A couple of years ago I traveled to Washington, D.C.
My mission? To join my colleagues for “Lobby Day”, an annual, ongoing effort by the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) to make our congresspersons and representatives and their aides aware of the need for legislation enforcing insurance treatment for eating disorders.
I was a bit nervous, to say the least.
Luckily, I was staying with my friends Dustin and Spencer, recent D.C. transplants who were eager to show me the city and support my efforts. One night I was chatting with Dustin, trying to distract myself from my impending political debut, and I casually mentioned two things: my upcoming 40th bday and my love of my pet bird, Pearl.
He as casually replied, “I just read this great book called “Wesley the Owl.” It is about an owl biologist named Stacey who adopts a baby barn owl with an injured wing, names him Wesley, and raises him.”
I was hooked. I returned home and stalked my local library until whoever had checked it out finally relented and brought it back.
Wesley and Stacey’s story is not unique in the sense that, in the way of many famous owner-pet pairs, as much as Stacey saved Wesley (his wing damage was permanent and he would have died quickly in the wild), so too did Wesley save Stacey (she later contracted a severe and permanently disabling illness, and Wesley’s presence and love gave her the courage and strength to fight for her life).
Where Wesley offered us a real first, however, is how, in not only adjusting to but embracing his physical limitations, this plucky little owl donated his life to deepen and broaden our understanding of his species (the barn owl) in ways that studying a wild owl never could have done.
Owls seem so mysterious – so remote and aloof – but this is just because owls are not flocking birds. Rather, most owl species prefer keeping the company only of their mates and chicks throughout their lifespan. If an owl’s mate dies, the grieving surviving owl will often turn and face the tree trunk, refusing food and drink, until the inevitable occurs.
In Wesley’s case, lacking the ability to survive in the wild and thus to choose an owl mate, Wesley chose Stacey as his flock mate instead. The story is, to put it mildly, heartwarming.
Pearl and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Read “Wesley the Owl.“