Sgt. Nevis has a face anybody could love.
This week's blog is based on the writing of volunteer Sandy Fagin who was moved by the story of Sgt. Nevis.
I have been an education docent for five years at The Marine Mammal Center. Although I live in Sacramento, my passion for the ocean and marine mammals has driven me to confront torrential rainstorms, horrible traffic jams, and a rear-end collision to get my Center "fix".
One day I was at work when I saw the TV image of an obviously injured sea lion who turned out to be Sgt. Nevis. I was immediately hooked: fueled by anger for an unconscionable act and overwhelmed by sadness for an animal that tugs at my heart in a way that I don't even understand.
As the story progressed, I followed every rescue attempt. I cried at each failed rescue attempt and then again when he was finally weak enough to be successfully rescued. I was happy that he was in the best possible hands but still seething at the act that caused his suffering.
One day when I was at the Center, I saw Sgt. Nevis lift his head, look me straight in the eye, and lower his head back to the ground. The reports at this point in time were not good, and I thought for sure that this would be the last time that I would see him.
Happily, over time, Sgt. Nevis grew stronger and a home was found for him at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. The day before he was to leave for Six Flags, I had the opportunity to serve as a docent on that day and found it to be the most meaningful four hours of my five years of volunteering. What I saw was a 650 pound sea lion taking fish from Center Stranding Manager Shelbi Stoudt in a manner that was more gentle than a dog being fed.
As Shelbi worked with Sgt. Nevis, I was astounded by his intelligence and grace - even at 650 pounds.
I had mixed emotions when he was moved to Six Flags. I was happy that he was healthy but sad that he couldn't return to the ocean. In the end, I'm not sure why Sgt. Nevis is such an important part of me. Maybe it's the love I feel for all animals and the even stranger attraction I have for sea lions, coupled with the brutal actions of man against animal.
My sadness and anger has turned to happiness. I am happy that Sgt. Nevis is healthy and safe. I am happy that the justice system has not allowed this appalling, unlawful act to go unpunished. I am happy that Sgt. Nevis has been a part of my life. Finally, I am happiest and proud to be a part of the Marine Mammal Center, and all of the wonderful and unselfish things that they do to protect and help these beautiful, innocent animals.