Winter, the prosthetic-tailed dolphin whose story inspired a book and two heartwarming movies, died on November 12, 2021. The 16-year-old had been suffering from an intestinal blockage since November 1, 2021. The doctors at Florida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium tried several life-saving efforts but were unable to help the beloved mammal.
"She's the strongest little dolphin that I have ever met, and we learned so much from her and have been privileged to have 16 wonderful years with her," Dr. Shelly Marquardt, a veterinarian with the aquarium, stated.
Winter's uplifting story began began on a tumultuous note on December 2005 when her tail got caught in a crab trap line. Florida fisher Jim Savage untangled the three-month-old dolphin and rushed her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. While the dolphin — fittingly named Winter — survived, her badly-injured tail had to be amputated.
Believing she would be unable to swim, the aquarium's health experts placed the young dolphin on a special mat in the water. However, Winter was not going to let a "minor" inconvenience like a missing tail get in her way. She began using her stump to swim side-to-side. While seeing the determined dolphin moving was encouraging, doctors feared it would hurt her spine. Fortunately, two prosthetic experts at the Hanger Clinic heard about Winter's plight and made her a custom silicone and plastic tail.
Winter's determination and perseverance gave hope to people worldwide, especially those living with disabilities. Grace Savage was one of them. The grandniece of the fisher who rescued the dolphin in 2005 suffers from velocardiofacial syndrome. The genetic condition can cause heart defects and a poor immune system. "She gives us inspiration and to never give up," Savage told FOX 13 during her 2019 aquarium visit.