Training begins with a wild bird on a tether. You teach it to fly, controlled, in a very confined area. You reward obedience with affection, and kindness, and an occasional treat. As the bird responds, the tether gets longer, the area of freedom expands, but remains under control. As trust and loyalty grows, so does the tether, and eventually, it is no longer necessary. Replacing the tether is the voice command; strong, sure, and unyielding. When the response is positive, the voice softens, becomes pleasing. The bird responds.
Even the best trainer, with the best falcon, takes a shallow breath as the unfettered bird leaves his gloved arm, wondering as it flies away if it's in it's mind to return. You feel it *every time. Sometimes, it's only a passing thought, relatively sure you've done your job well, and have your bird's loyalty, and confidence. The bird goes thru it's paces, as instructed, as planned. You think that you've provided an atmosphere that will make the creature WANT to return, even if it doesn't have to. You've conditioned it, thru love, and caring, that being on your arm is a better place to be than free, and defenseless, and on it's own. You think all this for just a moment, and you breathe again.
Then, just once in awhile, the creature doesn't make the turn. It has traveled just a little farther, a little faster than usual. You wonder if it has decided that the lure of the unknown, the things not yet experienced, the call of the wild, may be just a bit stronger than your training, and it's loyalty. You see it looking towards the mountain, flying towards it, mesmerized by it. You know you can use your call, a verbal signal that would break the animal's concentration, train of thought. The sound would illicit an immediate response, you know, as it has so many times before. But this time, this one time, you see something different in the way the bird is flying. Stronger, straighter, with a purpose. Is it merely stretching it's wings, exploring it's boundaries, curious as to the world it is in? Or has it decided to explore a new world, an untethered one. You could call.... but you don't. You decide, in that instant, to allow the creature it's freedom, it's choice. Somehow, you know it needs to make it, it needs to know for itself where it belongs. So you hold your voice, and your breath, and your heart, and you wait. And suddenly... it turns. It's flight back to you is straighter, faster than usual. And you breath again, and feel pride, for this mighty creature is here because it wants to be, not because it was trained to be.
(C) copyright 1996