Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Man and His Owl and a Reader's Dilemma

Book Review: The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl by Martin Windrow

In general, I do not approve of people keeping wild animals or "exotics", as pets. Quite frankly I don't care much for zoos or aquariums either, especially where the emphasis is entertainment rather than education (for example, Sea World).

The process of taming or containing our wild co-inhabitants often results in their physical and mental degradation and early death. To me, an integral part of the beauty of wild things is seeing them IN the wild.

Martin Windrow decided he wanted a tawny owl as a pet. And while I objected to the reasoning behind his decision, I found The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar to be a thoroughly entertaining story that is educational as well.

So much for preconceptions.

Interwoven with the stories of the trials of having an owl in your apartment (not for the faint-hearted!) there are lessons in the biology and behavior of owls in general, and of tawny owls in particular. Windrow obviously approaches his owl adoption seriously, although not always realistically. As with any pet, there are always unforeseen issues - but the scope of those issues is dramatically different when we're talking about a raptor as opposed to a tabby cat. But owl and man seem to come to a mutually agreeable compromise.

And there is no doubt that Windrow cares deeply about his feathered friend. Depending on how much emotion you want to ascribe to an animal, Mumbles the owl regards Windrow as a central figure in her life as well. That mutual regard and respect is key in our desire for relationships with others, regardless of the species.

Despite my reluctance, I was drawn into the story of The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar; it is filled with humor and humanity that appeals to the naturalist inside all of us. At times I felt there was a certain tunnel vision, a sort of denial on the part of Windrow that caging an owl was not exactly the humane thing to do, regardless of its birth. But aside from my personal objections, it is a captivating and enlightening story that is well worth the read.