Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Asking for information about your local wildlife

I'd like to hear about your pets or any of your encounters w/ the wild ones (wild animals) in your area.

You are from all over the world -Where do you live and what kinds of wild animals do you encounter and what are the encounters like? What is your attitude toward your local wildlife and what do you think your community's attitude is? I've very curious about this. I think a lot of communities make wild animals into the enemy whenever there is an altercation w/ one of them, demonizing them as these terribly destructive and scary creatures.Yet, we get into our cars every day and drive around, knowing full well that a huge number of poeple die in cars every year. Yet there is no great uprising to go out and destroy all the remaining cars, if one car gets into an accident.

So why do we react this way w/ wild animals?

Stacey O'Brien

Can Dogs Read?

This is one of the most amazing discoveries of the last few years, I think:

The Gorilla Foundation, the one w/ Koko the Gorilla, has made great strides with Koko. They started experimenting with teaching her to read, and she was able to do so! THAT makes sense to me, because her IQ is a human level IQ, about that of a human child. And, of course, human children can read. Also, Koko is great with American Sign Language, which is a human language. So they taught her to read and to use written language to communicate!

What she now does is communicate using words that are printed on hard plastic cards similar to credit cards. Each card has one word on it, and she lays the words out on a table in the order she wants them to be in, to make sentences and say what she wants to say. She even leaves messages about what she's thinking to her keepers when they're gone.

A recent example is that she wrote that she wanted a puppy. They got her one. After one night w/ the puppy she wrote something like "Bad dog, no want". I'm paraphrasing. The dog was playing pretty rough and Koko didn't like that. Koko is extraordinarily gentle. If you haven't read about Koko the Gorilla, you ought to. She has had kittens as pets and treats them the way a mother gorilla would treat a gorilla baby, snuggling and playing gently with them. When her first kitten, All Ball, was killed, she howled with grief.

So, after the first experience w/ the rough puppy, she wasn't so enthusiastic. But then, after a few more nights, she left a message saying something like:
"Good dog. Happy, keep, family, happy holidays" (It was right around Christmas/New Years like it is now as I write this).

So they kept the dog.

This was all happening during the time when they were training Koko to point to words on a board to say what she wanted to say. The DOG was WATCHING, and picked up on the WORDS! I kid you not!

So, within the first day, the dog was touching the words for "potty", "food", and "play", I think. That's pretty close. Anyway, the dog learned 3 words on the first day.

Of course, seeing this, they decided to teach the dog, too!

And here's the really exciting news: YOU can order the board and instructions and teach your own dog to read and to communicate with you by pointing to words on the board. I haven't signed up yet but I am going to try this with Fiona. It'd be crazy not to try. Fiona is an exceptionally fast learner, having learned "sit" and "Fiona come" in one little session. I haven't had a dog since I was a kid, so I am betting that all dogs are about as smart as Fiona. I read about a border collie who learned words faster than a 5 year old kid in a controlled study (article is in the National Geographic, March 2008).

Having looked at the board, it's hard not to notice that there are symbols above the words, so I can't say whether the dogs are responding to the symbols or the words themselves. I wonder how well they'd do without the symbols....

On the other hand, it's impossible not to notice that dogs can understand an awful lot of what we say to them. Fiona understands the difference between going for a ride, going for a walk, going to Grandma's, going to the puppy park, going poopeepee (yes, ridiculous as it sounds), going out, going in, going "up" (getting into the car). And that's just variations of "going". She is also very good at using gestures and vocalizations to tell me what she wants. I didn't teach her to sratch at the door w/ one paw to say she wants out, but she does it to tell me she needs to go out and "poopoopeepee".

One of her dog friends, a Chihuahua, of all breeds, named Martini, came to my door w/ her owner one morning at 9:45am. After that, Fiona paced in front of the door and howled at around 9:45am every morning. I took that to mean she wants to play w/ Martini, of course, so we arranged for her and Martini to play all afternoon recently and then she stopped the pacing and howling at 9:45am.

If she wants to specifically go the puppy park, she indicates my hiking boots, which I wear to the puppy park (really it's a dog park), because the terrain is rough and the dogs are rowdy. She knows I wear those shoes there so she tells me that's where she wants to go by indicating those shoes.

And on it goes. So the communication is two ways. I know this isn't news to any dog owner. It was news when it was a Barn Owl communicating so well, because we just didn't know it was possible, and their wild nature and peoples' misunderstanding of Barn Owls lead to a lack of communication between the species. Those walls of misunderstanding had to be broken down before we were able to realize just how able the Barn Owl was as a communicator! Amazing!

But the dog? Most of us have seen dogs or read about dogs doing amazing things and communicating very well. Look at Lassie! She had to learn how to tell the family, on a near daily basis, that Timmy had yet again thrown himself down the well out of sheer boredom, apparently. Did the parents ever think to cap the well or put a locked lid on it? No. I think they secretly enjoyed that little bit of excitement, every day, when Lassie came to them whining and barking, and they pretended not to know that Timmy was down the well, humoring the dog by saying, "What is it girl? What is it?" As if they didn't know, after all these years of Timmy down the well. But I digress....

I was thinking that we ought to try this communication board w/ our dogs together. Those of you who have dogs ought to also order the board and instructions, and we ought to all work on it and we could share our progress and results with each other through the comment section of the blog and the blog itself.

what do you think? I think it would be fascinating, and we could all be doing a behavior/animal intelligence experiment together! I'm not saying it would be easy, but it would certainly be an adventure!

Here's the page with the information and brief instructions:


And this is the pdf of the board itself:


Please let me know, through the comments section, if you've downloaded it and how it's going w/ the doggie!

Stacey O'Brien

I apologize for neglecting the blog!

I meant to apologize BEFORE I put those other new blogs on but I got into a writers' zone and wanted to write and share pictures first. But I DO apologize. I really appreciate those of you who read the blog and I didn't communicate for a long time. I had the flu and didn't go online for quite a while.

My New Year's Resolution is to be MUCH better at blogging and sharing what's going on in the wildlife world. I hope you'll come back, those of you who have given up on me ever writing here! It means a lot to me to read your comments and to just communicate with you.

Have a great New Year everyone!

Stacey O'Brien

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A bit of a rambling post

I got a comment from La Isla d'lisa, saying that I crack her up because I said, ""I'm fat." and she said, "It doesn't matter".

La Isla d'lisa is right - it doesn't matter if we're fat, thin, tall, short, freckled, bald, or what color or heritage we have - it's what's in our hearts that matter. I should not be self conscious about being fat. My meds do this to me. BUT, even if I had an eating issue, so what? We all need to learn that people mostly take you at face value and most people are more worried about what others are thinking about, and are not obsessing over what you look like. If they ARE obsessing about what you look like, then they have problems with their own self esteem - they feel inadequate. Bullies are pretty much people who feel inadequate and overcompensate w/ bullying, I think.

When I meet someone who's "fat" or overweight, I just take them at face value and I never think about whether or not they are fat or thin. I'm interested in what they think and say and their personality. I think that's how most people are. And yet, people/we worry about the smallest things

Also, I think the basis of the fear of public speaking is the idea that the audience is possibly judging you or sizing you up, whereas in reality, they are also just taking you as you are and are interested to hear what you have to say.

When a public speaker is visibly nervous, the audience suffers with them because the audience is rooting for them, silently cheering them on and empathizing, not looking down upon them for being nervous.

So there's no real reason to be nervous! People are NOT being critical, usually.

I love public speaking because I really enjoy connecting with the audience over the subject we're talking about. I figure theyr'e there because they're as interested in the subject as I am, so to me, it feels like a discussion rather than a presentation.

Luckily, growing up in showbiz, our family had a band and my sis and I started singing, playing, and fronting the band when we were about 6 years old. We travelled all over California doing more gigs than I can begin to try to count, each time connecting w/ the audience and enjoying them. I learned that mistakes were no big deal.

For example, almost every musician has had the experience of suddenly blanking out in the middle of a song they've done a thousand times. Instead of freaking out, you just continue to play and I used to just make up words if I suddenly forgot the words, until I was back on track. Some of the audience caught it but some didn't, because I didn't freak out. Freaking out would be a lot worse than just continuing on.

Once, we were playing at the Wilshire Ebel Theatre, and I sat in for the band before ours because their keyboard player had become ill at the last minute. So, after this band played, my family band was supposed to come on stage and do our performance. I had been told to just stay at the keyboard and my family would join me, but then they started waving me in from backstage, urging me to come off the stage. I resisted. The curtains were still up so I just sat there. Nothing happened and their waving became more urgent backstage.

Then the curtains closed so I stood up to start to walk backstage. Obviously the plans had changed. Just as I was making my way across the dim stage, the curtains opened and I tripped on a cable and went sprawling across the stage, sliding on my stomach in a very ungainly manner almost to the edge. The audience froze, not knowing what was going to happen.

I got up, went to the microphone, and said, "And that was my clown act." and left the stage. The audience laughed, I think, with relief.

Then my family went up on stage and played. no big deal.

So now, when I go to speak about Wesley, I don't feel even one butterfly wing of nervousness because I know the people are there because they WANT to hear about Wesley, and I love to share about him, and I feel like we're all a bunch of kindred spirits who just haven't met each other yet. It's always so rewarding and the people I meet are always so kind and gracious and interesting and so into wildlife and learning.

I meet the most amazing KIDS! Kids who are reading the book at age 5, kids who want to work w/ animals when they grow up. I met a 3 year old who had a big duffle bag full of owl plushies and could identify all the N. American owl species and knew all about their behavior in the wild. THREE years old! And she was so sweet! I meet the most wonderful teens and tweens, too, and elementary school kids. It gives me hope for the future.

With all this going on, what does it really matter if I'm overweight? No one is perfect, and even if they LOOK perfect, they have SOMETHING in their life that isn't totally under control or perfect. As my friend, Cait Reed says, "With all the horror in the world, what difference does it make? That's one of our favorite lines from "What about Bob".

It's been an adjustment, being overweight and not looking like I used to, but so what? Life happens! I think it's an important lesson for all of us to realize that we are who we are and we are what we are and it's OK, and we're here for more important things - and we can be effective and make a difference in this world, so we can focus on that, not on our supposed imperfections. We shouldn't let out insecurities hold us back.

Anyway, I've been thinking about these issues lately. I hope you don't mind me talking about this stuff. With animals, I don't see them obsessing about how they look beyond the basic need to survive. Animals are so good at living in the moment and really experiencing that moment fully, and I'm trying to learn from them to be more like that. To really look at the beauty around me and not get so lost in my thoughts that I miss out on the here and now. Animals help me to enjoy the here and now. I'll be lost in thought and then Fiona will come up and want to play or cuddle, or a hamster will start to bark softly at me and I'll be amazed all over again at how preturnaturally CUTE these hamsters are! Gosh they're cute!

So, Lisa, THANK YOU for reminding me, and the rest of us, that it really does NOT matter. I was amiss when I said that about being fat. Yes, I'm fat, but it doesn't really matter. Thank you so much for your kind and wise words!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Missing Hamster

If you're the kind who prays or sends good vibes, could you send some my way in regards to my hamster, Kissy? She is so sweet that she kisses my face constantly, hence the name. Well, as you may know, I have a sleep disorder where, when I'm in that phase, I pass out frequently. I was holding Kissy and I passed out for just a few moments and she was gone. Usually, she comes when called and is no trouble to find. Well, that was a WEEK ago!

i hope and pray she's ok and not stuck somewhere! I've left food and water all over the house and spent hours chasing the tiniest sounds, calling and calling her. i still haven't seen her but I think I've heard her. It's so upsetting! I'm very worried about her. I hope to have a "Christmas Miracle" today and find her alive and healthy!

Yes, I have hamsters. They are technically Syrian Ground Squirrels although we call them "Teddy Bear Hamsters" in the US. in Syria they live 8 feet underground in eleborate burrows they make for themselves. They are totally solitary and only put up with another hamster during breeding, but when done, the female chases and bites the poor male. They're pretty smart. I don't know why we're so surpised when another animal is smart...

More about my hamsers on a later post. The post following this one is about meeting a bald eale and visiting wildlife rescue and rehab centers in the Waashington area near the water. What an adventure! Check it out!


Stacey O'Brien

Merry Christmas and Holidays to all!

hi Everyone!
it's Christmas Day and I hope everyone is having a lovely day, whether you actually celebrate Christmas or not. I hope you celebrate something - solstice, Kwanzaa, Hanuka (which is over, I think), or St. Stephen's Day or whatever day, because it is SUCH a gorgeous time of year in and of itself! Everything is decked out with lights and colorful decorations.

I APOLOGIZE to EVERYONE for my lack of presence in email and on the blog! I've had a rough fall, healthwise. But I'm back to my normal level of ill health now so I can do the blog and do events if I take my time and plan carefully.

There was a rumor that I wasn't doing events because i was sick! That's NOT TRUE! I just have to plan extra time for sleep and usually an extra night in a hotel to rest before travelling home.

But I do regret not being online. There's so much to talk about!

I went up to the Seattle area to Bainbridge Island to speak at a fundraiser for the West Sound Wildlife Shelter and it was sooo amazing! I took the ferry across to the island and the air was so fresh and the forest was dripping with moss and ferns and the intense smell of the plants and even the earth was better than the finest cologne. I stayed in a little B&B called The Captain's House. The owner donated my visit to the wildlife center, which I thought was very sweet.

I was told that on Bainbridge Island, people read more books per capita than in any other part of the US. I believed it, because as we drove along I could see into living rooms w/ bookcases all the way to celieings and those library attached latters on wheels attached to the huge bookcases.

Plus there was a nice turnout of very enthusiastic participants. I played a DVD in the lobby, of me and Wesley cuddling among other activities.

One of my goals - this is important to me - is to help to dispell the old wives' tale that has passed from one owl keeper to another for decades that says that "owls hate to be touched" while in captivity. The result of this wives' tale is heartbreaking, because these extremely cuddly creatures (owls), who spend HOURS preening each other and cuddling w/ their mates are entirely cut off from all touch and affection! This leads to something similar to attachment disorder in humans - a deep anxiety and loneliness.

I preened a beautiful Barred Owl behind the ears and along the neck and nose and she bent her head and closed her eyes and leaned into me. That was one of those magical moments for me. I was visiting a wildlife center and Jeff Guidry was with me and we both saw ow this owl responded.'

I hopeo that keepers and rehabbers will use affection as the powerful form of enrichment that it is for unreleasable birds of prey. Of course you cannot do it for releasable birds!!!

Anyway, after I was done w/ my speaking engagements on Bainbridge Island (of course I met such great people there!
), I took the ferry back and met Jeff Guidry who took me up to Sarvey Wildlife center where I met Freedom the Eagle. Jeff's relationship w/ Freedom is very much like mine was with Wesley.

In fact, I only know one other person who has such a deep connection w/ their unreleasable bird of prey, and that's Nancy Connie of SkyHunters. Jeff has a profound, affectionate, and even telepathic relationship w/ "his" eagle, named Freedom. He took me to meet her! What a privilege!

She and I took to each other immediately as if we'd been buddies all our lives. I was so comfortable with her! Her mannerisms were so much like Wesley's and she even had a vocalization that sounded just like his "deedle deedle deedle DEEP DEEP DEEP DEEP deedle deedle dee!", which is an exclamation. of course, it was in an Eagle Voice.

Bald Eagles don't sound like that long beautiful scream you hear in movies echoing through the canyons. THAT sound is the scream of a red-tailed hawk, but it's always used in movies when they depict an eagle. Sign,

No, bald eagles sound like, "cack cack cack cack!" like great big chickens. Freedom chatters away to Jeff just like Wesley used to and updates Jeff on her day. She is all opinion and communication. She gazes deep into Jeff's eyes and really listens to him. He uses telepathy quite a lot to beam pictures to her to explain things to her and there have been some really amazing outcomes from that.

I met Jeff because his book is coming out in May! It is the story of him and Freedom! I think it's going to be called "An Eagle named Freedom". It validates everything I said about Wesley and I'm thrilled to have another voice joined w/ mine in saying that these birds of prey are emotionally deep and complex, they are amazing communicators, they're highly intelligent and know what's going on at all times, and they are cuddly. Freedom cuddles. She throws her wings around you or across your shouldters. She lets you play with her big reptilian feet and bury your face in her big boofy chest or kiss her, all of which I did.

I don't mean to imply that Jeff lets people hold her. It was a rare privilege to hold her, and he trusted me because of my relationship w/ Wesley, so it was a very rare occurrence to hold her! She was so warm and emitted a sweet feathery smell that reminded me of Wesley, yet wasn't exactly the same.

I'm still over the moon about it!

Ok, so you wanna see pictures? I'm FAT, so please overlook my fatness! It's the medication and such and it's embarrassing but what can I do, Hide? No, it is what it is and there are more important things in life,,starting w/ just being alive! I'll take fat and alive over thin and dead ANY day, eh?

With that out of the way, enjoy the pics. oh yeah, you're not imagining that one of the pics is w/ a bobcat! His name is Baxter and what a character he is! Yes, he's tame, but only just. He has a wild energy to him that oozes from him and shifts and glimmers so that one moment he's passive and another he's pouncing and grabbing your ankle and trying to bite it. But he responds to the word, "NO!" and stops. He has a large area to roam and play and he's exceptionally playful. He just glows. There's no mistake that this is a wild creature, not a kitty cat! Anyway, there we are together! His purr was so loud you could hear it from quite far away.

There's almost nothing that makes me happier than gettinig close to the wild onnnnnes. Each one is so special! So that trip WAS my Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season for sure!! What a rush!

Remember, by the way, that you can buy Wesley the Owl plushies on my website and they really do resemble Wesley HIMSELF in a way that's downright uncanny! I always startle when I see one! And you can get Wesley notebooks, gift cards, jewelry boxes, totes, hats, mouse pads, mugs, etc. by going to the website: www.wesleytheowl.com and clicking on the owl store button or something like that... I shoulda woulda coulda mentioned it way back when people were Christmas or Holiday shopping.

I also found out that you can still get the hardcover versoin of Wesley the Owl from Barnes and Noble! I ordered a box of 20 hardcovers from the Barnes and Noble Website. People have asked, so that's why I'm talling you all this. Ok enough of that.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope your heart is at peace and your lifeis going well. If it's not, remember that his IS just a season andthat al ting do pass at some point!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My trip to JPL and Caltech

This is a pic of the big fire on the mountain range I grew up on, as it gets close to JPL. That little "city" is JPL. This fire raged for weeks. I hope the blog software actually uploaded it, not just a map to it.

I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at JPL last week. It was a private engagement which is why it wasn't on my schedule, but wow, was it a blast! It's funny that it came about in the normal way - through my publicist, Andy, at Simon and Schuster, because it turns out that the people in the department who requested that I come and speak turned out to know many of my family members! One of them was one of my aunt Gloria's best friends! Who KNEW? Aunt Gloria died of cancer a few years ago and we've felt a huge void in our lives without her. It was amazing to meet her best friend at work and another woman. Together, they were inseparable - the three musketeers. But they also knew my Dad and stepmother! WOW! AND my cousin...
so it turned out to feel more like a family reunion! They knew all my family's gossip and inside information, so after I did my talk, we all went back to the offices and continued to "hang out" and chat and tell stories and laugh.

One of the things we had fun talking about was the weirdness at Caltech and JPL - meaning how weird some of the people are. The manager, who is the one who was my aunt's friend, who hadn't read the book yet, asked me, "Have you ever seen the tutu man?" "Oh yes!" I answered. "I even talked about him in the book - you mean the guy who dresses as a court jester or paige with the purple or striped tights (depending on the day), the curly toed shoes, the felt hat w/ the feather, and the bloomers?"
"Yes, that guy".
Oh my gosh. How could one NOT notice him?
"I used to see him walking across the lawn by Beckman auditorium every day,"

"Well," says the manager, "I've talked to him and have the scoop on why he dresses that way. Being an empirical scientist, he put together all the factors about our area, such as the weather, humidity..all the conditions, and determined that the most suitable, most practical mode of dress for our particular environment is the mideival jester's set of clothing, so that's all he wears, every day. And that's all he's worn for some 30 years now."

Oh man, that is so typical! Never mind how strange it is, never mind that men rarely wear tights anymore in public. No, if it's scientifically determined to be the best outfit for the environment, then there is no questioning it. Yes, some scientists can be a little rigid!

It's funny how, at so many of my events, I meet people who know about someone I've mentioned in the book. At the Latitude 33 bookstore in Laguna, a woman who drove all the way to Laguna Beach from LA (about 3 hours' drive in traffic) turned out to know the professor who had dedicated his entire life to the study of the ovary of the surf perch - Dr. McMiniman. The woman who came to my event was an Occidental College graduate from 1951 in Biology and Dr. McMiniman was studying the ovary of the surf perch even back then. As far as I know, he still is, even though he's been retired for 25 years. He must have started when he was an undergrad. Sheesh!

She said that at his retirement party he did a very long lecture on..you guessed it...the ovary of the surf perch and all of his research regarding it. It was NOT your normal retirement party! Reminds me of the guy who gave everyone his math disertation for Christmas, all wrapped up, 3 inches thick, single spaced. Right! I'm gonna READ that. A PhD dissertation in math is going to be over almost anyones' head...and I love math and minored in it. Anyway..

JPL was like coming home. I've been hanging out there since I was a toddler. I remember going into the keypunch operators' rooms where there were rows of ladies in dresses and high heels key punching cards that contained the programming that people had written. Then, the stacks of cards would literally wait their turn for the computer and would be fed through the computer and executed as a program. If there was any problem with it, if it wasn't perfect, you had to start all over again and repunch cards and wait for it to run again. Nothing like today where you can keep testing your program or an element of your program. i remember my dad coming home w/ our names keypunched into the little cards. Wish I had kept them!

Then, after spending the morning at JPL (JPL is TRIPPY. It's where all the space programs come from - Apollo, Viking, Voyager, Mars lander...just all of the planetary and moon exploration comes out of JPL, which is a Caltech laboratory), the manager took me over to Caltech to eat in the Atheneum. WOW! I've NEVER eaten in the atheneum! It's a very private and prestigious, members only, 5 star restaurant. People like Einstein ate there.

We had to eat outside because the inside was being used for the TV show "Big Love" to film. Perfect! That was the perfect rep resentation of how my life always was as a kid - with the showbiz and the science existing side by side. Sissy Spacek was standing there.

So after we ate, we went up to one of the suites. The Atheneum has private apartments for visiting scientists, and about 12 rooms for same. Well, Einstein used to spend his summers at Caltech, and he always stayed in one particular suite, which is a beautiful little apartment without a kitchen (he and his wife ate at the atheneum, apparently). From their window you can look out over the Caltech campus. How do I know what it's like inside? We went up and looked around inside because the woman who runs that hotel part of the atheneum gave us the key to go look around! WOW! I felt inspired. I'd like to spend one night there working on my next book. Maybe there is magic in that place. If felt magic to me, but then again, Caltech always does. It's such a disneyland for the mind that to me it's the ultimate.

i had more fun just hanging out there and reliving the days of Wesley and working there, and reliving my childhood days of coming to JPL, where my dad worked, and being so inspired watching guys in hasmat suits building the spacecraft that were going to go to the moon. There is a multistory clean room in which the spacecraft are built. There must be NO dust on any of the spacecraft and they were so delicate, really. Mind blowing.

By the time we had spent the day, I was hitting the wall. I'm still sick and can't push myself for very long before I have to STOP! Well, I stayed too long and now I was trapped because I was too tired to drive safely home. It would be about a tow hour drive home and there's no way I could have stayed awake. So I drove my car up to a friend's house and parked in front of her house and slept for 3 hours there without her knowing I was there, just so I'd feel a bit safer. Finally I was awake enough to drive home.

Did I mention that I'm back in contact w/ the parasite guy and the spider guy? They heard that they were in my book and looked themselves up and voila! There they were!

It's amazing that my book about Wesley took me back to the very place where I met Wesley, to the very environment that inspired me to become a scientist, which resulted in me ending up with Wesley. It was surreal. It's like Wesley is still helping me somehow.

By the way, I left Fiona home all that time. She does fine in the house when I'm gone a long time. She sleeps in my bed and has decided to pee just outside the bathroom door, on a pee pad for puppies. That's fine until I can get a doggie door, if I decide to get a doggie door. She must be inside because it's air conditioned. It was 105 outside on the day I went to JPL! And it snowed in the Colorado mountains the same day! ARG!

So, there you have it.

Fiona is doing well and is enjoying her obedience training (I do not use a choke collar, and it's an award and praise based way of training) She's a basically mellow dog anyway, so she just needs guidance and does not need a super firm hand at all.

But that's another subject for another time.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Author Event/Book Signing in Laguna, Aug 11

If you live in S. California, in the Orange County area, you might want to come to the event and book signing I'm doing at Latitude 33 Bookshop at 7:00 pm, Thursday, Aug 10. I'd love to meet you and sign your book!
Here's all the info:

Thursday, September 10:

7:00PM Latitude 33 Bookshop—Author event and book signing
311 Ocean Avenue / Laguna Beach, California 92651

I sure hope to see you there!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Video is on YouTube!!! YAY!

HI ALL! FINALLY the video is on youtube! It's not a documentary or that kind of thing, it's just a short video of me talking about Wesley with some footage of me and Wesley cuddling and just hanging out with each other.

Here's the link:

Now, be warned. When I got sick I gained weight and because of my illness I am still overweight, so I no longer look like that 95 pound kid you see in the book. But I'm alive and that's a wonderful thing.

To me, the most important thing about this video is that it shows Wesley cuddling with me. I'm not sure, but this MIGHT be the only such footage in the public realm of an owl cuddling! Why? There's a horrendous myth out there, believed by zookeepers, animal trainers, biologists, rehabbers - pretty much EVERYONE who works with owls, and it's that "Owls hate to be touched. They do not want affection! Do NOT be affectionate with an owl!"

I've seen "experts" tout this belief on TV as recently as a few weeks ago and it BREAKS MY HEART! The result of this belief is that people who work with owls are told this by people they respect, so they believe it, so they never offer ANY affection to a captive owl, who is then starved for affection. And they wonder why the owl is so feisty, upset, nervous, and won't calm down.

In the wild, owls spend hours and hours cuddling w/ their mate each day, as well as allopreening (preening each others' feathers, which is like getting a massage almost). When they have babies, the cuddling is even more intense. They NEED cuddling for psychological reasons but also physiologically, because it releases endorphins which prevent depression, and yes, owls get depressed.

So, because of this belief in their not wanting any affection, owls are in a sense being mistreated in captivity, albeit not deliberately, by people who would never knowingly mistreat an animal.

Owls are not humans, but imagine raising a human with no touch or affection at all. The human develops 'attachment disorder' which means they cannot bond normally to others and they can't stand to be held and touched, among other things. Some babies will die if never touched/cuddled. Well, owls are very similar to us in that regard.

So this video is SO IMPORTANT TO ME because it SHOWS that a barn owl loves affection, and both gives and receives it. It SHOWS that the owl craves the affection and can be very relaxed and intimate w/ the keeper. We're talking about owls who are unreleasable here. A releasable owl you would never want to interact with as a human because you are trying to get it ready to survive in the wild, so you don't want it imprinting on humans.

But there are a LOT of unreleasable owls in captivity whose lives would be radically improved if people understood that the owls WANT and CRAVE affection!

So please help me get the word out and get this video out so that we can smash that myth for once and for all!

Thank you all so much for your support, your kind words, and for your love for all creatures - even the wild souls among us!


PS: I'm looking into putting mp3s of Wesley's vocalizations up for people to hear...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A video of me and Wesley together will be out soon!

Simon and Schuster has put together a short video of me talking about my life with Wesley, along with never before seen footage of me and Wesley cuddling, kissing, hanging out together. As soon as it's available I'll put up the link! I love seeing Wesley and all his little mannerisms and sweetnesses. There's nothing like seeing how he really was. People who have seen it were pretty much blown away by Wesley's attentiveness and affectionate nature!

Some other cool things have happened - The Christian Science Monitor has given Wesley a big thumbs up, and Orange Coast Magazine does a "Best of" issue every year and said that Wesley the Owl is a "Best of" for best summer read. People Magazine also gave it a mention in the 8/10 issue as a great summer read. It's hard for me to even wrap my mind around this kind of thing. It seems so surreal! Who knew that these pictures of Wesley would be so widely seen, and that his story would actually be known by other people at all, much less on this level! I just feel humbled and awed, and happy that so many people truly "get it" about the intelligence and emotional capacity of animals. To me, that means there are a lot of great people out there, and I meet you at the events so that proves it to me. I feel so lucky to be able to meet so many caring, compassionate, animal loving people!


Book event schedule, plus some good news!

Hi! I just heard that Wesley the Owl has made it on to the extended NY Times Bestseller list at #34. I am HOPING that it will continue to go up from there! Thank you all for your support and lovely comments!

I thought it might be helpful to publish my book event schedule here, even though it's usually also on the website, www.wesleytheowl.com, so here it is:

Wesley the Owl Book Events: SCHEDULE:

Monday, August 3:

7:00PM Vroman’s Bookstore—Author event and signing
695 E. Colorado Boulevard / Pasadena, California

Thursday, September 10:

7:00PM Latitude 33 Bookshop—Author event and book signing
311 Ocean Avenue / Laguna Beach, California 92651

Thursday, September 17:

Evening San Diego Audubon—Author talk and book signing

Saturday, October 10:

TK San Diego Zoo—Author talk and book signing during zoo’s book festival

RAMONA, CA. (East of San Diego)
Tuesday, October 20:

6:00pm Ramona Branch Library - Author talk and book signing

From the American Library Association...see below.... the description of Teen Read Week. Adults will also be pleased to come as well.
Teen Read Week 2009 will be celebrated Oct. 18-24! This year's theme is “Read Beyond Reality” @ your library, which encourages teens to read something out of this world, just for the fun of it.

I realize it's all California for now. Maybe sometime I will be able to go to other places and meet more of you outside of California, maybe even outside of the US! We'll see. I'd certainly love to!

I had a wonderful time at Powell's Bookstore in Pasadena! The people were fantastic - both the store personnell and the readers who came to the event. Since it was smack in the middle of my old stomping grounds (mere blocks from Caltech), I had the great joy of reuniting with many old friends from the past! I was even reunited with one of my best friends from College and we remnisced about old times majoring in Biology. Majoring in Biology at Occidental College meant field work (same thing at Caltech) and we had a lot of fun out at sea on the Occidental College research vessel, The Vantuna. We also did a lot of camping, working for Dr. Jon Keeley one summer studying the local flora. So many stories... What a FUN major!

I also got to spend time with old friend who I have kept in touch with over the years and who are still close friends. My friend, Brenda, has her daughter coming here from Saudi Arabia for her American Wedding Reception, which is so exciting, and her son's water polo team placed second in the Jr. Olympics. Another friend, Keith, is also a professional writer, who writes political speeches and campaigns. I even ran into a close friend of my Jr. High English teacher, who taught us to diagram sentences. THAT was one of the most important skills to learn, I think. I have used it to help a friend of mind from Burma learn how English grammar works ("Burma? Why'd you say Burma?"... "I panicked.." that's a Monty Python line).

I love these independent bookstores like Vromans, Powells, Warwicks, Book Passages, Elliott Bay Books, Boulder Bookstore, The Tattered Cover...they all have so much character and so many interesting book related products along with the book, and they also have wonderful author events and all kinds of interesting activities going on. They have a vibrant vibe to them, and are attracting all generations to the joys of reading. They have an uphill road and a lot of competition, but I hope you will visit your local independent bookstore and check out their very unique offerings! There's a link to the Independent Bookstores on my website, www.wesleytheowl.com

Also, the plushie is becoming a popular collectible! I sleep with mine every night and it's my momento of Wesley,.

Fiona, my Colorado Mountain Dog puppy, has finally gotten the message that I actually WANT her to jump up on the bed and sleep there next to me. She'll "endure" sleeping next to me for a few minutes then wants to lay down on the cool floor again. Whe is such a polite, sensitive dog that everyone marvels that she's just a puppy. Once in awhile she'll just get "tickled" and she'll run and run and run, leaping into the air with the agility of a cat. I'm so taken with her and her breed that I've asked Wendy to reserve me a second Colorado Mountain Dog puppy from the next litter!

I think that it's usually best to have two dogs. That way they can keep each other company if you have to leave the house, and they can play with each other and rough-house in their doggy way and keep each other in shape. When I was a kid, we had one dog who was about 3/4 coyote and about 1/4 collie/shepherd. We lived up in the Angeles Crest Forest area, near the top of where the houses were, and this puppy came from a home way up in the mountains. The mother of the puppy was allowed to run loose with the coyotes and, well, thus our puppy was born. This was long before "The Lion King", but we named her "Simba" because I was in my Swahili phase (I wanted to grow up to be just lke Jane Goodall, so I figured I'd better get going and learn Swahili as soon a possible! It didn't matter that I was 10 years old, all I wanted for Christmas was Swahili lessons, and my parents found them somehow, so we were all sort of learning Swahili together). Simba was so agile that she would climb up our ivy covered fences or the 12 foot wall, then run back and forth along the top of this brick wall like a cat! Wow. She also took her dog dish out and dumped it in the grass and rolled in it every evening. Coyotes roll in their prey to disguise their own scent.

Then we got Tiger after Simba was a few years old, because we were going to Hollywood a lot in the evenings and wanted a very big dog to go with us. Tiger's grandmother was the grand national champion of Canada (Malamute), but her mother had mixed it up w/ a German Shepherd. Tiger was great. He was huge compared to Simba, but Simba absolutely dominated him. When they played, Tiger would be rolling on his back as they wrestled. They played for hours every day and they kept each other young and playful. This convinced me that it's a good idea to have two dogs so that they are companions to each other.

Fiona LOVES cats because she grew up with Wendy's ragdolls. Wendy breeds Ragdoll cats very seriously, so Fiona really understands cats, and even acts like one herself. So she knows how to go up to a cat and not intimidate it. I would like to get her a kitty companion but that wouldn't work w/ my hamsters, so another puppy it is!

That's the news from my world right now! I hope you're all doing well and enjoying your summer!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Wesley the Owl in French? Other languages...

I had someone ask if it's in French. I'm not sure! I'll ask my publisher. It might be, because I think it's being published in Belgium in French but I'm not sure. So far I know it's in:
Brazilian Portuguese
U.K. English (in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Australia)

I'll find out if it's available in French. I'd really like to see it in French and Spanish!!!

Also, I may try to have it translated into Gaelic myself, since the Irish language is so dear to my heart. I'm looking for an Irish language expert who'd be willing to translate it because I think there needs to be more modern reading materials offered in Irish for those who do speak it, to help keep the language alive.


Fiona the puppy - update

I haven't had a puppy since I was a kid. I've always had exotic animals like bearded dragons, snakes, birds..Wesley..and of course, my current 47 hamsters (YES! I ADORE the bright, comical little creatures and have a hamster rescue called "hamster haven").

So it's been awhile since I've been immersed in the world of dogs and a lot has changed since the, uh, 1980s. One of the first things I found out is that vets do not recommend rawhide because of the risks involved and because it's so hard to digest. What do they recommend? "Bullysticks".

Now, I've gotten some flak about having to feed mice to Wesley, but really it's more like people just think it's awfully gross. Yes, it is gross. But these bullysticks are a lot worse! Oh, my, gosh. naturally, I asked the pet store owner what they WERE. He's an old friend so how embarrassed was I when he told me! Then he goes and walks through the aisle saying, "Do you think she'd like one of these really big ones or a medium or a small?" I was too speechless to even answer. He handed me two "sticks" that are about 2 feet long, each.

At least now I know we really DO use ALL the parts of the beef. ALL of the parts. The other bits, I discovered while I was in Colorado, are eaten by HUMANS! And people think I am wierd for dealing with MICE? I didn't EAT them myself at least! haha! Yes, there they were on a menu in a pretty nice restaurant - "rocky mountain oysters". Thank God I'm allergic to seafood! (ha).

I took Fiona to the pet store the other day and had her pick out her own toy and she pulled a dried pig's ear out of a bin and carried it up to the register. Only to find out that her brother, Drinian, did the EXACT same thing when his owner took him to the pet store! He also grabbed a pig's ear and carried it up to the register. Wow. A friend of mine has Fiona's brother and they both arrived on the same airplane so that they could travel together.

Fiona is so docile and she appears to think things through before taking action. For example, if she sees puppies playing, she lies down and watches them for a long time - say 45 minutes. She seems to be studying their temperaments or something. She refuses to participate and any time a dog approaches her she won't make eye contact. Stock dogs (dogs bred to bond with and protect other animals) don't make eye contact because they are saying, "I am not a predator. Don't worry."

Then, she'll suddenly seem to make up her mind and will jump up barking and jump into the fray. She does this every time I take her to the local dog park where there's a big, fenced in area for large dogs to play. There's a separate one for small dogs.

She also learns very quickly. She has heeled perfectly and halted at curbs since I first told her how. I never use a collar, but just use a harness, which I barely have to pull on to get her to stay with me or change direction. What a fantastic dog! I remember other dogs being much, much rowdier!

Maybe her rowdier days are yet to come.

I'm enjoying her immensely, although I still miss Wesley. In fact, I keep accidentally calling Fiona "Wesley" and keep telling her she's a "good bird!"....


Wesley has a facebook page!

Wesley finally has his own facebook page! He's got his website, which is www.wesleytheowl.com, and now he has a facebook page, under the name wesleytheowl. I'd love for you to be his "friend"!
See you there, I hope!

Why I didn't raise mice for Wesley...

Norma asked why I didn't raise mice for Wesley. I did, actually, once. It was a complete disaster! Trying to raise that many mice, so that there was a steady supply, was almost impossible but I thought it would save money to try to do so, so I set up shop in the backyard playhouse of a house I was renting a room from. The trick was to have so many litters going that I had 3 to 4 full sized adults ready to feed him every day, and in July, 6 or 7 for about a month before his molt. These mice had to come from existing litters and not from my breeders. So I had all these breeders at different stages w/ litters and needed the litters to mature at the right times.

This required a huge setup at significant cost in terms of caging, water bottles, bedding, food...and then it got really hot outside and a lot of the mice died even though the playhouse was well ventilated and under a shady tree. I kept at it. The smell was terrible w/ that many mice and I spent hours cleaning cages, although you can't disturb a mother mouse for a little while after she has a litter. I still ended up having to buy mice because it hardly ever worked out for me to have enough for Wesley.

Raising so many mice became nearly a full time "hobby" and it was just a big ol mess. They kept dying from the heat that summer and I started running electricity into the playhouse to use a cooler in there. Then I moved the entire operation into the garage w/ a portable air conditioner and the smell was terrible.

Last but not least, I got attached to the mice I was raising and found it even more painful than ever to have to, er, dispatch them. I never did get used to that and I still prefer not to kill even bugs, much less animals, but as I always tell people, if the only thing your child could eat and live was mice, you'd become God's gift to getting and killing and preparing mice! It's amazing what that parent instinct will make you do, even if your child is an owl. "To that which you tame, you owe your life."

So I gave up and just budgeted for the mice from then on. What a disaster it was to try to raise them!

by the way, I have an email that people can use to write to me if they want to, but I may not be able to write back. I'm really, really bad at doing my email and even my publisher knows to call me if there's something important and not rely on email. The main reason I've never set up an email for readers is my fear that it will infer an expectation that I can't meet, that I'd answer and get into email conversations. I probably won't, but not because i don't care! I am still limited in my energy and try to dole out my activities carefully w/ the teaspoon of energy I get each week.

so if people know up front that I'm terrible at replying, and they still want to email me, the email address is:


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

infuriating myths about owls still prevail!

It seems I've been inundated with people parroting the myths about owls, long, long, long after those myths have been discovered to be completely false. And I'm so frustrated. When I was a teenager and my family decided to explode into a million unrecognizeable pieces, JUST as I was starting college and trying to adjust and do well academically, I used to sometimes drive off to somewhere secluded and just scream and pound the stearing wheel (after I'd parked). Thisi seemed a better way to handle my frustrations than doing drugs or alcohol, which would only make things worse.

Sometimes I feel like going off somewhere and screaming when I hear owls so terribly represented. Yeah, I guess I'm emotionally involved!

I heard this guy on TV last week talking about how owls are "stupid" and don't want any affection in their lives, hate to be touched, and he even said they had bad eyesight! What was he thinking? To make matters worse, he was an owl trainer! But not a scientist.

A few years ago I was visiting one of my Caltech mentors when I told him about a zoo director who had gone on TV and proclaimed w/ great confidence that "owls hunt using echolocation, just like bats!". I was so frustrated. They do NOT have any form of echolocation! For years and decades and decades we've known that owls hunt using sound alone. Their hearing system is almost unmatched and their feathers are completely silent in flight so that nothing interferes w/ their ability to hear their prey accurately. Even their faces are perfectly formed to funnel sound into their ears like satellite dishes. In fact, if you clip away a section of feathers on their face, they will either overshoot or undershoot when trying to home in on prey.

I ranted and raved to my mentor, who remained completely calm. His only answer was, "But he is not a scientist, Stacey!" For him, that was reason enough to be wrong and to declare it from the rooftop of national television. But it was not enough for me. Was this guy so surrounded w/ yes people that no one ever told him he was wrong? Was he completely incurious about how owls really hunt? I'll never know.

And here I was again, years later, seeing yet another "owl expert" on TV tallking trash about these amazingly intelligent, highly affectionate, awesomely visioned wild souls. AAAARRRGGGG!

A friend of mine saw it, too, and called me, all worked up. "Can you believe it? I can't believe it!" she groused.

Ok. So let me just say for the record what is TRUE.

Owls have AMAZING eyesight. Their eyesight is far superior to ours because they have a reflective layer behind the retina that reflects light back onto the retina, so that they can see in extremely low light. There are other reasons their eyesight is superior, such as the way in which cells are grouped on the retina, the relative size of the retina to the brain, and the brain structures that process the images.

Owls are HIGHLY INTELLIGENT! I suspect that this guy was actually trying to say that owls are hard to train. THAT is true. They have their own minds and, although they may understand what you say, they do not have a need to do our bidding. Nope, not even for a reward. They are not puppies! They are very independently minded wild animals, which is why I love them so much! You have to EARN your relationship w/ an owl and he may decide that you're not good enough for him at any time, if you screw up by showing your temper or by being ignorant with him. For example, many people say, "Shhh shh shh shh" to a human baby to calm the baby. That works w/ humans but to an owl, you're HISSING AT HIM! So he just gets more and more upset. That doesn't make HIM stupid, it makes the human stupid, or at least ignorant of the way of owls in some manner.

Birds are among the most intelligent of all animals. This is a fairly new concept, as we used to think that brain size was directly linked to intelligence. Now we know that's not true! Parrots and crows have an IQ roughly equal to that of a 5 to 7 year old human, and in fact can outclass humans in some areas of problem solving and reasoning. Wesley showed me that owls are in the same category when he learned to understand much of what I said, and even varied his normal owl sounds to create his owl repertoire of new sounds which had specific meanings. In order to do that, he had to first learn that my words meant something, then realize that sounds could have meaning, then decide he wanted to communicate with ME, then figure out a way to do that using sound. Pretty darn smart!

I'd like to do the whole thing again - start with a baby barn owl (I'd have to get a new permit since Wesley's permit was only for him as long as he was alive), and this time, I'd want to document/film every new step as it happened. With Wesley, I had no idea this was going to happen so I was always about 2 steps behind him in realizing what he was up to!

How about that big ol' myth that owls hate to be touched? This is possibly the most egregious of the myths because those who believe it raise owls in captivity in a world completely devoid of all affection! And what happens when you raise any being in a cold world w/ no touch? The being becomes aloof, alone, depressed, and afraid of touch. So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you observe owls in the wild, they spend hours a day cuddling, allopreening (grooming each other), snuggling. We could learn from them how crucial affection is to the health of sentient beings! Why would they be any different in captivity? They're not.

Wesley and I snuggled every day. He would leap into my arms and snuggle down, closing his eyes and making little tiny cuddle sounds. I would pet, preen, and cuddle with him. In fact, we fell asleep almost every night like that - him lying in my arms and me stroking his feathers. He fit right in the crook of my arm and we would walk around like that, with him pulling up his talons like landing gear. He craved and demanded affection from me, just as he would have from a mate in the wild.

They are so emotionally attached to their mate in the wild, that if the mate dies, owls will sometimes will themselves to die rather than finding a new mate. It depends on the individual owl's temperament and how long the mates were together. Owls have also been known to care for a sick mate for years, even, doing all the hunting and feeding the ailing mate. Hawks have also been known to do the same.

So, when you see a so called expert on TV telling you that owls are stupid, unaffectionate, hunt by echolocation, or have poor eyesight, just remember, they don't actually know the truth about owls. If it's a trainer, he's probably expressing his frustration at how they are almost unwilling to be trained. If it's a zoo person, they are just parroting what they've been told. If it's a rehabber, they may know how to rehab an animal, but it doesn't mean they have all the latest scientific knowledge at their fingertips.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wesley the Owl paperback is #10 in LA Times Bestseller List!

Wesley the Owl, the paperback, has just debuted in the LA Times' Bestseller List at #10! THANK YOU ALL for contributing to this by buying the book! Now I hope we can find more readers in the East Coast and get on the NY Times bestseller list again! Thank you ALL for your lovely letters and for buying the book! I feel awed and humbled by all of this!


Colorado Rockies in great jeopardy!!!

I have been in Colorado for the past several weeks, way up in the Rockies on the Front Range. There is a big problem here with the Pine Beetle killing lodgepole pine trees. These are the weaker trees w/ poor immunity that would have been killed in a normal forest fire. But that having been prevented for ages, the pine beetle is thriving.

There are a couple of ways to stop their progress: pheremone packs that confuse their mating and cause them to die out, fertilizing the trees on your property and in the open space properties (makes the tree strong enough to repel the beetle), or POISON.

The POISON is a tiny bit cheaper than the pheremone packs, so the counties, county by county, are deciding to POISON their part of the forest! WE're talking about helicopters dropping poison on every living thing in the Rockies, or people spraying 20 gallons per tree by hand.

These Rockies are one of the last pristine places in the United States! We all drink from well water that's so pure it's like drinking from a stream. When I was a kid, backpacking in the Sierras, you could do just that. But then people started pooping near the lakes and streams, and bringing in large mule trains that did the same. Now the water is undrinkable without chemicals and filters. UGH!

The groundwater here is pure as the gold that used to come out of these mountains.

MANY people live up here BECAUSE they are very sensitive to environmental poisons and cannot live anywhere else because there are so many chemicals! One of my friends lives here because she now has a bone marrow disease caused by an accidental large exposure to Benzene, which can happen even in a gas station. No one knows when or how she was exposed, just that it ruined her bone marrow's ability to make platelets, you know, for CLOTTING BLOOD?! So she has a precarious life and must live away from all poisons.

Same with a lot of people here. They came here as a last resort. The farms out in the country leak poison into the environment because of pesticides and are, in some ways, more polluted even than the cities.

To ruin the Rockies like this, just for convenience, is not acceptable.

Note also that the water used by the ENTIRE WEST comes from the Rocky Mountains! They feed into the Colorado River, which provides drinking water for almost all the states West of the Rockies. This water would be full of pesticides if they use poison for the pine beetle.

A good freeze or controlled burns during damp times of the year would also control the beetls, as would the harmless pheremone packs.

If you care about this, please contact the United States Secretary of the Interior, write to the White House, write to the governor of Colorado.

I'll find out just who to write to and post it.

I haven't even mentioned the delicate wildlife who would be poisoned up the food chain!

Birds would be hit the hardest, I think, because they will eat the poisoned insects! This will spread to all the magnificent raptors, owls, fish, and yes, the many cormorants, blue herons, ospreys, harris' hawks, gyrfalcons, goshawks, bears, mountain lions, canadian lynx, bobcats, badgers, pikas, ermine, foxes, wild turkeys....the list of magnificent wildlife here is unparalleled! We even see big horn sheep on the rocks here!

It MUST NOT HAPPEN! We must NOT allow the poisoning of the Rockies!

Even if the pine beetle is unchecked, all that will happen is that the weaker lodgepole pine trees will die and have to be culled. This will provide many, many logs, which would then lessen the demand for cutting healthy trees out of the Pacific Northwest, etc! It might just be the normal way of things! Poisoning the forests is NEVER the answer!

Stacey O'Brien

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brazilian and Spanish speaking readers!

I just got a very sweet comment from a Brazilian reader. If the rest of you don't mind, I would like to tell those who speak Brazilian Portuguese, or who speak Spanish that they can write comments to me in those languages and I will understand. I am reading the Brazilian version of the book myself just for practice and to see how it was translated, and I would love to hear from those of you who write in Portuguese and/or Spanish if the English is your second language. I know how difficult it is to try to write in a second language!

I'm so excited that Wesley the Owl has been translated into so many languages and is in so many countries now! I never dreamed that would happen!

I wish there had been a way for Wesley to know how much his life and his ways have touched other people. If he did have a way to know, I don't think he would have been surprised. He was pretty confident about himself and who he was, in his Owl way. ;-)


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barn Owl Nesting Boxes - design

It's nesting season and time to put up Barn Owl nesting boxes. Don't put them on a pole - when the babies fledge they need a place to hop/fly to, ie. branches. So put the nesting box in a tree, properly secured.

The box must be near an owl grocery store, meaning open land where there are mice. They don't hunt in undergrowth and bushes.

The best design I know of, tried and true, can be found at

This organization provides nest boxes all over San Francisco where people have rodent problems. Instead of putting poisons out, they put up a nest box.

The problem w/ rodent poisons is this: Rodent eats poison. Owl or hawk sees dead rodent, thinks "yay! Free meal!" and eats it and feeds it to the entire family and the whole owl/hawk family is killed. Or a cat or dog or raccoon or other animal eats it. It causes a chain reaction rather than just getting rid of the rodent.

So the nest boxes are the best answer. They also provide a safe place for the owls, and you know, they're endangered in some parts of the USA.

Good luck!


MUST READ! Some awesome books:

I just finished reading two books that have been brought back into print because they are such timeless classics. Both are by Sy Montgomery> They are

If you want to read about adventure! If you want to read about amazing relationships between humans and animals then these are your books to find and read! I was so mesmerized by Sy's writing and her adventures and stories that I could not put the books down.

I was introduced to Sy's writing with her bestseller called THE GOOD GOOD PIG, which, if you haven't done so already, you must read. She had a pet pig! Yes, a 750 pound pig named Christopher Hogwood to whom she was devoted. He ate so much that the entire town had to pitch in to keep him fed. Restaurants brought all their scraps to Christopher to eat. Little kids loved to do "Pig Spa" with him, which involved him relaxing while they shampood and groomed him. Such a life he had!

You might recognize Sy's name because she wrote a blurb about my book that's on the cover. Since then I've found that she's just an amazing writer and has had the most mind boggling adventures that most of us would never have the guts to even try. She was chased by a maneating tiger in the Tiger book.

If you're looking for more great animal stories, try "Grayson" by Lynne Cox. This story, like Sy's books, has the quality of a fairy tale except that it's true! Lynne is a world class record setting cold water endurance swimmer. She works out by swimming way out off of the beach in Long Beach. During one of her workouts she was approached by a baby gray whale who had lost his mother. She STAYED WITH HIM and their ensuing adventure is the stuff of legends.



Friday, May 15, 2009

The great Turkey Mystery

I got an email from a friend in Colorado w/ the subject saying "A friend needs a ride to Safeway". I ignored it for awhile, thinking I was just on her mailing list and she was literally trying to get someone a ride into town. When I'm in Colorado I'm staying WAY up in the mountains and it wouldn't be surprising for people to buddy up for going into town. It's not trivial.

But no. It wasn't that. It was that the TURKEY IS BACK!

If you were reading the very early blogs you might remember that when I was in Colorado last summer, we were on our way to the airport for me to go back to California when we were stopped on the road by the spectacle of a wild turkey sitting in the road, panting, while a line of cars were stopped because they couldn't get past it. Then, there was also a guy in a pickup truck striding around w/ a big gun in a holster on his hip. We never did figure out if he was going to try to kill and eat it, but that's illegal to hunt from the road w/ a handgun.

So we stopped, of course, even though we could have passed since the turkey was on the other side of the road. We all agreed that an animal in trouble was more important than getting to my plane.

I went up to the turkey and he didn't move. His eyes looked glazed and he was panting, and he apparently could not stand up. So I grabbed some jeans out of my suitcase and put my arms into them to act as protection for my arms and hands, and I leaned over the bird and felt underneath for the legs, held them, and put my arms around the limp turkey and lifted him up and carried him to the car, got in, put a cloth over his eyes, and we started down the road. Richard called and called all kinds of rehab centers, wildlife people, humane society, ASPCA EVERYONE! They all either had answering machines (and none of them ever did answer our messages!) or they'd say, "A wild turkey? That's poultry. We don't do poultry.,"

Poultry? It's a wild animal in need! Geez, who knew that in Colorado you don't help an animal if it's edible. SHEESH!

The turkey was very weak and panting so we figured we'd have to put it on a large box and take it home and put it in a dark, warm, safe place. I figured I'd have to rig up something to be able to hydrate the turkey if he wouldn't drink. So we went to Safeway to try to find a large box.

Richard came back w/ the biggest box they could find, which wasn't nearly large enough, but I got out of the SUV w/ the turkey and tried to set him in the box.

Suddenly he became all power and pazzaz and shoved out of my arms and ran like a roadrunner across the parking lot. Huh?

I've never seen an "injured" bird recover so quickly in my LIFE!

I tried to corner him and take him back to the car but then he flew effortlessly to the top of the Safeway and eyed me with complete distain and disgust. Luckily, the Safeway was w/in flapping distance of the wilderness from which we'd just come and he made his way back toward the wilderness.

We were flummoxed.

Why had this turkey been hanging around on the road as if injured, not moving when people came right up to himj, but suddenly he reverted to being a wild thing once we left the area?

The only theory we could come up with was that he had figured out that going out on the road was a way to avoid predators. There must have been something in those bushes that was more frightening to him than the people. If he had been someone's pet, then why was he SOOO stressed and why did he run from me as soon as he could? Why did he allow me to handle him without a struggle in the first location?

If there had been a fox or other predator in the bushes (we see foxes all the time there), then it would have been a great strategy. The guy w/ the gun said the turkey had been hanging around the road for 3 days.

Had someonoe dumped him off?

Unbelievably, I still made my flight!

We thought the saga of the mystery turkey was over with. Until last week when he (or another turkey) showed up in the SAME PLACE, miles away from town, on the SAME ROAD! how can this be? And he's hanging around the road again!

What is going on here?

I would LOVE to hear theories from others about this, especially people who know something about turkeys. Do they have the intelligence to come up w/ a survival strategy like this? I think wild turkeys are MUCH more intelligent than domestic turkeys. There's a book called ILLUMINATION IN THE FLATWOOD that's a great study of wild turkeys and they seem to be pretty complex animals.

Comments anyone?


Monday, May 11, 2009

Trip to Danville

The trip to Danville was amazing. I don't think I've ever been on a more beautiful flight, for one thing. The air was crystal clear as was the ocean, so I could see the contours of the ocean floor like never before, and the mountains and waves, the cliffs along the California coastline, especially Northern California. It's always heartening to see the amount of empty space that still does exist, even along the rugged coastline. It makes me think of hawks/eagles/owls, coyotes, mountain lions, sea lions, otters, tidepools...hope! Hope that there is still a place for these other intelligences that we share the earth with. Each of them with their unique personalities, desires, and little dramas.

I couldn't see the Santa Barbara fire, although there was one wierd, spooky black cloud that was completely flat, compressed, just sitting in the sky with no other clouds anywhere to be seen. I've never seen that before and it looked like a black flying saucer, only it was a cloud. Yikes.

There were a lot of blue lakes and the Sierras in the distance were heavy with snow. Good. We need that.

Did I ever mention that I went on a solo backpacking trip in hip deep (and deeper off the trail) snow in the Sierras for a week? I did. I was tracked by a mountain lion for much of that time. He didn't bother me (obviously) but I was plenty spooked. I remember hiking over a pass and quietly congratulating myself for how calm I felt, given the circumstances. Then a rabbit shot out of a low bush and I screamed and fell backward, pinned down by my pack like a turtle on its back. Oh THAT's clever, Stacey. A real survivalist, are we? If it had been a mountain lion I would have been in a bad position. So stupid! But I learned from that little episode. I was also young. I'm not recommending that ANYONE try this, by the way,. I had had a lot of mountain and survival experience by then and it was still probably stupid.

But I had been hanging around with rangers, female, who spent almost all their time alone deep in the backcountry and that was my frame of reference at the time. And I knew a lot of climbers, etc..and they all knew where I was and where I was going. I didn't even see another human footprint the whole time I was on the trip, and even the road to the trailhead was closed.

Anyway, one day I'll tell the whole story of that trip. Seeing the Sierrras this time of year, covered with snow, brought the whole thing back. It was this week many years ago that I took that trip. I almost moved to Mammoth Lakes that summer and Wesley almost ended up living in a teeny tiny cabin w/ a little wood burning stove where you could literally touch the walls while standing in the kitchen and I could touch the ceiling (I'm only 5 feet tall).


Danville is the best kept secret, like many smallish towns. It's sweet, quaint in the best possible way with no big industry stores, just unique ones. It has a local theatre and is big on the arts and literature. On another night they had Lemony Snicket there.

A woman from the local rehab center brought her barn owl! He was amazing, of course. He's still in the process of being tamed so he got pretty nervous after about 20 min and she put him back in his dark and cozy crate. But it does my heart so much good to see a barn owl, his mannerisms so familiar they're written in the deepest part of me.

She had an interesting perspective. She said that, having been a rehabber for 15 years, when she first had to tame an unreseasable owl, it went against everything she had ever been trained to do. It's true. When you're rehabbing an animal for the wild, you never want him to see you at all. You NEVER want the animal to associate the human form or voice with food! The animal MUST see itself as truly wild and must never look to humans for food or it will get itself killed flying right up to humans!

So, TAMING such an animal is absolutely considered blasphemous.....unless that animal can never go into the wild again.

So she had to rethink everything she'd ever been taught and re-tool her brain for a completely different mindset. Much easier said than done!

She said she read my book over and over again to try to understand my perspective because it was so against everything she was trained to do, but finally, she understood, and used some of that to work with this owl and 2 others who were unreleasable.

I was lucky in that my permit was a research permit. In that case, we were allowed to take only unreleasable owls. An earlier permit had allowed trapping I THINK but I'm not sure. By early I mean the 1960s or some such. Anyway, we got our birds from the department of fish and game and we already knew that they were unreleasable. Wesley's wing clearly drooped in an unnatural way. Sometimes it was pulled up normally, but if he got the least bit tired, it drooped. That's how he ended up getting his talon stuck in that wing as I described in the book.

The owl at the Danville program had the same exact problem, only in the left wing. he looked a lot like Wesley too!

Our research permit was so that we could get as close as possible to the owls in order to study their behavior. The kind of study I did with Wesley is officially called an "Immersion Study", pioneered by Konrad Lorenz with Graylag Geese. He deliberately allowed the geese to imprint on him so that he was part of the flock. I deliberately allowed Wesley to imprint on me, knowing he would never be released.

For an owl like this, by far the best enrichment is physical affection. In the wild they get a LOT of nearly constant physical affection from their mate. It's called allopreening and it releases all kinds of good feelings into the body, much like a masssage. Without this, they suffer psychologically in captivity. So, if you have an education permit and the owl cannot be released, I recommend physical affection. Of course, it takes a lot of slow patience. Moving slowly, talking softly, letting the owl set the pace. It's worth it.

None of this means the owl is a pet! The owl is a wild animal for life and the person is partnering with the animal, not dominant to the animal! Mates are mutually cooperative and to the extent that the human can, they ought to try to make that as close to what their relationship is with the owl as possible.

One of the great things about travelling and talking about Wesley is meeting rehabbers who have education owls! It fills a void in my heart, if only temporarily.

And, of course, meeting the amazing readers! You guys inspire me! You love animals and are so thoughful with your questions. You really "get it"! It does my heart good to know that there are people like you out there who really do care about the animals we live side by side with, even the wild ones! And you kids with your amazing reading abilities and deep questions! Wow! We have a marvelous generation coming up here and it's a privilege to meet you!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May 6 event in Danville, California

Hi! I will be in Danville tonight as follows:

7:00PM Contra Costa County Annual Reading Festival—Author event and signing
Danville Village Theatre at 233 Front Street / Danville, California

I'm really looking forward to it. Turns out my vet, Dr. Douglass Coward, grew up in the area around there and has told me about it and I'm very much going to enjoy visiting! I hope you can come!

To answer a couple of questions in the comments...to contact me you can go to my website, www.wesleytheowl.com
and on the home page click on "contact". It will give you Andy Dodds' email. You can send it to him (tell him it's for me) and he'll forward it to me.

As for an adult Wesley plushie, we are definitely planning to do one! Wendy eventually wants to do an entire series of owls, but Wesley is her passion. Wendy is my friend who lived w/ Wesley for his first 4 years and knew him intimately. She also is an award winning artist and soft sculpture is one of her fortes. How perfect was it for her to design baby Wesley? It was perfect! So that's how it all started.

I'm glad you like having him! I sleep w/ mine and then set him up durinig the daytime. It's a comfort to me to have a representation of him. It's like having a photo of him, it so well captures his essence. I think only Wendy could have done that.

Well, I'm off to pack and go to Danville!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My New Puppy!

Ok, well, I did what it said to do to upload the picture. I'm not too convinced that you can see it.

But anyway, I'm getting a new puppy! Her name is Fiona and she's a Colorado Mountain Dog. If you want to know what they are and what their history is, go to www.coloradomountaindogs.com

I haven't picked her up yet but I can hardly wait! This pic is her at barely 8 weeks. They're quite large dogs but also very docile and polite. They're 3/4 Great Pyrenese and 1/4 Anatolian Shepherd. Since I'm hoping to relocate to Colorado full time, I will be needing a dog like her, because the area I'm going has a problem with mountain lions, and these dogs are a great deterrent. Once I've raised Fiona and moved to Colorado, then I'll get a second dog as a companion for Fiona and because two large dogs have a better chance at safety if confronted w/ a mountain lion. The point is, though, to scare the lions off of your property in the first place. When Wendy moved to Colorado, a mountain lion ate all her goats and was still crouched in her barn one morning when she went out to feed her horses. She was hugging her stallion when the lion leaped over them and ran over to hide in the gulch next to their house. And the lion would NOT leave. Very scary. So she looked into dogs and discovered this breed. These dogs are dream dogs as family dogs and are soo good with other animals!

That's a huge reason I chose this breed! I need a dog that's not going to eat my hamsters, or if I were to get another research permit and be able to do another immersion study with another owl, the dog would not go after the owl. These puppies were raised with chicks, chickens, kittens, and cats and all they do is gently lick them! THAT's my kind of dog!

I hope the photo came through!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Your letters and stories

I feel so touched by your posts and letters. It's amazing to me how many of you are concerned about my health, for example (which is up and down, but is certainly better than it was in the early years), and how many of you really "get it" about the deep relationship we can have with an animal! THANK YOU for sharing so much with me!

I think that if we are looking and listening, it's possible that we can be reached by an animal on a deep level. We're all connected, and that includes animals. After all, we're all made of the same "stuff" and have minds, hearts, souls, and bodies. I'm not surprised when I hear about a particular animal appearing to you over and over again to comfort you, especially after losing a loved one! There's so much we don't know! Science is one way that we explore and try to understand how things work, but it's just scratching the surface. We don't really know how it all works!

I think that before we had language we must have used a form of telepathy to communicate, and science is showing that animals still do. If that's true, then there is possibly a way to reach out to animals with our hearts and minds after all.

If you haven't already, read Grayson, by Lynne Cox. She's a champion cold water swimmer who was doing her normal workout in the Pacific ocean when she was approached by a lost baby gray whale looking for his mother. She stayed with him the entire time while looking for his mom! She and the baby tried every possible way to find the mother and to call the mother to no avail. After hours of this, Lynne dove down and then thought with all her might, sending a thought message to the mother, "Your baby is HERE! Come HERE! Your baby is HERE!" and sure enough, here came the mother. She had about a hundred or more witnesses to this because the Long Beach pier had filled up with people as the coast guard and other boating people had pulled up to her out in the water asking why she wasn't coming in to shore and she told them what was going on.

When the mother came back, she nudged Lynne over and over again and the baby grunted a sort of thank you to her. What an AMAZING story!

She contacted me after reading about how I used a similar method to communicate with Wesley. The book, Grayson, is just magical. It reads like a fairy tale, only we know it's true. It's the kind of story that would be turned into a myth if there hadn't been so many eyewitnesses!

PS: I still need questions from you and ideas about what you'd want to hear about in the next book about Wesley - what do you want to know about him that you don't already know, if anything?

Bitten by a Black Widow Spider

Remember in the book how I was talking about biologists being sort of "proud" of their encounters w/ animals that resulted in scars/bites? Well I wasn't thinking about venomous animals. No, those are not to be joked about and I never thought about being bit by a venomous animal.

My Dad was bitten by a rattlesnake when he was about 16, but he had smuggled it into his room and was keeping it as a pet, unbeknownst to his parents! He had tamed it pretty well and, as 16 year old kids will do, he got a little careless and it bit him. Did he run to his parents and tell them? Noooooo! That would be too easy. His parents were very kind and permissive so it's not like he would have gotten in big trouble but he just shrugged and went to bed that night. The next morning his arm was swollen to twice or three times its size and some of the tissue was dying. He almost had to have the arm amputated, but they used a new treatment and were able to save it. Sheesh!

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess. I wasn't keeping a black widow as a pet, but the spider was living in the piano, right next to my bed (I didn't know it though). I woke up one morning about 3 weeks ago and could barely get out of bed, I was sooo dizzy. I had to hold on to the walls to walk. Did I go running to the doctor? No. I mentioned it to Cait on the phone but when you've had an illness w/ lots of strange symptoms you tend to say to yourself, "Well, this is a new symptom but it's probably more of the same stuff I deal with anyway." and it never occurs to you that this could be a NEW problem!

So for 2 or 3 days I was pretty much bedridden from being too dizzy to get up. Then when I was able to get up, I felt like I'd been in the house too much so I went over to my Mom's house and we went to dinner. Only I still felt horrible and my eyes were running so much that it looked like I was crying my eyes out - only I wasn't. I told my mom I had a "cold". I was too tired to go home so I slept on her couch. Next morning I got up to go home and fell right back to sleep on her couch and didn't wake up until she got home from work that evening! I still felt bone tired.

Oh. And I had this huge itchy burning round rash thing on my chest right below my throat, and in the center the skin kept dissolving and sloughing off! Over and over again! It was like a flesh eating bacteria or something, so I kept putting iodine on it and such.

Geez you'd think I'd get a clue!

Finally, I went back home and was in bed and felt something crawling on me. I smacked it and turned on the light and there was the black widow!

Suddenly it all fell into place. DUH! I had been bitten by a black widow spider! I called my doctor and he said that it sounded like I'd been through the worst of it and there wasn't much else to do now but just ride it out. So that's why I haven't been online in AGES!

I'm starting to feel like myself again.

I hadn't realized that black widows were quite THAT venomous, but I've since learned that people have died from black widow spider bites. Gosh, we have them everywhere in California. My garage is full of them!

If there's a next time (God forbid), I'll pay more attention and go to the doctor. ;-)

On another subject, Wendy has THREE litters of her champion Ragdoll cats. They are so cuddly and sweet and pliant - hence the name ragdoll. Some of them play fetch like a dog! They are the most awesome cats!

I was visiting Wendy last September and was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. She had put all the many cats in their room but I asked for at least one to stay out with me and sleep w/ me so she left Crem-Broullette (spelling?) out w/ me. Well, I had Wesley flashbacks all night as the kitty kept catching mice and putting them gently into my hand as I slept! I kept waking up to her little gifts, which I put in the trash. Just like Wesley! So considerate! ;-)

copyright Wesley the Owl, Inc. 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thank you for your letters!

I just wanted to let you know that I DO receive your letters. Those of you who have sent letters via Free Press/Simon and Schuster, be assured that they have passed them on to me and I've really been touched by your stories, pictures, and everything else you've sent. You've all been very kind and I never expected this - to actually hear from people and for people to share their stories with me, about their animals or their experiences w/ an owl, or about grieving over an animal, or a myriad of other shared experiences. I really appreciate everyone who has written in the comments section or has written me via my publisher. It's just amazing!

I'm barely keeping up w/ my email at all, so I haven't been able to write back to anyone, but please accept my sincerest thank yous for the lovely letters and for all that you've shared. It's an amazing journey so far!!

Stacey O'Brien

PS: I got my Wesley plushie and he REALLY has Wesley's little attitude. Wendy was amazing in her ability to capture Wesley's personality in soft sculpture - but she's such a genius at all that she does! Anyway, my Wesley plushie sleeps with me and then sits up by the bed during the day. It's almost as if Wesley himself were here. It's amazing to have a plushie of my own little Wesley!

@2009 Wesley the Owl, Inc.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Amazon/Parasite and Spider Guy got back in touch w/ me!

Hi All!

If you've read the book, you must remember the guy at Caltech who had all those parasites in him because of his work in the Amazon. And you probably remember the guy who had so many spiders that his office was full of petri dishes w/ spiders living in them and his house was overgrown with spider webs outside and had petri dishes w/ spiders in them all over the inside of the house. Well, there were TWO such spider guys, actually, so I wrote about them separately, but the Amazon guy was ALSO a spider guy, if you follow. He studied both monkeys AND jumping spiders.

Anyway, he DID get married and his wife wrote to me and we're all back in touch now! How fun is that? She says that when she first met him, she was instructed that when she went up the walkway to the door of his house, she was to keep her arms close to her body and stay in the middle of the path so as not to disturb the spiders' webs! And then, once inside, she observed all these petri dishes full of spiders on the counters, tables, shelves. But she was not put off and they are happily married.

We are planning to get together soon, along with a primatologist who I knew back then. This is SOME ADVENTURE!

And, in answer to a question from one of you, there were guys who loved Wesley. Guy Ritter absolutely adored Wesley and was very patient with him and spent a lot of time w/ him, to the point where Wesley trusted him more than he had ever trusted a man. Guy has a way with animals and always has. He would have been very happy to have Wesley as a "son", but it didn't work out for us. He is happily married w/ kids and we still keep in touch though! I even went to his wedding!

Stacey O'Brien
@Wesley the Owl, Inc.

Wesley the Owl being published worldwide!

Hi All!

Wesley the Owl is being published in quite a few countries, soon. In fact, it is already out in Brazil! I know it's coming out in China, in both languages, Taiwan, S. Korea, Brazil, the U.K., Italy, and in Spanish, also in Germany and Poland. I may be missing a few but you get the idea. I'm THRILLED!!! The title may be slightly different depending on the language - at least the subtitle.

There was a very good review in O Globo recently. O Globo is the main newspaper in Brazil.

I don't know how to set this blog up to allow separate sections. If any of you knows, maybe you could tell me how by writing it in the comments? But without that, I do want to let readers know that if you are following the blog but don't feel comfortable writing in English, I do read Portuguese and Spanish. I may not be quite so hot at writing in those languages but I can read your comments at least! It's easier to read/understand a language than it is to write/speak it, I've always found.

If I can figure out a way to have a Spanish section and a Portuguese section, and if there are readers who want that, I'll try to figure out how to do it.

I don't speak/read the other languages the book is being published in, unfortunately.

As always, thank you all SO MUCH for your comments and stories! I am always inspired by hearing from you! It means a lot to me that you are sharing a love of Wesley with me. I am still grieving over him even after 4 years! I haven't really even gone into the room that he and I lived in, except for when absolutely necessary, because of the grief involved. But there is total joy in sharing him with you and seeing how he is still touching people even after his life on earth is over. In fact, he is still bringing light and joy into my life because of the book and those of you who are sharing my love for him! It's such an amazing, joyous, fantastic, miraculous turn of events! WOW!

Stacey O'Brien
@Wesley the Owl, Inc.

Freedom, the Bald Eagle, and his human friend

Someone sent me this story. I don't know where it really came from and I have been unsuccessful at loading the picture. Suffice it to say that the eagle had his head down and seems to be resting its forehead on the man's chest. I have seen many people snuggled up to their unreleasable bird of prey. In fact, when people (rehabbers and owl keepers) ask me whats the best enrichment they could provide their owl, I say, "AFFECTION!" They are almost always surprised. But owls are very affectionate w/ their mates in the wild and they spend hours grooming each other. It's very soothing to them, and to live their entire lives without it would make them nervous and irritable and sad. So, if they are truly never going to be released, tame them and give them the afffection they crave and would have received in the wild!

This guy's story is very similar to mine, and to many other peoples' stories about how their animals sensed when they were sick, or how their animals played a huge role in their healing. Animals are here for a reason. They are not some big accident. They have personalities and they can teach us so much. We are not the end all of all things. The glory of this world is the magnificent diversity of life, color, personality, song, movement....and much of that comes from animals, not people. The earth fairly bursts with joyful life if we don't mess it up. That's why I prefer to be in the wilderness whenever possible!

Sincerely, Stacey O'Brien @2009 Stacey O'Brien (above)

Here's his story:

Not many people get a picture of this proud bird snuggled up next to them.Freedom and JeffFreedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places . She's my baby.When Freedom came in she could not stand and both wings were broken. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vets office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington . We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV . Miracle P ets even did a show about us.In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I wa s told that all the cancer was gone.So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power coarse through his body. I have so many stories like that.I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedoms.Hope you enjoy this.Jeff