Monday, October 11, 2010

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 10/11/2010

I want to acknowledge a hero…..a hero of a volunteer. If you have been around Liberty Wildlife for very long, you know we are replete with hero volunteers, but this one is special in a different sort of way. He was retired from a successful career that ended abruptly due to no fault of his own. He entered into his current career as a volunteer educator and an occasional rescuer of his own kind. And, now he is close to retiring from his educator’s role…also through no fault of his own.

I am referring to our old friend, Apache, the golden eagle. For those of you fortunate to work with Apache over the years, you know him as a gentle giant. He taught us, with patience and forgiveness, about how to work with an eagle. I remember him in his first days at Liberty, crippled by an unfortunate tangling with a semi truck…broken and concussed….spending weeks flat on his belly. In my mind he was wrestling with the decision to retire from life period or just from the freedom of the skies. Luckily for us and the hundreds of thousands of people who have been privileged to make his acquaintance, his decision was to accept a career change.

At the time many advised us that golden eagles didn’t tame up well, especially one who had lived life fully as a top predator at home in the wide open spaces. He would always be a furor, would always be a challenge, would always be apt to hurt someone, should definitely be euthanized…too risky on all accounts. We didn’t listen. He was our first!

Our decision was to try, to give him a chance, to see what he/we could do. The Fates smiled on us with this decision. Here’s why. Apache has stoically represented top level raptors, golden eagles, birds of prey, on television, in the papers, magazines, and in photographs. He has been to schools across the southwest, to community events, nursing homes, and scout troops. He has quite grandly been a partner with his handlers and willingly allowed understanding and adoration to gather around him. He has taught us the secrets of training, approaching partnering with an open attitude and a most patient nature. These are the things that most of us have seen, yes, but what you don’t know is that he has played an unselfish part in attempting and often succeeding in saving the lives of at least five other golden eagles. He is a blood donor. This past week he donated to another golden eagle who was surely dying. The jury is still out on the recipient, but Apache was instrumental in the efforts.

As his eyes get dimmer and dimmer, falling prey to old age cataracts for which there is no treatment, his public appearances lessen. I watch him as he sits in his enclosure, and I am hoping he is revealing in the many successes that his long life represents.

Apache, you wise old warrior, you wise old wizard, you are our wise old friend, teacher, and hero! And, we thank you.


Rangeramy said...

Wow. Thank you for that touching illustration of Apache. I hope you will write more about him, in future blogs.

Rescue Transport Volunteer

Anonymous said...

Apache, thank you old guy. May you live your retirement in comfort.