Well, I made it. It was a rocky departure and the 24 hours leading up to it weren't much better. First, I had to say goodbye to my very first foster pup, Scout, who has now been adopted by a wonderful family that baked him chicken nuggets (his favorite) to welcome him into their home. That was an emotional rollercoaster. Then I had to say goodbye to my Wriggle (below), who you will be reading a lot about (probably more than you would like) if you decide to keep up with this blog. This is the longest I will have ever been away from my puppy son, and I'm already having withdrawals.
At the airport my baggage was, of course, overweight, and my sister's boyfriend and I had to shuffle it all around until it was acceptable. This made my carry-ons both very heavy and unorganized.
I slept for most of my flight and was fed chocolate mousse with dinner, which I took as a sign from the universe that everything was going to be okay. I landed in Dublin around 8:30am, attempted to gracefully collect my things from the overhead bins and while I failed at the whole graceful thing, I managed to strap the 20 pound duffel to my back, the slightly lighter backpack to my front, and waddle off of the plane to make the trek to immigration. There, I was interrogated. Literally. I spent well over 30 minutes explaining to the immigration officer that I was an unpaid intern volunteering at a seal rescue. After answering dozens of questions, providing multiple forms of documentation legitimizing my stay, and giving proof of my financial independence she insisted on calling the rescue. One lengthy conversation with the intern coordinator later she let me through.
After collecting my final (giant) bag from baggage claim, I struggled through customs, went outside, deflated on a bench, and called my sister. I only cried a little. Eventually I made my way to zone 16, where I caught my bus to Gorey.
Once I arrived in Gorey I found another friendly looking bench, and together we enjoyed a hot mocha and read Amy Schumer's, "The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo" while I waited for my ride. Turns out the manager picking me up was running half an hour late because one of the previously released seals had made his way back to a river by the rescue and needed aid. Seeing my manager covered in mud and clearly reeling from the day was just confirmation that I was in the right place.
Day one was orientation, and I got to meet the seals. Currently we are housing 7 - the strongest 4 being Taco, Pizza, Jelly, and Noodles who are all swimming freely in the nursery pool. Poor lil' Chickpea is in ICU, battling frequent drops in body temperature and an abrasion to the eye that we are hoping will resolve with simple antibiotics and time. Turns out removing the eye is not an option, at least for now, because Chickpea is not strong enough to undergo anesthesia. Seals actually go into a deep(er) sleep when they are put under, meaning their bodies assume that they are below water and they stop breathing. But anyway, we hope Chickpea makes a speedy recovery and is moved into a kennel soon.
The other pups include Pavlova (apparently that's an English desert), Shrimp, and Walnut. In case you haven't already assumed, we are naming this group of seals after food... All are babies, all very cute. On day two I fed Jelly, and cleaned up after Walnut. It was much more challenging than it sounds. Really, this day was filled with feeling overwhelmed by both the amount of information I was taking in and the sheer cuteness of the seal pups. Oh and the fish soup! Let me just say that chopping up herring to throw into a blender with electrolytes is probably the smelliest task I have ever tackled (ha). I ended the day with a walk into town, and rewarded myself with an ice cream on the beach and a bottle of wine that I brought back to the house (to share). All good things.
My second day working with the seals was much better. While still exhausting I began to get the hang of things. And while converting European everything into American (pm time to a 24 hour clock, kilos to pounds, celsius to fahrenheit) is going to be my biggest weakness, they say it'll come with time.
My next training day was on tours and the till. Part of my job here at SRI (Seal Rescue Ireland) is to provide the public with tours about our mission and the seals we rehabilitate, as well as secure adoptions to help fund the food and medical needs of our pups. For example, Shrimp (photographed here) is battling a case of seal pox which causes discomfort and stiffness in her afflicted right shoulder. It is my job to explain to the public that while the government gives SRI about 12,000 euro annually, one seal can cost anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 euro to rehabilitate. Last year we took in 66 seals after one big storm. So little nuggets like Shrimp fighting off illnesses with compromised immune systems rely heavily on being adopted. Learning all of this, while slightly depressing, was great and I do enjoy getting to teach visitors everything I have been learning myself! The less enjoyable aspect of these days are the hours spent slaving over the till (aka the register.) The bane of the gift shop manager's existence, the till is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Lastly, I can't forget to mention the team I have been working with and learning from. I got very lucky. Everyone is so friendly and knowledgeable and while most have thick accents and talk pretty damn fast, I am really looking forward to getting to know them all.
Also, fun fact, bits and bobs is another way to say odds and ends! So don't assume, like I did, that you are going somewhere named bob's.
That's week one!