Saturday, February 4, 2012

Winter WOW

The brunette twin loves the story of Winter, the dolphin featured in The Dolphin's Tale book and movie.  When we started planning our trip to Florida, we researched the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Hospital.  To our delight, they now offer different tours.

We signed up for a general admission and behind the scenes tours.  The brunette twin told us numerous times how excited she was that we were going to see Winter.  I didn't realize how excited she was until we arrived.  Just before we went in, I said, "Are you excited?"  She said, "This is the dream of a lifetime."  

She took that excitement through the tour.  The guide told us funny stories about the months the marine hospital was closed to the public while the movie filmed.  He showed us how movie magic created the scenes the director wanted and the leftover artifacts.  He charmed the group.  The brunette twin didn't care.  All she wanted was to see Winter.

Once the tour was over, we went right up to a dolphin training exhibition.  The trainers told us how they worked with Nicholas and he showed some of his work.  The girls sat at the glass enjoying the entire show. 

Immediately after the show, we ran up to see Winter.  The girls stood for a few minutes staring at the dolphin area.  It took a minute to find Winter because she was on the far side.  Once we saw her, the girls couldn't stop staring. 

After a few minutes, the brunette twin looked sad.  I pulled her aside and she said, "There are too many people near my Winter."  She didn't realize that everyone there saw Winter in the movie and wanted to see her in person.  She felt like Winter was hers alone. 

The blond twin supported her sister's Winter obsession.  Every time Winter did something, the blond twin made sure her sister saw it.  She was as excited as the brunette twin, but she seemed to understand that this was her sister's moment.

The highlight of the day came when the girls walked to the area on the far side of the tank.  They were the only two standing there when Winter came over to get the attention of Hope, a baby dolphin who was new to the hospital.  She clicked and made all kinds of noises.  At first Hope responded by showing off for Winter.  When her trainer jumped into the tank, Hope ignored Winter.  It was clear Winter didn't like this.

Winter responded by looking at the girls and clicking and making other noises.  It was really like she was talking just to the girls.  The girls were giggling and talking to Winter.  The dolphin kept looking at the girls like she understood them.  It was so perfect for the girls.  They couldn't believe Winter was talking to them.

When Winter swam away, the girls decided it was time to go.  We started to head towards the parking lot when a photographer asked us if the girls wanted to take a photo with one of Winter's old prosthetic tails.  Of course the girls wanted to hold the tail and take a photo.

We went back up near Winter's tank and I'm glad we did.  The trainer put Winter's prosthetic tail on her and they did some physical therapy.  It was so interesting to watch. It turns out that Winter only uses the tail for physical therapy.  She doesn't wear it all the time like you might think.

When we drove up to the hospital, I didn't think we'd spend much time there.  It's a small facility, so I figured we'd do the tour, visit Winter and leave.  Three hours later I wished we could spend more time.  It was so interesting and educational for all of us.

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