Freedom and I have been together eleven years this summer. She came in to Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, in Arlington, Washington, as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings and she could not stand. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery; it had been broken in four places. She's my baby.
She was emaciated and covered with lice. I 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, tube-feeding her for weeks. She spent a lot of time in a huge dog carrier with its top removed; it was loaded with shredded newspaper for her to lay on. I'd sit and talk to her, urging her to fight, to live; and she would lie, looking at me with her big brown eyes.
This went on for 4-6 weeks. Sadly, she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in one more week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked as though death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday. I was to be there Thursday afternoon to make the arrangements. I didn't want to go; I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway. When I stepped in, the clerk grinned quietly at me. I was led to Freedom's cage. She was finally standing, on her own; what a big beautiful eagle. Freedom definitely wanted to live. Just about in tears, I was thankful beyond means.
I took my Freedom back to the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center where I volunteer. 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 (thin straps, traditionally made from leather, used to tether a hawk or falcon in falconry), and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. Our story was printed in newspapers and aired on radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.
In spring 2000, I myself was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was stage 3, which isn't good (one major organ, plus cancer cells everywhere else), so I wound up doing eight months of chemotherapy. Lost the hair; the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I'd go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. (In my dreams, Freedom came to me to help me fight my cancer. This happened time and again.)
Fast forward to November 2000: It was the day after Thanksgiving when I went in for my final checkup. I was told that if the cancer wasn't eradicated after another eight rounds of chemotherapy, my last option would be a stem cell transplant. Tests were taken; I got the results; I was told that all the cancer was gone. Hallelujah! I wanted to soar on wings like eagles.
So the first thing I did was go up to Sarvey Center and take the big girl out for a walk (shown left). It was misty and cold. I jessed her up and we went out front and walked up 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.) She touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes; we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. A magic moment — we've been soul mates ever since she was brought to the center.
Freedom is a very special bird. Check out my short video of Freedom and me. . . .
Click the photos on each side of my video to enlarge them. The left image provides a free bookmark.
On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are outdoors, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who with terminal cancer come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that. . . I never forget the honor I've been given to get so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom.
Hope you enjoyed this.
PS, Cancer cells are a strange lot. You can go for years in remission. One day, it can rear its ugly head. If you get cancer, you're not likely ever be totally free of it. Please pray for a permanent cure. Thank you.
Origins Beginning in August 1998, Jeff and Sarvey Wildlife Care Center staff spent weeks tending to Freedom, a baby eagle who had been brought in emaciated, covered with lice, and with both wings broken. She was nursed back to health. In 2008, Jeff penned the account reproduced above, recounting his ten-year experience with Freedom and his own battle with cancer.
Guidry, Jeff. An Eagle Named Freedom: My True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. New York: William Morrow, 2010. ISBN 0-062-01550-8.