The Seal of Disapproval

We've just crossed the Canso causeway back into mainland Nova Scotia. It's 4:52 in the afternoon, our house paperwork is signed and there is a seal in our trunk that howls so loudly we're afraid to leave the car in a public place.

Perhaps I should backtrack a bit.

This morning actually began last night when I picked Sean up at the airport near midnight. An hour and a half later, we hit the sack knowing we'd have to be on the road early for a meet-and-greet with our new doctor in Cape Breton today. And so we were, coffee and toast in hand with me behind the wheel, which meant a few traffic laws were gently bent along the way.

We hit Guysborough in good time and were just about to cross the causeway when we spotted a seal pup in the middle of the highway. Cars and semi trucks were arcing around him while he watched them, clearly afraid and confused. I pulled over and backed up on the shoulder of the road while Sean jumped out and raced to stop traffic.

He was mobile enough to be herded into the snow while I called Hope Swinimer at Hope for Wildlife. She provided a great deal of useful information, asked some pertinent questions and requested a texted picture of the pup before asking that we bring him in.

Hope's Seal Assessment

  • Gray seal mothers feed their babies for three weeks and then abandon them, so by itself, a seal pup that has entirely lost its white coat is a normal, happy pup (this one still has quite a bit of white on his body).
  • Once gray seals are weaned, they sometimes wander as far as two kilometers from the ocean, and that's okay too (we were father away from the ocean than that).
  • Healthy seal pups should look round and very fat. They should have no prominent neck, and they should have no fat rolls when they bend (this one had a neck and fat rolls).

This seal also had mucous over one eye and was bleeding a bit from the mouth. The verdict? Bring him in for rehabilitation.

But how do you catch a seal in snow up to your knees and carry it to the car?

Hope's Seal-Catching Advice

  • Put a blanket over his head if possible.
  • Grab him by the tail flippers and drag him across the snow.
  • Lift the seal by the tail flippers into the trunk.

So here we are on the side of the highway in snow up to our knees with a seal pup, and the car is at least fifty feet away. Sean grabs the pup by the tail flippers and begins to trudge backward through the snow, while the pup bends around and tries to attack him. I grab Sean by the shirt tail and begin to guide him up the hill. Hope, who is still on the phone with me, begins to shout, "Don't get bit! Don't get bit!"

Halfway up the hill, the seal decides the road is a great place after all, so Sean lets the poor thing climb on his own and hauls him into the trunk when he reaches the top.

Here's where it gets interesting. With Hope's blessing, we decide to make our doctor's appointment after all and sign our house paperwork afterward before bringing the seal in. But about a mile down the road, our windshield wiper motor abruptly dies, leaving us defenseless against the road slush. Right about this time, Sean finally reaches the secretary at the doctor's office (who had probably been on lunch) to tell her that we're going to be a few minutes late and finds out...

...that our appointment is for tomorrow.

We met our Realtor at Tim Hortons outside Baddeck after fetching a vegan pizza in town. As I sat in the parking lot eating, it struck me that I was eating pizza from a box in a Tim Hortons parking lot with a loud seal in my trunk on the day I signed the paperwork for my house, and I laughed until I cried.

This day is one for the books, my friends, and the best part of it all is that the Seal of Disapproval got to live.