Sunday, May 17, 2009

Today 70 degrees, first short sleeve day of the year at Sarvey. I go to get Freedom so she and I can trample fresh grasses on our way to the pond. First we must play 'catch the eagle'. I get her riding gear from the truck and head into the flight. Freedom runs up to her large perch, acts like she's going to jump on it bobing and weaving, a head feint here, mis-direction shoulder drop there, a little fancy footwork she spins away and at the last second as I crouch down with the eagle glove on blocking her avenues of escape (conveniently leaving one open)---whoosh--- in a blur of white light she's past me, head down grinning as she runs. "I got you" she seems to be smirking as she bolts by. Now we head back up hill and into the hide away room, then and only then does she hop on her perch.

This room was made specifically so she could get away from people viewing her if she wanted to. She likes this room as a play room, she has a perch in there and only uses it when she ready to go meet her peeps.

Now I offer the glove and she happily steps up and lets me put her jesses and leash on. It's time for the walk. Off we go down the hill heading towards the pond which is covered by what looks like fine pieces of cotton just floating on the surface. Into the shadows we go stepping around fallen branches from the winter storms and popping back out into the sunlight. Cinnamon the deer is asleep by the fence, she opens her eyes, looks at us and dozes off. She and Freedom have known each other along time. Cinnamon has a deformed foot, she is not releasable.

As we are hanging out Freedom is rather chatty today, she keeps going and going, she has a lot to say. As the conversation winds down Freedom comes up with a sound I have never heard from her before, an extremely high pitched, steady chirp that is almost a whistle. I look at her and she looks at me and does it again, this time even longer. I smiled, touched her talon and said "thanks".

We had a good day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The New 'Pebble Dance'

Just last weekend Freedom made me laugh as about as hard as I ever have before. She was in a great mood, feeling funkified and wanting to dance. I had just arrived at Sarvey, as I drive up she knows the sound of my truck and her white head spins around in recognition. I hop out and walk over to her flight, she greets me with an animated 'chak chak'---and that's when the 'dance' starts. She jumps down off her perch and waddles (she doesn't like me to say that but it's true) over towards me, grabs a talon full of pebbles, squeezing the talon full a few times and then dropping/throwing them down. She looks at me and does a little Motown step, one foot over the other, back and forth as she bobs her head in time dancing her way up the hill. Talk about a bird in a great mood, we were having serious fun now. Then as a friend watches she does the exact dance heading downhill.
Good to see the introvert has vamoosed, let the good times roll.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In March of 2008 I sent an email to a friend explaining the relationship between Freedom (a beautiful bald eagle) and myself. That simple act started a worldwide email blitz that has resulted in magazine covers, radio interviews, tv show requests, but most exciting of all is my book due out in March of 2010. I got lucky again and wound up working with truly exceptional people who have become friends in the process. Thank you Kate, Jen, and Liz.This book (no title yet) will be published by Harper Collins. I will post more info as it becomes available.Here is the article that started the whole crazy ride. I hope when this book comes out it will generate interest for more people to volunteer at their local wildlife rehab place and for people to become more aware of the daily struggles the wild ones have. They need our help now. Support your wildlife rehabber! ---
When Freedom came in she could not stand. Both wings were broken, her left wing in 4 places. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet’s office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks. This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn’t stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn’t stand in a week. You know you don’t want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn’t want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn’t stand the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her dowl cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day. We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us. In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again. Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone. Yahoo! So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn’t said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don’t know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird. On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power rip through his body. I have so many stories like that. I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom’s. Hope you enjoy this. Jeff