It was a sight that just about broke Ruth Cannell’s heart.
The Calgary-based quality lead for TransCanada’s Technical Services department was hiking on Saturna Island, B.C. with a companion this summer when she spotted a visibly distraught seal pup alone on the shoreline, struggling to haul himself out of the water ahead of the oncoming tide.
“He would pause and then try again with the little strength he had left,” said Cannell, on vacation at the time. “He was crying, as if he was trying to locate his mother or someone to help him.”
She then spotted a freshly severed umbilical cord and saw that the pup, silver in colour, was coughing intermittently as if he had ingested seawater.
“He appeared to be trying to take some seaweed into his mouth, probably because he was hungry and desperately in need of food.”
Growing weaker by the hour
“For me it was an absolutely heartbreaking sight, hearing him cry all alone and apparently abandoned with no mother in sight and growing weaker by the hour.”
As the long afternoon progressed, Cannell tried to get help with several phone calls to local authorities. Finally, she was put in touch with someone at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (MMRC). After Cannell texted them various photos of the distressed seal, MMRC arranged for helicopter pick-up while giving Cannell permission to touch the seal and move him further away from shore.
She gently and slowly picked him and moved him to safety. “I was astounded by how gentle and trusting he was, never once exhibiting any defensive behavior or fear I would have expected from a marine mammal not previously exposed to human contact.”
The very hungry pup sought some warmth, comfort and love as he unexpectedly and determinedly crawled onto Cannell’s lap. Though she knew it was important to deter human bonding, she also realized that the pup may not survive and made the decision to let him do it.
“These were some of the most special moments in my life,” recalls Cannell. “The time we spent together, the feel of his tiny little body trying desperately to seek some comfort in my lap, and his adorable little personality, so full of trust and acceptance.”
Shortly before 7 p.m., the sound of a helicopter heralded its arrival and with it the safe transportation of the pup Cannell christened ‘Silver’ to the MMRC to begin his care and rehabilitation.
While survival was a question mark for the first few days – his premature birth had left his weight dangerously low – the staff at MMRC pulled him through while providing Ruth with regular updates.
View a video of Cannell comforting Silver.
After more than two months of care at MMRC – Cannell kept track through the facility’s updates on their Facebook page – the day arrived for Silver and five of his friends to be released back into the wild.
As would be expected, it was a bittersweet day as she returned to the site from Calgary to join several others – primarily staff members from the Vancouver Aquarium – on the boat that would free them back to the life that was meant for them.
With the seals being transported in dog crates, the group traveled out to Bowen Island a little ways off shore, found a nice cove and released them one after the other. Silver, last of the six, was carried down in the crate by Cannell and set free.
Silver joined several of the other seals who were all huddled together in the water. Her last view of Silver was of him and the others with heads bobbing in the sunshine, in a beautiful cove where they could go and hang out on the rocks.
“I was so relieved he was out there, wondering what would have happened to Silver if there was no rescue center there to care for him,” Cannell says. “It was the most memorable experience of my life.”
TransCanada supports employees and the causes that matter to them. To promote this objective, the company matches employee financial donations, provides community volunteer opportunities and matches hours volunteered with financial contributions. Through the Empower employee volunteer and giving program, TransCanada supports and encourages employees to give back to their communities in ways that resonate with them personally. This included adding a corporate Empower campaign for the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which was requested after Cannell’s fellow employees read about her experience with Silver.
In 2013, North American employees combined their donations with the company’s matching program to contribute more than $1.9M and over 6,800 volunteer hours to the charities that matter most to them. Read more about TransCanada’s Empower program in our 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.