My wife, Julie, and I just returned from a cruise and one of our stops was the island of Grand Cayman. While we were there, we took a trip on a small boat to Stingray Island, which is a natural sandbar located about a mile from the coast.
For more than 50 years, stingrays have been coming to the area to eat scraps from fishermen. The fishermen used to clean their catches there and toss the unwanted parts of the fish overboard. The stingrays learned to come to the sandbar to eat the leftovers.
Now, local guides offer excursions out to Stingray Island for tourists. The excursion includes getting in the water with the stingrays, holding, feeding, and kissing them. Yes, you heard me right! Kissing a stingray brings 7 years of good luck. I will let you know if that is actually true or not.
You probably heard the story about Steve Irwin, the Australian zoologist who had a television show, and who was killed when he was stung in the chest by a stingray. If you knew the background on Steve Irwin you may be a bit apprehensive about getting in the ocean with a bunch of stingrays. The locals all say it’s very safe, and only two people have ever been barbed, both due to splashing and kicking their legs.
I thought, “Duly noted.”
So, there we were, standing in 4 feet of water with stingrays gliding by. One brushed up against a guy’s leg and he immediately started to panic, shuffling his feet and trying to move away from this thing. The handler said if you act nervous and start panicking they are going to disappear, moving away from you because they don’t like that energy. Sure enough, they disappeared for a minute.
However, the handler had a bucket of squid in the water with us which lured the stingrays back to the area. The little ones were about the size of a basketball, and the larger ones were 4 to 5 feet wide. The guide picked one of these critters up and showed us how to properly handle them, and we all took turns holding both big and small stingrays. Again, if the people were nervous and not confident, the stingray would squirm and try to swim away. The handler again informed us they like calm confident energy.
That’s really the same way we are supposed to interact with dogs. Dogs respond best to calm, confident energy. I held a little and a big stingray for what seemed for a long time, and they both were relaxed in my arms as if they were enjoying the interaction. I held the little one until I was tired and finally had to let it go.
A few minutes passed and the handler asked where the little one went, and I said I let her go. He said, “You let her go?” like, what did you do that for? Within 10 minutes she was back, and he scooped her up again for someone else to try. The stingray were obviously there for the free snacks, and were very gentle when they sucked the squid right out of you hand. The suction they had was quite impressive.
What I came away from this experience with was- whether an animal is wild or domestic, they like calm, confident behavior. What do they tell you if you see a wild bear? Stand your ground, don’t move, and whatever you do- don’t run! Calm, confident behavior goes a long way in shaping behavior in our children and pets. Sometimes they may test our nerves, but being calm and confident will get you the best results.
When you see our staff working with dogs it might look like a dance, or like synchronized swimming. You cannot hear the commands, but the handler and dog work together in harmony. The finished product is really beautiful to watch. There is a lot of repetition and reward involved, but it all begins with being a calm and confident leader. It’s natural, and it works.
If you need a little help learning the Adams K-9 Way, please contact us today to schedule a free evaluation and we will show you how it all works.