Jamie lost a fight this morning. (Don’t worry – only her pride was injured.) Volunteer caregiver Denice and I were cleaning the playroom when shrill screaming broke out in the front rooms. I didn’t see what started the fight, but once I got to a place where I could observe, I could tell that some of the chimpanzees had a bone to pick with Jamie. Because Jamie is the alpha, it takes a lot of guts to stand up to her. Sometimes it seems that once one chimp works up the courage to tell Jamie what’s what, the others are more likely to join in.
During this morning’s dispute, Negra, Jody, and Annie had Jamie cornered in one of the front rooms. (Foxie and Burrito were doing their best to stay out of things, and Missy was hedging her bets and backing everyone up.) While most fights don’t actually involve a lot of physical contact between the chimps, there is always a lot of screaming and posturing. Eventually, everyone will say what they need to say, someone will back down, and the fight will be over. This morning it was Jamie who backed down; there really wasn’t much she could do against Negra, Jody, and Annie’s trifecta of fury.
Jamie runs a tight ship around here, and it’s not surprising that once in awhile the other chimps reach the end of their ropes and let her know. But I always feel a little sorry for Jamie when this happens. Her sense of self is completely intertwined with her dominance, and it can’t feel good to lose the control she works so hard for, even for a moment. Imagine that it’s your job to manage an office full of employees, typically obedient, who one day revolt against you without warning. You’re likely to feel angry, unsettled, and a little afraid.
But if there’s one thing we know about Jamie, it’s that she never loses her footing for long. After today’s fight she spent some time outside to clear her head:
and then took a rejuvenating rest.