In an Animal Planet poll to find the World’s Favourite Animal, dolphins came third, flamboyantly somersaulting onto the list below tigers and dogs. That’s pretty impressive out of an estimated 8.7 million species on the planet. Well done, dolphins! I would love to award the bronze medal myself, if only I could find a representative.
Where I come from, dolphins are luxury creatures. The sort of animal that dances by the bow of million-dollar yachts while the passengers sip champagne from golden goblets and eat canapés so tiny they barely pass for a food item. To be able to see such creatures without having access to a luxury boat was one very good reason for moving to Northland.
But my search for dolphins always ends in disappointment. I show up in all the right places. I wait nonchalantly, pretending I’m not really looking for them. Time ticks on, and it slowly dawns on me that I’ve been stood up yet again. Then the texts and Facebook messages come in. “Just seen dolphins in Paihia while happening to glance briefly at the sea.” And: “Dolphins performed back flips over my tinny all afternoon.”
Recently, I figured out why dolphins are avoiding me. They just don’t want to claim that bronze medal. After all, the next poll is coming up. Tigers are sadly declining. The popularity of dogs depends on whether they can resist that steak sitting on the worktop (they’re trying, but failure is inevitable). The dolphins are hanging on for the highest accolade. And, when I arrive at the beach to present the award, there’ll be hundreds of them, leaping and spinning for all they’re worth. Gold.