12 years ago I went on a trip to Clearwater, Florida. I was set to scuba dive in the Gulf of Mexico and eager to get my new Sea Life camera wet.Unfortunately the weather was testy. The clouds were an angry grey and the wind attacked my face. When I got to the boat for our excursion, we rode out but the water was too choppy. It was called off.
To battle the disappointment I figured it would be better to go sight seeing and found a coupon for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at my hotel. On a whim, I went.
It was a marine life rescue, definitely more my thing than for-profit places. There was a sea turtle missing a flipper, a couple of river otters, and some resident dolphins. The staff and volunteers obviously cared for the animals, and the animals seemed happy and devoted to their caretakers.
Instead of going on another dive and seeking out whatever I could find, I found myself meeting Winter. She had been rescued as a baby after being wrapped in a crab trap and losing her tail. She was the first dolphin to ever successfully have a prosthetic and she was incredibly sweet. I got to sit and talk to her and pet her.
She had some great friends and was a permanent resident of the rescue. Her story would make it to the silver screen just a couple of years later. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I knew her before she was famous.
It was such a great experience, I’m glad I didn’t get to go diving. I’d been hoping to take my kids back there so they could meet Winter and Hope and Nicholas and everyone. My 9 year-old animal-lover wrote Winter a letter over the summer and just recently received a card back from the staff thanking her and updating us on Winter and the aquarium.
Unfortunately, last night, Winter passed away. She was only 16, but had intestinal issues and just couldn’t kick them.
Now, the fam and I are set on taking a trip to Clearwater in 2022. Solid plans have already begun. Yes, Winter is gone, but her legend and her friends are still there.
We’re watching Dolphin Tale today and adopted Winter’s close friend, Hope. We wish that any of you who have the means help out as well: