Today as we walked the beach near our house in northern California, we came upon a dying young harbor seal, beached high on the sand.
We thought he was dead at first, but as we approached his lifeless, emaciated body, he heaved and his chest pulsed with a heartbeat. I knelt before him, and when he heard me cooing at him, he lifted his weary head to stare at me. Our heads were only feet apart. It is the closest i have ever gotten to one of these magnificent creatures, these sea puppies I love so dearly and have admired from afar.
His big beautiful eyes were crusted with mucus, but he looked deeply into mine. It was heartbreaking, watching his heaving chest and frail body, unable to move.
I Wanted nothing more than to lay beside him, embrace him, comfort him, stroke his flesh with my loving hands … but i knew this would scare him and might be dangerous, so i sat, frozen, 2 feet in front of him, tears pouring down my face, trying to make sense of this.
When I stood, his eyes followed me. I could feel his desperation, his aching for help, and his fear. I felt so helpless in the presence of this magnificent animal.
Still, we tried. We raced all the way back to the parking lot, searching for a life guard or anyone who could radio for help. Nothing. We drove up and down, searching for help.
There was no cell phone service, so we drove frantically to a spot with service. I called everywhere but all the agencies we called were closed. And i had already heard that all the rescue shelters were swamped and unable to receive more.
We thought of buying fish to feed him, to try and nurse him back to life. But I looked it up online and apparently that is illegal.
I wanted to go back and sit with him as the sun set, so he wouldn’t be alone as he died, but it was a long walk back down the beach, and the gates to the beach are locked at sunset.
So I have been sitting with my broken heart all night , aching for this sweet creature, with whom I eye gazed tonight. Feeling i could have done more, should have done more. But there was nothing I could do.
How utterly tragic that this one opportunity to be near one of my precious sea puppies was to witness his exhausted collapse.
The sensitive little girl in me who has always been an animal lover is in deep grieving tonight. I am going to go back in the morning to see if he is still there. But what can be done? It is poetic and horrific, watching the suffering of a beautiful creature, swallowed back into the cycle of life by the wild winds of nature that gave birth to her.
And someday, we all go … dust to dust. But there are such forces of darkness alive in this world sometimes … This travesty cannot be simply nature’s doing … something smells fishy of man and meddling … Such an empty feeling in my heart, tonight …