It was your typical January day – bright, windy and cold, on Saturday the 31st in the heart of the morning at 10:30 AM – when our female weanling harbor seal, Kennedy, was released over at Scusset Beach State Reservation in Sandwich, MA. Background information on Kennedy can be found here. Kennedy was a tougher than usual case given all her ailments; she was one of the longest seal recoveries NMLC has had so far – with a total of 16 weeks.
The day of the release, Kennedy had an anxious look in her eye and her mood was rampant, climbing at the door of the kennel. She was initially positioned towards the crowd where she saw all her brave supporters – despite the frigid temperature and a very brisk breeze. The excitement was in the air.
It was a long time coming, and Kennedy was ready for her big day ahead. As the door of the kennel opened, there were moments of hesitation coming from the initially zealous seal; all the anticipation caused indecision. She saw the massive waves in front of her and decided to work up some courage before taking on the surf; she only needed a little nudge to get things going. She turned to face the crowd one last time, as if to give thanks to the staff, interns and volunteers who worked so hard to get her to this point.
It wasn’t until that moment when it hit home for me. I was the lucky one who got to look Kennedy in the eye before opening the crate door to send her off. It was a big moment, not only for her but for me as well. To put my emotions into perspective, Kennedy was admitted on my first day at NMLC. I watched her grow. I was there to feed her, wipe that little smudge of fish gruel out of the corner of her mouth, bathe her when she got dirty, and obviously was there to clean that wonderful smell in the morning after a long night of hospital silence. It came full circle. I witnessed from start to finish what a marine mammal rehabilitation looks like, through thick and thin (or should I say thin to thick). This is why you get in this line of work – the glory that comes from nursing a fragile animal back to fighting shape, and all the perseverance that comes with it.