Turning 40 seems like a breeze for Smoke the seal.
She's not sulking about her glaucoma, or the cataracts that have turned her eyes a cloudy blue-white and forced her to navigate her tank essentially from memory.
She'll pull out a wiggle dance if you want it (still smooth). She waves, practices a newly learned rolling maneuver and even plants a grandmotherly peck on a visitor's cheek.
As long as she gets a special birthday squid for lunch, folks at the New England Aquarium anticipate her milestone birthday Wednesday will pass without any moments of moody reflection.
"She's just got a super-sweet disposition," said Paul Bradley, the aquarium's lead marine mammal trainer.
Smoke just isn't letting age get to her, even though she's believed to be the second oldest seal in captivity in North America, behind one a year older in Wisconsin. Harbor seals normally live to their mid-20s.
This New England seal with the long life came to aquarium just after that life was nearly cut abysmally short. She was abandoned as a pup on a rocky Maine beach in May 1971.
But that misfortune turned out to be good luck. She was rescued and eventually put in the aquarium's care, without which she'd never be nearing her ripe old age.
One of the obvious reasons harbor seals survive longer in captivity is the absence of predators. They also don't have to worry about food scarcity, which can weaken the animal and make it more vulnerable to disease, said Tony LaCasse, the aquarium's spokesman.
Smoke has also benefited from "boutique care," as LaCasse puts. She has monthly blood tests, a managed diet, and trainers and veterinarians to make sure any problems are quickly treated.
Still, as much attention as the aquarium give its seals, Smoke's longevity stands out. In his 22 years working there, Bradley says no other seal has even broken 30.
Just last year, the oldest seal in captivity in the world, a 44-year-old male gray seal, died at the New York Aquarium. LaCasse said the only seal older than Smoke in captivity is a 41-year-old female harbor seal at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis.
The aquarium doesn't know the specific day in May that Smoke was born but has traditionally celebrated her birthday on the last Wednesday of the month.
Smoke's disposition hasn't changed much over those decades. She's always had the friendly, even temperament that LaCasse theorizes has contributed to her long life.
But, he added, she had a reputation as a ferociously protective mother and wouldn't let other seals close to her pups. That included their father, even when he was the aquarium's famous Hoover, the "talking seal."
Nowadays, the 5-foot long, 180-pound Smoke spends a lot of time hanging out in the deep end of the harbor seal exhibit, as her daughter, Amelia, and son, Reggae, swim nearby. She often floats with her snout above the water and body below, a comfortable position called "bottling."
Smoke's eyes are closed most of the time. The cataracts likely make looking into the light uncomfortable, Bradley said. But her sensitive whiskers and years in the exhibit compensate for the lack of sight, and she moves around its rocks with no hesitation or collisions.
Smoke cuddles close while one of her trainers, Patty Schilling, feeds her herring and capelin, brushes her teeth, and generally gives her a lot of affection. When the food is gone, Schilling taps the empty bucket and Smoke licks her lips before darting under the water as freely as any of the six younger seals that share the exhibit.
"She's not at all a fragile animal," Bradley said. "The only age-related issue with her is really her vision."
Smoke is on some medication for liver health and for arthritis in one of her flippers.
Geriatric animals such as Smoke can quickly develop serious health problems, said Julie Cavin, a veterinary fellow at the aquarium.
But, right now, Cavin said, "she's healthy."