Kevin and Winter are the best friends we didn’t know we needed right now.

By Tanner Saunders
August 18, 2020
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Editor’s Note: If you can’t handle an intense dose of cuteness, consider this your last warning. 

Humans aren’t the only ones feeling cooped up during the global coronavirus pandemic — a lot of animals are, too. In an effort to help, zoos and aquariums across the country have opened up their doors to fluffy kittens and playful pooches for a little stimulation.

Kevin, an adorable, hat-loving golden retriever from Tampa, Florida, got in on the action — and the photos and videos will melt your heart.

If you’re one of the roughly 200,000 people who follow Kevin on Instagram, you know that he loves going on adventures — and wearing a very cute duck hat. Kevin caught the attention of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which also has a duck-loving rescue, a beautiful dolphin named Winter. You might recognize Winter as the star of the movies “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2,” which tell her story of getting an artificial tail after being caught in a crab trap. Winter and her animal care specialist, Katie Wojdyla, sent a video to say hello and invited Kevin for a video chat.

After that, Kevin, Winter, and Katie got to know each other via FaceTime, where he was formally invited to come meet his new dolphin friends IRL.

According to Kevin’s person, Elysse Gorney, the one-year-old pup visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Aug. 7. “Kevin had the entire aquarium to himself and he met so many new friends,” Gorney told Travel + Leisure. And it’s all documented on social media for the world to enjoy.

During the visit, Kevin got see pelicans, sea turtles, and stingrays before heading to the brand-new Ruth & J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex, complete with five pools and floor-to-ceiling windows, to meet Winter and the other dolphins, Hope, PJ, Nicholas, and Hemingway.

Kevin even got to go for a swim in the Winter Zone with Wojdyla. “Swimming with Kevin in Winter’s old home was definitely a day I won’t forget,” Wojdyla told T+L. “Not only was it easier to breathe because we were above water, but it was an extra special moment where my passions for animals, the environment, and our oceans all combined. I absolutely love all our rescued animals at CMA, but there is just something about a dog that makes me smile.”

Courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

We wish Kevin could go to the aquarium every day.

“I think this was honestly the best day of Kevin's life! We are so thankful for all opportunities Kevin has been given,” said Gorney. “His favorite part was definitely meeting Winter, and also getting to swim in the Winter Zone with some animal care specialists.”

For more adorable adventures, follow Kevin and his hats on Instagram and TikTok. And learn more about Winter and her new habitat on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium website.