This week, an old friend died. Tiger, known to many as War Eagle VI, passed away after complications from surgery. She was 34, one of the oldest golden eagles in captivity. Being born in captivity, and imprinting on humans, releasing her into the wild was never an option.
Tiger was more than a mascot. She was more than an eagle that I helped care for while at Auburn. She was an educational resource and a source of inspiration. She made appearances at schools across Alabama and occasionally locations further away if she was passing through town. You weren’t allowed to hold her at an appearance if you couldn’t talk about Tiger’s history, golden eagles in general, or the threats to their native habitats.
And she was family.
While I hold no special claim on Tiger, I likely spent more time with her than anyone who wasn’t a trainer. In fact, why I wasn’t a trainer is a source of mystery. When I was at Auburn, Tiger was cared for by my Fraternity. My fraternal big brother Bill, was the Head Eagle Trainer. Both of my little brothers became eagle trainers, one eventually becoming the head trainer. Even my best friend and roommate for three years was the Head Eagle Trainer.
I wasn’t, but I have some stories.