‘I thought it was a dog’: 11-year-old has surprise encounter with seal in Myrtle Beach

Tabitha Fish was sure her 11-year-old son Gavin was pulling her leg.

After all, he’d been in imagination mode that morning, pretending to be a marine while playing with his toy weapons on the beach.

As it turns out, Gavin was by no means joking when he told his mother a seal come ashore on the beach around 63rd Avenue North, near the hotel the family from upstate New York was vacationing in Myrtle Beach.

“He was almost in tears when he FaceTimed me, saying ‘Mom, where are you? There’s a seal on the beach.’ I said ‘Yeah, right,’” she said, standing among a group of onlookers who were observing the seal as police cones restricted the public from getting too close. “I was eating at Mr. Fish and came back and looked out the window, and there was a seal on the beach.”

Gavin said he’d gotten within a couple yards of the marine mammal before police coned off the area.

“I thought it was a dog for a second,” said Gavin, whose family is spending most of the month of December in Myrtle Beach. “Then I saw he was a seal, so I went up to the room to grab my phone so I could get pictures.”

Gavin said he was among approximately 15 to 20 people who’d gotten a close-up look at the seal before police were able to secure the area.

“They were like ‘Oh my God’ and taking pictures and stuff,” he said.

Police on scene believe there was a good chance that it was the same seal that had come ashore Wednesday near 30th Avenue North and was released back into the water early Thursday morning. The seal — which, if it indeed was the same one from Wednesday — was believed to be a small harbor seal that had suffered a shark bite on its flipper.

Gavin, meanwhile, said he was able to get very close to the seal but refrained from doing his own investigation.

“I could’ve pet him if I wanted,” he said. “I was excited. I was like ‘Cool.’”

Gavin said he’s seen dolphins in the ocean that were “super close” since arriving on the Grand Strand on Dec. 8, and said he’s seen coyotes, deer and turkeys fairly close at his grandma’s house in New York. However, living up north and away from the coast, the family’s chances of seeing live marine animals is usually only likely if they head to Canada to visit an aquarium, Tabatha Fish said.

Gavin said he hadn’t yet called any of his friends back home to tell them about his experience. He is, however, excited to share his story with everyone when he returns home in January.

“Really crazy,” Gavin said. “I saw dolphins last week, but I never thought I’d see a seal.”

By Saturday evening, with the tide coming in, the seal was back in the water en route to wherever winds up being its next destination.

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David Wetzel serves in both editor and reporter roles for The Sun News. An award-winning journalist, he has reported on all types of news, sports and features stories in over a decade as a member of the staff. Wetzel has won awards for sports column, feature and headline writing.