(wiping away tears)
(looking forlornly at kitties, counting blessings)
The author, Stacey O'Brien, even points out near the end of this that of course, animal books usually have a sad ending. She even warns: don't read any further if you don't want to read the sad part. I appreciated that. But I still went ahead and read it. (some more boo-hooing)
As a young woman at CalTech, Stacey O'Brien worked in the biology department. Specifically, she worked in Owl Research. One day, a 4-day-old baby barn owlet was brought into the program. Her supervisor and mentor encouraged Stacey to take it home and raise it. This was a great opportunity to find out more information about barn owls, and the owlet had a damaged wing and so would never be able to be released into the wild. If she took it home, it would be for the life of the owl. She took him home, and the rest is history.
She names the owl Wesley, and he grows into a beautiful adult owl and is her constant companion for the next 19 years.
This book is far too detailed and sweet for me to just sum it up, but a few favorite bits:
* the details about CalTech, which sounds like an amazing place. Full of underground tunnels, "trolls," and secret passages. I want to visit!
* the language that she and Wesley develop, and how she finally figures out how to use 'telepathy' to help him understand about when she has to do scary procedures on him (file his beak, trim his talons).
* Wesley's incredible trust and sweetness. He sleeps with Stacey on his own pillow in her bed, and they have nightly cuddles. The way she describes their relationship reminds me of another super-sweet human-animal relationship I know of:
I don't usually quote from books, but there's just no way to express how sweet and powerful this story is, so I'll let this passage speak for itself:
"One evening... as I was lying down and rubbing (Wesley) under his wings, Wesley pushed with his feet so that he was lying on my chest with his head up under my chin, his beak sleepily nibbling at my throat. Then he rustled a bit and slowly began to open both delicate golden wings, stretching them as far as they would go and laying them across my shoulders. He slept that way for a long time and I stayed awake in awe.
It was an owl hug. I hoped he would do it again. He did, and this vulnerable position became his new way of cuddling. I never got over the wonder of it and I often felt tears stinging my eyes. Theis complicated wild soul had stretched his golden wings over me in complete trust. I wouldn't trade those moments for anything in the world. Not for anything in the world."
Some of the ways she describes Wesley reminds me so much of our sweet Katie girl. Terri rescued Katie when she was only three or four days old, and hand-raised her. Katie is Terri's baby. Like Wesley, Katie has a little bit of a wild spirit, and she will not tolerate anyone except those she loves and trusts. And even then, we must respect her at all times. However, she rewards us with moments of absolute preciousness. She'll come and lay on my chest, paws around my neck, purring and looking into my eyes. Another incredibly sweet thing she does is "hold paws" with me or Terri... she likes to sleep with her little paw tucked inside a hand. She also likes to sleep spooned up next to Terri and I often find them snuggled together as in the photo above.
The sweet moments with Katie are all the more special because she doles them out as she sees fit. (she is much more generous with Terri, as it should be!) Whenever she comes over and wants to 'hold paws' with me, I stop everything and snuggle with her for as long as she likes. She's getting elderly and as we all know, elderly kitties get whatever they want.
Isn't that right, Katie?