A Fishy Union’s Untimely End

By Joshua Yaffa

Published June 23, 2006, issue of June 23, 2006.
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Married life turned out to be rather anticlimactic for Sharon Tendler. Last week, after a long-distance courtship streching more than 15 years, her beloved groom passed away — a mere six months after the couple’s marriage in the southern Israeli port city of Eilat.

Workers at the Dolphin Reef aquatic park found the groom — a bottlenosed dolphin originally from the Black Sea — floating in its enclosure Sunday. The dolphin, a male who went by Cindy (short for Cinderella), was taken by boat for a burial at sea.

Tendler, a 41-year old English Jew often referred to as an “eccentric millionnaire,” first laid eyes on Cindy during a show at the dolphinarium in Eilat in 1990. In the years that followed, Tendler would travel to Israel several times a year to visit her cetacean sweetheart, and in December of last year the two were “married” in a decidedly unconventional ceremony. Tendler walked down the dock toward Cindy in a flowing white dress and fed the dolphin herring in exchange for kisses. The celebration ended with the two sharing a swim.

“I’m the happiest girl on earth,” Tendler told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot after the wedding. “The peace and tranquility under water, and his love, would calm me down,” she said.

While the union carried no legal weight, Tendler remarked to the press after the wedding that she was a “one-dolphin woman,” albeit one who was open to “marrying human” at some stage. Tendler was unavailable for comment after Cindy’s death.

In the weeks after the wedding, conservative talk-show host Bill O’Reilly seized on the pair’s interspecies nuptials as an argument against gay marriage, suggesting that allowing homosexual unions could mean that “all other alternative marital visions will be allowed.”

Speaking in Israel this week, Maya Zilber, the late dolphin’s trainer, noted that the animal had been unhealthy for some time. “Cindy swam slowly, and he had problems eating. Sometimes he didn’t eat at all. He vomited and did not look good,” she said.

The Web site of the Dolphin Reef park describes Cindy as being “the Don Juan of the group,” known especially for his “sensual swimming alongside the females.” He is survived by several dolphin offspring in Israel.

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