Heroic Cork dog saves seal pup which had gotten into difficulty

Heroic Cork dog saves seal pup which had gotten into difficulty

Zoe the German Shepherd. Picture credit: Olan Long

A Cork dog is being hailed for her intelligence, bravery and empathy after playing a key role in rescuing a seal pup which had gotten into difficulty.

On Monday evening, Olan Long from Weavers Point in Crosshaven was out walking with his German Shepherd, Zoe, when a signal from the dog alerted him to the fact something was amiss. 

"I live myself literally on the cliff here down on Weavers Point overlooking the beach.

"We were going for a walk and we were going to go across the beach but the tide was quite high so I decided I’d go right, over the rocks.

"I was heading over along and I heard Zoe barking. I called her and she came running towards me barking, then she ran back again and I was telling her to come on - I wasn’t taking any notice really.

"So she got up on this rock and I shined the torch on her and she just started crying. 

"She was like a child that had just broken down crying."

It was at that moment that Olan realised something was wrong.

"My first thought then was that someone had fallen over the cliff.

"Zoe led me over to the spot and it was actually a seal pup nestled between a rock and a ditch. 

"I would never have seen it, had it not been for the dog. 

"The seal had rope around its neck and it had fishing net around its body."

 While Olan said he wasn't surprised by Zoe's intelligence, he was amazed by her empathetic reaction to the seal pup in distress.

"Zoe actually lay down next to the pup and put her two paws out and her ears went back. 

"When her ears went back I realised, wow – she has massive empathy for this pup.

"The pup started to gravitate towards the dog, started to shift over towards her. 

"I presume the pup was looking for a mother figure or something like that," he said.

Running back to his house to get what was needed, Olan said Zoe remained at the gate so as to return quickly. 

Zoe the German Shepherd alerted her owner to a seal pup in distress on Monday evening. Picture credit: Olan Long
Zoe the German Shepherd alerted her owner to a seal pup in distress on Monday evening. Picture credit: Olan Long

"She understood the urgency of the situation," he said.

"By the time I returned, Zoe was sitting patiently next to the seal, ears back.

"I was worried about the rope around the seal pup’s neck – that was my main concern."
With limited resources to hand, Olan managed to remove the rope from around the seal's neck, saving it from immediate danger.

"There was still fishing net around it [the seal].

"There was no way I could have gotten that fishing net off myself because it was so badly tangled and I only had a small scissors," he said.

After putting a call out on Crosshaven Noticeboard on Facebook, offers of help quickly began to come in.

"I had a few people ring me, Paddy Quinlan, who runs Funkytown [Adventure Centre] out in Fountainsatown, he contacted me and told me that he would get in touch with Seal Rescue Ireland. 

"Then another guy rang me, Cian Dalton – he was going to come up and help but then Seal Rescue contacted me to say they would send someone down.

"In the meantime, I had to go somewhere and I got my friend, Billy Kennedy, who is a neighbour of mine, he came down with his partner and minded the seal until the volunteer from Seal Rescue Ireland came and freed the seal," Olan explained. 

"I went down in the morning then to check that the seal pup was gone because the Seal Rescue were explaining to us to leave the seal there, that the seal’s mother would come and find it, which is obviously what happened overnight," he continued.

Olan, who adopted Zoe from Animal Rescue Cobh back in August 2019, said that while he understands people can be fearful of German Shepherds, asked that people would be more open-minded about the breed. 

"I really do understand why people are afraid and I would never judge anyone for being afraid, but all I would ask is that people give them [German Shepherds] a chance.

"Zoe is an outstanding dog. I have a daughter myself who has non-verbal autism and Zoe is fantastic with her - she's a real minder," he said.

Olan said that while it took some work to settle Zoe when he first adopted her, she is now an integral part of the family.

"Zoe was hard work at the start. She had been from home to home and she was confused.

"It took me a good two or three months to get her to settle.

"That involved getting up early in the morning, running her before work and coming home and walking and running her again, but we’re getting rewards now a thousand times over.

"She's amazing."

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