Everybody wants to touch the dolphin. She does permit that, but only in small measure. One should never touch her blowhole. It is her immediate lifeline and besides, it's very impolite to stick your finger into someone else's nose. The feel of her skin is hard to describe. It has a certain softness and it's smooth and firm at the same time, a touch balder than rubber and reminiscent of the feel of high-tech sticky grip surface on tool handles. Horace Dobbs comes closest by ingenuously comparing it to a polystyrene box. She likes a soft scratching across the folds of her throat and for some of the regular swimmers she goes belly-up. She doesn't like to be crowded, particularly when she is engaging with someone she knows well and frequently throws water towards those who do by thrusting it up with her snout. As far as I know she has never bitten anyone and the worst I ever saw was that she flicked someone with her fluke. But that is very rare.
The pet zone is at the bottom of the slipway and if you want to keep your feet relatively dry you can give it a try down the landing steps, also a good place to meet her in the water. She'll also come over for a cuddle if you bang a stone against the iron ladder closest to the slipway when it's submerged. Sounds like a church bell.
But since everybody wants to touch her she is not overly interested in this. She is very curious by nature, so if you want her special attention you need to evoke that. You don't need to be a genius in that, though it helps. She liked to be rubbed with a handful of lace weed, which grows in bundles in the shallows, but doesn't seem to be too interested in this anymore.
She's always interested in sounds. In the early days in Fanore people used to bang two stones together to attract her attention. This was done on such a scale that out there it sounded like an incessant clattering. And then she loses interest. It's important to realise that you're not calling her, just letting her know you are there and she might decide to come closer.
Sometimes I pick up a long, narrow stone and rumble it on the waterwing. Or rub my outstretched fingertips against each other. Or finger drum on the waterwing. Or run my fingers along the leading edge bumps of my humpback pec inspired waterwing. All these 'or' sounds a barely audible for us, but Dusty comes very close, listens with great attention and follows my fingers with her eyes.
She loves to 'hide and seek'. This I do by diving to the bottom and holding myself down by grabbing a kelp stem, preferably behind a bush or in a dip. She always finds me and then steers by in triumph.
Around the harbour of Doolin it is rather shallow, but if you swim out a few hundres metres along the big parking place shoreline, the seabed makes a sudden drop. The water there is significantly clearer so you can see Dusty coming from a distance and anticipate on her movements. Then you're in for a true three dimensional ballet. I spiral down, meet and turn with her, swim aside her, she bending me into an inside curve. I swim underneath her, sometimes turn on my back and swim belly-up with her. There are always things of interest down there, like the kelp gardens on the steep and articulated drop wall, white sea urchins the size of half a football, packs of literally millions of sand eels, that glitter everywhere in the sunlight, beautifully colour-shifting wrasse, haddock, fleets of bass, conger eels, troops of dogfish, silvery gleans of herring and frays of tiny little fish that seem to have nothing better to do than bask in the sunlight that plays in ever-changing contortions into sandy dips between swaying seaweed. When you put your interest in that Dusty will want your attention. After all, she's a woman. She often swims behind or slightly aside of you until she sees you notice her and only then overtakes you.
Back at the harbour, when a ferry is moored they keep the engine running so the boat pushes itself against the ropes and lies more stable against the pier to let the passengers board more comfortably. The water beside the boat is drawn towards the propellor so it is dangerous to come too close or you'll end up as mince meat. Even Dusty has to take care as is shown by the series of parallel cuts on the right side of her peduncle. A rush I recently discovered is to swim to the stern of the ship and race away on the strong current the propellor produces. I have been warned this is extremely dangerous, and rightly so. This could also set a fatal example for the less experienced swimmer, so I will refrain from it. If we mutually respect each others interests it's gonna be one heaven of a summer!