I love working in rehab, because it is so rewarding to see an animal go from super sick to really healthy and get to experience the joy of releasing a wild animal back into the ocean. You spend countless hours training them in skills they will need in the wild, feeding them at all hours of the night to keep them hydrated, watching them grow and become stronger over the passing weeks and spending many hours worrying about how they will do when they get back in the wild. But, there is a side that no one ever seems to talk about, and I'm not sure why, because it is a story just as important as the rest.
Working with seals is an amazing experience and I have enjoyed every single minute. You try not to get too attached, but, of course, you have your favorites and it is always so exciting when a new seal pup comes in that needs help. But, it doesn't always end well. Instead, you might spend countless hours waiting for a pup's temperature to go down. You might stand by her side for an hour while she receives intravenous fluids. You clean her intensive care unit as best you can and you hope she will be okay. You are told she has a head injury and that she is blind, but she moves her flippers and reacts to water being poured on her to cool her down, so you keep a little bit of hope.
You are told she won't make it, that her injuries are too severe and that she doesn't have great chances. But you stay up until one in the morning to watch over her anyway. You cool down her flippers and take her temperature every thirty minutes. You watch as she lays in the ICU not moving and wishing you could do more, even though you can't.
And the next morning, you pick up her towel and do her laundry for the last time. You clean out her ICU unit and prepare it for a new seal. You drink a cup of tea and give yourself a minute in the break room, knowing you and everyone else tried their absolute hardest. Being in animal rehabilitation has a dark side, even though it can be amazing and wonderful and give an extraordinary appreciation for wildlife.
You can have a 95 percent success rate, but sometimes maximum effort isn't enough. It isn't for lack of trying or because you failed, but because sometimes everything you've got just isn't enough. You can save seven other seals within three weeks, but there might be one that slips through your fingers no matter what you do. The injuries are too great, the damage done before you got a call about the animal or the body may already be too weak to recover by the time the animal comes to the center. Whatever the reason, it leaves a little piece of you broken, because all you could do was wait. Wait for the medications to kick in, for the temperature to drop, for consciousness to return, for the IV to finish delivering fluids. Sometimes, everything you have isn't enough and it isn't your fault. It isn't a failure, because you did everything you could. And you will always try to do more, knowing that at the end of the day, nothing is perfect and even the best job in the world has a downside.