19:01 minutes (9.13 MB)
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Owls permeate literature and mythology, an ancient animal ("some 97 million years" old) that has fascinated for centuries; still, few people have had as intimate an encounter with the mysterious night birds as biologist O'Brien. As a student researcher at Caltech, she fell in love with an injured four-day-old barn owl and seized the opportunity to adopt him permanently. She named him Wesley, and for 19 years kept, cared for and studied him, forging a tremendous relationship with the still-wild animal, as well as a vast understanding of his abilities, instincts and habits: "He was my teacher, my companion, my child, my playmate, my reminder of God."
Her heartwarming story is buttressed by lessons on owl folklore, temperament ("playful and inquisitive"), skills, and the brain structure that gives them some amazing abilities, like spotting a mouse "under three feet of snow by homing in on just the heartbeat." It also details her working life among fellow scientists, a serious personal health crisis, and the general ins and outs of working with animals. This memoir will captivate animal lovers and, though not necessarily for kids, should hold special appeal for Harry Potter fans who've always envied the boy wizard his Hedwig.