I get to do the most amazing things as a writer! My new book involves eagle rehabilitation, so I called the Carolina Raptor Center to see if one of their raptor rehab folks would talk with me. I want my book to be as factual as possible in specifics about rehab, though it is a fictional story, book three of my Unlikely Friends series.
I hit the jackpot. The incredibly kind man who spent three hours talking with me, Mathias Engelmann, has been in raptor rehab for 30 years. As his coworkers chatted with me, they told me I was lucky to be interviewing him -- best in the business.
PLUS, his name is the same as my son's (though my son's name is spelled with two T's). He was every bit as good as everyone indicated, and incredibly patient as I outlined my (outlandish) plot and asked him to help me insure it was realistic. I think at first he was dubious, but as I revealed the plot, he began to perk up with interest.
I already have 14,000 words on my new book and have steered it in a direction I wasn't at all sure was based in reality. I had done some research, but not having ever been involved in eagle rehab, I was really making some massive assumptions and guesses.
It turns out, most of my plot will work! Mathias helped support it and tweak it with his incredible knowledge of what happens in the real eagle rehab world. Remarkably, he even made some realistic suggestions that promoted the underlying conceptual impetus for the book -- concepts of forgiveness, healing relationships, divine retribution, refuge, and sacrificial love. And as if all his time and help cementing the accuracy of my plot wasn't enough, just as we were preparing to wrap up, he got a call that an injured red hawk was on the way. (Not sure if red shouldered or red-tailed for you hawk aficionados.)
"It will be here in ten minutes," he told me, "If you want to watch the intake exam, you can."
"Is it the same thing you would do with an eagle?" I asked.
I had a front row seat on this incredible event. They lifted the hawk out of the box, securing his talons firmly in their hands. Then they lay it on its back and began a careful exam of every part. When not directly examining his head they kept the head covered so the hawk didn't freak out.
After the physical exam, they took it to the x-ray table. I got to watch as they gassed it to put it to sleep and conducted the x-ray.
The hawk had a damaged eye and was unable to walk. They were looking for damage to the spine or pelvis. The poor guy probably collided with a car. The transport woman who brought the hawk from the concerned citizen to the center stayed and watched the exam with me. She had told the hawk on the drive over, "Red, you are my first transport this year. You better make it."
The x-rays didn't show anything obvious though the workers thought perhaps the right pelvis showed some problems. While he snoozed, the hawk received a shot of antibiotics and further careful exam from Mathias.
I had to leave before they fully woke the hawk up, but they were preparing a cage for him. The worker told me if he survives the first 24 hours, he has a 70% chance of making it. I am praying for Red.
I met several volunteers and employees at the Raptor Hospital. Everyone was kind, and gentle, with a deep reverence for the life of their winged charges. I quickly connect with anyone with a reverence for life.
God created such variety, beauty, and abundance of life on this planet. It is all so precious. I am grateful that there are people who take the time and effort to rescue a hawk or an eagle or any creature. I think it shows an appreciation to God for what He has created to respect, care for, and value life. All life.
Sometimes, people are more willing to respond to the vulnerable nature of an injured animal than to the vulnerable nature of a baby in the womb. As a sidewalk counselor at the local busy abortion mill, i often see bumper stickers related to animal rescue on the cars of mothers driving in to abort their living child. It always rings a discordant note in my heart.
I love animals, and have a special relationship with them. My heart weeps for animals that are hurt or abused. I have rescued many in my day. However, I think human beings are of even greater worth. Of all God's creation, humans alone are made in His image. How could we care about animals and not His crowning achievement?
"What a beautiful bird," I said.
"Yes," agreed Mathias, gently touching the red tipped white plumage on the hawk's belly, and pumping its little feet to bring it out of the anesthesia.
"Com'on little guy, wake up..." he said tenderly.
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast...