Two nights ago I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when I heard a loud Whoo-Whoo-Whoo. The windows of our house were closed tight yet the noise felt like it was behind my back. I called hubby into the bathroom to confirm my hearing.
Of course, it was an owl in one of our willow oaks communicating with its mate. Somewhere in the darkness, possibly a block away, we heard the return hoot of another owl. We have barn owls in our neighborhood, but these were commuters who only stopped by for 20 minutes. What fascinating creatures!
Born February 10, 1985, Wesley the owl suffered nerve damage in one of his wings. Meaning, this barn owl would never be able to fly for long periods of time before succumbing to exhaustion. Wesley would never be able to hunt for himself and without a mother he would surely die.
Biologists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) considered Wesley’s lot a great chance for someone to raise him as a pet. Enter Stacey O’Brien. New to the Caltech staff having only worked a year as a biologist, her superior called her to his office four days later to discuss the owlet’s fate. She enthusiastically agreed to take on the possible 15 years of research this little ball of down might provide.
Stacey considered this her opportunity to study a single animal on a 24/7 schedule just like her heroine, Jane Goodall. Little did she know Wesley Valentine, having entered her life that Valentine’s Day, would change it dramatically.
For the first six months he was taken everywhere Stacey went. He needed her warmth to survive. Thus, she wrapped him in blankets like a newborn when going to work or on little errands. One such errand to the grocery shocked an over-eager shopper when they pulled back the covers and asked, “Is that a dinosaur?!?”
Stacey is seen as a mother figure in the first couple of years, but as Wesley turns 3 she becomes his mate. Owls mate for life and Wesley is no exception.
For this Halloween season pick up Stacey O’Brien’s Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl. It is full of photos as Wesley goes from newborn to the ripe old age of nineteen.