Wilderness ranger Eric Gjonnes found a lost stuffed seal toy in Jefferson Park while on duty. He called it Smokey Seal and made it his deputy until it was found by its owner, KVAL reports.
Gjonnes found the cute stuffed seal on a rock. “I just didn’t feel right about putting the stuffed seal in the garbage bag, so I chose to keep him on my pack,” Eric says. “I have children of my own too, and know that every child has that one special toy that they just cant live without”, he adds.
Eric named the toy Smokey Seal and kept it with him. Meanwhile the owner of the toy, 5-year-old Liam Zahn and his family, were looking for the toy. “We didn’t really expect to find him,” Liam’s mother Sara says. “We thought that maybe someone had found him, or that an animal dragged it off. As long as he has that stuffed animal with him, he feels safe and comforted”, she adds.
Liam himself had come to terms with the fact that possibly some other kid now has his stuffed friend whom he called Seal Pup. But a picture of Seal Pup was circulating on social media with the info that the toy was lost. Eric heard about that and thought he may have found Seal Pup so he made contact with the family.
It turned out he indeed found Seal Pup. But before the stuffed seal and his owner could reunite, Smokey or Seal Pup had to do some work. So Eric made the cute stuffie his deputy.
“They could get an idea of what a wilderness ranger does and just the important things that we all need to do to take care of the wilderness to take care of the wilderness and keep it clean and beautiful. He was working very hard, so he got thirsty, so we had to collect some water and purify that on the way down. Smokey is a seal, after all, so he really enjoyed being around the water,” the wilderness ranger said. “We got to the water crossings where I had to cross a river, Smokey wanted to do that on his own, so he actually walked across the logs and the rocks himself. He is a seal, after all.”
This past Thursday Eric met with Liam and reunited him with Seal Pup. Liam and his sister came with a basket full of cookies as a “thank you” to the ranger. “Wilderness is very important to me, and it’s very important I think for children to get out there and learn to love and respect the wilderness, so I really felt good about being able to bring a happy ending to his wilderness adventure,” Eric says.
As for Liam, he says the first thing he is going to do when gets home reunited with “Smokey” Seal Pup is to cuddle with him.