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PHOTO GALLERY: 82-year-old's dream of seeing bald eagle fulfilled

Sunday, January 8, 2012 | 7:21 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA —Ruth Payton, an 82-year-old hospice patient, was able to experience watching a bald eagle be released into the wild, something she had always dreamed of. The eagle, Watson, was brought to the Raptor Rehabilitation Project and treated for lead poisoning. Watson was released into the wild on Sunday. 

Watson, a 5-year-old bald eagle, perches on a branch in the flying cage at Raptor Rehabilitation Project before her release Sunday morning. Watson is estimated to be a female because of her size. She was brought to the project on Dec. 5th, 2011 after she was found in Randolph County unable to stand and with signs of neurological problems consistent with lead poisoning.
Raptor Rehabilitation Project volunteer coordinator Amber Edwards, left, Brenna Barger, second-year veterinary student, and Laura Raiff, third-year veterinary student, cover Watson at Raptor Rehabilitation Project before they take her out of the flying cage to Edwards' car to transport her to Macon Sunday morning. The birds, who are brought to the project, are given names for medical purposes in the hospital. Watson was named after Dr. Watson, a character from the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Amber Edwards, center-left, Raptor Rehabilitation Center volunteer coordinator, Brenna Barger and Laura Raiff, front-right, land the cage that carries Watson, an American bald eagle, in front of a crowd that came to watch her be released into the wild Sunday afternoon at Long Brach State Park by the marina in Macon.
Ruth Payton, right, an 82-year-old hospice patient looks at Watson for the first time, while her granddaugher Sierra Sevits, front-left, and Raptor Rehabilitation Project volunteer coordinator Amber Edwards assist Payton Sunday afternoon at Long Branch State Park in Macon. This was the first time Payton saw a bald eagle in real life.
Watson, a bad eagle, leaves her cage just before she takes off to fly in the wilderness again in front of a crowd Sunday afternoon at Long Branch State Park in Macon. Three chelation treatments were given to Watson to drop the lead levels in her blood to normal. Normally, it takes one to two treatments for bald eagles to get back to a regular lead level.
Watson, a 5-year-old bald eagle flies into the wilderness after her release Sunday afternoon at Long Branch State Park by the marina in Macon. The bald eagle was adopted as the U.S. national emblem in 1782.

Tamera Ellis, left, Sierra Sevits, Lisa Payton, back, Ruth Payton and Amber Edwards watch Watson, a bald eagle, fly away after her release from the cage Sunday afternoon at Long Branch State Park by the marina in Macon. Seeing a bald eagle in real life was Ruth Taylor's long-held dream. "It is a miracle," Ruth Payton said. "I didn't know my idea would turn into something real."
Mathew Sevits, Ruth Payton's grandson, shows his tattoo on his throat, which reads his grandmother's name, after the release of a bald eagle Sunday afternoon at Long Branch State Park in Macon to fulfill Payton's lifelong dream of seeing one in real life. The tattoo, that he got two years ago, is in red, which is Payton's favorite color, and has roses on it. Roses are Payton's favorite flower.

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