Monday, February 9, 2009

Thank you all SO MUCH for your VERY KIND comments!

Hi everybody! WOW! I logged in, finally, and discovered all these lovely comments. Thank you all SO SO MUCH! You have no idea what it means to me to find that you have connected with me and Wesley in such a deep way. When I was writing the book, I hoped, of course, that people would read it, but I never dreamed that there would be such a fantastic and wonderful connection with other animal lovers!

I especially want to say HI to the kids who have written. I'm impressed that you are 12 years old, and in one case 8 years old, and that you really do understand the deep connection with animals and the lessons learned from animals. You kids are way ahead of many adults, I think.

One way to get involved with working with wild animals, specifically birds of prey, is to volunteer at a Raptor Rehabilitation Center, or a Wildlife Rescue center. They exist all over the place. When you're only 12, you might have to have a parent come with you. Most rehab centers take older kids as volunteers, but if you had a parent or guardian with you (and aunt or uncle? An older sibling?), they might let you work there. Most of the time you'll be cleaning cages and feeding animals, but you can start to learn about animal rescue and rehabilitation.

Anyone who volunteers at these places usually has the opportunity to work their way up. There are classes and workshops that an aspiring "rehabber" can take. There are even animal rehabilitation conferences with all kinds of workshops on all kinds of subjects and information on caring for all kinds of wild animals.

Most rehab and rescue centers train you from the ground up. If you're really serious about it, you can eventually get a rehabber's license from the state and federal government. People can't just adopt an owl without a permit. I was already a biologist specializing in owls and had a research permit for Wesley. Most people who adopt an unreleasable owl have a rehabber's permit or a permit for an "education bird", which is a bird they take around to schools and other events to teach about the animals and their environment. The animal must be unreleasablel to be assigned as an education animal.

It's all very regulated.

The first thing I'd do if I were wanting to start working with owls (or other wild animals) is to ask for a tour of a local rescue and rehabilitation center, or if they won't do that, ask about volunteering there. It's hard work but at least you get to be near the animals and you learn more as you go. First you have to prove to them that you are a consistent, reliable, hard worker.

Another way to get to know birds of prey is to become a falconer. I don't know too much about falconry, but one of the raptor rehab centers where I have volunteered also had a lot of falconers working there.

Falconers start out as apprentices and have to go through a lot of training before they can get their own bird. And falconers actually fly their birds outdoors and the birds learn to hunt and bring the prey back to their owners. So the birds of prey used in falconry are not unreleasable. They are healthy birds. I don't know if they are trapped (I hope not!) or bred in captivity but it might be worth looking into!

Caltech no longer has its owl program, but other schools do have owl programs. Majoring in Biology or Ethology is the first step to becoming a person who works with wild animals for a living. Ethology is what I actually do, even though I majored in Biology.

Ethology is the study of the behavior of wild animals without running experiments on them -without interfering with them. Jane Goodall is the most famous contemporary ethologist and she observes Chimpanzees in their natural habitat with minimal interference. She also rescues Chimpanzees all over the world and has large rescue and rehabilitation programs where the chimps are taught to socialize with each other and, sometimes, to live in the wild, often in a controlled habitat where hunters cannot get to them.

There are places like this for wolves, lions, tigers, almost any kind of animal. These are rescue/rehab REFUGES where the animals stay nearby. Birute' Galdikas has such a refuge for Orangutans in Borneo.

A person doesn't make a lot of money as an ethologist, but they do live a very satisfying and exciting life! Some do make a good living as professors in colleges and universities or as lecturers. I've never met a biologist or ethologist who regretted their decision to go down their chosen career path!

I'm amazed at all the people who told me about their own bond with an animal in their lives. It's high time that scientists and everyone else admit that animals have deep emotional lives and profound abilities to think and communicate.

I just read a book called "Chosen by a Horse" that left me crying. Ah I hate how books tell you about the animal dying! But now I understand why they do. I wrote my book when I was grieving over Wesley and I was dying to tell about him. And I couldn't just not say what happened to him! People always asked, so I'd end up in tears telling them. So I decided I'd better tell the whole story in the book.

A lot of you have asked about my health. That's very kind of you! I almost didn't talk about my health in the book, but it was so closely tied to Wesley's influence in my life that I pretty much had to talk about it to be honest. It comes and goes but it's not as bad as it was when I first got sick. I have to sleep a lot, but I can still go out to speak and have done some smallish book tours. I just have to plan extra days of rest. I sleep a LOT but when I'm not sleeping, I can write and talk to people about Wesley and sign books and that sort of thing, so it's manageable. I'm so grateful to have this second opportunity in life.

When a person feels like ending it all, they don't realize that life can take a turn for the better that the person can't possibly imagine when they feel all is lost. I lost all my money and my health and became dependent with no end in sight and Wesley saved me from it in many ways. This book has helped me tremendously! The way people have reached out has been unbelievably heartening! I hope that everyone who reads it remembers never to give up because you NEVER KNOW how things can change in your life! And if you're disabled, you can still find a niche in life that you fit and that fits you. The main thing is not to give up! I'm so glad I didn't give up!

I will try to write more and will try to respond to more of the kind letters/comments next time I write in the blog. I'll also try to be better about writing it! I had NO IDEA that so many people were actually reading it!! THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

Stacey O'Brien


Ter-o-fla said...

So glad to see you are writing here again. :)

Lisa Kitchens said...

I recently read your book and I absolutely LOVED it!!!!! I laughed and cried at this delightful roller coaster of a book. I loved your word choices and the way you wittingly phrased your sentences. I have my teenage daughter reading the book now. She wondered what all the show of emotions were about. My Daughter had a Cockatiel that believed her to be his Mother, so we are BIG bird lovers. You were so blessed to have the opportunity to raise an owl and to share all of the wonderful memories with this special soul. Equally, Wesley was especially fortunate to have found someone with such a big heart to love and care for him. I am in awe at the loyalty that you showed Wesley. What a wonderful lesson to everyone that reads your special book. I would LOVE to hear from you. Kind regards, Lisa Gish-Kitchens

readymade said...

Yay! New posts!

TheloniusMick said...

I'm glad you didn't give up, too, Stacey. And I'm so glad you're writing on the blog again.

I don't know why I was surprised to read your comment about "people" being low enough to consider "ending it all," but it hit a nerve. I've been there. I have MS and I sleep a lot, too. A lot. And I wear a suit of pain every day, so I have to gobble ridiculous, mind-numbing pills just to work and walk my dogs.In the immortal words of that 70's bard, "some days are diamonds and some days are coal."

But life is beautiful. And so are you. You and Wes have touched so many lives. For those tough days, I recommend reading - or better yet, listening to - a guy named Eckhart Tolle. A little bit goes a long way with him but he is dead on target.

sonnie courter said...

What a wonderful experience you had with Wesley. Your book was so well written that I felt like I knew both of you. When you rescued and raised Wesley you had the chance of a lifetime to share unconditional love with one of God's precious gifts. When I see pictures of you and Wesley as you "cuddle" it brings tears to my eyes. You must have felt so connected to your precious "baby." I hope you are feeling well and having many beautiful memories of the love of your life....Wesley, the OWL