My Hawk, Alfie
The daily struggles of a teenage falconer
My name's Elizabeth, but you can call me Lizzy, I'm gonna give you a quick run down on my life; it involves world travels, mental health, relationships, and most importantly, my Red Tailed Hawk, Alfie. So, if that sounds interesting to you, read on!
I was born in Stockholm Sweden in the spring of '99, (#90skid) I lived there until I was just 2 years old when we followed my UK born grandmother to Nova Scotia, Canada, where we settled into a beautiful yellow house on the lake. I went to school nearby, and I guess you could say my family was a bit like one out of a story book, pretty damn perfect. We were happy, I was growing healthy and strong (both physically and in spirit). I attended an average size school for a small area and made a few friends, but mostly it was just play dates organized by parents, which was more like arranged babysitting – I was different. I didn't get on with my peers.
By grade 2, things for me had seriously started to go downhill. I was your stereotypical "loner" kid who ate lunch by themselves, and had no friends; so this isn't the happy part where I tell you I got over that and turned out to be the Ferris Bueller of elementary school. In fact things got much, much worse.
It wasn't until I was 18 that I was diagnosed with severe depression, which was most likely exaggerated through my traumatic school experience. I won't go into details about my high school years, as it's not something that needs to be focused on, I've learned to focus on the positive and make the best out of what I've got. So let's put this story on a happier note now.
Flashback now to age 12 when I started working every moment I could with my father who is a master Falconer (if you don't know what falconry is, feel free to read this simple definition kindly provided by google):
"Falconry is the hunting of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey."
There you go, consider yourself educated. My father and I had an incredibly strong bond, and working with animals really focused my mind and helped me to get through some pretty tough days and nights. My father, unbeknownst to me had begun my apprenticeship to allow me to become a falconer. He was training me, and I didn't even realize. By the age of 15 I was the youngest licensed falconer in Canadian history. I had got my own bird and his name was Alfie. I didn't know yet that when my father gave that very special Red Tailed Hawk to me, he would quickly become the most important thing in my life, and we would form an incredible, unbreakable, naturally wild bond, that could never be broken.
I have had Alfie now for 5 years, and he is 5-and-a-half. He has spent every moment of everyday since that day in my care. Falconers don't get breaks. We are the parents of incredible wild animals, we have formed a bond with birds of prey, we have truly become one with nature in understanding. Alfie means more to me then words can express, the connection I have with him, the love I feel for him, and the extreme mental suffering that he has put me through is immense.
Alfie of course never meant to put me into any harm, but he did, or rather my depression and anxiety did. I worry about Alfie so much it causes me to physically break down. He is my everything, and I want what is the very best for him, so I provide that, and more. Which is a struggle every day. It is impossible to achieve more than perfection, and that is why I drive myself crazy; I can't do any better for him, yet I think I'm not doing good enough. This keeps me up at night, this keeps me from leaving the house during the days, this unnatural worry keeps me landlocked to my house. I am no longer Alfie's owner, rather Alfie owns me.
As an 18-year-old girl, just because I have a hawk doesn't mean that I'm crazy, or that I live in a cabin in the woods. I'm just like any other 18-year-old girl. I wanna go out with friends, and party, and giggle over boys we can never get with, but yet I can't do these things because I've trapped myself in this vicious cycle of extreme, literally undevoted care, which is controlling my life.
Alfie has also helped me a lot. He's given me a reason to live, and not only that, but a reason to thrive. He's allowed me to meet new people and he's taught me things I would never have known or understood in another life without him. He's so truly special that my life depends on his, and his depends on mine. Love isn't supposed to be easy, and it's not, but that's the best kind of love.
Tomorrow morning I will wake up and follow the same routine that I do everyday, the routine I take for granted, that other people I know, and have told me that they would love more than anything to do, so I must now release any anger that I have let myself build up, and put that energy to use for food rather.
Life is only as hard as you allow it to be, and although we all have our skeletons in the closest, I have an Alfie, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.