Life is always an adventure around here and I couldn't resist the urge to peek, so I sneaked down the stairs. And there beside the freezer sat an enormous bird. I turned my head to ask Jon why we had a snowy owl in the basement and when I looked back, she had vanished without a sound. I located her on the old converted coal furnace at the far end, where she solemnly blinked at me. I knew right away that we would not be having frozen orange juice any time soon.
We immediately christened her "Honkey" because she was whiter than white. She had been stunned at the airport and brought into the sanctuary to recover; unfortunately, Bernice was away and now Jon had to figure out how to keep her alive. So he began by bringing her home. (A phone call wouldn't have hurt.)
Owls are hunters, not scavengers. She would have to be force-fed. But how do you force-feed a large and furious owl? At the time, there was a hatchery in Brampton and I was dispatched to purchase a bag of small chick corpses. We were vegetarians at the time, but no matter. Honkey wasn't.
Feeding time was fraught with tension. Sometimes she lurked in the large cardboard wardrobe we had moved in with, and Jon would have to climb in after her, muttering what he hoped were soothing endearments. They generally weren't received as such. The two of them would noisily renegotiate the space in the box, which lifted and banged with muffled thuds. Then Jon would emerge triumphant with one leg in each hand and half walk, half fly her across to our "feeding station." There I would await, swathed in every leather item I owned and Jon would hand me her legs while she tried with some success to fly me across the room. Neither Honkey nor I had signed off on the manoeuvre but there we were. Jon and I would then wrestle her down onto her back on his lap, during which she would attempt with extreme accuracy to impale me. After Jon had pried her uncooperative and terrifying beak open, he would stuff a dead chick down the side of her throat into her gullet, and shoot some water after it.
Then each day the miracle would take place: Honkey would swallow, blink her huge amber eyes, and I believe to this day that she would flash us a wintry smile. The big girl survived to be returned to the sanctuary (where Bernice pronounced her the largest snowy she had ever seen) and then to the airport for release. She must have arrived home in the Arctic Circle with some great stories to tell.