39. An owl with 18 knees

Here's another Owl Story from the archives, to distract from my depleting hair supply. This goes right back to the days and weeks following my cancer diagnosis.

(If you haven't read about Owl, you'd better do that first; this post will make no sense otherwise. Here it is.)

One of my friends was completely taken by the possibility of having an alter ego to help you through life.

She had a knee replacement last year and was just weeks away from having her second knee similarly upgraded. She latched on immediately to my suggestion that she might need an owl of her own for her impending surgery.

"I’d love an owl," she said, before adding that unlike my Owl (who has the job of being the meek and helpless patient that I am struggling to be) hers would need to be the strong, in-control one.

"I am definitely shaky about this operation,” she explained. “I know it’s going to be painful and that I’ll take time to recover, even if the end result is well worth it. But because my other knee operation went really well, I don’t find people can relate to my reluctance.”

I sat up until well after midnight sewing her a plump and solid owl, weighted so he won’t topple over (unlike mine, who is so light that, true to character, he is floored by the merest breeze).

My younger daughter observed that an owl was no good for my dodgy-knee-friend, because owls don’t have knees. It prompted me to sew on 18 small knee-like feathers. I also gave him feet. My friend has struggled with her walking for years and years.

She was delighted.

Knee Owl with my own Owl, pre-surgery
Knee Owl proved too heavy to lug to hospital appointments, but she reported that he has cheered her on from afar. She has been more assertive in hospital appointments. His help has gone beyond the strictly medical. Once, he stopped her from buying a bar of chocolate during a must-have-chocolate-because-I am-stressed moment. You don’t need chocolate! You are stronger than this! Knee Owl apparently whispered into her brain. (And he wasn't even with her at the time.) Success. She stayed chocolate-free.

Talk about alter egos.
Who needs expensive therapies/assertiveness training/psychologists when some left-over fabric and a couple of old buttons will suffice?

My older daughter loved Knee Owl.

“Can’t you make me one?” she asked.

"I will,” I said, a bit nonplussed because she has already made several equally lovely owls herself, so why ask me? “What kind would you like?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe I can invent something wrong with me?”

It turned out that she didn’t just want any owl, she wanted one that could help with a particular health problem.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “If you ever get ill, you’ll be fine. You have Pig.”

It set me thinking, though. Could the idea of Owl reach beyond cancer or knee replacements?

The thought hasn't left me. I've kept an eye out in hospital and it seems that I am not the only one carrying an animal around. Once, I stopped a frail-looking elderly woman who was being pushed along the corridor in a wheelchair, clutching a monkey. I couldn't help it. I had to introduce Monkey to Owl, to the bemusement of both the woman and her nurse.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues sent me an email with an intriguing subject line.

The Owl and the Pussy Cat

"When I was seriously ill a few years ago with post-operative disasters, I had Pussy Cat, who was given to me by my youngest child (then 7 years old). This was a clever choice because cats have nine lives, don't they? In the haze and confusion of life-threatening illness (not cancer) I felt the warmth and weight of that little grey tabby cat on my feet and often joined in his cat conversation. Sometimes he glowed orange and grew into a powerful tiger. At other times he multiplied into a hundred playful kittens, pawing and nipping at me to keep me alive. Pussy Cat now sits on a shelf in the spare room but his creative spirit still emerges from within me at times of crisis."

Well now, here's clearly a new career for someone. Better be careful. Before I know it, I’ll be running a bespoke Owl Fitting Clinic just along from Clinic 2, with orders coming in from all quarters.

To do it properly, I'd have to find out what an owl with diabetes looks like, or with chronic heart failure, or with dementia. (Any ideas?)

But more importantly,  I’d have to find out who the patient is, and not just what is wrong with him. And if a patient came along with a daughter and a Bear, I'd give Bear a little owl too.

I would definitely have to think of something better than Clinic 3 though. Perhaps something like...

Life's A Hoot.
Owl You Need Is Love.
Everything Will Be Owl Right.

Or Be Whoooo You Are. Isn't that the crux of it?


  1. Well. This has prompted me to take my own Owl off the shelf. I think he could have helped a lot last year, had I but known it. (He is, after all, Origin Owl). So now he can sit somewhere more prominent ready to be called on when I need his support for things big and small.


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