… and what have you done?
What were you doing at 2pm on Christmas Day? If I were home, it would be about the end of a customary long dog walk. I would shower, maybe peel some potatoes if pressured, watch Christmas telly and generally wait for parental permission to drink wine and open presents (the relative importance of the wine and the presents has shifted over the years).
Today, I was at a seal necropsy, because nothing says festive like internal organs. But let’s start at the beginning.
6.15am (usually -asleep) – alarm. I didn’t start till 7, but I like time in the mornings for a slow cup of coffee. At about 20 to 7 Ilaria joined me in the kitchen. She sat down opposite me with a bowl of cereal. “Merry Christmas,” I said. “Oh… I forgot,” she replied.
7.00am (still asleep)- morning meeting. The room was lit by tea light candles on the table. If this was supposed to give a Christmassy vibe, to me it was more secret-society-esque.
7.50am (maybe waking up) – having fed the two seals in Allard, Antje left me to clean. I was nearly finished when one turned to look at me and I saw a smudge of red on its nose. With a sinking heart, I looked closer. Yup, definitely blood. But one of them is eating fish! Maybe it’s from the fish… I checked the tag and the feeding list, no such luck, it’s the wrong seal. I took a few photos to show the vets, finished cleaning and found Mark, hopelessly chancing – “If I think I saw a bloody nose, but no vets are in yet to decide whether there’s a virus, do I still have to shower before the next place?” Mm hmm. Showering at 8am and then going back out in the wind and cold and dark is not so fun. Yes, you do have to wash your hair.
8.10am (coffee and stockings)- fed and cleaned in Jarinos, then helping clean an outdoor pool takes it to 10.40am, otherwise known as break time. Possibly later than necessary due to my efforts to take photos of seals with Christmas Snapchat filters. A cup of coffee and a biscuit, and back to work at 11.
11.40am (getting dressed and going on a dog walk) – back in Jarinos, and the vet intern needed to take blood from Karp. I helped to hold down his flippers through the process. Poor Karp, what an unpleasant Christmas morning. He enjoyed the fish afterwards at least.
12.00pm (dog walk) – the first part of my G shift ended, unusually on time. I went to the gift shop and bought myself a t-shirt in the sale. I submitted a PhD application, and I also asked Anna’s permission to attend the necropsy.
2.00pm (see above) – either you understand why someone would want to attend a necropsy or not. If not, you’re probably horrified that this is what I did on Christmas afternoon, and you know what? I get that. But if you’re at all thinking “that sounds kind of interesting” then that’s pretty much what I thought too. Attending necropsies as a volunteer is an opportunity, not compulsory, and has to be done in your time off. I always intended to go to at least one, and since I wasn’t working and wanted to keep busy, it seemed like as good a time as any.
It was really interesting, if very gory. The seal was diabetic and had become blind, so was euthanised yesterday after having been here for 100 days. The lenses were completely white and there was pus in the mesenteric lymph node (lymph node for the gastric system), which, apparently, is weird. It was really cool to see all the internal adaptations to their lifestyle, but I did struggle a bit with the taking off the head and cracking open the skull part of proceedings! My second Christmas present of the day was the flipper tag.
5.00pm (wine and presents!) – finally managed to have a chat with my mum (Dad was at work). The parents are beating me for traditional Christmas activities, with presents and a roast dinner.
6.00pm (presents finished, wine continuing) – the centre organised a “Christmas meal” of pizza in the pub for us. It was really good, and free, and meant no one had to cook or wash up. Very lovely, but a bit rushed because I was back to work at 7.
7.00pm (Christmas dinner) – back to the centre for the evening feeding, I helped in quarantines 10, 11, 7, 5, 4 and 2 with no major issue. I saw a bloody nose in 2 and my heart stopped for a second before Luke told me it’s just from a scratch. It turns out the one I saw in Allard this morning may have been too, but no one thought to check…
9.30pm (food coma in front of the TV) – finished work and spoke to my boyfriend at last.
11.00pm (asleep or heading that way) – the best of intentions to go and rejoin fun and festivities have been replaced by a general plan to go to sleep.
All of that said, the truth is it’s really been a great day. Not because it’s Christmas but just because it’s been interesting and fun. No matter if or how you celebrated, I wish you all very happy holidays.