Monday, June 15, 2009
Giving New Meaning to Sushi
Dave and I went for our morning walk Saturday, planning on a brisk hour or two down the beach and back. Instead, 20 minutes from our starting point, we ended up sitting with a starving sea lion pup, waiting for the Marine Mammal Center to send a team to pick the little guy/gal up and take it to the Center. Our pup was one of several on this morning, so the MMC folks were busy. It would be a while before they could get to us.
I knew protocol for rescuing kitties and dogs, but not seal pups, but I thought touching it was a bad idea unless absolutely necessary. Our biggest fear, however, was that it would be pulled back out to sea by the incoming tide - Ocean Beach has very strong currents, even on a mild day - so we sat/stood next to and behind the pup, fully prepared to risk being bitten if we needed to lift it further up the beach. We were delighted when the pup lifted its head and pulled itself up the beach out of the tide's reach, at least for the moment. This was repeated several times over the next three hours.
We finally settled next to the pup on either side. It sniffed our arms and hands, much like a dog does when meeting a new person. It didn't have nearly as much fat on it as the pups I've seen at the Children's Cove in La Jolla, nor did it exhibit happy seal sunning on the beach behavior. It shivered constantly and seemed lost. It was a baby mammal in need of comfort...so we stroked its head and back very gently and talked to it in low, soothing tones. During one of the moves out of the encroaching tide, it followed Dave and leaned against him, nuzzled and then tried to nurse on his arm.
As time passed and the sun got hotter, I developed some serious pink on my arms, shoulders and back. A sunbathing couple gave me their blanket to wrap around my upper body. Another passerby offered a fisherman $10 for some of his bait to try and tempt the pup, who was looking increasingly dull-eyed and fragile. We ended up with a large freshly caught fish (free of charge) , which the fisherman set in front of the pup, who ignored it. At first. A few minutes later, it opened its eyes and sniffed the air, then grabbed the fish in its mouth, more alert than it'd been since we found it.
The fish, however, was WAY too big for the little guy/gal to eat; I worried that it would choke. So Dave bravely grabbed the fish by the tail. A tug of war ensued, much like one you'd see from a dog with a chew-toy. Dave won. Another fisherman came over with a knife and cut it into several smaller portions, then went back to his fishing poles. Nice, but the pieces were still too big for our baby seal to manage, especially in its current weakened condition. Once again Dave went above and beyond the call of duty and ripped pieces of fish off with his teeth, tossing them to the pup, who had no problem getting them down. It would finish one piece, then stare fixedly at the sand and then up at Dave, who'd toss him another piece. I was torn between wanting to kiss Dave for his heroic act and to never kiss him again...at least until he spent some time with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and Listerine. I mean...euuwww!!!
The MMC people showed up shortly after that, two very nice women who gently maneuvered the pup into a large carrier, told us we could follow its progress on their website, and thanked us profusely for looking after it until they could get there.
After the fact I read the protocol on the MMC homepage of what to do if you find an orphaned/injured/obviously in distress pup and we basically did everything wrong. No touching, no feeding. Next time we'll know better. That being said, it's not always possible to have all the facts on hand when you need them and sometime you just have to make the best judgments you can given the circumstances. One of the women from MMC told Dave while they discourage people from doing what we did, that it was okay that we did it. So I guess our instincts didn't entirely suck.
Regarding the fish, Dave says it tasted just like sushi. OkAY then!