Beyond the Ocean's Depths (Not an Average Shifter Romance)

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Chapter 4: Delilah and Dan


Last night I stood in front of the long mirror hanging from my closet door, trying on the official Gulfside Aquatic Rehabilitation Center short neoprene wetsuit Rhonda had ordered for me, complete with the center’s logo on the back.

“You still have some pounds to go, lady,” I frowned at myself.

I’d never been a twig, but after injuring my back several years ago, then going through a horrible divorce, I’d found myself with several more pounds than I had ever weighed. Hormones, age, genetics, stress, and not enough exercise were what my doctor chalked it up to, as eating healthy wasn’t my problem.

Exercise had definitely taken a backseat due to my lower back injury, and with my newfound desk job/promotion in Cincinnati, I slowly expanded mostly in my belly, hips, and thighs.

I’d been wanting to get more fit anyways, but when Rob offered me the job here and knowing that a wetsuit was in my future, I decided to get my fat butt back on track!

Over the last few months, I’d managed to work on my stress by meditating and seriously not sweating the small stuff, while building up a vigorous (for me) workout routine, working with my limitations and focusing on slowly building my strength.

Between the treadmill three days a week and HIIT DVDs three more days a week, I’d shed twenty pounds and was back to a size-6 in pants and medium tops.

Being a short 5′ 2", and sitting firmly at 150 pounds, I’d lost far more inches than weight. I was proud of my work and was feeling pretty good physically but I had really wanted to lose at least twenty more pounds before showing off my curves to my new coworkers. “Oh well, it is what it is,” I sighed at myself. I knew better than to get depressed about it, and internally congratulated myself for being able to fit into the size I was in now.

At least the dark blue formfitting wetsuit would be more slimming than a lighter color.

I made my way over to the two dolphin tanks where Chuy and Vickie were waiting for me. They’d just fed Delilah and Dan, our two resident bottlenose dolphins, and I was going to give them their first checkups in who knows how long.

I’d visited the pair already in the two days I’ve been on the job, trying get to know them, and to let them learn about me a little before I start poking and prodding them. I usually have no problem with dolphin checkups, but not knowing the history of these two, I wasn’t sure that they didn’t have some form of PTSD from poor handlers in the past. We were keeping them in separate tanks as Dan could be a bit rough and Delilah had a reputation for not enjoying his roughhousing.

“Hey you! How are things going, huh?!” I gave Delilah, the older female, a fish as I rubbed her head, cooing to her happily. She was probably about 30 years old, as the aquarium had purchased her in the 1990s.

Bottlenose dolphins generally live around 20 years in the wild, but in captivity, without the dangers of the open sea to worry about, they can live up to around 40. Considering the conditions she and Dan, the younger male, had been living in before Rob got here, I was amazed that she was still going! If I had anything to do with it though, Delilah would be pushing 40 in another ten years!

She was a sweetheart, but Vickie and Chuy were worried that her eyesight might be going bad. Chuy was already in the water, entertaining my first patient and relaxing her - none of us sure how she was going to react to my tests. I eased myself into the water, slowly making my way over to the dolphin and my assistant.

Tossing her favorite beach ball to her as a sign of friendship, Delilah squeaked happily back at me, bringing the ball quickly to where I was treading water.

“Good girl! Thank you, Delilah!” Soon I was ensnared in Delilah’s favorite game - Catch - as she tossed the ball to Chuy, who threw it to me, and then I would send it back to Delilah.

She seemed to see the ball okay, but it was big and bright. I tried to throw her a fish or two from a distance, and it was definitely apparent that she had a hard time seeing them until they were pretty close. I called over to Vickie, who was watching from the shallows, and had her note the eyesight on Delilah’s intake form.

Having spent some good quality time with Delilah in the water, I needed to tend to business now. Climbing out of the tank, I called her over to the shallow ledge of the pool, so I could see her body. Being a show dolphin for decades, she knew the drill for my signals as I asked her to raise her fins and flipper, open her mouth, and let me see her belly.

She had some scars, but no new injuries or troubling skin issues. Having access to her tail, Vickie and I drew a blood sample, the best vein to do so being in the fluke. The sample would be sent off to Orlando for testing, but I was hoping to get the results in a few days.

Unfortunately, Delilah’s ultrasound didn’t fare so well, and I frowned as Vickie held her still while I ran the wand over her lungs. I knew it was a possibility that she’d have some respiratory issues, as that was typical of dolphins anyway, but Delilah’s lungs didn’t sound too hot.

“She’s got an infection. We’ll need to start her on some antibiotics now, or it’s gonna get real bad. I hate doing it until her blood work gets back, but she’s high risk for pneumonia.”

Vickie wrote my assessment down on the form as I gave Delilah a loving rub on her side, looking the matronly dolphin in the eye, “You haven’t been breathing too well, huh? Well, we’re gonna fix you up real quick! Poor baby!”

The rest of Delilah’s exam went well, and to my relief she was a good sport about the whole thing. Dan, on the other hand was healthy as a horse (okay, maybe a seahorse!), but he was Mr. Uncooperative! It was apparent that he’d been mistreated in his short ten years, as he’d been born here at the aquarium during the “abusive years” - the time period before the authorities had threatened to close down the place if measures weren’t taken to stop the abuse.

I was going to have to earn Dan’s trust, and he was going to make me earn every penny for it, as my two assistants and I tried every trick in the book to talk him into giving us a little blood. After spending twice as long with the hard-headed youth, we got our exam list finished and I begrudgingly gave Dan one more fish.

“I’m going to be friends with you yet, like it or not, Buster! Just you wait and see!” I called to him as I hauled myself off the cement from leaning over the tank’s edge, and picking up my equipment, as Vickie and Chuy laughed, both of them just as wore out as me.

“Good luck with that, Tobie! Dan is no one’s friend!” Chuy retaliated on our way back inside.

I threw Dan one more glaring look before I closed the door to the pool area, “Just you wait and see, Danny Boy!” I said under my breath.

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