I suck at giving gifts. When an occasion arises and I have to find that perfect little something, I descend into a pit of panic. Nothing I find, nothing I can create, nothing I can afford is ever good enough to give. It doesn't help that I'm not exactly a master at noticing details. Just yesterday I asked a friend if I could borrow her quilting frame. Never mind that she'd never quilted a day in her life. The approaching Christmas season is sending me into fits of depression. But sometimes I get lucky. Sometimes.... I get it right.
Mr. PW loves owls. Like, loves. Minorly obsessed with. So for a couple of weeks I've been telling him to keep Monday morning free because I had someplace to take him - and that's all he knew. No hints, no slips. Morning of, he had no clue where we were going. He even let me drive, which if you know him is basically a miracle. Just an hour east through a soft October morning, and we'd pulled up at the Wildlife In Need Center. I have no idea how much he suspected at that point, but I know as he walked into the center's meeting room, he wasn't expecting this:
Yup, the one on the stand is live. I had arranged a private session with Dakota the Great Horned Owl and his handler, Leslie. For over an hour we got to hear his story (he was kidnapped once by idiot teens and has PTSD as a result) and get up close and personal with him. We were so surprised at his personality! He had little conversations and cuddles with Leslie, hooted and chittered at her, balked at requests and listened to us talking sweet to him. It was so amazing to be so near a raptor. Did you know that owls have no sense of smell? That makes them the only real predator of skunks! No sense of smell means no biggie if you get sprayed, I guess.
When Leslie had Dakota step up to her glove we got to get even closer and touch his tail. I have touched an owl tail, guize. I wish I could describe his feathers - his markings looked like tree bark, in swirls of chocolate and caramel and vanilla. We were amazed at how specialized all his parts and feathers were - everything was wonderfully engineered to its purpose. Eventually Dakota got tired of us (one would think we'd be better company than a class of screeching kindergartners, but whatevs) and was allowed to retire to his chambers while we met Grace the Kestrel and Chloe the blind Screech Owl (adorable!). Grace ki-ki-ki'd at us from behind her glass and Chloe turned her head intently to listen to us whichever way we were.
We soon made our way back home but Mr. PW spent the rest of his day talking about the new friend he'd made, one with big eyes who hooted at him and had PTSD. I think it was a good day.