Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Obedience= A shave off the rocky coast of Tasmania

Obedience= A Close Shave

On a rocky coast off Tasmania in Bass Strait, the pup waited eagerly for the return of its mother. It was playing with several other pups in the shallow water nearby. Happily splashing and squealing in play, it did not notice the sudden commotion amongst the elders of its colony. Mothers beckoned to their young in anxiety. Hearing his mother call, the pup responded and left. The others, reluctant to leave their sport, wilfully continued to play, refusing to heed the call of their parents. In their enthusiasm, the pups which ignored their mother’s call, failed to notice a 15 foot White Pointer heading in their direction. When they did, it was too late. Safe on the rocky outcrop, by the side of his mother, the pup watched in horror as the enormous shark lunged from beneath and ripped open the soft bellies of his fellow playmates, turning the sea crimson.

For the fur seal pup, instant obedience means life and death. For them, failure to respond to the call of its mother may result in death. Because it is so important, the mother teaches its pup instant obedience from the early days of its life. Since the pup is necessarily left alone for a short period of time while to mother hunts for food, it must learn to stay within the safe zones of the Island and not wander off by its self.

Several months before this incident, the pup had been exploring the Island together with his mother, learning how to catch his own meal. He had spent a long time searching for food, and had not found anything yet. He was getting hungry. Nuzzling at the rocky bottom of the sea bed, he disclosed a white transparent material which looked much like the squid which his mother often brought to him. Delighted at his find, he was just going to swallow it whole when a sharp call from his mother stopped him. Swimming over, his mother gently flicked at the white squid with her tail. The act tossed it up, revealing a plastic bag, carelessly thrown into the water by a negligent human. If the pup had ignored the command of his mother, and swallowed the plastic bag thinking it was a squid, he would have died of suffocation.

SWISH! The pup turned around to where his mother had been a moment ago to find her gone! He looked up in confusion to find the mother chasing a school of mackerel. Excited and ready to help, he swam up, pursuing the fish, while keeping his eyes on his mother. While he knew he didn’t have to help, he went the extra mile by assisting his mother.

For the fur seal pup, obedience meant going the extra mile whenever it could. The pup could simply have waited for the food brought to him! But he willingly went the extra mile to help his mother procure the day’s meal.

She was just about to grab a fish when she made a sharp turn to the right and fled. Puzzled by his mother’s sudden flee, he nevertheless obeyed the silent command, knowing that it was expected of him to follow. Didn’t his mother know that he hadn’t eaten anything yet? He was hungry, and he had been just about to catch his first meal! But the pup didn’t complain. Instead, he followed his mother as she weaved her way around the coral, keeping to the shadowy area as she made her way back to the Island. At one point, a massive shadow appeared above them. It was an orca, commonly known as the killer whale. It was searching for food, and the school of mackerel had attracted it, just as it had attracted the pup and its mother. The pup finally understood. His mother had known! She had sensed trouble coming, and had saved both of their lives. Immediate action had to be taken, and it left no time for explanation.

You see, for the fur seal pup, obedience meant doing what was expected of it, without being told. There wasn’t time for explanations. A fur seal pup has to trust its mother and obey it, even though it didn’t understand the actions of its parent.

Tired and hungry, the 2 seals swam up the shore and returned home. Although he had spent the whole day searching for food, and hadn’t found any, the pup did not complain. He was glad to be safe and alive, and he expressed his contentment by crawling to his mother’s side and nestling her, thanking her by barking a series of “oinks”. OINK! OINK! OINK! For him, even though there was no fish or squid that day, there was always the warm milk of his mother to feed him. He was content to be satisfied with that.

The pup demonstrated obedience by having a cheerful attitude despite his weariness and hunger. He did not complain, but thanked his mother instead for saving his life and for teaching him how to fish.

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