There is nothing that breaks the heart quite like observing the suffering of a baby creature. Today, as we walked the beach near our house in northern California, we came upon a young, dying harbor seal, beached high on the sand.
At first we thought he was already dead, but as we approached his lifeless, emaciated body, his chest heaved. His body pulsed with a heartbeat. I knelt before him, in a panic. 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 still, he looked deeply into mine. It was heartbreaking, watching hm struggle. His frail body, unable to move.
I wanted nothing more than to lay beside him, embrace him, comfort him, and stroke his flesh with my loving hands. I knew this would scare him and might be dangerous, so i sat, frozen, two 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 the coast, searching for help.
There was no cell phone service, so we drove frantically to a spot with a glimmer of service. Once we found a few bars, I called everywhere, but all the agencies we called were closed. I had already read online that all the rescue shelters were swamped and unable to receive more sea lions. Apparently there was a severe shortage in the local food supply
We thought of buying fish to feed him, to try and nurse him back to life. When I looked it up online, I discovered that 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.
My partner insisted that we give up and go home as darkness settled. 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, which I have been observing from afar all season, 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.
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. Perhaps overfishing, thus the depletion of the food supply for members of the animal population.
Sigh. Such an empty feeling in my heart, tonight.