Two days before Christmas, on a quiet North Devon beach, I stood anxiously next to my little girl. It was cold, dark and raining as we waited for daybreak. The sea was calm with just a few small waves breaking close to shore. We both looked out into the greyness of the Bristol Channel. Standing there reminded me of waiting outside my daughter’s school on her first day. I was excited yet sad. Proud that we had got to this stage in her young life, yet a feeling of the unknown hoping she will be safe and enjoy her new venture.
I turned and looked at my little girl…it was her time to go now!
Several months earlier, on a distant Welsh beach, I went to the aid of a little seal pup washed up after a big storm the night before. She was clearly underweight, lethargic, dehydrated with a few wounds on her flippers. Fortunately, she still retained that wild feistiness. I gave her fluids to replenish much needed vitamins and minerals to hydrate her little body. It was very clear that this little seal needed specialist help at one of the many wildlife rehabilitation centres situated across the UK.
I took her to Somerset, handing her over to the care of staff at the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital West Hatch. I knew she would receive an incredible level of care. I was fortunate to volunteer at the centre and had seen it at first hand. It was a privilege to work alongside a fantastic team that looked after the many seal pups that pass through their capable hands every year.
I named her ‘Moleskin,’ chosen from a list of potential names where fabric types were the theme for 2021.
Over the coming months, Moleskin continued being that feisty little girl. She often gave experienced staff a nightmare whilst feeding her, but eventually she learned to feed for herself and flourished. I played a small part in her rehabilitation during my many weekends at the centre. Some may seem it strange behaviour, but I talk to all my seals as they occupy their individual pens. I’m convinced it calms them as I clean out or are about to assist feed them their daily mackerel delights. Moleskin was no exception to these conversations but with a slight Welsh twist as I knew and felt closer to her.
Soon, Moleskin ballooned to a healthy weight and was duly giving a bright red piece of jewellery to wear proudly on her left rear flipper. This jewellery was her identification tag and a milestone in her journey towards release. Although she was now very big and far too large to handle, Moleskin was still my little girl and always would be.
So, it was time for you to go my little one. I unlatched the door on her cage. She paused, before stepping out into a whole new world. It was dark, wet and cold on that beach but there was so much out there for Moleskin to discover. She sniffed the sand and air before disappearing into the water.
I stood there feeling quite emotional. From Rescue to Rehab to Release we had been together but now it was her time.
Ironically, as she swam away, she looked back at me as if to take a final glance. I smiled and said quietly to myself “Good luck Moleskin…. I hope we meet again”.