break people too.” A woman presenter is attracted to him, but he’s too busy to give her the attention she deserves. And then the seemingly inevitable happens: Duchess, his favorite dolphin, starts courting him!

Being a normal sort of guy, Capello doesn’t fall for this the way I did, but he finds it startling. Fortunately for him, he’s able to thwart her advances.

The final scenes see Capello struggling with prescription drug addiction, hating his unfeeling manager, and more dolphins arriving to winter-over at the already crowded training facility. He rallies, only to hear that Scouse has quit working, and nobody can get him to perform…

Capello has become indispensable, but the Company doesn’t realize it, and his request for a raise is turned down. The only thing keeping him working is his devotion to his perfect pair. He cannot abandon them to a cold, hard world run by bean-counters, where the dolphins he loves are merely replaceable pawns in a vast game of riches.

Throughout this story, the Holroyds keep you turning pages. Their writing is tight and concise, but also supple and emotional. Capello’s thoughts and feelings are expressed clearly, and so are those of his performers. “The Perfect Pair” trilogy should be REQUIRED READING for anyone even daydreaming about becoming a marine animal trainer. The heartbreak and hard work of this career are made palpable here, more so than the joys and excitement that marked Book I. By the end of The Mirror Cracks, Capello, resurrected, has become a tougher, shrewder personality, and so have his dolphins.

Stay tuned for Book III, Shards from the Mirror. The truth will prevail!

Another day, another podcast…


I’ll be appearing on “Uncle Tee’s Cool Pool Party,” a podcast at 8 p.m. EDST Monday on STLR Media in Sarasota. This is the same time slot as “The Twysted Tyrants Show” with Johnny Christ BayBay that I was on about a month ago, but Johnny is gone and it’s a new show. Host Cat Welch has promised me we’ll be able to talk about other things than my love affair with a dolphin, things like my family’s involvement with the crazy pseudo-science of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich, the 20 years I spent practicing Wicca, the decade I spent reporting on the Navajos and Zunis, or my attempts to understand the elusive nature of the UFO, starting when I was a child. (Photo of me defending the First Amendment outside the trailer of the Farmington Daily Times in Shiprock, N.M. Photo by Chas Clifton.)

Did U.S. Navy conduct secret ESP tests with marine mammals? This guy said so, and I’m trying to find out.



Today, while investigating this web post from 2007, I received some startling information. According to SRI, while the author, Steve Hammons, says this paper is unclassified, the project it was written for apparently isn’t! Whether I can even acquire a copy of the paper described here is in doubt, and I am told I may have to ask the sponsor of the research for permission.

It would be interesting to know who laid out the cash for this research, and what, if anything was learned.

As a former investigative reporter, I know how to file a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request, but I’d prefer to ask nicely first, as a FOIA request is a royal pain in the ass to the person receiving it. At the same time, I’m wondering what, exactly, have I stumbled into in my relentless quest for the truth about dolphins? What findings would warrant keeping this paper secret for more than three decades?

Is there a marine mammal equivalent to the nefarious “Men In Black” who are reported to harass UFO witnesses? If you find wet, webbed footprints leading up to my door, and scales on the doorknob… don’t come in.

This post was scanned in from a hard copy of The American Chronicle web site in the author’s possession. All rights remit to the author. Illustrations added for shits and giggles by me.


Navy dolphins may be
 deployed: Did secret ESP research involve them?

The American Chronicle

Steve Hammons

February 14, 2007

This week, the U.S. Navy 
announced that up to 30 dolphins 
and other marine mammals may be
 used to patrol Puget Sound near Seattle to protect Kitsap-Bangor 
Naval Base from terrorist activities.

Dolphins and marine mammals can 
locate underwater swimmers and 
objects and assist with a variety of 
additional tasks.

But what other interesting
 intelligence developments are
 emerging about dolphins that 
involve sensitive and fascinating 
insight into human consciousness?

Tucked within a declassified 
bibliography of “Project STARGATE”
 reports on extrasensory perception 
(ESP), “anomalous cognition” and 
“remote viewing” is a research
paper titled “A Remote Action 
Investigation with Marine Animals.”


The Navy has been working with
 dolphins and marine mammals 
since the 1960s.

The creatures have been 
operationally deployed several 
times, including in war zones and
 probably for activities not routinely 

The dolphins, sea lions and other
 animals are trained and coordinated by the Navy’s Marine Mammal 
Program at the Space and Naval 
Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR)
 on San Diego’s Point Loma 
peninsula, home to many Navy

The dolphins and marine mammals 
have reportedly learned to 
communicate and work well with 
their human counter parts.

As well as conducting various 
operations, Navy research on 
dolphins and marine mammal 
intelligence and sonar-like 
perception has also been conducted.

Marine mammals apparently were also subjects of research as 
part of a “Program Plan for Anomalous Mental Phenomena.”

This effort was conducted as part of government investigations
into remote viewing and anomalous cognition.

A declassified bibliography of research papers completed from
1976 to 1990 includes an unclassified 1987 report titled “A Remote Action Investigation with Marine Animals” Dr. Edwin
 May and Dr. Charles Pleass.

The research by May and Pleass was conducted for SRI 
International, Menlo Park, California. SRI has been one of the 
primary research entities conducting investigations into remote
 viewing and anomalous cognition for the U.S. military and
 intelligence services.

Most people have heard about SRI in connection with Project 
STARGATE, the program that researched ESP, now often referred 
to as anomalous cognition and the techniques called remote
 viewing. The program had several other code names during the
 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

Remote viewing is a combination of ESP-type methods developed 
by the military and intelligence agencies to gather intelligence and
 to assist in counterintelligence activities.

The research report connecting remote viewing researchers to
 marine mammals seems to indicate an association that many
 people are already aware of, and others probably will find 

Developing ESP skills in humans is one thing. Examining telepathy 
and other kinds of anomalous cognition in a highly intelligent
 species like dolphins takes this kind of research in an even more 
interesting direction.


People of many cultures who have lived near the sea and been 
exposed to dolphins and other marine mammals have had tales to tell. Legends and lore about dolphins offer fascinating looks at
 connections between our two species.

Throughout history,
 dolphins have been
 said to be a friend
 to humans. Stories
 of humans being 
rescued at sea, or 
being guided at sea 
by dolphins can be
found in many 
cultures too.

Much has been 
written about
 anecdotal reports, 
ancient and recent,
 of interesting
 encounters between
 humans and 

Personal authentic experiences have been reported by many 
people about unique and significant interactions with dolphins.

And, some people have written about possible telepathy among
 dolphins, and between dolphins and human.

Although these reports often come from credible people, they are
 also difficult or impossible to verify scientifically.



(Photo montage © 1983 Malcolm J. Brenner for Future Life magazine.)

Many scientists have researched dolphins, whales and other
 marine mammals. Probably the most well-known of these is the 
late John C. Lilly, M.D. (1915-2001).

Lilly was a physician and psychoanalyst who focused on
 biophysics, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, electronics and
 computer theory. He also studied consciousness – human and 
dolphin consciousness.

The 1973 movie THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN was based on Lilly’s 
work. George C. Scott starred as a character similar to Lilly.


The 1980 film ALTERED STATES was also based on Lilly’s
 consciousness research.


Explaining his view of dolphins, whales and other cetaceans, he
 said, “They (cetaceans) have been on the planet now with brains 
our size or larger for 25 million years. We’ve only been here with 
our present brain size about two-tenths of a million years. So
 they’ve been here something on the order of 25 to 50 to 100 
times the length of time we have.”

Lilly authored many books on consciousness and other subjects 
which have been read by millions worldwide. These include MAN 

In his later years, Lilly lived on Maui, Hawaii, and spent much
 effort involved with dolphin research and understanding.


We now know that dolphins have a large brain dense with 
neurological wiring, comparable to the human brain. The
 functioning of the dolphin brain and entire neurological system 
has been studied extensively.


Research indicates that these creatures are highly intelligent and 
may possess powers of perception that humans do not yet fully 

But, maybe researchers have discovered more than the general
 public knows about.

Maybe the research by Drs. May and Pleass contains important 
insight into consciousness that seems especially crucial at this 

The human-dolphin connection may be a type of inter-species
 relationship that has unique aspects. It might teach us about 
human beings and our often-difficult human-caused problems on

The Navy dolphins and marine mammals, working so closely with 
humans, may have valuable insight about us.

Maybe we should listen to them.

The American Chronicle and its affiliates have no responsibility for the views, opinions and information communicated here.

 The contributor(s) and news providers are fully responsible for this content. In addition, the views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the American Chronicle or its affiliates.

Steve Hammons
Steve Hammons


Steve Hammons

Steve Hammons

Steve Hammons

Stay tuned, more details will be released as they emerge!

Emilie knows Malcolm (but not in the Biblical sense)!


Some time ago I was asked by Los Angeles comedian Emilie Hagen to do an interview. I was feeling a little toasty from a couple of recent interviews where the hosts kept asking me the same hoary questions I’ve been asked by every interviewer, like “How did you meet this dolphin?” (I’m seriously tempted to answer, “A bad match-up on a dating site.”) So I wasn’t really enthusiastic to do what appeared to be another one.

When I expressed this to Emilie, she explained that she wanted to ask me about my feelings for Dolly. This was such a novel approach that I was momentarily taken aback. Most interviewers are like, “Did you do it in her blowhole?” or “When did you stop fucking your dog?” Emilie, in contrast, was showing me some actual respect and treating me like a human being, rather than a sideshow freak. Believe me, I appreciated that!

Our Skype chat lasted a little over two hours, which was pretty amazing, and while Emilie allowed me to drift a bit, she got what she needed (I hope so!). Then she sat down with the 1/4-inch magnetic recording, demagnetized razor blade, an editing block and a roll of Scotch splicing tape… oh wait, sorry, wrong millennium! It took her about three weeks to edit our long talk down to what I think is one of the best one-on-one interviews anyone has done with me.

Many thanks, Emilie, for keeping it light and keeping it real. It was genuine fun working with you, which is a fuck of a lot more than I can say about those slavering boobs, Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge!

Listen to “Emilie Knows Everything” on Spreaker.

An Open Letter to Susan H. Shane, Ph.D.

Suse Portrait



UPDATE: I received a reply from Dr. Shane on July 12, apologizing for her statement and saying she wouldn’t make the same negative claim today. She also said she had no intention of denying my experience with Dolly, and described female dolphins as being “good candidates” for experiencing orgasm. (I think they’ve had it for 30 million years, but hey, I don’t have a Ph.D., which means I can leap to conclusions with virtually no consequences.)

I’d publish her response here, but she hasn’t given me her permission to do so.

I accept her apology and applaud her open-mindedness in being willing to change her mind. As far as I’m concerned, this matter, which has bothered me for 44 years, is closed. Thanks, Suse.


July 7-8, 2018

Suse, I’m writing you this morning to “get off my chest” something that happened between us in 1974, while you were attending New College and staying at my mother’s house on Siesta Key, where I was also living at the time. You deeply wounded me and ruthlessly invalidated me with six thoughtless words, and it has rankled me ever since.

Your professed ambition as an undergrad, as I remember it anyway, was to become “the Jane Goodall of dolphins.” Sorry you never made it, but maybe it’s for the best anyway. Let me explain why, from my own perspective.

You’ve probably forgotten all about this, but I never have, because you became symbolic to me of mindless veneration of dogma, any dogma but in this case SCIENTIFIC dogma (if you don’t tell me it doesn’t exist, I won’t have to call you a liar).

I don’t remember what led up to this, but we were sitting in my car, I was in the driver’s seat, you were in the passenger seat, we were stopped somewhere and I was trying to describe my 1971 experience with Dolly the dolphin to you, which was only the most profound, moving, deeply personal and transformative experience in my life.

No, you have no idea. You really, really don’t. And I’m not even sure you CAN.

And I was trying to describe to you, while Dolly and I were making love in her pen at Floridaland, how she took me underwater just before we experienced a simultaneous orgasm, and how she groaned, just like a woman, underwater.

You looked at me as if I’d just offered to sell you a slightly used bridge in Brooklyn, cheap.

That’s when you said the six words that utterly invalidated me, my experience with Dolly, my observational abilities, my truthfulness and my intelligence.

You said, and I quote, “But female animals don’t have orgasms!”

And I just sat there, gobsmacked, not believing what I’d just heard.

This has nothing to do with any feelings I may or may not have had toward you. You were very attractive (you still are), and I was hopeful enough to imagine we might get it on, even though I was pretty sure you weren’t attracted to me. I wasn’t very accepting of my own zoophilia then, and was looking to normalize myself through experiences with women. But that’s neither here or there.

When you said, “But female animals don’t have orgasms,” a number of rebuttals came to mind. More have come up int the intervening years. Here are some of them in a nicely-ordered, bulleted list:

• Without putting too fine a point on it, you’re a female animal (I presume you’re not vegetable or mineral) and YOU have orgasms, don’t you? What makes you so special? Or what makes female non-humans so unfortunate? Is female orgasm an evolutionary privilege of H. sapiens, and if so, what have you human women done to make the universe favor you over all other females on this planet?
• Since when is an unprovable negative hypothesis “scientific”? A single case of a female animal having an orgasm is sufficient to invalidate your assertion. Try this link  at 0:40. I don’t know what you’d call that, if not a bitch orgasm.
• Please cite a peer-reviewed scientific paper – ANY paper – which authoritatively states that female animals don’t have orgasms. The only two people I’ve seen allege this in print are Larry Niven (misogynistic SF writer) and Dr. David Bronowski (mathematician). I don’t see as that makes either one an expert on the subject, or anything remotely close. Nor can I find any references to actual studies of this question.
• The clitoris (not mansplaining) is the focus of female sexual arousal and orgasm. The only female mammal I’ve been able to find that doesn’t have one is the platypus. The platypus male has such a spiny penis that he has to knock her out with poison spurs before they can mate. Since other female mammals have clitorises, what do you suppose they have them for? Do you think they get stimulated during mating? And let’s not forget, because of humans’ upright stature, the female human’s clitoris is typically farther from the opening of the vagina than in other female mammals. This means other species’ females should find it easier, rather than more difficult, to experience orgasm during mating without much need for foreplay. Female equines even have a moveable clitoris which they can push against a stallion’s penis when he’s thrusting. Canines form the copulatory tie, which not only involves long-duration sexual stimulation but positions the male dog’s bulbus glandis so it’s depressing the bitch’s clitoris, which I’m sure leads to orgasm. Pigs copulate for up to 20 minutes; it’s difficult to imagine how a sow could NOT experience an orgasm with that duration of penetration.
• In many species I’ve observed (dolphins, dogs, birds, bovines, equines, etc.) a female in estrus will solicit sex from a male rather than waiting for him to get around to it. (Below: cow in estrus soliciting sex from a bull.)


Why do they do this? For Queen and Country? I think not; most non-humans don’t have the comprehension to connect sex with reproduction (dolphins and a few self-aware others being exceptions). They do it because they’re anticipating an orgasm! And why shouldn’t they? The anticipation of an orgasm leads female animals to solicit sex, just the same way it does males. It’s a powerful driver for bisexual reproduction, which is the most important act an animal can perform. If it didn’t exist, evolution would have invented it millions of year ago for just this reason. Also, in many females, orgasm triggers ovulation and various involuntary responses that help transport sperm to the ovum.
• How did this idea you parroted back to me get started? Well, it’s true, most female animals don’t display a lot of activity or vocalize during mating. The one exception, the feline, is supposed to scream during sex because it’s painful, the males having small spines on their penises. (I conducted an informal experiment many years ago to test this hypothesis and found that female cats scream even when penetrated by a smooth phallus, it just takes 3-5x longer than with a spiny one. So it isn’t the spines that are causing her to scream.) Does this lack of activity or vocalization mean they aren’t having orgasms? Of course not, and it would take a leap of faith to assume so. Many women do not display the “stereotypical” (i.e. faked) orgasm behaviors, moaning, thrashing around, biting, pulling their partner’s hair, etc., that are often associated (in men’s minds, at least) with the female orgasm. To make Brooke Shields fake an on-camera orgasm in the 1981 romantic film “Endless Love,” director Franco Zeffirelli stood off-camera, pinching her toe incredibly painfully. While my own experience is, admittedly, unscientific and limited, the two non-human partners I’ve successfully had sex with (Dolly and Pixel, my previous, 34-kg bitch) had orgasms. If you need to remind yourself what I told you about Dolly’s orgasmic behavior in 1978, you can buy & read my novel Wet Goddess  because I’m damn sure not wasting my breath explaining it to you again. When I had orgasms while having sex with Pixel, I could feel her vagina squeeze me. According to Masters and Johnson, involuntary contractions of the female sexual organs are the most reliable indicators of female orgasm, so I am inclined to think that’s how most female mammals experience it: totally on the inside, not the outside. After all, if the female mammal started thrashing around, the male would fall off her back and sex would be over without insemination. So thrashing around would be self-extinguishing, evolutionarily speaking. And looking for human-type behavior in non-humans is called “anthropomorphism,” isn’t it? (Rhetorical question, but you already knew that, didn’t you?) If scientists claim female animals don’t experience orgasms because they don’t react the same way human females do, they’re being anthropomorphic scientists. If they want an honest answer from somebody who is uniquely qualified to provide one, they should talk to zoophiles, like me. We’ve been there. We know. Not “think” or “believe” or “imagine” or “hypothesize” or “guess” or “that’s what the data indicate:” WE KNOW. Because we’ve been there, that’s how.
• How did this silly, crackpot, unsupported notion get started? I think I figured it out, and although this is my speculation, it’s based on well-known and often-observed aspects of male human behavior. Prior to the 1950s, there weren’t a lot of woman biologists, certainly not like there are today. So biology conferences were mostly-male gatherings. What do a group of men (yes, even scientists) like to do when they get together by themselves? Drink beer and watch porn movies in back rooms after the  conference. So some guy with a 16mm B&W fuck film would commandeer a projector and slap a hand-lettered notice on his hotel room door announcing that there would be an impromptu showing of “Mating habits of the female Homo sapiens” at such and such a time. And I assume the men would make coarse jokes about the ACTING of the players, all of whom are faking their reactions because they have to endure multiple camera set-ups, retakes, etc. Just like regular feature film-making, making porno films is a boring, time-consuming exercise in patience. But all the biologists see on the screen is the edited version: the woman screaming, flailing, thrashing around, biting her lip or her man’s shoulder, etc. Of course, when you go out in the field, you are subconsciously comparing that arousing performance with, say, a mare or a wildebeest who may let the male mount her with very little courtship. And under those circumstances, the biologists who have been Hollywood brainwashed by powerful images at primal levels about what to expect from sex (with a human ACTRESS, let us not forget,) look at a mare or sow or jenny mating, and they don’t see the dramatic performance seen in porno films, and that some women actually do achieve in their sex lives. (One of the worst nights of sex I’ve ever had was with a Jewish woman who assumed, without asking, that I liked her screaming and pulling my hair.) In short, the dubious conclusion that “female animals don’t have orgasms” is certainly a case of inadequate investigation, superficial observation, bias confirmation, constricted imagination, latent Victorianism and probably, not wanting to rock status quo, an all-too-facile acceptance of “revealed wisdom”.

So I sat there, in my car, staring at you and trying to deal with a lot of disbelief, anger, even outrage. First, there doesn’t appear to be a source to your assertion, whereas I had actually performed the act and felt the sensations with my body, which is a very sensitive, but often unreproducible way of monitoring somebody else’s emotions. And I took a number of physical risks to do that. I had no inkling of the emotional risks i was taking, which turned out to be far worse and long-lasting.

I was trying to interest you, or anyone really, in the fact that I had a high-strangeness experience with an intelligent alien species. Information theory determines that the frequency of an event is inversely proportional to the value of the information can be gleaned from it. We learn more from rare events than common ones. So someone should be able to learn a whole fucking lot about dolphins from my experience, but so far no takers. I don’t know, maybe cetacean researchers are prudes?

“Female animals don’t have orgasms.” My first cogent thought, after I got over my shock, was How the fuck do you know, Suse? And I still wonder who told you that, or how you learned it, or what book you read it in, and why you decided to accept it was true without either an authoritative source or some research. And what made you think you “knew” it, when it could not have been anything other than a pure belief on your part, almost a superstition. I mean, you didn’t get a grant to check it out, did you? I didn’t think you bowed to authority, but I guess I was wrong.

My second thought was rage. Just pure rage, which I struggled very hard to control. I almost told you to get out of my car. It wasn’t so much what you said, Suse, as the abusive way you said it: as a pronouncement. A fact. No question of argument with YOU, Professor Shane! You didn’t express any curiosity about my description of human-dolphin love making, or question it, you invalidated it and negated it without really considering what I’d just told you. You seriously dissed me. Why did you feel the overwhelming need to blow me off? What did I ever do to you? I never fucking laid a hand on you, never insulted you or called you a rude name. I tried to behave like a gentleman toward you, as I was taught. In return, you insulted me, my observation abilities and my ability to reach conclusions based on evidence. You not only told me that I was wrong, but that I was stupid or naive for having reached the conclusion I did. Suse, I had experience. I had evidence, gathered at great personal cost. I’d been there, you never even considered the idea. Your comment on my experience was made from an armchair. Am I saying you should have been a zoophile? Of course not. I’m not proselytizing for my sexual orientation, I’m proselytizing for dolphins. And yet, in spite of my admission, which I was keeping very close at that time, you displayed no curiosity or interest. You just wanted to tell me I was wrong, and you didn’t explain what your motivations were, or why.

Third, I was astonished. I thought maybe you hadn’t understood me, that I hadn’t made my argument, when I told you that, as we reached climax, Dolly groaned three times in a rising tone synchronized with my thrusts. That detail seemed to go right by you. Selective hearing? You made some dismissive remark about that observation, I forget what, but then I tried to tell you that, as we swam along making love, Dolly synchronized the strokes of her tail with my pelvic thrusts. “That was just for deeper penetration for better fertilization,” you retorted, completely ignoring the subjective or emotional component there. I suppose you meant it was somehow “instinctual.” How could making love with another species be “instinctual”? We both know that dolphin matings are very quick, a matter of a few seconds, but Dolly not only managed to last about two minutes with me (sorry, I didn’t check my waterproof watch, I’m sure you understand) but apparently timed her orgasm to be simultaneous with mine. Besides, when you made your “better penetration” remark, you weren’t in possession of the full facts, because you never asked me. While it’s difficult for me to know for certain, I’m pretty sure I never penetrated Dolly’s vagina. At the time I thought I’d run into one of her pseudocervixes, but a marine mammal vet intimately familiar with the situation (if you believe him, anyway) told me I’d run into the external adductor muscle, which I guess closes the opening of the vagina, preventing salt water from getting in. Her genitalia are certainly a lot more complicated than yours! So I guess her thrusting in sync with me was because she enjoyed the sensation, not some vague instinctual urge.

Finally, Suse, there was a disillusionment, sadness, and rejection. I tried to share something very precious and rare with you, an intimate experience that, at the time, I had told almost nobody about. I felt like you’d be interested, but your only interest seemed to be in correcting me, and rather rudely at that. You weren’t trying to enlighten or inform me about something in which I was in error; you were bluntly telling me that my experience didn’t happen the way it happened, or that my sensations of it or conclusions about it were erroneous, and you did this without the slightest shred of evidence that they were.

In short, YOU GASLIGHTED ME, SUSE, at the same time as you ripped me a new one. For what reason? I think I have a right to know, even after all these years. Was my statement somehow a threat to you or the knowledge you represented? Were you appalled at my apparent ignorance? Did you think I’d taken too much LSD and hallucinated the whole thing, that I was bullshitting you, that I made it all up, or that I was sexually boasting? Nothing could be further from the truth. I was (and remain) deeply puzzled about my love affair with Dolly, and continue to try to understand her motivations and interpretations of it to this day. Because it was so strange, so tender, and so beautiful, it has become the central defining point in my life. (The birth of my daughter ranks second.)

You showed no concern for my feelings; in fact, like a lot of women I’ve encountered, you acted like I didn’t even HAVE feelings, which is offensive and sexist of you. You seemed eager to humiliate me, or show off your own “correct” knowledge. It was disparaging and emotionally deeply wounding, and at that point, while I was still in mourning for Dolly, I was easily wounded. Your callous remark twisted that knife.

I mean, what the fuck, Suse? What the goddamn fuck? I can’t find any reason why you behaved that way. I understood Dolly a lot better than I understood you, which has always been my problem with people in general and women in particular. I have no inherent facility for understanding, and interacting with, my own species. My tool kit to do so seems to have been assembled one painful socket wrench at a time.

As UFO researcher Jacques Vallee said of UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass’s derision of the whole subject, “Since when is ridicule part of the scientific method?” Because you showed no curiosity or interest in my experience, I don’t think you acted in a scientific manner. Admittedly, my experience was anecdotal, but you didn’t try to gather testimony. You reminded me of the savants of Medieval France who scoffed at the peasants who claimed that stones fell from the sky. Everybody knew such a thing was impossible!

Your attempted nullification, or re-interpretation of my experience to fit scientific orthodoxy, was very much in keeping with the other scientists I encountered at that period, people I’m sure you know or knew: the Caldwells, Blair Irvine, the Tavolgas, and so on. (Interestingly enough, Randy Wells, whom I knew in high school, has never tried to “correct” me, listens patiently to my ideas and manages to make insightful remarks. He’s a great guy and an open mind.)

I was confronting very unsettling and problematic questions about the “telepathic” communications with Dolly that I seemed to be having at the time. I considered the possibility that I was becoming schizophrenic, and rejected it. I existed in a state of “suspended disbelief” for quite a while, and even the overwhelming experience of totally interpenetrating each others’ bodies, hearts and minds when we made love couldn’t completely convince me that the phenomenon of inter-species telepathy was real. Since then, however, I’ve made contact with a number of other trainers and researchers who claim something similar (but non-sexual), has happened to them: Ric O’Barry (on tape: “Eventually I realized it was all telepathy, because shooting a weekly television show we just didn’t have time to use standard conditioning techniques.”); Frank Robson, NZ fisherman, dolphin trainer and author of Thinking Dolphins, Talking Whales and Pictures in the Dolphin Mind; Michael Greenwood, civilian scientist with the U.S. Navy, author of Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare (“If the U.S. Navy would release what it knows about dolphins, it would revolutionize psychology,”); paranormal researcher Lyall Watson, who found a strange man in NZ who could mentally “bully” dolphins into obeying him; the inimitable and widely despised John C. Lilly, and most recently “David Capello,” pen name for a British trainer from the 1970s who wrote a very good trilogy, The Perfect Pair, about the brutal, frustrating and heart-breaking work of being a commercial dolphin trainer. I’m trying to get information about SRIs remote viewing experiences with dolphins. I also interviewed the late Florida sculptor Don Seiler, who claimed a dolphin thwarted an attempted shark attack on him in the 1940s. I got a letter from a witness who confirmed his story — Truly Nolan!

When a scientist proposes a hypothesis, he or she goes out looking for data to either confirm or disprove it. Based on the data, it is possible to make predictions about how the hypothesis will be received. Since Dolly and I made love in 1971, human beings have learned a hell of a lot more about dolphins that we knew back then. EVERYTHING WE’VE LEARNED HAS REINFORCED MY CONCLUSIONS ABOUT DOLPHINS, and nothing has contradicted them. Dolphins are self-aware, linguistic, tool-users with highly complex social systems, remarkable memories, undiscovered abilities and a so-far-unexplained camaraderie with human beings, their biggest predator. I could have told you that back in 1971, based solely on my experiences with Dolly, but I hadn’t paid my dues, so who would have listened? Certainly not you. You acted like a fucking know-it-all. It’s not an attractive attitude, even for scientists.

Since that time, I see you’ve come a long way. How far, or in what direction, I have no idea. You seem to have strong humanist values, for which I applaud you. Are they a recent acquisition? Where were they, in dealing with me? I just didn’t deserve the way you dismissed me, Suse, I just didn’t deserve it.

I had a terrible night last night, and woke up filled with an inexplicable, unfocused rage. I don’t think back on our encounter often, certainly don’t dwell on it, and I bear you no ill-will, Suse. I also want to say I was a very inconsiderate, selfish and careless person myself, in those times, and I regret having been that way. But I would like an apology from you, both for being factually wrong, then for deeply, callously hurting my feelings by invalidating the most personal, transcendental and loving experience in my life. It wouldn’t have cost you anything to keep your mouth shut, but you had to go and be a nerd showoff. Well, you hurt me, Suse, with your callous attitude, and you added to my increasing dissatisfaction with scientists as human beings.

You probably think I’m fucking nuts for writing this after all this time. Maybe I am, I don’t care anymore. I’m no spring chicken, and there is, as I said at the opening of this letter, an irrepressible urge to have this out with you. Although I have largely outgrown or learned to cope with the long-shouldered rage and resentment I experienced in my deeply troubled youth, I haven’t been able to let this one drop. Admittedly, I have a problem hanging on to resentment; worse, in the winter of 2012-2013, the stress of watching my lover’s people being slaughtered and captured by the Japanese fishermen in Taiji gave me an emotional breakdown. When they captured that little white dolphin, Angel, for display, something inside me snapped, and I decided I would try to make dolphin meat a little more expensive in Japan. I conceived a plan to invade the Japanese consulate in Miami and either kidnap or kill the consul. I worked on this for several days, laying out a budget, material requirements and strategies, before realizing I was fucking out of my mind and getting some psychiatric help. After that episode, my brother, a psych nurse, suggested I re-start taking gabapentin, which has helped with my episodes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder in the past. That rage hasn’t been a problem since… until today. But more recently, I’ve had terrible problems with vertigo, which has eluded all the usual diagnoses, and my ENT told me to stop taking the gabapentin, which I did about 3 weeks ago. So if this letter upsets or offends you, blame it on my meds. Or the lack of them.

That’s all I really have to say, Suse. My New College education was a sham, I’m not friends with anybody I went to school with there. My most precious possession from that time, the 8mm film 351 that I made with the late David Pini and my former friend John “Rabbit” Wasko, was destroyed by a careless projectionist. My only reason for “friending” you on FB was to share this complaint with you, a complaint about rather callous rejection and denial that also questioned my integrity as a human being, and to get an apology, if one is forthcoming. For a long time I just sloughed it off, because I didn’t want to go to all this trouble, thought I was silly for playing emotional paleontologist and was afraid of the reaction I might get from you – afraid of another rejection, oddly enough, and I just realized that now as I’m closing.

I wrote Wet Goddess and appeared in the award-winning short documentary Dolphin Lover because I had acquired some unique insights on dolphin thought, emotions and behavior. I had to explain to people that dolphins can offer us love as deep and profound (maybe more so) as we experience with other humans, to make people aware how emotionally vulnerable dolphins are in spite of their enormous physical strength, to show why it’s wrong to keep them keep them in captivity or eat them, to encourage the restoration of their degraded habitats and to encourage further investigations into their cognition, language, abilities and their facility for working with us, the killer apes of Planet Earth. And for most of the 37 years it took me to write, re-write, re-re-write, layout and publish that book, I was horribly afraid that I would die without being able to share my experience with a world that desperately needs to hear it. In a joking sort of way, I thought if that happened I’d have to go through reincarnation, except that this time I’d be the dolphin, and Dolly would be the human…

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a way to disentangle my dolphin experience from my zoophilia, and it’s on my zoophilia rather than the dolphins that most interviewers and writers have focused. (The comments on Dolphin Lover range from WTFs and calls for eye bleach to the people who want to dismember or murder me for having made love with a dolphin.)  This is disappointing, but not unexpected, the shock media being what they are these days. In spite of this, I persisted because I JUST HAD TO TELL THIS STORY, no matter what the personal outcome to me. The same has been true for my other two books, one a memoir of sexual/physical/emotional abuse as a child in the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s infamous orgone energy-sex cult, the other being my second wife’s unbelievable tale of becoming a “seductee” after an extraterrestrial spaceship, piloted by a very humanoid alien, crashed in her back yard. I could never disprove her story, because, like my early suspicions about the dolphins, all the event-forks kept breaking her way. But, sadly, I couldn’t prove it, either.

I hope you read this, Suse; maybe it will make you learn something about yourself you weren’t aware of before, or teach you something you didn’t know. But maybe not. I know you thought I was a jerk back at N.C., and I did very little to change that opinion. But life has a way of abrading a person’s rough edges, and I am a better person now than I was back then, if not more materially successful. Now officially retired from journalism, I’ve had a very checkered career, never really achieving my goals. You seem to have done well for yourself and achieved at least some of your goals. What I’m feeling toward you, or at least your career path, isn’t jealousy but envy. My problems were seldom doing the job, almost always with getting along with other people on my jobs. On the other hand, your current posts display an admirable humanitarianism. I just wonder where it was when you told me, with the certainly of a pontiff quoting scripture, “Female animals don’t have orgasms.”

Whether you respond or not, Suse, I’ve fulfilled a personal need that has been simmering in me for decades. Unless you want to engage in dialog, I will not broach the matter again. Since I have no great affection for you, I’m going to drop you as a FB friend. I’ve said what I have to say, and while your response, if you choose to make one, may be illuminating, it’s utterly unnecessary from my POV. You can still PM me if you want. I hope you never treated, or will treat, anyone sincerely looking for knowledge like you treated me, Suse Shane, because it was beneath you, and it was lousy science, too. Have a nice life.











Book Review: “The Enchanted Mirror”


Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Book I: The Enchanted Mirror. 

 David C. Holroyd and Tracy J. Holroyd. 2012, Matador Press.

Reviewed by Malcolm J. Brenner

Being a dolphin trainer looks like a glamorous job, as Ric O’Barry could tell you. He trained dolphins for the mid-1960’s TV show Flipper, which was dubbed into dozens of languages and became a world-wide hit. Rightly or wrongly, O’Barry now blames himself for the current plague of dolphin exploitation, including the proliferation of swim-with-dolphin facilities and oceanariums that are pillaging wild populations.

In reality, dolphin-training is a difficult, demanding, often-dangerous job that is guaranteed to break your heart. The “why” becomes obvious in The Enchanted Mirror, the first book in a trilogy chronicling the career of one “David Capello,” the stage name of a dolphin trainer who worked for an unnamed entertainment company in 1970’s England.

Is the book fiction or a memoir? I’m not quite clear. The foreword writer describes it as “a true story,” but co-author Tracy Holroyd, who wrote it with her brother David, told me they fictionalized Capello’s story for legal reasons (like I did with my human-dolphin love novel Wet Goddess). Does it matter? No, because his story reflects what former trainers like O’Barry and SeaWorld’s John Hargrove have revealed about the job.

We open with Capello in the middle of a performance with Duchess and Herb’e, his “perfect pair,” two dolphins who can synchronize their moves flawlessly, and we find that he’s directing them by… thinking? Flashback to Capello, a callow 17-year-old, hearing his mom suggest he apply as an assistant at a dolphin show. Although disinterested, he somehow gets the job and goes to work at a training facility, improbably located in a grimy coal-mining town.

The first reality Capello encounters is unwanted animals: a pair of messy penguins and a dangerous sea lion. He gets so friendly with the pinniped that, after a drunken binge, he ends up sleeping in its cage! When confronted by an irate local whose parking space he’s taken, Capello experiences weirdness: the sea lion comes to his defense. “For the oddest moment,” he relates, “it seemed as though I were looking in a mirror; then I felt all my aggression seeping away and saw it – actually saw it – filling up those big green eyes.”

This is the first time he experiences what he calls a connection with other species, and when the first pair of dolphins show up for training, the feeling is amplified.

“Aren’t you beautiful? I thought. I reached out and, as my hand made contact with this strangely different creature of the sea, my nervy excitement began to dissipate, leaving in its wake a sense of peace and calm. I felt something: a connection of some kind that made me feel light-headed. It was as if she was stealing my strength, leaving me feeling weak and disoriented, yet I couldn’t break free of her spell. I was totally and utterly captivated.

“This animal was giving off some serious vibes.”

Here, Capello joins a very select group of humans, including me, O’Barry, New Zealand trainer Frank Robson, former U.S. Navy scientist Michael Greenwood and a few others who claim to have been touched by the dolphins in a remarkable way: mentally. But let us leave this improbability momentarily to continue Capello’s story.

By this point all the major forces are in play which will, I suspect, carry the story through three volumes. Capello rapidly becomes very possessive of Duchess and Herb’e, thinking of them as his dolphins, when in reality they belong to the megalithic company that issues his paychecks. The fact that other trainers can’t get them to perform makes no difference. Young, hard-working and sometimes just dumb lucky, Capello soon finds himself running the dolphin training operation and confronting all the problems which the commoditization and exploitation of sentient non-human species creates.

When the “perfect pair” aren’t up to performing eight shows on holidays, a second team of dolphins must be imported, one of whom turns out to have been traumatized in capture. Capello describes in agonizing detail the enormous stress of capturing her twice a day and trying to force-feed her. When the filtration system can’t handle the amount of waste in the water, he risks the wrath of management by dumping the tank and refilling it. When the show finally opens to the public, a woman trainer steals the limelight by disrobing for the cameras of the Fleet Street tabloids… and so on.

During all this time, Capello also recounts the colorful and sometimes creepy people he roomed with. He recalls his work as a trainer so clearly and vividly that I wonder if he kept a private journal, or had copies of the individual dolphins’ logbooks to work from.

Capello ends The Enchanted Mirror with himself ascendant, Duchess and Herb’e working as the perfect pair and a second duo, including one unfortunate dolphin blinded in shipping, as back-up performers. He feels on top of the world until he learns that a third pair of dolphins are being sent to him for training… a couple ominously known as Bonnie and Clyde.

Stand by for Vol. II: The Mirror Cracks.

Fiction it may (or may not) be, The Perfect Pair is one of the best and most authentic books I’ve ever read about the realities of dolphin training. The Holroyd siblings manage to convey all the aspects of the job, be they boring, funny, horrifying or wonderful. Although their writing is very good, I had a couple of minor quibbles. While most of the story is told in past tense it occasionally shifts into present tense, Capello talking to himself during the more extreme chapters. Tracy Holroyd described this as a deliberate technique to engage the reader, but I found it disconcerting. Also, a disturbing scene of some poltergeist-like nocturnal activity in the oceanarium raises questions that aren’t answered in this volume.

Historically, tales involving human-dolphin interaction don’t end well for the dolphins. This goes all the way back to Pliny the Elder, who in the 1st Century CE wrote in amazement of a dolphin who visited the now-Tunisian city of Hippo Diarrhytus. Alas, the creature’s friendly nature attracted many wealthy visitors. “At last, the vexations that were caused them by having to entertain so many influential men who came to see this sight, compelled the people of Hippo to put the animal to death,” Pliny wrote. So, while I have a dark feeling about how the Holroyds’ telling of Capello’s tale will end, fascination and professional interest compel me to continue. Ignorance is not bliss, particularly when you’ve gotten as close to one of these creatures as I have.

And what about that mysterious feeling of “connection” that Capello describes, the ability to train and direct dolphins with his mind? This is one of those things that gets discussed in back rooms at marine mammal conferences.  A lot of trainers report it; I know, because I’ve spoken to some. Scientists generally dismiss telepathy and other such paranormal phenomena as preposterous notions, the product of superstition or delusions. Well, I may have been stoned when I was communicating with my dolphin, Dolly, but I’m not stupid. I doubted the experiences at the time and thought I was literally going crazy later on, but it turns out I wasn’t: I’m not the only one who’s had a dolphin get into his mind.

I can’t begin to explain how they do it, but consider this: We humans have been in our present form on Earth, Homo sapiens, for about 150,000 years. That’s not even a blink in time. Dolphins, on the other hand, have been in their present form for at least 12 million years, or 80 times longer than we have. They not only have a vast history of survival, but they’ve been self-aware all that time and able to explore their consciousness. Isn’t it possible they’ve figured out some things about mind and the nature of reality that we haven’t?

The Perfect Pair will give you one man’s insight into their world as he encountered it, but if you find yourself buying the whole trilogy, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

(Malcolm J. Brenner is the author of the 2010 novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover and two other books. He lives in Punta Gorda, Fla.)

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