23rd December, 2008
Sea World, San Diego, CA., U.S.A.



I've never kept my love for dolphins a secret. That's probably why so many of you have given me all the keepsake dolphin art that I cherish.

I've also explained who the "Puppies" are ... the 20-somethings (with some in their 30's now) who have become like our own kids, but since they aren't our real children, we affectionately refer to them as our "Puppies".

Well these two special warm spots in my heart came together one day, in a surprise that I did not see coming.

A very special Puppy who I met when he was a graduating Theater senior, participating in the Ball State University Los Angeles Showcase in 2007, became a part of my life soon after he made his move from Chicago to Los Angeles permanent. He had done his Dougie research, and my love of dolphins was now firmly planted in the back of his mind.

Meet James E. Roberts. A bright, funny, gifted young actor. As terms of endearment, the puppies get nicknames, unfortunately for them. I call James "JimmyStixs," but you never heard that. Shhhhhhhh.

Now jump ahead with me to December 23, 2008. I'm sitting in the passenger seat of a car at 6:00am, and James is driving us out of Los Angeles with a grin on his face. I have no idea where we are going. Two and a half hours later, the sun is up, and we arrive in San Diego on a perfect day. Sea World to be exact. "Oh YES," I thought to myself, not having been to an ocean park since I was nine years old. OOH, there must be a dolphin show! That would have been surprise enough. But James forges into the park with a determined walk, not letting me pay for anything. I just had to follow. What more could there be?

Well, we arrive at a sign-in desk, where they check off his pre-paid reservation. While he is doing paperwork, I look around the room we are in and see the words "Dolphin Interaction" on the wall ...

Dougie: ... "Shut UP!!!!" ...... "Are you KIDDING me!?!?!?" ...... Get OUTTA here!!!!!!! ...

James: "Merry Christmas"

I immediately lost 40 years of maturity, making me a giggly little 8 year old boy. And that's how I stayed for the rest of the day.

This is an experience I never planned for myself. I had always wanted to, but never found the time. It took a puppy to force me to block off a day on my calendar and just get in the car when he said.

Once we had our tutorial classroom time with a dolphin trainer, it was off to the locker room to slip into wet suits, and in no time, I was standing in water with James to my left and a trainer to my right with a whistle in his mouth. One toot of that whistle, and from under the water's surface pops up the smiling face that I would instantly fall in love with. Happily squealing ... both of us.

Meet "Purina," the most beautiful bottle-nosed dolphin I could imagine. Or as I like to refer to her, my new girlfriend that Mrs. Laurie fully condones. The trainers nicknamed her "Chow-Chow".

Instant love. Such a wondrous mammal. So calming. So playful. So healing. The photos tell the whole story.

A tail-wagging puppy on my shoulder. A tail-flipping dolphin in my arms. A perfect day.

Thank you James "JimmyStixs" for giving me a day that you knew I would never give myself. A day that cost more time and money than I could have ever deserved. A day that will live in my heart forever.

And for those of you still reading, thank you for indulging me in this story which still brings a tear to my eye. Yes, I'm sappy, and proud of it.

There's Love -- Dougie

The smiles say it all ...

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