Friday, August 12, 2011

A Starfish Story

This is a true story about a starfish...

I had a meeting in a beach town. It was a gorgeous day outside; sunny and bright with a nice summer breeze. I put on a pair of preppy plaid short-shorts, tucked in a crisp white fitted button down, put on a cute pair of sandals to showcase my tropical pedi, and accessorized with a cute belt and pair of sunglasses. The day was starting out great.

I was driving along and realized my vehicle was running out of gas. I stopped at a station close to where my meeting was located. Something compelled me to pull up to a pump that was kind of out of the way. I get out of the car and go around towards the station and something on the ground quickly caught my attention. There was a pile of dead starfish on the ground. I almost had to pinch myself; nothing these days should shock me, although they always do. There was a rock near them and it appeared that the starfish had been smashed to death. They were all dried out, bloody, and hard. I had to double check to be sure. One of the starfish appeared to be alive. I now have a rescue situation on my hands.

I got myself into rescue mode and thought quickly. I don't know how long Starfish has been out here, but judging by the others, I knew I didn't have much time. I ran into the gas station's convenience store. I tell the attendant and ask for a container with water so that I can get this starfish in some water and figure out my next step. I was told that they didn't have anything to give me. At that point, I started becoming cynical and disappointed in my fellow humankind, as I so often do. For one, someone did this to these starfish, and two, no one was helping me. I quickly grabbed supplies and pay for them. I bought a foam cooler and room temperature bottled waters; complaining to the attendant the entire time while I was checking out, on how terrible I think it is that they allow people to abuse animals outside of their business and do nothing about it. I asked them to look at the surveillance tape and do something about this. I was cashed out and dashed back outside to Starfish.

Two gentlemen who had overheard me inside the store, helped me outside. Whether they were helping the girl in short-shorts or helping the starfish, I was glad to receive assistance and was grateful. I was feeling a little better about my fellow mankind, but not much. We gently got Starfish into the cooler and I was almost certain Starfish was still alive. I thanked my helpers and quickly sped off. 

I controlled the temperature in my car with some A/C and some fresh air from the windows. It was comfortable and I was hoping it was okay for Starfish too. I arrived at my meeting, explained I had a rescue starfish in my car, met, and was out of there in a matter of minutes. I then head off to the beach, which was not far at all - literally three minutes, perhaps.

I arrive at the beach and explain my discovery to the attendant at the booth. He let me park and didn't even charge me for it. Regaining my faith in fellow humankind...slowly. I clutch the foam cooler containing Starfish, and powerwalk to the beach. I come across a lifeguard and told him what I was doing. He pointed me in the right direction to the best place to release the starfish, which was a far edge of the beach, full of rocks and seaweed and no humans to disturb this starfish. I thanked him for his assistance and zoomed over to the quiet spot of the beach.

I happen to know that if you place a starfish upside-down in water and it is alive, it will quickly right itself. I kneel down and notice that the current is kind of strong as waves come splashing into the rocks. For a second I feel like I should bring Starfish home to rehabilitate and then release in a few weeks. However, I don't know what starfish eat and have no idea how to properly care for one. The lifeguard did mention earlier that starfish heal themselves very quickly and can even regenerate lost limbs. Starfish only had some scrapes, so I decide to carry on with the release. 

I place Starfish upside-down in the ocean and wait. Starfish was still. I began to worry that Starfish didn't make it or that maybe Starfish was too weak to right itself. Then, just like a miracle, Starfish did a sort of wiggle flip-over thing. Starfish was right-side up. I worried about the current, but then watched as Starfish swam against the current into the ocean! It was a funny type of swimming I've never seen before. I didn't even know that starfish swim like that. It was very slow and gentle, almost like a glide. I now knew Starfish was strong enough to swim into the ocean against the waves splashing in, and make it look like a simple task to boot! I knew for sure Starfish would be okay. I felt better. I felt happy for Starfish. Although, I also felt sad for the others that had died at that gas station.

I walked back towards my car and stopped to tell the lifeguard the good news. He was glad to hear and thanked me for what I did. It was cool, it was like the lifeguard was a guardian of the sea and appreciated that I brought one of it's inhabitants home. I then passed by the attendant in the booth. I told him about Starfish being alive and gliding away into the ocean. I expressed my sadness for the others who did not make it and how cruel it was that someone brought them there to die. He also thanked me and was very pleased that I was able to save the one that was alive. He told me The Starfish Story. I had never heard this story before. The gist of it was that saving one (or as many as you can) makes a difference and is significant. Here is the full story that I found online when I searched for it: 

I drove away from the beach feeling much different than when I had first arrived. When I found the pile of starfish, I was deeply saddened and sickened by what people can do to other living beings. I see it all the time being a vegan and animal rights activist, but I never get used to it. It never gets any easier to handle, but I do work harder and with a sense of urgency everyday. No creature is too small to be respected, loved, or saved. Of coarse, even starfish deserve a chance to live out their lives unharmed. Isn't that a given? 

After meeting people who cared about my mission to save Starfish, and especially after hearing the beautiful story of caring and determination afterwards, I felt renewed. I drove off admiring the sky, the beach air, and the ocean - feeling good about the fate of Starfish, feeling good about my life's mission, and feeling good about those fellow compassionate mankind who have it within themselves to care. And for now, the Dirty Vegan is signing off. 

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