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Rescued owl gives big 'hug' to the man who helped save her life

See the moment when a great horned owl greeted a man who helped rehabilitate her from injury and illness by giving him a special hug.
/ Source: TODAY

A great horned owl knew just how to thank a man who helped bring her back from the brink of death.

Doug Pojeky, known at Mississippi's Wild at Heart Rescue as "the bird of prey whisperer," had been away at a family event for a few days when he returned to see an owl named GiGi.

The bird promptly greeted him with an owl version of a hug.

"I've never quite had the feeling that I had when that owl just nuzzled her neck against mine,'' Pojeky told TODAY. "I've worked with a lot of birds of prey that come in, but the connection I have with them is nothing like this owl giving me a hug."

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GiGi had come to Wild at Heart Rescue in late May with head injuries believed to have been caused by a car collision, as well as a fungal infection in her lungs.

The owl also had lost a pound of weight, which is significant for birds that usually only weigh two to five pounds.

Pojecky, the president of Wild at Heart Rescue, helped get GiGi back to health along with Missy Dubuisson, the founder and director of the rescue in Vancleave.

"GiGi was just so excited to see Doug and that amazing moment happened,'' Dubuisson, who took the photos, told TODAY.

Pojecky has been working with birds of prey since Dubuisson founded Wild at Heart in 2012 and has developed a special knack for rehabilitating them.

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"It's just a trust,'' he said. "Once I let my fear go and was able to trust the birds to show them that if they trust me, I can help them, it's been great.

"I don't know what caused it, but someone else can do the same thing I'm doing and the bird will try to get away."

With her rehabilitation complete, GiGi has since been released back into the wild, Dubuisson said.

"Missy and I always say that when they look back it's like they're saying 'Thank you,' and 99 percent of the animals look back,'' Pojecky said. "When (GiGi) looked back, it definitely felt like gratitude to me."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.