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, 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.