In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, we’ve decided to spend the next seven days giving thanks for all of the primates – human and nonhuman – that make this sanctuary what it is. To start, I’d like to recognize the folks that literally dedicate their lives to the well being of the Cle Elum Seven. No one has had more of a direct impact on the lives of these chimpanzees than the staff that care for them each and every day.
The other day I came across this photo of Jamie, taken just days after she had arrived at the sanctuary in 2008.
It’s amazing how much she has changed.
When I look at Jamie now, I see the effects of good food, exercise, and sunshine. But I also see a reflection of the people that care for her and the patience, dedication, and selflessness they bring to their work.
Caring for Jamie is not easy. She tests you nearly every day. While some people would consider getting to work with chimps a dream job, their dream version of the job probably doesn’t involve dodging mouthfuls of spit and handfuls of feces on a daily basis. But that is the reality. Jamie is a smart, strong-willed person with a need for control, and for 30 years she was robbed of her autonomy and with it, her dignity. Now she calls the shots. For the first time in her life she is surrounded by people who are willing to put her first.
That, to me, is the essence of a caregiver’s role. And I’m amazed each and every day by how much of themselves the staff are willing to put into the care of these chimpanzees. Whether it’s cleaning, preparing meals, or taking one last walk around Young’s Hill after a long day, the sanctuary staff are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the chimps happy.
There is a light in Jamie’s eye that wasn’t there when we first met her in that laboratory basement.
To the people who work so hard to keep that light shining, we give our thanks.