Walking into Clovelly from the coast path last week, I was taken by how the woman’s hair in the photo matched the color of the owl’s eyes. When I politely squeezed my way into the conversation, I was moderately surprised to discover that the six-month old Bengal Eagle-Owl was a pet out for a stroll and not a money making opportunity for the woman you see holding it.
She told me she’d bought it from a breeder when it was only 10 days-old and had hand fed it so now it thought of her as its mother. I found it odd to see an owl out in the early afternoon and asked her about it’s sleeping habits. She said it stayed in the bathroom at home and was awake so she had decided to bring it outside for a bit of air. I never got around to asking her what she fed it, but when I looked it up online, I found that while they eat rodents, instead of swallowing them whole as I’d imagined, they like to tear them up first. I’m pretty sure I would not want to clean up her bathroom after her owl had a meal.
Hearing that she kept it in the bathroom made me think of a pet that I’d when I was 23 because I kept it in the bathroom too when I went to work during the day. Delilah, or Dilly as I called her, was a skunk. I’d bought her at a pet store on impulse without doing any real research on skunks, a decision I quickly came to regret. Although she was cute and fuzzy like a kitten, she soon let me know that she was no pussy cat. Dilly had a wild animal’s temperament despite being fed and housed by me and she had a few habits I did not find amusing.
I’ll admit I thought it was kind of cute at first when she’d stamp her feet at me and back up with her tail in the air trying to use what nature gave her when she needed to run off a predator, but having been de-scented before I bought her, all she could do was a funny looking backward bounce step while looking over her shoulder to gauge the effect. It’s interesting looking back now at the way she knew what to do instinctually and I feel bad that I must have done something to cause her to respond in a protective mode.
Dilly was a terror at redecorating as I quickly discovered when I came home from work one day to discover that she’d torn up huge chunks of the bathroom floor while I was away. It seems she’d found a loose tile and pawed at it until it came up. Once she’d pulled out the first one, the others came up like dominos in reverse as whole rows of tiny ceramics tiles found their freedom. It was a mess!
I accepted this in much the way a new pet owner would the accidents that go with training a new puppy not to chew up the furniture or wee on the carpet, but when Dilly began to bite despite my attempts to discourage her, I decided I’d had enough.
In frustration I called the pet store and after having going back and forth with the owner, we agreed I could give her back so she might be re-homed. I told him that I didn’t want a refund, I just wanted him to take her back. He searched through his list of interested people and found someone who was willing to take her and I drove her back the the pet store where I thought they were expecting her.
Only they weren’t expecting her when I arrived, at least not at the pet store where I left Dilly. There was a teenage boy there who said he didn’t know what I was talking about, but I explained that I had spoken with someone there who said I could bring her in for her new owner to pick up. After a lot of back and forth, he took Dilly and I made a mad dash for the store exit, rushing back to my car in a hurry to get to work.
A few hours later, I received a phone call from the pet store owner asking about Dilly. I said I’d dropped her off like we’d agreed and explained about my interaction with the guy who’d finally taken her from me.
As it turns out, I had taken her to the wrong pet store. It was an embarrassing mistake especially as the pet store owner had worked to find her a new home. It all got sorted and she finally made it to the right place, but I felt really stupid.
Mystic, the owl looked well cared for and unlike me at the time of my skunk experience, her owner looked mature enough to take on any issues that might come up. I did ask her about longevity and she admitted that with some owls living up to sixty years, you needed to have a backup guardian lined up in case the owner died first.
Sorry for the blurry state of this image, I was a long distance away when I shot it. If you look you can see the empty glove and leather straps used to hold the owl, while Mystic, is tucked under her owner’s arm like a small dog.
In the video link below, you can see two very cute baby Bengal Eagle-Owls. One is moving his head in the same way I saw Mystic move hers. Her owner said that was how they focused their eyes and hearing.
What’s your most unusual pet story?