One of the most frequent questions I am asked is what I like most about working at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW). My answer in part relates to my evolving relationship with the chimpanzees over the past two years, particularly my relationship with Negra.
I first started training to become a caregiver over a year ago and Jamie was quick to demand I be her friend. It wasn’t long after, that Foxie began passing her troll dolls to me and Burrito constantly enlisted me in a game of chase. Even the shy Annie would extend her fingers through the metal fence to touch the back of my hand when no one else was looking. Jody would sometimes bounce up and down (a chimpanzee greeting) towards me when I called her name, while Missy would present her back up to the caging for me to groom. Negra, on the other hand would barely even acknowledge that I was present.
As the months rolled by, Negra started to look in my direction when I would greet her (which was usually me calling out her name and giving her a head nod). Then came the day she gave me a quick head nod in return to my greeting and I teared up. Here she was, this 40 year old chimpanzee (at the time), who had endured almost her entire life in biomedical research labs, was giving me, a new human, a greeting. After all that time spent behind bars, she was beginning to trust me.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that she actually came down from her blanket nest and stuck her lips out to offer me a kiss. I had to blink back the tears; she trusted me. I was doing my job to make her home a true sanctuary where she felt she could trust again. And that to me, is what this sanctuary is all about.
So, what do I love most about working at CSNW? I love that I am working to provide a safe, loving, nurturing home so that these seven chimpanzees can feel hope, love and trust again.
Here are a few of my favorite Negra photos from the past two days.