Kachemak Sea Otter, a 23-year-old sea otter who, despite having a cute little face and compact, huggable body, would have watched nonchalantly as you were brutally stabbed to death in front of her, then cracked open a clam on her tummy for breakfast (because her brain was not wired for empathy), died on Saturday at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It was sad in the knee-jerk way that something different is often described as "sad"; like when you say "I miss when these walls were painted yellow" but what you mean is "I remember when these walls were painted yellow and now they're different."
Discovered orphaned on the shore of Kachemak Bay in Alaska when she was just three or four weeks old, Kachemak was flown to Illinois, which would have had no special significance to her, since sea otters do not internalize the political borders of the United States. She probably didn't even realize she had left Alaska, except that was also never aware of having been in Alaska.
The first of Shedd Aquarium's sea otters raised from infancy, Kachemak lived beyond the expected life range (15 - 18 years) of sea otters in the wild. Kachemak's caretakers, which, to her, were just some animals that she knew, were very proud of this fact. A bulletin posted after her death declared her "the oldest sea otter known in any North American aquarium or zoo," which again, probably meant very little to Kachemak. As far as she could tell, all the sea otters in the world (before Saturday: five total, including her) lived in the Oceanarium at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Kachemak was not afraid of dying before she was put to sleep on Saturday ("releasing her from a rapid decline in the last week from age-related infirmities"), because Kachemak was not aware that dying was something that could happen to her. She wasn't unhappy about leaving the other sea otters. She didn't worry about whether or not she would be remembered fondly. She didn't reminisce about her lost youth or dream about all the things she had never done. The final moment of her life was not particularly different from any of the moments that proceeded it; she just kept on living right up until she didn't. It was different, but not sad.
Anyway, she's in heaven now!!!
[Shedd Aquarium // Image via AP]