We are the sum of all of our parts. For the past six days we have been sharing our gratitude for all of the amazing humans and organizations who give their support to the sanctuary in a myriad of ways. Each and every person we’ve mentioned, and I am sure so many more who we may never be aware of, has made the sanctuary and the lives of the chimpanzees what they are today. And for that we could not be more thankful.
On this seventh day of giving thanks, we want to share our gratitude for the heart and soul of the sanctuary and all that we do, the chimpanzees themselves. Words could never fully express the respect, admiration and love we have for Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy and Negra. We are thankful for the unique personalities that each of the chimpanzees share with us. The joy and laughter they bring to our lives and for making us smile every single day. We are thankful for the gift and privilege of their friendship and all that they teach us about forgiveness, strength, courage, healing and choosing to live each moment to the fullest. For being themselves, always, and allowing us into their world so that we can share that with others in the hope of helping other chimpanzees and primates. And honestly, I suspect I speak for all the caregivers when I say we are even thankful for the flinging of feces and spitting of saliva. How could that be possible? Because it’s one more moment that they get to express themselves just as they are knowing they will be respected, cared for and loved just the same.
We are profoundly thankful for each of the chimpanzees’ indomitable spirits and their ability to heal, forgive, and allow humans into their lives, in spite of what our species has done to them. Not because this makes us feel better or because it justifies in any way what they have experienced, but because it allows them some sense of peace and comfort and to experience life more on their terms, as it always should have been for them.
We are thankful for beautiful Annie’s sweet, gentle spirit and her new found ability to stand up for herself and her friends when it really matters to her. For her growing independence, courage and comfort in her own skin and the sense of freedom we hope this brings her after so much anxiety and fear. And for “Annie-bird” noises as she whistles into her hands and clapping her feet together which mean she’s relaxed and happy, raspberries and foot stomping when she gives us the gift of her attention, and to bear witness to the amazing friendship she has with her best friend, Missy.
We are thankful for Burrito and the heartwarming charm he so willingly shares with us just by being himself. For his place in a family of chimpanzee women who love him despite his boisterous displays and lack of appropriate chimpanzee etiquette and provide him a safe place in which he can figure out what it means to be the only guy among six ladies. And for the sound of his food squeaks echoing throughout the chimp house at meal time, for play faces, play stomps, play bows, and blanket tosses when he is feeling particularly playful.
We are thankful for Foxie and the sheer joyful exuberance she greets each day with. For the innate sensitivity she shows toward her fellow primates, human and non, and her ability to make all of us (even Jamie) feel better just by being herself. For the growing courage she finds to explore Young’s Hill in awe and for her ability to trust us when sharing her “babies” with us, knowing she will never have anything she loves taken from her again. And for back flips, pirouettes, kisses given while hanging upside down, the willingness to gaze into our eyes, her toes (!) and the toe tickling that comes with those toes.
We are thankful for Jamie and her astounding intelligence, willpower, and creativity. For the opportunity she finally has to call the shots and be loved and respected exactly as she is in each minute of the day. For walks around Young’s Hill and for the immense honor it is to accompany her on her perimeter walks and be included as part of her troop. And for “upside-down-Jamie-on-a-barrel” because it means she is happy, do-it-yourself Jamie who takes charge of her home, that she now feels safe enough to take naps and actually close her eyes and rest, and happy groans of pure joy when she receives a new pair of boots.
We are thankful for Jody and what she teaches us about the value of comfort, relaxation and taking care of oneself. For her ability to now spend each minute choosing exactly what feels best for her. For the sheer joy she receives from foraging for every wild plant she can find on Young’s Hill, for the way she “holds the door” and gathers everyone up until she makes sure all the chimpanzees have come in for meals, for her “dinosaur” groans when she is particularly happy about something she’s eating, for “happy baby” poses while lounging in her nest, for sometimes poking us when she’s feeling saucy, and for her earnest gazes and endearing “butt-bounces” when greeting us.
We are thankful for Missy and the fact that she finally has the choice to run to her heart’s content in every direction she can on Young’s Hill, laughing as she passes you by. For the athletic prowess which brings her so much joy after so many years living in a small cage with no room for her spirit to move. For her ability to wake up each day with so much joy that she and her best friend, Annie, play chase, wrestle and laugh like crazy before they are even fully awake. And for the leaping, spinning, swinging, jumping, and climbing. And for the way she gets us to “chase” her to the garden to ask for summertime tomatoes.
And we are thankful for Queen Negra and her ability to find joy and a position of respect in the companionship of her chimpanzee and human friends after years of solitude and depression. For the absolute pleasure she receives from the simple things in life like a nest made of sometimes over 30 blankets, the sun on her face, and days spent nesting peacefully by her window as she watches the valley below. And for hand claps when the servers are too slow, straw thrown in our faces when she really wants to get her point across, head nods of approval when we dance for her, the absolute joy she receives from night bags and for nuts and seeds on her belly as she enjoys those nightbags.
On this Thanksgiving Day and always, we are ever grateful to all of you who provide hope, love, home and sanctuary to these seven chimpanzee people. We couldn’t possibly hold more love in our hearts for them and to know they are safe, loved, respected, and able to finally make choices in their lives is the best gift we could ask for. Please know that you all, in whatever form your support is given, make a difference in their lives. From all of us at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
The chimpanzees’ Thanksgiving Day celebration is getting under way now so be sure to tune in tomorrow to check out the fun!!