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Dolphin-obsessed girls becomes trainer for a day

Posted: September 16, 2014 - 11:12pm
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Anna pets one of the dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla. Anna wants a career working with marine animals.  Handout
Handout
Anna pets one of the dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla. Anna wants a career working with marine animals.

Very few fifth-graders know what they want to do for a living.

Anna Carver, 10, has always known she wanted to work with marine mammals and recently got some hands-on experience to add to her résumé.

“I’ve loved dolphins and other marine mammals my whole life. You may even consider it an obsession,” Anna said as she showed off her marine mammal stuffed animals used in a video submission for a contest put on by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla.

Anna, who attends Stevens Creek Elementary School, made a video documenting why she wanted to be a marine mammal trainer for the contest, where the grand prize winner earned an entire day at the aquarium as trainer with Hope, the dolphin star of Dolphin Tale 2. The film stars Austin Highsmith.

Anna recruited her older sister, Olivia, to help make and submit the video, a last-minute venture submitted only minutes before the July 20 midnight deadline.

“I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Anna’s sister said of the video, which took more than an hour to upload. “We had two minutes. Two minutes before midnight, it finally got submitted.”

About 18 hours later, Anna got the news that she’d won the grand prize.

There was jumping and screaming and even a little crying.

Anna’s mother, Lisa, realized they had to be in Florida a few days later. So she packed up Anna and her sisters, Olivia and Katie Carver, for a girls-only road trip.

“I love how spontaneous it was,” Olivia Carver said.

Anna said she’s always wanted to work with animals like dolphins and loved the first Dolphin Tale movie. But getting the chance to be a dolphin trainer for a day was her dream come true.

“It was so much fun,” Anna said of her day at the aquarium. “I’d like to do what (the trainers there) do. It’s so amazing.”

Anna grinned the entire day as she was led through a special tour of the facility, where the mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release marine animals. After a brief introduction to dolphins, much of which she already knew, Anna and her entourage went straight to interaction with Hope.

“It was so much fun,” Anna said. “She’s the cutest little dolphin.”

Anna learned how to communicate with Hope and practiced giving her hand signals to spin around, go to another trainer, lay on her back, get a toy and even how to shake hands.

“It was so cute,” Anna said, “She would use both of her fins and she would kind of bob.”

She spent some time with North American otters and even some behind-the-scenes work like preparing lunch for the animals and washing their “dishes” after.

Though her time with Hope was exhilarating, Anna said she really enjoyed spending time with Nicholas, an older male dolphin who was found beached with a sunburn when he was young.

“Most of all, I (enjoyed) getting to be with Austin Highsmith,” Anna said. “She was really nice. Most movie stars, you would think they would be snobby or something like that. But she’s very personable.”

Anna’s mother said the day was moving, bringing tears to her eyes a few times seeing her daughter having so much fun.

“It was really neat to see her being able to interact with (the dolphins),” Olivia Carver said. “Something that she’s wanted to do her entire life.”

After a day at the beach before school started, Anna’s mother said she talked about marine biology all the way home.

“That’s all she talked about,” Anna’s mother said. “We talked about how important it is to get good grades.”

Anna has yet to stop grinning from her experience and said it has made her want to pursue marine mammal training even more.

“The Clearwater Marine Aquarium does so much just every day,” Anna said. “They take in so many different animals.

“It was a lot of fun.”

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