On Valentine's Day 1985, biologist Stacey O'Brien first met a four-day-old baby barn owl -- a fateful encounter that would turn into an astonishing 19-year saga. With nerve damage in one wing, the owlet's ability to fly was forever compromised, and he had no hope of surviving on his own in the wild. O'Brien, a young assistant in the owl laboratory at Caltech, was immediately smitten, promising to care for the helpless owlet and give him a permanent home. Wesley the Owl is the funny, poignant story of their dramatic two decades together.
With both a tender heart and a scientist's eye, O'Brien studied Wesley's strange habits intensively and first-hand -- and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owl's lifetime). As Wesley grew, she snapped photos of him at every stage like any proud parent, recording his life from a helpless ball of fuzz to a playful, clumsy adolescent to a gorgeous, gold-and-white, macho adult owl with a heart-shaped face and an outsize personality that belied his 18-inch stature. Stacey and Wesley's bond deepened as she discovered Wesley's individual personality, subtle emotions, and playful nature that could also turn fiercely loyal and protective -- though she could have done without Wesley's driving away her would-be human suitors!
O'Brien also brings us inside the prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals; all of them were changed by the animal they loved. As O'Brien gets close to Wesley, she makes important discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communication, coining the term "The Way of the Owl" to describe his inclinations: he did not tolerate lies, held her to her promises, and provided unconditional love, though he was not beyond an occasional sulk. When O'Brien develops her own life-threatening illness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal.
Enhanced by wonderful photos, Wesley the Owl is a thoroughly engaging, heartwarming, often funny story of a complex, emotional, non-human being capable of reason, play, and, most important, love and loyalty. It is sure to be cherished by animal lovers everywhere.
"I love Wesley the Owl! Not since Konrad Lorenz have I read such an honest, vivid, and revealing account of the rich and complex life of an individual bird. Stacey O'Brien has captured the essence of the soul of an unforgettable owl. Affectionate, quirky, joyous, and wise, Wesley shows us the Way of the Owl -- the way to God and grace. This book is destined to become a classic, and will deepen importantly the way we understand birds." -- Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig
"Wesley the Owl is beautiful, funny, transcendental, fascinating, and powerful. I loved this book!" -- Lynne Cox, author of Grayson and Swimming to Antarctica
"This compelling story sheds a bright, shining light into the world of animal emotions and the powerful bonds forged between animals and humans. A heartfelt journey of life and love with one of nature's wild creatures, Wesley the Owl is a must-read story of faith, compassion, and selfless devotion." -- Jay Kopelman, author of From Baghdad, With Love and From Baghdad to America
"Most 'me and my bird' stories are mildly entertaining at best, but Wesley the Owl is a different animal altogether. Stacey O'Brien got to know this owl with a unique combination of deep scientific understanding and rare emotional intensity, and the result is stunning, unforgettable. Read this book and you will never see owls, or humans, in the same light again." -- Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway and Flights Against the Sunset
"This fun book reminded me of Marley & Me, but with wings. Warm, weird, and wonderful, Wesley the Owl is proof that man's best friend sometimes has feathers." -- Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year
"An inside look at the mind of an owl. If you are interested in animal intelligence, you should read this book." -- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
"The best of love stories between two intelligent beings, told (by the human) with good humor and remarkable insights into the mind of an owl -- I couldn't put it down." -- Donald Kroodsma, Ph.D., professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of The Singing Life of Birds
"[S]weet, quirky memoir....[T]his little guy's such a character." -- USA Today
"Wesley will make you wonder if owls are not at least as wise as humans and as capable of compassion. Wesley the Owl will stretch your notions about the limits of interspecies communication and love. It will entertain, delight and, finally, cause you to weep. Guaranteed." -- Sam Keen, author of Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters With Ordinary Birds
"Stacey O'Brien tells the intriguing story of how her life was changed and rearranged when she attempted to tame and raise Wesley -- a barn owl. She shows us how she was ultimately repaid with his love and devotion, and given glimpses into the mind of an animal that has an unexpected ability to understand human language and to communicate. Fascinating!" -- Stanley Coren, psychologist and author of How Dogs Think and Why Does My Dog Act That Way?