Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Freedom and Jeff

Here's a story that was passed along to me, and I want to share it here because it's not only about a disabled animal, it's also about the same theme as Almost Perfect: how damaged animals can not only inspire, but also help heal humans who take the time -- take the risk -- to open their hearts to these magnificent creatures. If this isn't the ultimate illustration of how karma works, then I don't know what is.

Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery. It was broken in 4 places. She's my baby.

When Freedom came in, she could not stand and both wings were broken. 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 bear 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 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.

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 course 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.

Jeff Guidry, Presenter and Handler

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tribute to an Almost Mom

Here's a beautiful and touching vid about Terry Albert. She wrote and narrates a poem, I Never Was a Mother, that expresses her love for animals and why she -- and so many others like her -- rescue homeless pets.

It's clear from the photos in this vid that some of these animals are disabled, at least temporarily. Though Terry may never have been a mother, she certainly shows all the signs and skills. Anyone who has ever fostered a child, an animal or anyone else can tell you that it takes the same amount of love, patience, compassion and perseverance as it does to be a full-time, long-term parent. Only you also have to have the strength to be able to let go, sometimes before you're ready.

Terry is also a professional pet sitter, and a generous one at that: she shares pet sitting tips and more at her blog.

Bless Terry and all the other courageous, loving people who understand what giving till it hurts really means. I'm not a religious person, but Mother Theresa is surely one of my heroes, and she definitely got it.

Giving's not all about money or things. It's mostly about giving of yourself: your time, your attention, your simple, loving touch to some creature who really needs it.

Are there any of us who do enough of that? I know I could use some work in that area myself. I often confuse being busy with being good. I hope I remember to ask myself -- and often -- What have I done today to live up to Terry's example?