Terry Perkins Mitman displays the children’s book she wrote and illustrated, “A Seal Named Sunshine,” just beyond the seawall at her home in Cape Elizabeth. It was at that site that she spotted a stranded gray seal pup last year and witnessed its rescue by Marine Mammals of Maine. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

What do you do when you stumble upon a gray seal pup in front of your house? You call for help from Marine Mammals of Maine and, if you’re Terry Perkins Mitman of Cape Elizabeth, you’re so inspired by the experience you write a children’s book about it.

Mitman and her husband discovered the female pup as they set off to walk their dogs on a January morning a year ago.

“It was really beautiful, but it seemed like it was just vulnerable being there,” she said in an interview at her home on Monday.

Sunshine, a female seal found on Cape Elizabeth author Terry Mitman’s property in January of 2023. The inset photo at the upper right shows her as a less healthy pup pre-rescue. Contributed / MMoMe

They called the 24-hour helpline of Marine Mammals of Maine in Brunswick, a nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates stranded seals with goal of returning them to the ocean. A volunteer soon arrived, checked on the young seal and said to give it 24 hours to find its way on its own back to the water.

“That night I could hear her crying in the wind,” Mitman said.

The following morning, MMoME came to the rescue.


“I watched as they collected the seal pup,” she said. “I mean, when do you get to see stuff like that?”

Mitman has written, illustrated and published “A Seal Named Sunshine” about the pup’s rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release. The book is dedicated to MMoME, and Mitman is planning to participate in the organization’s library series this summer. She also will sell the book at MMoME’s annual 5K in October to raise money for the group.

“When I had this idea, I first asked them if it would be supportive. I wanted to make sure that, if I did this, it actually furthered what they were trying to do,” Mitman said. “They were psyched … That felt good, to do it in support of them, as opposed to just taking (the idea) and making it.”

“Marine Mammals of Maine is thrilled that Terry has captured the work we do with helping these animals,” Executive Director Lynda Doughty said in an email to The Forecaster.

Mitman’s goal for the book is to generate awareness about MMoMe and to foster children’s appreciation for Maine marine life.

In a statement on the book’s back cover, Doughty wrote that she is happy Mitman is getting the message out to kids about her organization’s work.


“We feel fortunate that she is sharing our hard work with children, who will grow up loving our marine wildlife just as much as we do.”

Mitman’s childhood friend, Nancy Derby, painted the cover picture of Sunshine along the rocks where she was first spotted. The book describes how Sunshine was roughly 2 weeks old when she was found, and gray seals usually need a full two to three weeks to wean from their mothers. The crying Mitman heard that night was because Sunshine was hungry.

Some proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit Marine Mammals of Maine.

At the MMoME facility, Sunshine was gradually introduced to solid food and, eventually, her body was able to adjust to digesting fish. Illustrations of the the seal’s rescue, two-month rehabilitation and eventual release off Phippsburg are included in the book along with a section  of photographs of the actual events.

Mitman said she felt a connection with Sunshine’s journey and the organization’s work because her daughter, a veterinarian, has worked with wild animals. As she watched MMoME conduct their rescue, Mitman said, she was impressed.

“It was freezing cold, they were out in the rocks, so respectful of the animal,” she said. “The work they do is incredible.”

Mitman corresponded with MMoME while she was writing her book to ensure the accuracy of her story, including details about three other seal pups in the organization’s care at the time of Sunshine’s stay. One of those was a male gray seal pup, Dexxy, that was found lying in a snowbank in Cape Elizabeth during a snowstorm just a week after Sunshine’s rescue. Dexxy made headlines across the state.


“He was a superstar,” Mitman said, while Sunshine’s rescue was something only she and her neighbors were familiar with. “In March, the two seals were ultimately put together in a pool to rehab together and then they were released the same day.”

Mitman said she appreciates all of MMoME’s work, from rescuing animals and nurturing them back to health to their research and wildlife advocacy.

“It’s a small group of powerful people doing this work,” Mitman said. “It was fun to do this and get to know that group better and just really feel like I was supporting what they do because I don’t know what I would have done that day without them.”

“A Seal Named Sunshine” and other books by Mitman are available on Amazon. It is also available online and on shelves at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops for $24.95 in hardcover and $14.95 in paperback. To order from Sherman’s online or to check on availability at Sherman’s, stores go to shermans.com. For more information on MMoME and how to support their work, go to MMoME.org.

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