Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Night I got Wesley to be quiet when company was there...

I promised I'd explain how I got Wesley to be quiet when Cait and Richard and I turned up at our (me and Wesley's) apartment in the middle of the night.

As I mentioned in another blog, Wesley had a nanny by this time, who would come over every day if I was away for a weekend, and read to him, spend time talking to him, feed him, and sometimes spend the night there so he'd have company. Yes he was spoiled!

I sometimes spent the night up in L.A. at Cait and Richard's house, hence the nanny.

On one such weekend, we were having a lovely time eating at our favorite Italian restaurant, closing the place down, when I inexplicably started to have a sort of anxiety attack over Wesley's well being. The nanny wasn't available that night so I couldn't just call her and ask her to check on him.

L.A. was a SERIOUS distance from La Costa! But here I was having a visible anxiety attack, horrified that I was acting like this - near tears, worrying about Wesley, unable to snap out of it. AND to make matters worse, I hadn't yet told Cait and Richard about Wesley so I said I was worrying about the hamsters!

Cait and Richard didn't even question it. They got in the car and drove me all the way to La Costa at 2 in the morning! I estimate it's a 2 hour drive one way. We got to my apartment and I sent them off to sleep in the guest bedroom and raced into the room I shared with Wesley. Of course he was fine.

I don't know what came over me that night - why I was so freaked out.

And now I had another issue - here we all were in my fairly small apartment and Wesley was usually VERY vocal, particularly when I got back from being out, so how would I get him to be nearly silent the whole time Cait and Richard were there?

I decided to use my body language to indicate to him that Cait and Richard made me nervous, so they should make him nervous, too. If he felt that there was some concern about having them there, he might go silent like wild animals do when they don't want to be discovered.

So I went into the room and acted nervous about Cait and Richard, looking at the door nervously and doing an owl body language that means, absolutely, that the owl is concerned. Not terrified or threatening the person, but definitely concerned.

I didn't mention this trait in the book but what they do is they flatten their wings very tightly to their body and stand very straight, then twist from side to side rapidly. I don't mean the swaying or rocking from foot to foot that they do when threatening. It's like doing the twist, but with your arms tight to your side and your body rigid. You face your body to the left then to the right and back and forth without moving your feet, very fast.

I did that and Wesley immediately looked worried. Then I hissed at the door - something I had learned from HIM! When he had had a person come in to feed him during the day, he would let me know about it LATER when he was recapping his day to me by looking at the door and hissing under his breath. It told me that someone else had been there, which concerned him, but that they were not really a threat (else he would have shown more than just concern).

So I looked over at the door and hissed several times throughout the rest of the night when we were awake and Wesley remained silent for the rest of the night and the next morning.

That morning we had breakfast and I had had a long cuddle with Wesley, and Cait and Richard drove me all the way back up to their house!

Bizarre incident.

Sometimes I just worried, like a mother would, I guess. I think if I had had human children I would have been terrified much of the time. I don't know how people do it - let go and let their children take all the risks that kids take. I know you HAVE to let them be kids and have freedom and try things, but it must be downright terrifying. If you think about it too much you'd make yourself crazy.

That's the only time it was that bad, though. And Cait and Richard thought it was about the hamsters all that time. Suffice it to say that they are very empathetic and nonjudgemental friends! They didn't tell me I was nuts or act like I was out of line at all. They didn't question my anxiety over the "hamsters" but just took it at face value and said, "Let's go! We're going to your house to check them, then, if you're worried." Just like that.

I'm lucky to have such great friends, and I was lucky to have such a perceptive owl! Wesley clued in immediately to what I was trying to tell him - that he needed to not reveal himself. And he didn't!

Very soon after that I did tell Cait and Richard about Wesley and that whole night's episode made more sense to them.

They knew I was a bit of a nut when it comes to animals anyway. At one of my first fiddle lessons with Cait (this is how I met her), I had stayed for dinner and we had all talked until about 11pm. I finally left and only got a block away when I saw a possum "dead" on the road.

When I see a "dead" animal on the road I never assume it's dead. I stopped my brand new vehicle and got out to have a look. I touched the possum w/ my toe. It didn't move. It wasn't breathing. I watched it for awhile to see if it would breathe and it didn't. So I turned to walk away and heard it take a deep breathe.

Duh! It had been "playing possum"! They do pretend to be dead when threatened!

He was profoundly injured though, so I got a funnel cone out of the car and a blanket and a board (DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT BEEN TRAINED TO WORK WITH WILD ANIMALS!) and slipped the cone over his nose so he wouldn't be as able to bit me, and slid the board under him, put the blanket over him and carried him into my brand new car.

Then I drove back to Cait's and knocked on the door. They were obviously already in bed but they got up and I breathlessly explained that I had an injured possum in the car and asked if I could use their phone and could we try to find an all night emergency animal clinic nearby?

They leapt into action and found a 24 hour clinic. We called and told them I was coming w/ this possum and they said they'd take him. Meanwhile I was praying the possum hadn't come to and destroyed the interior of the car while we were doing this!

When I got back in the car, he was awake but lying quietly under the blanket. I got him to the clinic and carried him in. He ended up being treated and spending some time in intensive care, then in wildlife rehab, but was finally released back into the wild in a safer place.

That incident was my first clue that Cait and Richard were kindred spirits when it came to animals!

Cait helped w/ the editing of the book and Richard is my lawyer now, for all things literary and for trademarking and all that stuff.


TheloniusMick said...

You have suffered a lot in your young life, Stacey, and I'm sure there are things you can't do or have because of your disability, but you have had beautiful friends and that's a blessing of the highest order.

I sleep a lot, too, and now that the dogs and cat are fed and walked, I think the couch is calling :)

Debbie Phillips said...

Dear Stacy ~ After a bit of procrastination because I didn't want your story to end, I allowed myself to finish your wonderful book this morning. I sobbed until I couldn't cry anymore. Thank you for writing your beautiful story ... and for sharing your absolutely precious Wesley.

We have Wilber, a pure white cat with a pink nose, who flattens his ears from time to time and I swear looks just like an owl! He HATES absolutely HATES have his nails clipped and I am going to use your suggestion of telepathy and example to hopefully make this less stressful. I'll keep you posted.

Again thank you from the bottom of my heart. I learned so much and loved every single second of reading your book. I just ordered more copies from Amazon for friends and family!

With love and good wishes to you,
Debbie Phillips
Martha's Vineyard, MA

PS I'm thrilled Wesley stories continue on in your blog!!

TheloniusMick said...

This post reminds me of a question I've been pondering for over 20 years, beginning back when I was a math major at UMass Amherst - and not doing very well because I pretty much divided all of my free time equally between reading cognitive science and killing brain cells in the pub.

Do Animals know we are "other?" It seems Wesley perceived you, Stacey, as another owl, despite the very limited resemblance. My dogs seem to treat me as one of their own, yet they certainly chase down squirrels and cats with such abandon, one can hardly imagine they "think" they're chasing other dogs.

My parrot, on the other hand, pretty much treated everyone the same - people, dogs, cats and other birds...

JulieInIndy said...

Just wanted to let you know my sister loaned me your book about Wesley. I couldn't put it down and finished it while waiting in the carpool line this afternoon. Imagine this - sitting in the car, bawling my eyes out and reading, reading, reading. I really loved this book and plan to add my own personal copy to our library and one to our kids' school library, too.
-Julie in INdy