Elizabeth Newman

Many of us are softies when it comes to animal rescue videos. But one that came across my path on LinkedIn this week seemed like a larger metaphor about resident care.

In the nearly four-minute long video, police officers in Ocean Shores, WA, are faced with a seal trapped in plastic fish netting. The poor seal is agitated, floundering and trapped. 

A local resident captured the rescue on video:

One police officer holds the freed part of the netting while the other one hacks away at it with a knife, trying to avoid being bitten by the seal. He offers calming words of reassurance, such as, “I know you’re upset, dude.” The seal is having none of it. At one point someone’s phone plays the X-Files theme song, which seems a tad on the nose. 

The reason I think the video, first posted in January, went viral is because how many of us could empathize with the police officers, who are trying to help, with the passerby witnessing the mayhem and shooting the video, and with the seal itself, who doesn’t know how it got into this mess but has places to go and people to see. 

Along those lines, the officer told Canada’s Global News, “I just hope there’s someone there to cut me loose when I need it,” he said. 

Boy, isn’t that the truth. Earlier this week, one of our guest columnists, Jean Wendland Porter, discussed how the best intentions can lead to chemical restraints for nursing home residents. While I would never compare nursing home residents to wild animals, there is a universal element to the teamwork needed to free someone, or something, that is trapped. The police officers exhibit all the qualities we want to see in our clinicians and partners. They work together, they do not rush, and when they get stuck, they go retrieve a different tool to help. They know that the seal going back into the ocean trapped in netting is a death sentence. 

Once the police officers succeed, the seal makes a break for the ocean. If this was a Disney movie, before diving in, the seal would turn back and wave, or bark to indicate thanks. Of course, this being real life, he never looks back at his rescuers. We’ll never know his fate or whether some part of his brain knew that he was safe.

But that’s OK. In the world of nursing homes, many good deeds go unacknowledged, either because the resident can’t convey his or her thanks or because it’s taken for granted. We work to help nursing home residents, much like the officers helped the seal, because it’s the right thing to do. 

As the philosopher T. M. Scanlon (and show “The Good Place” has explored), this can be framed as “What we owe each other.” Every day, you answer that responsibility with words such as “dignity,” “quality” and “help.” You strive to put those concepts into action. So while the seal can’t bark its gratitude, humans can — so let me take a moment to say thanks for all that you do. 

Follow Deputy Editor Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.