Marineland mammal baffles scientists with her devotion to a mere human
It's a love story of a different kind.
Marineland's Smooshi, a 365 kilogram female walrus, is completely enamoured with trainer Phil Demers. Her devotion to Demers surprises marine biologists and veterinarians and defies the norms of the animal/human relationship.
"There has never been a bond like this," Demers says.
"She will follow me anywhere. In marine biology you're in a stimulus-controlled setting where the primary reinforcement in training is the use of fish. That's not the case with Smooshi. She responds to me by sight, smell and voice. If she hears me in the building she barks until I attend."
Smooshi's attraction to Demers is so great that he is able to take her into the park for walks. It's an eye-catcher that draws and amazes large crowds.
"It's unheard of," says Demers. "It would take forever to train an animal to do that and you'd have to have a pouch of fish and be leading it all the way. Smooshi won't leave my side in a totally uncontrolled environment. I will even go so far as to say if I was standing beside the ocean she would not leave my side.
"She is completely subordinate. I can grab her head and wrestle with her and sit on her back. With any other walrus, you'd be in big trouble."
And the affection is mutual. Demers doesn't usually like to play favourites.
"A working relationship between trainer and animal is the healthiest," he says. "But, in this case you can't help but love the animal.
"I would say that it's more powerful than any dog/human relationship. She's the cutest thing on the planet."
There was a sweet picture in the newspaper unfortunately not included in the online version