Nascha, Our Great Gray Owl
By Kim Dudek, Education Volunteer
Suddenly, on August 14th, 2012, Nascha, our beloved Great Gray Owl, passed away.
To those who knew her and had worked with her, she was a blessing. Many will sorely miss her gentleness, beauty and most of all her love.
When I got the news of Nascha’s passing, I had just finished my shift at the Scotland Pavilion. I vividly remember Sheila calling me with the news. I was waiting for my dad when she called and told me “one of our birds got sick and passed away.” Then she told me it was Nascha. I walked into the volunteer lounge and sat down. I was heartbroken and in shock. I hadn’t been working with Nascha that long and now all I could do was think of all the things I’d wanted to tell her and everything we had been through. My mind began to wander…
Of all the animals that I encountered during my lifetime, none has made a bigger impact on my heart than Nascha, a huge Great Grey Owl that is one of our non-releasable ambassadors at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
I first met Nascha in 2011, when Jennifer Corvino, the PWRC’s Educational Program Coordinator, picked me up to observe my first presentation with the PWRC. As I climbed into the truck, I saw that Jen had two birds in their carriers. As we drove to our presentation at the Manitoba Museum, Jen told me about the two birds she had with her. The minute she said Nascha’s name and what kind of owl she was, something inside me shifted ever so slightly.
Jen encouraged me to talk to the birds so that they became familiar with my voice. As we headed to the presentation, I could hear the other owl, Naira chattering away in her carrier. Suddenly, to my surprise, another voice, lower and with a liquid quality to it sounded from the other large carrier in the back seat. “See, she’s saying hello to you,” Jen said with a smile.
On arrival at the museum, I helped Jen set up and then took my seat to listen. As I watched, Jen brought out our tiny owl, Naira and talked about her. The tiny speckled owl enchanted me. After putting Naira away, Jen talked a bit more and then brought out the most magnificent bird I’d ever seen! As I listened, Jen talked about Nascha, what she was, how she’d come to the PWRC and about the problems her kind faced. When Jen brought Nascha out, something inside me clicked. At the time, I could not have said what it was but I definitely felt a special connection with her. As I began to work with the PWRC, my love for Nascha continued to grow, and grow, and grow… to the point where it was nearly overwhelming!
It was not until much later, New Years Eve of 2011 in fact, that I found out I had a new power animal. Finding out that the Great Grey Owl was my new power animal, made alot of things fall into place. Suddenly, my love for Nascha, the fact that when our energies mixed my Heart Chakra turned a brilliant mix of gold and pink and the tenderness I felt for her all made sense. Our hearts were bonded together and the connection was unbelievably strong!
To this day, Nascha remains my baby. She is gentle, which is a good contrast for a person with Aspergers Syndrome. Our senses and emotions are always hyper-stimulated. Nascha is like a counterweight on the other end of the scale, keeping me calm and relaxed when I get to wound up.
I had big plans for this special bird. I had intended for her to be a special guest at the 2013 Asperger Manitoba Conference; a therapy bird and so much more.
As a disabled person with Asperger Syndrome, Nascha was like a therapy animal to me. She never ridiculed me and was always there for me to hold on the glove and talk to.
I treasured every second I had with her. The long hours spent holding her on the glove, stroking her silky feathers ; staring into her elegant yellow eyes and wishing I could hug her gently to show her how loved she was and how much she meant to me then and still does.
I recall one incident, which clearly showed the trust I had in Nascha. I had failed to unclip her lead before setting her on the floor of her spacious enclosure. Nascha baited and i instinctively went to help her back onto the glove. However, instead of stepping onto my gloved hand, she stepped onto the hand that didn’t have the glove on. There she was, poor girl, eyes wide, throat moving, beak open, wing out, looking utterly frightened. I stared straight into her beautiful eyes and calmly told her “I trust you not to hurt me,” and she did not. I took her back on the glove and comforted her gently and lovingly.
As a teacher, Nascha helped me to understand the softer emotions which are sometimes hard for me to understand. Nascha simplified this lesson with unconditional love. She made that emotion and others like it so easy to understand.
To those who knew and loved her, Nascha’s legacy will be her love, friendship, gentleness and most of all, her enormous heart and spirit.
To Nascha, from all those who knew and loved her, with all our hearts we say,” You are loved and missed forever.” To the bird who became my best friend, my guardian angel and so much more: “I love you Nascha, Sleep well sweetheart.”