Winter's Tale: How One Little Dolphin Learned To Swim Again
One winter morning off the coast of Florida a baby dolphin got caught in a crab trap, which strangled her tail. A fisherman saw she was in trouble and rescued her. But how could a dolphin survive without a tail? This is Winter's Tale.
It was December 10, 2005; there was only one fisherman - Jim Savage - braving the freezing temperatures on Mosquito Lagoon. That's when he noticed something strange among another fisherman's crab traps - a baby dolphin struggling to free herself from the netting. Jim spoke to her and tried to calm her as he cut her free from the line.
When Jim saw she was too tired to swim away, he called Florida's Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission to come rescue the dolphin. Once the group arrived they decided to call her Winter and take her back to the center to heal.
Winter was placed in a holding tank and determined to be two to three months old. She wasn't used to eating solid food like fish yet, so the team had to put a feeding tube in her throat. Soon, though, Winter learned how to eat from a bottle.
But there was some bad news. The rope that had been wrapped around Winter's tail when she was trapped had caused a lot of damage, and slowly started to flake off piece by piece. Eventually all that was left was a fleshy stump that would heal over time. But would the little dolphin be able to swim without her tail?
A dolphin's strong tail is what gives it speed in the water. Though Winter did eventually start to swim on her own, she didn't swim like other dolphins. Instead her tail stump swished from side to side like a fish (dolphins' tails move up and down). But it was amazing - Winter had taught herself an entirely original way to swim!
Soon it was time to start training Winter. She learned very well and quickly and learned how to trust and love the people who cared for her. Then it was time to make a new non-human friend, and she was introduced to Panama, another rescued dolphin. After just three days, the two become lifelong friends, completely inseperable.
Eventually, word about the disabled dolphin got it and Winter became pretty famous - everyone, disabled or not, could related to the dolphin. But her trainers were getting worried, because moving her tail stump side to side had prevented her muscles from growing properly.
That's when Kevin Carroll - a dolphin lover and maker of prosthetic limbs for people - stepped in. Along with a team of experts, vets, trainers and researchers, Kevin developed a new tail for Winter - something that had never been done before. Winter had to be retrained to use the device to swim properly, but with lots of hard work she did it!
Now Winter loves her new tail! She wears it for a few hours each day. And despite having so many fans come to see her, she seems to connect with each and every one - from children with prostheses to war veterans with amputated limbs to a little girl who didn't want to wear her hearing aid until she met Winter.
Despite losing her family, her home and, eventually, her tail, one thing has always remained the same about Winter: her uplifting spirit, her strength to go on and her ability to make the most out of every situation. As champion, inspiration and friend, >b>Winter is one little dolphin who gives people hope and teaches us that anything is possible.