Once upon a time there was a tiny, tiny owl. He wasn’t a big, majestic Great Horned Owl and he wasn’t a beautiful barn owl. He was a burrowing owl and he had a very strange problem, he was afraid of the dark.
The first thing he ever remembered was being rescued by some nice ladies one night from a big field. He couldn’t remember his mother and he couldn’t remember his father. The ladies took him out of the cardboard box he’d been in and put him in a cage and turned the light out and left.
When he was put in a cage at the rehab center he was placed between two other owls. They scared him. They scared him a lot. The huge owl next to him kept clacking his beak and twisting his head to look at the little owl.
“Whooooo are yooooouuuu?” The big owl said in a breathy voice.
“Nobody, nobody at all.” The little owl barely breathed out and went and huddled in his corner and started to cry. He cried and he cried. He didn’t know where he was and he didn’t know why he was here and that big owl made him feel like he was there to be lunch.
One of the ladies heard him and came in and saw where he was. “This won’t do.” And she picked up his cage and left the room. “What are we going to do with you?” she asked him. I can’t put you back in there and the other rooms will think you want to eat them and she carried him back down the hall to an office. She placed him on an open space on a filing cabinet. She sat down and looked at him. He looked a right sorry mess. He still had mostly pin feathers and not his real feathers and they stood up around his head and made him look quite silly.
“I guess you’ll just have to stay here.” And she dropped a cloth over his cage but he started to cry again. He didn’t want to be alone and he didn’t want to be in the dark. Bad things happened to him in the dark. He thought he remembered having brothers and sisters and not being alone. He started to remember a nice warm nest and nice warm mice for supper. He remembered bumping his head on his mom and dad when they stood in the nest. And he seemed to remember a burrow and a tunnel. Where, oh where was everyone else?
The cloth came off the cage. A kind face bent in to look at him. “Are you hungry or do you just want company?” The face asked. The woman disappeared out the door and came back a while later with a very small mouse. The little owl looked up. “This was better” he thought as she dropped the mouse down into the cage. Luckily the mouse was dead. He’d never killed anything and he had no idea how to do it. She turned away as he ate his dinner. She started to put the cloth on the cage again but he hooted at her desperately. “Please don’t do that. Please! Please!”
The woman didn’t speak owl but she seemed to understand his distress. The last time he had felt safe was with his mom and dad and now it wasn’t safe anymore. He never wanted to be in the dark again, never, ever, ever.
This went on for weeks. Every time the woman tried to cover the cage he hooted in distress. If she turned out the light he huddled in the corner and hooted softly until they turned the light on again.
Meanwhile he was growing into a handsome young burrowing owl. He was fully fledged in a few weeks and the woman began to take him outside to try his wings. Soon she was letting him fly after small mice to see if he would try to catch them. He did very well. She began to let him do this in the early evening and she did it early in the morning before anyone else was at the rehab center. Though when she came in the morning she did it with a cup of hot tea close at hand and muttered to herself a lot. This made the owl chuckle. Soon he caught every mouse she let loose but he always came back to the woman. She had been hoping maybe, just maybe he would feel brave enough to leave on his own.
Finally after several weeks he was put in a big wooden crate and taken for a truck ride. He hooted and clucked to try to talk her out of it but she shook her head and said to him “Hermes, it’s time for you to go.” And she carefully had placed him in his box.
He was so confused and he was scared and it was starting to get dark. What was happening to him? It was getting really dark and he hated that bad things happened in the dark to him. But it didn’t stop the truck as it bounced along the dirt road. The truck stopped and the box was opened. Two gloved hands reached carefully in and grabbed him. He was walked for awhile and then set on the ground outside a cozy looking hole and the woman walked away without a glance back. He was on his own and it was almost dark. He huddled down. Now what did he do?