So my three months are up and it's back to the states for me. The good news is I get to see my Wriggle. The bad news is I had to say goodbye to my seal family. Sitting at the airport, staring out the window at the giant Aer Lingus Shamrock, it's hard to believe that I have only been here for a few months. It feels like a lifetime. At least I know the friendships I am walking away with will last that long. I managed to keep it together up until I was dropped off at the airport by Bri and Parker, who got up before sunrise to drive me the two hours there, give me giant hugs, and then drive two hours back for a full day of work. That got to me.
I have learned so much, and because of that I plan on keeping this blog going for a bit to highlight a few of the things that I feel deserve to be shared. But for now let me just tell you about my last few weeks here at SRI.
I managed to bring in quite a few more seals! Sriracha, Biscuit, Goulash and Gnocchi are my four new babes (although I am a co-parent to a couple of them) and they are all so perfect. Sundae will always be number one in my heart though. I also became a seal senior which was pretty exciting. This just means that I was one of the individuals interns could go to for help when we were out with the seals. It does also mean that my managers felt like I took initiative and knew what I was doing enough to depend on, which was a great feeling.
When I wasn't outside working with the seals I could be found giving tours to visitors. Occasionally groups of adults visit, but frequently we are introducing our work to families with young children. In my opinion this is great because kids have brains like sponges! I love knowing that my explanation of why plastic on a beach can hurt a seal tummy could potentially keep a child from littering for the rest of their lives.
Although working with children can be challenging at times, I did have a pretty adorable experience recently. The child's name was Leon, and I can't help but tell you about him. A part of my talk covers the types of seals we have in Ireland, but when kids are listening I like to make it interactive and have them try and guess the answers to some questions about the seals. Well Leon, who was maybe 7, had a big personality to say the least. If I asked him anything he agreed with he gave me a quick "Yep!" with a definitive nod, or if he didn't agree a firm "Nope!" with a stern head shake. And when I asked him how many types of seals he thought were in Ireland he replied in the cutest irish accent, "Listen, I don't know what you're going on about..." It was adorable. Also, they adopted Sundae so they became winners in my book right off the bat. They returned a few days later to say goodbye to Sundae before returning home from their holiday, but from across the courtyard Leon yelled at me that he would see me at Sundae's release! He melted my heart a little.
In other news, a challenge our rescue has been facing recently is the rehab it is actually undergoing. Yes, we are rehabbing our rehab! You can see Jesh and Cal working away below, and they will be at it for a while as all of our kennel walls need replaced. While this will give them plenty of time to come up with more wordplay ("Houston, rehab a problem" and "rehab lift off!" is what they've come up with so far...) you can imagine this is an expensive and time consuming project. It has also fallen into our laps during our busiest seal intake time which is also the time when tourism to the center drops substantially, leaving us with less funding to take on tasks such as this one. That all being said, the number one way our rescue brings in funding is actually through adoptions!
Adoptions are a really fun way to get involved as you get regular "pup-dates" about the seal (or seals) that you choose. When I tell people about adoptions I really hate making it sound even relatively like a sales pitch, because in my opinion it's not. What it is is a way to make a small difference that goes a long way! So here are some facts.
-The Irish government gives SRI approximately €12,000 annually.
-Depending on how young and how sick a seal is when they get to us, one pup can cost anywhere between €2,000 and €5,000 to rehabilitate. So that €12,000 would rehab maybe 6 relatively healthy seals. We take in and rehab over 100 hundred seals every year.
-Our operating cost last year was about €180,000, so you can imagine how dependant we are on adoptions and donations just to keep our hospital doors open for the sick and orphaned pups that depend on us for survival.
A single adoption (so a one time payment of €30) is the equivalent of buying fish and medicine for one seal for one week, which is huge!
The best way to adopt is in person, because of course you can meet all of the seals and see first hand how much they are in need of treatment, but online adoptions are an option for those interested in helping as well! If any of my friends or family do want to adopt *cough* *cough* you will be sent an adoption package that covers exactly why your seal baby needed rescued, what progress they have made since being admitted, so many cute pictures, and then regular pup-dates about their rehab journey! When your seal is ready to be released you will also get an invitation to see them swim out to sea. I can't begin to describe how special this all is, so I encourage you to experience it first hand.
Meet Pepper! One of our adorable seals
in need of adoption, she was found emaciated, orphaned and injured. She is a wee seal with a lot of sass, which is exactly what we want out of these wild animals! Once Pepper puts on the weight she desperately needs to be healthy, we are confident she will make a successful recovery!
While I am going to miss SRI more than I ever thought possible, I am so grateful for all that I have learned. I feel so fortunate to be walking away with the friendships, knowledge and inspiration this experience has given me and I cannot wait to see how this nonprofit is going to continue to grow and flourish.