Four four-legged friends will be in the spotlight at the Shedd Aquarium next month.
Yep, you read that right. The aquarium has canine residents!
Dory, Coral, Bruce and Marlin will be the guests of honor at “Dog Days at the Shedd” to be held on Sept. 21. The event will be a three-hour dog-centric festival showing how the aquarium’s animal training principles can be applied to terrestrial mammals. The four dogs were adopted by the aquarium from shelters beginning last summer.
The pooches play small roles in the daily marine mammal show “One World: Make a Difference.” They also greet visitors waiting outside when the admission line gets long. The Shedd staff works with the dogs several times a day.
“It’s hard for us to take any of our fish or other animals out to greet people, so he’s a great ambassador for the aquarium,” Ken Ramirez, vice president of animal care and training, joked about adoptee named Marlin.
The dogs may seem out of place, but Ramirez said it is a logical choice.
“We have a lot of rescued animals here, and our dogs are a great way for us to talk about our rescue program,” he said. “And of course training is a big part of what we want to do, so we like people to see that the same training we do with our dolphins and whales, they can use with their pets at home.”
According to him, dogs connect “differently than a dolphin or a shark or a sea lion or a seahorse.”
Only one of the four dogs makes a short appearance in the aquarium’s daily aquatic show but “you’d be surprised at the number of people who, one of the things they remember most was the dog portion of the show,” Ramirez said.
“Here at the Shedd, part of our mission is to promote the conservation of the aquatic world,” Ramirez said. “Sometimes the way you do that is by connecting people other animals that they’re interested in … Anything we can do that inspires people to care about animals, we’re going to utilize that to our advantage.”
Future Adoption Plans
Pitbull Bruce was adopted first. He was from the Chicago Animal Care and Control and was rescued from an abusive home where he was being trained as a fighting dog.
Shepherd mix Dory from the Anti-Cruelty Society, and Coral, an Airedale mix from the same shelter as Bruce, joined the gang later.
In February, Marlin joined the aquarium family. They suspect he’s mostly a chocolate Labrador with a mix of Boxer or Great Dane.
Shedd had six temporary dog residents in 2008 and 2009 while the aquarium’s Oceanarium was being renovated. The sea creatures stayed off site while the construction was ongoing, so the 6 shelter dogs filled in to perform training demonstrations.
When the dolphins and whales returned, it was time to find them permanent homes and there was a waiting list 30 people long.
It is possible that Dory, Coral, Bruce and Marlin may be adopted out some day said Ramirez, but he doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon.
“If one of them turned out to be a one person-type dog, we might adopt them out at some point, but that’s not our plan,” he said. “They seem to be doing really well here, the public seems to like them here, so this is home for them.”
“Unlike living in a family home, here they have care around the clock,” Ramirez said. “The kind of care, the kind of love they get is similar, but there’s more of it at Shedd. I think it’s a pretty nice place for them to get to live, because they get so much attention. I think they have a terrific life.”
Source: DNAInfo Chicago