LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. - Walking in someone else’s shoes is how most good friendships start -- or in the case of these harbor seals -- waddling.
And their caretaker, former Marine Colby Hollabaugh, is still taking his own steps back into life.
“I transitioned out of the military and those buddies, those things you fought for and those things you believe in, while you participate in them somewhat, you’re not being called upon to do it anymore. So I felt listless, like I was drifting,” said Hollabaugh.
Guinness is harbor seal pup who gets his own pool because he suffers from malnourishment and is still learning to eat again.
It's taking him awhile.
After being rescued in San Clemente and taken to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, it's hopeful for Guinness to make a full recovery.
While it might seem like the two are worlds apart, Guinness and the patient hand feeding him share a unique -- albeit fishy -- bond.
“And when I started volunteering here, I of course talked about being a veteran with the Education Director Kirsten, and she thought it was a perfect fit. What she didn’t realize, she thought she was getting a huge help having a teacher come in and be able to do the program, she didn’t realize how much that program helped me too,” Hollabaugh said.
He leads the Sea Lions for Service Members Program at the center. The program, which started in 2017, helps veterans rehabilitate themselves through caring for these animals.
After serving in the Marine Corps from 2005-2009, Hollabaugh still suffers from nervous system tremors. He says he can see himself through these animals.
While his hand still shakes -- sometimes uncontrollably -- it’s the ability to be a helping hand -- that gives him comfort.
“I gain a lot here when I look at the animals. What I see from them, the struggles they go through and how their life has played out, it reminds me a lot of my own,” says Hollabaugh.
These two unlikely friends helping each other find themselves...