Being appreciated for what you did is certainly heartwarming — it can instantly change how you look at yourself. It’s even more touching when the expression of gratitude is from an animal. You wouldn’t expect them to do that — they can’t verbally say “thank you!” Although they are unlikely to show appreciation verbally, animals still do and have a much more special way of expressing it. These ways make the moment more meaningful and remarkable — making you feel that you really did the right thing.
Animals can recognize humans, which includes remembering their actions. They never forget, so you must remember not to get on their bad side. Also, they acknowledge those who have been kind to them — especially their rescuers. Owls, in particular, are one of those animals, and GiGi the Great Horned Owl can attest to that. She was a rescue owl brought in by Wild at Heart Rescue for rehabilitation.
According to reports, GiGi was found alone, injured, possibly because of a car accident. The vets discovered that GiGi had a severe concussion, and her body was infested with parasites. Her health was at risk, especially when she was also diagnosed with aspergillosis. Those health conditions made her underweight, and she lost 20-50% percent of a Great Horned Owl’s average body weight. Missy Dubuisson, Wild at Heart’s founder, couldn’t believe that GiGi still thrived despite struggling with illnesses.
The rescue center provided the owl with proper medications and treatments. It was a relief to know that GiGi was under the care of the “Birds of Prey Whisperer” — Douglas “Doug” Pojeky. Amazingly, he was also GiGi’s rescuer, and it was evident that she was grateful for the man’s help. GiGi expressed her appreciation for Doug when she welcomed him at the center with a hug. Although GiGi had not seen him for days, she recognized the person who saved her from death’s grasp. Staff also saw how GiGi started dancing when Doug came into view, and she poured her excitement into a long cuddle.
“In all my years of working with birds of prey, I have never seen someone with such a bond with these magnificent birds,” the rescue founder said. “It literally brings tears to my eyes to watch him interact with these birds,” she added. “They absolutely know him and trust him. It’s the trust that you see in her face.” Indeed, witnessing Doug take care of GiGi will leave you in awe. In just a short time, Doug was able to win the owl’s trust. He truly deserves the title and hugs from sweet GiGi.
Interestingly, Doug has a history with a great-horned owl like GiGi. He shared that back when he was a kid, a great-horned owl once stayed in their family barn. However, his father was the only one in their family to see the majestic bird, and other family members only saw it once. The owl watched them from the barn and flew away after Doug’s father passed away. “For some reason, when that bird was hugging me, all I could think of was my dad,” Doug explained.
During GiGi’s stay in the rescue center, she has been giving Doug hugs. It’s evident in her face how at peace she feels in the embrace of her rescuer. Thankfully, she is in good hands and has a chance to return home after a great recovery.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.