It’s been over a week now and we’ve seen no sign of Spicy Chicken. I take that as a salute to our first attempt at raising an owl.
Two and a half months we had that little dude in our house (by little I mean, even full-grown he was only the size of my hand). In that time I learned bits of Spicy Speak.
When he wanted food, which was almost always, he chirped at you in five-second intervals as he followed you around the kitchen hopping from lamp to spice rack to wall-mounted hand mixer and staring at you with huge eyeballs, respectively.
When he was alarmed by the cats or the mop, his “ears” went up, he barked like a very small dog, and watched their every move. To watch with the utmost precision, the cats required a change of perches depending on their location, always staying up high, of course. The mop required exact back and forth head movements as it made its way around the floor. Then a visit down to inspect the wet streaks left behind.
When I had no worm for him but only a head scratch, he closed his eyes, slowly dropped his head until his beak touched his feet, and purred as only an owl can.
And when he was ready to go, he let me know that, too.
We never knew when it would be, and we certainly didn’t expect it when it came. When we’d go to bed, normally he was far inside the house eyeing a bug for dinner. But that night he was sitting on the screen door, taking in the outside world in the full moonlight. He looked lonely.
Jay and I talked it over. We’d open the door and he could fly if he was ready. He was our friend, but not our pet, and it was the right thing to do.
Trying not to bawl hysterically, I climbed a chair to reach him now on a lamp, give him one last scratch and some parting advice. He swooped quickly away, more interested in a fat moth.
We moved outside to a shadowy corner of the patio waiting for the triumphant moment when Spicy would take his first wild flight. Of course, it was then when he decided to hunt bugs in the living room, far from the open door. The night wore on, the suspense dwindled, our eyelids grew heavy and our butts sore, and we left for bed.
When I woke the next morning, I secretly hoped he had chosen the comforts of our house to the unknown of the outdoors. But he didn’t. The next couple of nights we left the door open and worms out in case he hadn’t managed well with the hunting. But the worms remained each morning.
Life, and the kitchen, is certainly not the same without him but it’s comforting to know our house has a tiny guardian (if he’s not in Malawi by now) and the world has another wild Spicy to make a few more.