Paula Goldberg, executive director of City Wildlife, and Peter Glassman, director of the Friendship Hospital for Animals, prepare to fly Owl 17-1308 to Akron, Ohio. (John Kelly/TWP)
Columnist

I'm sorry, there's just something silly about taking an owl on an airplane. It's like carrying a dolphin inside a submarine or taking a box full of moles on the subway.

Owls are creatures of the air. Airplane? They don't need no stinking airplane.

Well, most owls don't. But Owl 17-1308 does, which is why Paula Goldberg brought the juvenile Eastern screech owl to Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Md., on Tuesday morning. They were hitching a flight to Akron, Ohio.

Paula is the executive director of City Wildlife, the District's wildlife rehabilitation organization. The owl came to them in July in bad shape, with a broken toe and a damaged right eye. It had apparently collided with a vehicle.

"No one could stand to euthanize this very cute bird," Paula said.

City Wildlife clinic director Kristy Jacobus treated the owl. The talon healed nicely, but the eye had to be removed. It was now a one-eyed owl.


Owl 17-1308 came to City Wildlife after colliding with a vehicle. (N/A/City Wildlife)

Paula said that a more mature owl — one that already knew how to hunt — might be able to survive in the wild, using its acute hearing to overcome its visual deficit. But this owl never learned to hunt. It's been fed 15 grams of mice a day since coming to City Wildlife — a nice life, sure, but not one that involved other owls.

And so word went out to zoos across the country: Whoooo could adopt an owl? The Akron Zoo said it could. It will join two other Eastern screech owls in its Ohio conservation exhibit.

Outside the hangar where he keeps his private plane, pilot Peter Glassman said, "This is the first time I've taken an animal other than my dog." Peter, a veterinarian and the director of the Friendship Hospital for Animals, had volunteered to fly Paula and the owl to Akron.

(The dog? That would be Brodie, a golden retriever who, Peter said, was not a fan of air travel.)

Peter expected the flight to Akron would take 90 minutes.

"This is a kindness to the bird, versus six or seven hours on the road," Paula said.

The owl was in a cardboard cat carrier. The box had quarter-size air holes punched along the upper edge. The top was sealed with binder clips. An old pillowcase had been draped over the top.

"He's flighted," Paula said, meaning that though the owl was still a youngster, it knew how to fly.

"Paula brought a net, just in case," Peter said.

We contemplated the prospect of chasing the owl with the net and decided not to open the box to take a peek. You could hear it inside, talons scrabbling at the cardboard.

Paula carried the box to Peter's four-seat Cirrus, climbed on the wing and rested the box on a back seat.

"Is there a way to buckle the guy in?" Paula asked.

The flight had already been scrubbed twice for bad weather. But this was a cloudless day, and at 11 a.m., Peter, Paula and Owl 17-1308 slipped the surly bonds of Earth and soared into a clear blue sky and toward a new life.

Peter expected to be back in time for the Caps game.

Old school

My Monday mention of my time in Catholic school prompted a memory from Eileen Walker of Columbia, Md. In the 1950s, she was a day student at a small Catholic boarding school in Laurel, Md.

"One day one of my friends, who was a boarder, had somehow gotten into the convent part of the building and found a hairbrush on the dresser of our favorite nun," Eileen wrote. "And in the hairbrush were brown hairs, which surprised us all because we were sure that nuns shaved their heads!"

My column reminded Marc Leepson of Middleburg, Va., of the time in third grade he brought an unusual item in for show and tell: his little brother, Evan.

"Even though it happened more than sixty years ago, I distinctly remember walking down the hall of Chancellor Avenue Elementary in Irvington, New Jersey, to the first-grade classroom and collecting him," Marc wrote.

Marc said to the class: "This is my brother. He makes noises."

Wrote Marc: "And for the next minute or so, he did just that in front of the class. I thought it was pretty funny."

Evan said that all he remembers is standing in front of Marc's class feeling "dumbfounded."

Howard Kaplan of Chevy Chase, Md., remembered the rather meaty show-and-tell presentation he gave in junior high, when students were asked to talk about their fathers' jobs.

"My father worked in a slaughterhouse so, naturally, my 13-year-old mind had me wrap a piece of meat in wax paper and bring it in," Howard wrote.

Alas, the show-and-tell docket was full that day. And the next.

"On the third day, I stood up before the class and unwrapped an indescribably ripe piece of greenish slime that I'd kept in my pocket all that time," he wrote. "I did get everyone's attention but I don't think I got my message across."

Bye for now

I'm taking a week off. Let's meet again in this space on Oct. 30.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.