Gratitude: A Thanksgiving message about Dawn’s Day in the Wildlife

Dawn wildlife

My favorite Alaska author and writing cohort Heather Lende said it perfectly this morning in her Alaska Dispatch News column.

“Here’s something I learned…Gratitude. Which is different than giving thanks. Gratitude comes from knowing that the story could have ended differently, and that it often does.”

This is Leo, a Stellar sea lion from Washington's coast. He's a reason I follow TMMC's activities on Facebook. [image TMMC]

This is Leo, a Stellar sea lion from Washington’s coast. He’s a reason I follow TMMC’s activities on Facebook. [image TMMC]

It’s been more than two months since I spent a day shadowing volunteers at The Marine Mammal Center on behalf of Dawn and Procter and Gamble, and every time I hit ‘play’ on another video, or read a Facebook post, I am reminded about the concept of gratitude, as explained in Lende’s quote above.

How easy it is to say ‘thanks’. How difficult it is to witness scenarios that lead us toward gratitude.

Dawn dishwashing liquid has been supporting wildlife rescue rehabilitation for nearly 40 years. That the chemical components of this soap, meant to wash dishes, ended up as the only compound gentle, yet tough enough to wash a dangerous, oily mess from the delicate feathers of birds was an ‘purposeful accident.’ Borne from a desperate need to find something that wouldn’t further damage birds, or injure volunteers caring for them, Dawn became the solution, made by a company that could have said, “Thanks for the honor, but no thanks for the responsibility.”

In 1988, Dawn began a partnership with the International Bird Rescue, marking the brand’s official entry into stewardship with wildlife rescue organizations. In 2006, the company began another, equally-successful partnership with The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, a place I had the privilege to visit in September as part of Dawn’s Day in the Wildlife experience.

Animals and birds are rescued every day, this I have learned in the months since my visit. Marine mammals in horrible situations, with nets tangled around their faces, or birds soiled by barrels and barrels of oil, and it’s awful to watch. But carefully treated, fed, and monitored, many of these animals and birds are saved, and ultimately returned to their respective habitats.

That’s gratitude; 75,000 animals and birds worth.

50,000 bottles of dishwashing liquid used for everything from scrubbing feeding tubes and buckets to oh-so-gently washing out sticky, oily duck feathers caused by a leaky sump pump near a local pond. Dawn provides pallets and pallets of the product whenever needed.

Contributing to an animal's release was one of the most powerful moments of my writing career. [Susan Goldman, photo]

Contributing to an animal’s release was one of the most powerful moments of my writing career. [Susan Goldman, photo]

I asked a number of TMMC direct-care volunteers how they felt seeing positive results of their efforts, given that no emotional attachments are permitted with any animals. Did the creatures recognize their caregivers were trying to help?

Every single one had the same sort of response.

Two of the many, many amazing volunteers at TMMC.

Two of the many, many amazing volunteers at TMMC.

“They know. And I know there’s no better feeling than watching an animal swim away.” 

Gratitude is caring about, and showing up, for situations that aren’t always pretty. Watching a team of volunteers wrangle a frightened sea lion into a corner so it can be weighed was tough, but a subsequent release brought me to joyful tears.

Yeah, that's me watching sea lions return to the ocean. Moments of gratitude.

Yeah, that’s me watching sea lions return to the ocean. Moments of gratitude. [Susan Goldman photo]

We don’t always need to be told ‘thank you.’ We just need to witness little moments of unspoken gratitude.

Dawn, thanks for mine.

Grateful.

Grateful. [Susan Goldman photo]

Happy Thanksgiving.

~EK

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