A great horned owl showed her gratitude over the weekend and the result has been instant celebrity for her rescue group.
Someone brought the owl, dubbed Gigi, to Wild at Heart Rescue in Vancleave in May with a severe head injury. She has been recovering there.
In pictures posted to Facebook earlier this week, the owl appears to be hugging Doug Pojeky, a rescuer who has worked hard with her during her recovery.
Pojeky said he was checking on his patient Saturday when she threw both wings around him and gave him an owl hug.
“Nothing these birds of prey do any more surprises me,” he said.
That’s why he keeps a camera ready and was able to capture these images.
The photos have been trending on Facebook. And with the help of Huffington Post, Mashable and other online news outlets, the owl hug has been viewed around the world.
So what does this mean for the little wildlife-rescue group on 20 acres off Larue Road near Vancleave?
Missy Dubuisson, founder and director, said immediately they gained 1,500 new likes — acknowledgements on Facebook.
Wednesday afternoon it was the No. 1 trending story in the country.
“How crazy is that?” she said.
And the donations have come in.
“It’s not what people might think,” she said. “It’s been $15 here and $20 there, maybe $100. The total is about $1,000, but that’s like a million dollars to us.
“All of it has been a blessing.”
It goes along with another recent blessing — a flight cage funded by the Humane Society of the United States and Chevron USA, and built by Ocean Springs High School students.
She said the cost of running the rescue runs about $12,000 a year. With $15,000, the group could grow toward their goal of becoming a state-of-the-art rescue and education center.
More often than not, a lot of the expense of keeping the 200 rescue animals they have on any given day comes out of the pockets of the volunteers. When they have an animal overflow, say, of raccoons, volunteers take them home.
But this week, the group is in the spotlight. Dubuisson has been called by USA Today, “Good Morning America” and many other news outlets.
“Everyone is looking for a feel-good story,” she said. “And what’s better than an owl showing appreciation to its rescuers.”
To donate, go to wildatheartrescue.org.