Chapter 7 - Flight School
I felt like a parent whose child had
just taken his first step! Sushi could fly! My friends were wrong. It was
instinct, just like the attack on the fiddlers. However, just like a parent
whose child starts to walk, this presented a whole new set of problems. Sushi
wouldn't stay in his basket anymore.
At work, the owl was making clumsy
attempts at flight, usually missing his target and ending up hanging upside down
from one foot. Everyone would rush to set him upright.
Sushi's first few flights were short
hops. All the employees were amused by his constant antics. If we all kept his
belly full, he would sit quietly on the edge of his basket. And, just like a
child, when he awoke from one of his many naps, he was full of energy, owl poop
and owl pellets. There was no stopping him.
Sushi would flutter from the counter
to the floor, sometimes making an awful prat fall by misjudging the distance.
Then he would strut, or rather waddle, across the floor. He waddled like a baby
with an overfull diaper. Nothing in the world walks quite like an owl on the
ground. We quickly learned that when Sushi fluffed up his feathers, held his
wings out and backed up, he was about to make a mess. It was scatter or get
His favorite owl game was "mock
attack." Anything on the floor was fair game. A scrap of fabric, a wad of
cotton, would call for an elaborate leap into the air landing, sometimes, with
both talons clenched on the item, and sometimes miss altogether. He would puff
himself up, and look around proudly at us, as if to say... "Look what I did!"
Sometimes he attacked thin air with the same sense of pride. His talon/eye
coordination had not fully developed yet.
All non-food items had to be taken
away from him. And, larger items, like a pencil, were a big no-no, because he
would up-end it and attempt a Houdini sword swallow on it. When we took took
these non-food items away from him, he would cuss us in owlese. "Burlakamog!" "Reberredin!"
Sushi mumbled under his breath a lot.
Work became difficult with an owl
crashing around the shop. We were forever vigilant. One "owl movement", or owl
pellet on a customer's fabric could spell disaster.
Fortunately, Sushi had several favorite places to land. Once he landed
successfully, or semi-successfully, he would be content to stay put for a while.
His favorite perch was atop a huge roll of foam. This put him high above
everyone. There he could watch everything.
The tall roll of foam was covered in
towels and washable plastic. Sushi looked like one of those fake owls you see in
marinas. Many a customer walked right by him and never saw him. Others were
quite startled when the "fake" owl moved. One customer thought he was one of
those silly battery powered toys!
All good things must come to an end.
It was too difficult to contain Sushi when he decided to go on one of his "walk-abouts",
or rather "waddle-abouts." Plus, he was getting too big for his basket and would
sit on the rim of the basket when I drove him to and from work.
Sushi was a big hit at any drive-in
window. All work would cease while the employees ran to the window to see him.
But, when Sushi decided to start flying around the inside of my car as I was
driving, it was time for the next step in Sushi's training.
Everyone loved the little owl, and
had hours of entertainment watching his antics in the shop. But, Sushi was
around people too much, and becoming much too tame. He needed to be removed from
so much human contact if he ever was to be wild.
"When the young leave the nest at
about 4 weeks, they are not able to fly, but crawl out of the nest using their
beak and talons to sit on branches. These owls are called branchers. They fledge
at 35 to 40 days." - The Owl Pages - Barred Owls - Strix varia
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