Unless their parents travel with them to the distant oceans, prairie children never get to see live dolphins. Even some adults miss the rare sight of these wondrous creatures except at aquariums. That was what prompted me to visit West Edmonton Mall in the spring of 1988.
I tend not to frequent over-hyped places and events. So many people raved about West Edmonton Mall that I automatically assumed it wasn’t worth visiting. Then I found an inflatable toy dolphin in the first house that I bought. It was one which the former owners of the house purchased at the mall. Since I had never seen dolphins in the flesh, I decided I would go and find out if the mall was all it was cracked up to be.
Arriving at the east entrance, I wandered down the hall and looked at all the stores. The ice rink held no fascination for me so I kept walking toward the dolphin’s area. I paid my two dollars and sat on the concrete bleachers, waiting for the show to begin. Though my vision was poor, I enjoyed the acrobatic flips and leaps the four dolphins did.
Afterward, I rode the mall’s submarine. Part of the route let us see the dolphins underwater. I took several photos of them before the submarine took us out of range. Though they didn’t turn out as clear as I had hoped, I was able to appreciate those animals streamline bodies and their graceful motions.
I visited the mall in subsequent years and took a few friends from Portland, Oregon to see the dolphins in 1993. They were quite impressed with the dolphin show performances they saw as well as the other attractions. Whenever I visited the mall, I photographed those magnificent creatures, as well as other sea animals.
Though I applaud most efforts at ending cruelty, I felt disgusted at certain animal rights protesters who agitated to have the dolphins removed from West Edmonton Mall. I felt that children should be able to watch these beautiful animals perform and that it wasn’t cruel to make them work for their fish. Unless parents had the money to visit places where dolphins lived, those kids would miss out on a sublime experience.
The owners of West Edmonton Mall decided to let the four dolphins live out their lives there until only one was left. The last dolphin was sent to another aquarium facility in America and sea lions replaced the dolphins. As far as I know, no activists have protested having sea lions at the mall.
Though I think dolphins are beautiful, bunnies are my favourite creature. I wrote When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living With Bunnies to show people the amazing things I discovered about these misunderstood animals. Visit the Bruce Atchison’s books link to find out more about this delightful memoir.