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

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Request from Stacey O'Brien

Hi All!

I have a request. I'm writing a second book that will include more about Wesley, and I want to know what questions anyone has. I won't answer the questions in the blog, but I will answer them in the next book. Since I was so close to Wesley, I don't know what questions people might have. They can be as trivial or as deep, as silly or as philosophical as you want. There ARE NO stupid questions! Please ask me! Or tell me what more you'd want to know about Wesley or my life with him or my life or whatever! THANK YOU in advance!

Today I'll tell you a little about my hamsters. For about the last 10 years I've been keeing Syrian Hamsters, better known as Teddy Bear Hamsters. Wesley loved them as his own personal "Owl Entertainment System".. I know of another owl who lives in an outdoor aviary at a rescue/rehab center and there are rats that frequent the area outside his aviary (they can't get in, however). This owl flies down and stands just on the other side of the mesh, watching the rats' activities with great interest! The keepers of the owl consider the rats to be part of the owl's "enrichment". Enrichment is important in captive animals. It means variety, entertainment, things to do, activities - anything that counteracts boredom and depression in captive animals. At zoos they do things like hide the animals' food all over the compound so the animal has the fun of searching it out. Toys are another form of enrichment.

Anyway, the hamsters are enrichment for me, too!

Recently, I had the most wonderful hamster who I called "Fluffy". Yeah, REAL original. But she was ridiculously fluffy and had a two toned coat, and was GRAY in color! Light gray with dark tips on her fur. I changed her name to "Mama Fluffy" after she had a litter and adopted a baby from another hamster mama who wasn't properly caring for her baby. I gave the baby to Mama Fluffy and she didn't even protest! She just nosed him over to the others and let him nurse! He turned out to be a gorgeous all white long haired guy named Marmaduke.

anyway, Mama Fluffy had two litters of 4 babies each. The babies are spectacular! The two I am closest to are Muffin and Awesome Pawsome (she looks so much like a possum that people have actually asked me if she was a miniature possum!). They are sisters from her first litter. In her second litter we have Gwyneth, Gwyndelynn, and Gwenevere, and their brother Preston.

Now, here's where the intrigue and drama comes in.

I also have a nearly 5 year old hamster named Tommy. Tommy was a weak little runt of a baby and for the first 2 years of his life had crumbling teeth, so I had to prepare soft food for him EVERY day. I didn't think he'd make it, but the rest of his brothers and sisters died 3 years ago at the properly ripe old age (for hamsters) of 2. Tommy has lived 2 and a half lifetimes in hamster years! And he's been sterile all these years.

So whenever I have a female in heat (and they are miserable and desparate when in heat so I take pity on them), I've been able to let them in with Tommy to ease their misery without any consequences. Kinda like the summer of love, right? night Gwendalynn, Gwenyth, and Gwenevere all went into passionate heat and filled the night with their cries and barks until I couldn't stand it anymore and took pity upon them. Tommy knew what he had to do and was very happy to solve all of their problems. Peace came upon the household.

Only, in his extreme old age, Tommy had silently become a stud without telling anyone.

Between them, the Gwenny's had 26 babies, all on the same day.


So I had to come up with 26 new cages, because Teddy Bear Hamsters cannot be kept together without fighting! Eventually they will kill each other. You see them together in pet stores because they are still babies and babies will live in peace with each other.


So THEN.... (and the following has NEVER happened to me in 10 years of hamster keeping)...

Gwyneth's litter, which was 1 boy and 1 girl, and 2 smaller "identical twin" girls, became fertile WAY before they were supposed to. I mean, they were still nursing, for heaven's sake.

But they somehow managed it and the identical twins, Siobhain and Sionead, became pregnant.

Between them they had 16 babies.


The babies are the cutest little long haired PUFFS you ever saw. PUFFS with tiny black eyes. And since the twins were so small, I've had to supplement their nursing by giving them "Just Born" for kittens every day - yes I am bottle feeding them w/ a dropper. All 16 of them!

It's all very cozy, though, and I will be having to find homes for many of them. And I did have an awful lot of extra cages which I cleaned up and started using again.

It's all in the name of loving my animals and having an "enriched" life, right? hee hee hee.

in other news:
I just heard from the guy who had all the spiders from Caltech! His wife wrote to me and we have reconnected! His wife met him when her neighbor sent her over to deliver something to him and told her to keep her arms close to her side because of all the spider webs, and when she went into his house she saw petri dishes everywhere with spiders in them!

But, as I said, he was a good looking guy and they got together and married and had a son and have had an amazing life! They have a huge menagerie of animals, of course! I hadn't seen this guy since Caltech so I'd lost track of him. It's pretty cool to be back in touch and to hear about how his life has gone so well and to correspond w/ his wife!

Also..The PLUSHIES ARE REALLY REALLY HERE! I got a box of them from Wendy and I pulled one out and fell in love all over again. They really do look like Wesley when he was a toddler! I've been sleeping w/ my "Wesley" plushie since I got him. It's amazing! Wendy did an awesome job of capturing his essence in her design, but of course she knew him intimately.

Stacey O'Brien
@wesley the owl, Inc.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thank you all SO MUCH for your VERY KIND comments!

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

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

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

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

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

It's all very regulated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stacey O'Brien