Sharing Stories of Everyday Good

Video Length: 2:30 Minutes

A different kind of therapy

In 1990, Deena and Peter Hoagland brought their son Joe to swim with dolphins. They wanted to encourage Joe to use the left side of his body, which had been weakened by a stroke at the age of three during his third open-heart surgery.

Joe quickly bonded with a dolphin named Fonzie. Deena Hoagland, Joe’s mother, saw his enthusiasm toward Fonzie and started practicing therapeutic exercises where Joe would interact with Fonzie. Together, a powerful bond formed that would drive Joe to a full recovery.

hand pets dolphin nose Their programs take place in the water with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and on land in therapy rooms. (Photo: Island Dolphin Care)

Deena, a licensed clinical social worker and teacher, thought that if dolphins could motivate and encourage her son, they could do the same for other families. Out of this experience, a unique form of animal-assisted therapy was created, and Island Dolphin Care (IDC) incorporated in 1997 as a not-for-profit organization.

IDC dolphins do not provide entertainment or perform shows. These eight dolphins live a life of purpose teaching, providing therapy, and helping to change the lives of people with disabilities.

trainer with kid and dolphin IDC’s trained and licensed therapists help participants and their families with a variety of disabling health conditions. (Photo: Island Dolphin Care)

Today, the animal-assisted therapy program helps children, veterans, families, and dolphins — all while teaching marine science education and providing tours to the public.

Island Dolphin Care is a not-for-profit organization that has worked to give purpose to a family of eight bottlenose dolphins who were previously participating in a public swim program. Their days are now spent interacting with special needs children and PTSD challengers in a progressive therapy program that has been sculpted and refined since the inception of IDC back in 1997.

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