Dunedin is a town west of Tampa and has some gorgeous beaches nearby, beautiful sunsets and a great bike trail, the Pinellas trail, which happens to be just across from our campground. But the reason we came here was to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends David and Sharon.
The Thanksgiving feast was massive and tasty. And this year we have even more to be thankful for than before – we are especially thankful for the opportunity to embark on this wonderful adventure and for being able to spend quality time with friends. Our friend David said it best when he gave thanks for having 150+ years of friendship surrounding him at the Thanksgiving table.
Thanksgiving became even more special for us because of a beautiful dolphin named Winter (yes, our magical dolphin encounters continue). David arranged for us to get a special tour of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium hosted by a very good friend of his who is a longtime volunteer at the aquarium, Des. Some of you may know that the movie “Dolphin Tales” was based on the story of Winter, a dolphin who was rescued and rehabilitated at this aquarium.
“At only three months of age, Winter found herself wrapped tightly in a crab trap line and was unable to escape. She was rescued and transported to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to begin a long rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Winter lost her entire tail as well as two vertebrae as a result of the serious injuries that she had sustained.
The collaborative efforts of a leading human prosthetics company and a leading marine mammal veterinarian resulted in a prosthetic tail and a plan of action. Many dolphins die in monofilament and crab trap lines, but despite the odds against survival, Winter’s energy and ability to adapt to her new physical form has surpassed the expectations of many experts.
Winter has learned to swim using her entire body in order for propel herself forward, moving from side to side like a shark. The prosthetic is used as physical therapy to keep her spine and muscles healthy by exercising and stretching them while still maintaining her ability to swim comfortably when the prosthetic is off.”
We first saw Winter through an underwater viewing window when she entered the pool where she was to participate in a brief presentation with one of her trainers. She is a beautiful girl and my first reaction was “she’s a real diva” to which Des replied with a smile, “she sure is”. It is easy to see why she has been an inspiration to so many disabled children, adults and veterans. Winter is a joyful dolphin.
We stuck around at the pool after the presentation and Winter was playful and affectionate, jumping on top of her mat, posing for photos :), and frequently cuddling up to her trainer (who was cleaning the platform) for more hugs. Seeing how this beautiful dolphin has overcome her disability and found joy in her life is quite an experience. She epitomizes what it means to be grateful to be alive and make the most of tough situations.
And so Winter has made me more determined to continue to be thankful each and every day and to find joy in the simple things of life.