Pet Tips 'n' Tales

The Eagle's Little Girl

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Kira Neilsen, a 10-year-old fourth grader, has become quite a celebrity with her personal connection and investment in the rescued eagle, Patriot.  A "funny bone" fact about them is that both their broken "wings" are healing nicely!

It is not just the beautiful scenery of Oregon that stands out, but also the beautiful hearts of the children who live here.

When Kira was six years old two important things happened: She decided to become a veterinarian and she learned that the Humane Society accepts volunteers as young as age nine. So, three years later, on the morning of Kira's ninth birthday, her mother, Deanna, drove her to the Humane Society to sign up to volunteer.  Kira, now age 10, is mapping out her future as she job-shadows at a veterinarian clinic.

Last June, Kira heard about an injured Bald Eagle named Patriot who was brought into the Bend Veterinary Clinic. Now, finding a raptor is one thing, but how does someone who spots the eagle lying in the ditch beside the road manage to pick up a 3-foot-tall, taloned, hooked beaked eagle and hold it on ones' lap for the drive into the vets? Luckily, the woman who found Patriot works with raptors and knew how to "hold" him. Patriot was weak, thin, and his injuries prevented him from standing or flying - a heart wrenching predicament for a magnificent bird used to soaring 10,000 feet in the sky.

The future Dr. Kira Neilsen learned that Dr. Cooney was providing Patriot's recovery care at no cost. After viewing a video of Dr. Cooney performing mouth-to-beak resuscitation on Patriot,  she wanted to contribute to Patriot's recovery so she donated $5.00 from her piggy bank. Still inspired, she made fliers and approached family, friends and neighbors to help her collect pop cans and bottles, then exchanging them for cash. Within 24 hours, Kira had raised $36 by collecting over 600 cans and bottles.

When Dr. Cooney learned of Kira's efforts to help Patriot, he invited her to the raptor's next physical therapy session.  Kira felt an immediate connection with Patriot since they each had a 'wing' in a cast. Kira had broken her right arm by falling off of her scooter; Patriot had a broken left wing. Kira was allowed to reach out and touch a sedated Patriot's soft yet powerful feathers and to help with his physical therapy.

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Patriot the Bald Eagle
Kira continued her fund raising and in five weeks she had raised $1,082.09.  As a determined, dedicated volunteer, and future animal doctor, Kira had one more idea up her cast: Since Patriot was a wild bird, and thin, Kira felt that he needed to eat what he eats in the wild -- trout. Kira's grandfather's neighbor, Doreen Rumgay, owner of Indian Springs Trout Farm, wanted to support Kira's efforts so she donated 90 trout to Patriot! As Kira delivered the trout to the Raptor Center she proudly said, "I hope the fish help him get better."

Four months later, on our visit to the Nature Center for a photograph, Kira asked naturalist Jennifer Curtis, "How many of Patriot's fish are left?" Together, they peeked into a huge freezer to find that Patriot will be eating his favorite food for awhile!

Kira was tickled by how much better Patriot looks now than when she first saw him. During her first visit to the clinic, she helped Dr. Cooney x-ray the bird's broken wing, bandage and cast it. After the cast was dry, Kira signed it.
It's taken five months of dedicated care to get Patriot back on his feet.  Even with the best of care he may never fly again. Generally, raptors in recovery are not given names in order to remind us that they are not pets but birds of the wild.

Patriot is aptly named for what he has done to join the hearts of Kira's community with their efforts to save him.

Some say it is a miracle that Patriot is back on his feet, but it has often been said that a child's prayer is very powerful prayer and you can rest assured that Kira put her heart and soul into her prayers for Patriot's recovery.

Kira's efforts have been shared with TV news casts, newspapers, and featured in the kids' edition of TIME magazine. She also won a $250 grant from in a nationwide contest geared towards doing good things for animals.  Kira donated the $250 to Patriot's care.

Although she is only 10 years old, Kira knows her dream of becoming a veterinarian will become a reality. She enjoys every step leading to her goal. Through community service projects, or sharing with friends and the students at her school, she loves keeping things positive!  "I like to show other kids that they CAN make a difference!" said Kira.

As Kira's mom stated, "Kira is forming her future ... and I'll do everything possible to help her achieve her goals.  It's great to be a part of 'her' adventure  and I'm proud of her accomplishments.  Imagine what her future holds!"

Last week, Patriot had a going away party! With his remarkable recovery he was moved to Pendleton Oregon's Blue Mountain Wildlife facility for his care and training as an education bird.  "While the goal of rehabilitation is always to release birds back to the wild, some injuries are too severe and birds remain in captivity for programming and education," said Dr. R. Bingham.  "The chance to see a majestic animal up close is life altering for most people. Patriot will touch many lives in the years to come."

A fascinating side note:  A juvenile female bald eagle was found this summer with a broken sternum and brought into Sunriver Nature Center. The 4-1/2-month old eagle had a wing span of nearly 6 feet. She has recovered and was released back into the wild.  When the young eagle's blood work was sent to Canada for DNA tests, it was discovered that she was Patriot's daughter!


"If you want to do something, follow your heart," advises the future Dr. Kira Neilsen. "It was work raising money for Patriot, but I was surprised how easy it was too!  Never stop trying once you've reached your goal.  There are always things we can do to help others. Also, when you do something good, it makes you feel good on the inside."
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