Monday, January 18, 2016

Inspiration Mondays: The Marine Mammal Center

Rescue: It's not just a verb. It's a promise. --Anonymous
I debated a long time about whether or not I should post about the rest of our visit to San Francisco today. We leave tomorrow, so technically, it's not over yet, so I decided to do an Inspiration Mondays post after all. Besides: there's plenty of time for other adventures to occur.

Today, we decided to drive north of San Francisco to visit The Marine Mammal Center. We saw their educational van outside of Fisherman's Wharf last Saturday, and I turned to the hubby and said, "Maybe we can go and visit them while we're here."

I'm really glad we did because:
  1. It was a nice break from the city, which is fun, but is exhausting for me.
  2. It was so worthwhile.
I used to do animal rescue back when I lived in Alberta. It's important for me to support people who do it, because I know what an emotional toil it takes on you. The difficult thing about working with animals is that it is EVERYONE will tell you that what you're doing is wrong, and EVERYONE will say it's not enough, but only a few people will actually put themselves out there to help you. It is very, very, very difficult to look over animals who need help, and it is even harder to know that a lot of them have very little hope. Working with a rescue organization was one of the most difficult things I ever did: so difficult I had to walk away.

But it's still very, very important to me.
The Marine Mammal Center is just across the Golden Gate bridge outside of Sausalito, California. It was a striking drive, because you get to drive over the bridge:


And then you stop and huddle with the mass of humanity trying to take photos of it (which is always worth it, even with the low cloud):


And then, you go up the driveway to the Center and are greeted by this view:


It is a fully working hospital, which means that they have to be careful about the contact their animals get with humans. Since their mandate is to rescue, release, research and educate, it is very important that they do the best by the animals by caring for them in a way that still allows people to see them, but protects them from contracting disease or becoming too familiar with humans. As such, the pens can only be viewed from above:


This is the closest I could get to one. This is Elmo, a life-sized model of an adult male elephant seal:


They had about thirty animals in their care today, but as early as last month, they had over two hundred. Since they only have a total of 56 pens, that number was a tremendous challenge for them. Most of those two hundred animals were juvenile fur seals, which are having a heck of a time right now because they aren't able to dive deep enough to catch the fish they eat due to the rising sea temperature driving the fish into cooler waters.

This California sea lion had recently been diagnosed with a bone cancer. They say his prognosis is "guarded," which means they're really not sure what will happen with him. He's lying on a heat mat because he's really not feeling well:


This female elephant seal is about two hundred pounds underweight. She was also not able to dive deep enough for her food, so she washed up on the shore lethargic and hungry. Her underbelly is all scratched up from being dragged over the rocks of the shore:


The Centre has several solar panels that were donated by a sponsor to help them derive some of their electricity off the grid:



Inside, they have a chart room, where the medical staff meets each day to go over the rounds:


They have their own lab where they can do all of their own bloodwork and toxicity tests. They can do their own ultrasounds and x-rays. They only thing they can't do is an MRI, and they have a contract with a private facility that lets them use theirs after hours:


And of course, there's the kitchen, where an army of very dedicated volunteers prepares fish three times a day for the animals. They check each fish carefully to make sure they are fit for the animals to eat, and they are responsible for stuffing pills into them and tracking which animals they are fed to. They even have a high-powered blender for making "fish smoothies" for those animals that need to be tube fed:


This lady tapped on the window to let me know that I could take a photo of her:


The volunteers here have to make a real commitment to be a part of the organization. They have to promise they will help out at least once a week for a full year, either taking the 7am shift or the 2pm shift. And they stay until the work is done, which can mean that they can be there until well after midnight if there are a lot of animals. Sometimes, they are able to feed the animals by simply giving them the fish, but sometimes they have to spend time teaching the young animals how to catch fish, which often means tying a fish to a string and pulling it through the water for hours and hours and hours... And the center is located well away from any urban center, which means it's not close to home for most of these people.

Today, I am inspired by people who commit to helping other creatures on this planet, even if it means they have to do difficult things: getting up early, manual labour, and even watching over a dying animal. It is not something I think I can do anymore, but I am grateful there are people out there who are willing to do it. And it will always be something I support.

I bought a hoodie in the gift shop today. I wasn't planning on making any purchases while I was here, but I figured that, if I was going to spend some money, this was a pretty good thing to spend it on. Thank you, volunteers.

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