The Marine Mammal Center

Thirty-something years ago, I was hiking with friends in the Marin Headlands when we came across a cyclone fence enclosing a small yard.  Inside the yard were two or three Doughboy-like pools with seals and sea lions in them.  Some friendly signs explained that this was the yard of the Marine Mammal Center, a non-profit organization that rescues sick, malnourished and injured animals, nurses them back to health, and then releases them back to the ocean.

I will always remember this one sea lion, perched on a platform adjacent to a pool.  He had been given a name, and I don’t remember it now, but it was something simple like Buddy.

A sign explained that Buddy had endured some ordeal which resulted in brain damage, and he would now be a permanent resident of the center.  Buddy had a tremor of some kind that caused him to constantly bob his dear little head, an affect that was both sad and endearing.  Since it is my admittedly species-centric habit to anthropomorphize, I will say that Buddy didn’t look unhappy there by his pool, yet he would never know what he was missing out there in the ocean.

Buddy touched my heart, so when I had the opportunity, I sent the Marine Mammal Center a check. Later, they asked me if I’d like to be a member of the Kellan Circle—named for a former patient of the center—which meant I would be a sustaining donor, and I accepted this invitation at once. One of the perks is the Center invites me and a few guests to come out once or twice each summer to attend a Seal Release Event, when patients are deemed healthy enough to return to the ocean. I love these events!! It’s the highlight of my summer to go watch these majestic animals move over the sand and rocks and into the water.  I think they are so brave to dive into the waves and swim away.  It makes my heart swell to watch them.  It makes me so happy to live on this beautiful planet.

The Marine Mammal Center is more than just a feel-good animal rescue group—although IMHO, that would be enough.  The Center is part of a world-wide network of scientists who study the health of the ocean. By studying the health of these animals, they can see what is happening in the waters that sustain us and all life on this planet.  In their own words:

“We are guided and inspired by a shared vision of a healthy ocean for marine mammals and humans alike. Our mission is to advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education.”

The Center is a lot bigger than just a few Doughboy pools now.  I’d encourage any of you to plan to stop in there and visit when you’re in Northern California.  They are located in the hills of Sausalito, and tours are conducted seven days a week. Check out their website here:

The Marine Mammal Center

Below please click to see a video of a seal release that I recorded on my phone earlier this summer at Bodega Bay.  If the image is tiny, just click on it and it should expand for you.

Yeah, I know this video is particularly sappy; I’m not going to lie to you!  I hope it touches your heart and leads you to consider a donation to the Center!  Thanks so much.






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