I had my first ‘seal dream’ last night – I was wandering around the visitor centre on my day off and when I looked into Bi-Bu and saw that there were at least 20 new tiny white grey seal pups. My reaction was a mixture of ‘omg so cute’ and horror at how much work feeding them and looking after them as they grew would be.
While the work in seal care is always interesting and every day remains different with these charismatic animals, as time goes on there are of course fewer new experiences. Now I feel really settled. Two waves of new volunteers have arrived since I did and lots of people are leaving, so I am no longer truly new myself (although of course I am to those who have been here for years).
Ranting to all of the feeders about how desperately I love grey seals has started to have the desired effect – I am now regularly sent to Vliehors to see my favourite babies, the moulted greys. This week, one of the other volunteers called me ‘the grey girl’.
10.30am today and I was off on my first release. It was just two seals being taken by a nurse and her extended family as a New Year’s get-together outing, plus me crashing. I’ve been reliably informed that releases are generally a ‘goodbye and thanks for all the fish’ situation, but Sjef and Cipri were not so excited to go home.
I’ve had a really amazing week here and feel like I’ve progressed a lot. In myself I can feel I’m more confident with the work and comfortable around the seals. I’ve also been trusted with a larger range of tasks and responsibilities (hmm, could it be connected I wonder…).
Now I’ve gotten through my first full working week here, I’m beginning to find my rhythm a little. I always think of the first week somewhere new as something of write-off as you’re always playing catch-up, learning where everything is and how everything works. The second week always seems to give me more time to settle, start building a routine of sorts, and work out my thoughts on things.
Yes, she is named after Dolly’s Jolene, but you can’t expect non-native English speakers to get the spelling right all the time.
The common wisdom here is that you will fall in love with the first seals you properly look after, and Pyza and Nessy from Quarantine 2 will always be special to me, but the true queen of my heart is Joline.
Two days are dedicated to training in the quarantines, and thank god. These are self contained little rooms with a small pool, a kitchen, and a plateau, all of which can be gated off. This is Fase 1, where new arrivals and the sickest seals are.
I flew to the Netherlands on Sunday the 3rd of December, and then embarked on a public transport adventure to Pieterburen – two trains and a bus. The bus was more like a minibus, and as I sat there with my big rucksack and my non-existent Dutch, the driver said to me “Would you like me to stop at the seal hospital?”.