When Katy took the five-minute walk to the otter facility, she heard the mewing the moment she stepped into the enclosure. And there she was, their most adorable resident, Baby Lulu, now seven weeks old and weighing in at seven pounds.
Katy’s hands itched to hold the baby, touch its soft fur and feel her heart beat through the tiny body. But human hands never touched baby otters, lest they interfere with their chance to bond with an adoptive parent. So instead, workers wore nitrile gloves when they fed the infants with specially designed bottles.
Ashley glanced up at Katy as she walked in. “You want to do the swim?” she asked when she’d finished feeding Lulu.
Katy pushed her hands into another set of gloves, then gently lifted Lulu, whose alert eyes gazed into those of her human handler. “Ready to get into the water? Yes, yes, you like the water, remember?” Katy continued to coo at her tiny charge, carrying her to the bathinet-like tub of chilly seawater, then slowly lowering her into the salty bath.
The moment the water touched Lulu’s fur, the baby cried with an uncannily human sound.
“I know, I know, it’s different, and scary, but you’ll like it in just a minute, I promise.”
Lulu kicked her webbed feet and blinked, still uncertain of this new element. Katy dribbled water across one arm, then the other, and Lulu’s cries became less desperate. Then, a tiny hand reached out to pat the water, and her sweet face showed both surprise and delight when it splashed.
“What a smart girl you are,” Katy praised. “Yes, such a smart girl. And you’ll be a great swimmer one day, you’ll see.” Katy brought the baby to the warming table, where she carefully dried her with a towel, then delivered her back to Ashley who would check her vitals before arranging her next feeding.
“Such fun, isn’t it?” Ashley said.
“Oh, she’s precious. I get so attached,” Katy added wistfully.
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