Every month, a 5-year-old boy plays a little game with one of the sea lions at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. Sean Goodman plays with the sea lion by tracing a gentle arc with his dad’s keys along the curved glass of the animal’s display, and the sea lion eagerly follows the shiny keys.
According to TODAY, Sean started playing with Milo, the California sea lion, a year and a half ago. Last week, the pair attracted quite a crowd while performing their trick together. Milo was in a particularly playful mood, and Sean’s father John K. Goodman, who is an animator and freelance photographer, captured it all on camera. Goodman told TODAY about the experience:
“That particular day (he) was really excited and just wanted to play. Who was I to stand in the way? People stopped to watch because somehow they had this synergy that was pretty special.”
Even though Sean and Milo were on separate sides of the glass, both of them enjoyed being watched by the growing crowd. John explained by saying, “My son likes to perform a bit, so when people come it eggs him on. And the sea lion enjoys the interaction, too.”
John and Sean like to go visit Milo at least once a month, and Milo tends to wear out Sean during their playtime. John says that, “It’s pretty amazing — the sea lion tires my son out because he’ll never stop.”
California sea lions are relatively easy to train, and staff members often use their hands or white balls as “targets” when teaching new tricks. So, it’s not too uncommon for the aquarium’s sea lions to enthusiastically respond to a person’s outstretched hands, or even the glimmer of a shiny penny.
Dudley Wigdahl, curator of the aquarium’s marine mammals told Today that, “They’ll react if it’s a unique object or something that’s unusual in their environment. Seeing that through the glass, that would be something unusual.”
Even in the wild, California sea lions stick together, lounging on rocks or floating around with hundreds of others sea lions. When they’re not cuddling up, you can usually catch them frolicking in the surf.