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Athena and Florence Nightingale

"Poor little Beastie, it was odd how much I loved you" .........and Florence Nightingale shed one of the few tears in her life, when Athena her pet owl died.
On the 5th June 1850, Florence Nightingale was in Greece, passing under the walls of the Acropolis. She came upon a group of children tormenting a baby owl which had fallen from its nest. She aqquired the baby owl for the sum of a farthing. It took great patience and a resolute will to take such a young and wild creature and nurse and raise it. Florence brought Athena back to England and the little owl became her constant companion for the next five years. Athena was instrumental in the recovery of some of Florences patients, such as a child burns victim and an elderly blind lady, with her entertaining and affectionate ways. Her affections were exclusive, but the only thing the little owl resented was neglect. Every day she would perch on Florence Nightingales finger and be fed her one meal, opening her wings wide as she took each morsel. She had five distinct sounds and her courage was undaunted.
The love in which Athena was held can be read in the book that Florence Nightingales sister, Parthenope, wrote about Athena, and this extract was taken.
Athena died after Florence suffered a bad bout of cholera and was due to leave for the Crimean War. Florence Nightingale delayed her departure for two days enabling her to employ a taxidermist to preserve Athena. The little owl then resided in a glass case at Florences house until her death in 1910.
In 2004, The Florence Nightingale Museum raised funds off 13,000 to purchase Athena, where she now resides.


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