Written by: Stacey O'Brien
Published By: Free Press
Reviewed by Natasia Minners
If you have been following my writing - and why wouldn’t you - you would know that I have been attending KCU, otherwise known as Kitty Cat University. I had told my professor of Famous Cats in History that I was looking to broaden my horizons and expand my learning experience. It was recommended that I take a summer course in Famous Animals in History. Much to my shock, the very first assignment for this class involved a BIRD of all things! Needless to say, I was a tad ruffled at the idea - no pun intended - but I am not a quitter, so I buckled down and began reading Wesley the Owl.
Biologist and former child performer Stacey O’Brien was working on a study of barn owls at Caltech when Wesley came into her life. A four-day-old owlet had been in need of a home and all of the zoos and other animal institutions had been overloaded and unable to offer a new owlet the home he needed. So, on Valentine’s Day in 1985, the tiny, uncoordinated creature became the love of Stacey’s life and the two were together for almost twenty years.
Throughout the tale we learn the ways Wesley touched Stacey’s life and the lives of everyone who met him. There were the more obvious ways, like the insatiable appetite for mice and Stacey’s need to find inventive ways to procure them, but then, there were the more subtle things. Wesley had imprinted on Stacey and she became his mother through his first years of learning to fly, hunt, groom, etc. But as an adult, Wesley began to imprint on Stacey in another way - Wesley decided that Stacey was his owl mate. Apparently, barn owls mate for life and the loss of a mate could drive a barn owl to severe depression, often times resulting in death. In choosing Stacey as his lifetime bond mate, Wesley had decided that there was no other soul he ever wanted to be with.
As a mate, Wesley was highly attentive, making sure Stacey found food (a hysterical moment in the book as Stacey fights off Wesley’s attempts to feed her mice), grooming her and protecting her at the risk of his own safety, to the detriment of the numerous men who showed Stacey some interest. There were also some embarrassing moments when Wesley decided that their mating should be consummated!
Their strong bond enabled Stacey to research barn owls in a rather unique way, but the most important aspect of the bond between Stacey and Wesley was the love and support they were able to offer each other. When Wesley was a baby, he had some problems with one of his wings and, of course, he had no mommy owl to show him the ropes in life. Stacey went to great lengths to aide him in his development. When Stacey became so ill that she had thoughts of ending it all, it was Wesley who kept her going, giving her the will to live.
Despite the fact that Wesley the Owl was a book about a bird, one of my mortal enemies, I found a kinship with Wesley that I never knew could exist. We had quite a few things in common. For one thing, I love mice. For another, my human took me to her home when I was still a baby and needed extra love and tips on how to survive in the big, cruel world.
My human says that there is a special bond created between humans and animals that some people may never quite understand. She says that bond often times helps both the animal and the human cope with the everyday stressful aspects of their lives and often times adds years to the lives of both parties. I don’t know about that, but I do know that Wesley the Owl taught me more about barn owls than I ever knew before. It also offered up an interesting love story of sorts thanks to the strength of the bond between Stacey and Wesley.
The book was informative, often times funny and was written in layman’s terms, despite the fact that the writer was a biologist. This writing style added to the endearing quality of the book - it wasn’t just the factual account of a barn owl raised in captivity, but a story of a woman and an owl and the life they shared together. All in all, Wesley the Owl was a fine way to start the Famous Animals in History course at KCU and I highly recommend giving it a perusal. Oh, and by the way, I loved the photos that helped me watch Wesley grow up as I read the story of his life. A tremendously appreciated added touch to an adorable tale.