This may sound strange, but the first creature I saw on my visit to the Shedd Aquarium Animal Hospital was a Great Horned Owl. I was in the loading-dock area, about to enter the Shedd, when I saw this creature on the gloved arm of a staffer. They were making their way to an area outside of the building so that this magnificent specimen could get some fresh air. The owl seemed to be staring at me with all the intensity of his species.
I was only about 5 feet away when suddenly the owl displayed his enormous wing span and nearly scared the pants off of me! It was the closest I've ever been to an owl. What an experience! I had no idea that the facility treated fowl as well as fish.
When I was first assigned to the story, I flashed back to the 1950s when my fifth-grade class made the obligatory Shedd Aquarium visit followed by the "ever-popular" essay about the experience. It was nice back then, but I found it much more fun as an adult! This time I learned some things that reshaped my thinking about the health of the creatures the Shedd is responsible for and how that impacts the environment that we talk about so frequently these days.
The staff I met at the hospital were some of the most dedicated people I’ve had the privilege of interviewing. I’m planning a return trip, this time with my four grandchildren! I won’t even make them write an essay.
To learn how the Shedd anesthetizes a fish, or checks the health of a pregnant whale, listen to the audio above.