by Stacey O\’Brien
I laughed, cringed and wowed my way through this book in just two days. It\’s that good. Stacey O\’Brien is a biologist who worked at Caltech and was given the opportunity to raise a disabled owl. She found out quickly that this would be a lifetime commitment- the owl could never be released into the wild, would imprint upon her as its mother (and later, its mate) and could fall into a serious depression if later separated from her. It turns out owls are very sensitive, devoted to their chosen companion and quite intelligent in their own way. It was delightful to read about all the surprising things O\’Brien learned about owls while caring for Wesley, and the deep bond they developed. I absorbed all the little details about the owl\’s development and behavior, but even more fascinating were the uncommon things he did- learning to recognize what certain words meant, expressing delight at playing in water (owl feathers are not waterproof, they usually avoid getting wet) and modifying his vocalizations to communicate what he wanted. It is definitely a special person who will tolerate an owl as a housemate- Wesley needed to eat freshly killed or frozen mice every day (dealing with that sounds rather disgusting), liked to shred piles of magazines and had several unpleasant-sounding habits. Some of the things O\’Brien describes doing as matter-of-course during her research work at Caltech also would make my stomach turn. But I liked her descriptions of the camaraderie among scientists and the local mini-culture there, as well as the work other biologists she knew were involved with. And the owl of course true to his wild nature is described as a fascinating, endearing and beautiful creature, even though he has a few disgusting habits.
I will tell you, the book does have a sad ending, and it\’s not only because the owl reached the end of his (very long, being so well-cared for) lifespan- it\’s also because the author went through some serious illness and suffering. She remained devoted to her owl regardless. What a great book.
Borrowed from the public library.
Rating: 4/5 229 pages, 2008