Personally, I’ve never been much of a collector. I am not very neat, but I do enjoy when my surroundings are clutter-free. There’s a particular joy I get out of getting rid of things and thereby decreasing rather than increasing my possessions. But I’m fascinated by collectors and those who clearly get a unique satisfaction in their things.
It’s all the more fascinating to care for two chimpanzee collectors. Foxie is pretty famous for her doll collection, and most people who have been tuning in to our blog for a while know that Jamie loves cowboy boots. You might have also learned that she can be pretty into books too; when the two combine – books about cowboy boots – well, that must be something akin to heaven for her.
To say that she loves this book might be an understatement or a mischaracterization. Maybe there’s a particular word that describes the feeling collectors have for their things that transcends mere everyday love.
One interesting aspect of both Jamie’s and Foxie’s collections and how they interact with their chosen objects is that they share them with the humans. Jamie wants the staff and volunteers to put on her most cherished boots. Foxie passes her dolls to trusted caregivers for safekeeping and games of toss.
And now Jamie slides her beloved books and magazines under the caging so that we can carry them with us while we follow her around the outdoor expanse of Young’s Hill on her walks or just back and forth through the building.
This is the new routine.
Earlier this week, she passed me the Texas Boots book after we had finished up a session of Positive Reinforcement Training. I expected that we would carry out our usual post-PRT routine and walk around the hill, but it was a little dreary outside. So, instead, I sat on the other side of the caging with Jamie in the greenhouse and turned the pages of the book for her to see. She would focus longer on the images of people wearing boots, and she would nod her head when I turned a page, which is generally Jamie-speak for, “yes, I like that.” After flipping through the book a couple of times, I offered to give it back to her, and she took it.
She tucked it under her arm and continued to sit on the other side of the caging. We sat in contented silence in each other’s company like that for about five minutes (which is a really long time for an active chimpanzee!), until she got up to go about other activities.
It was one of the finest moments I’ve ever had with another being of any kind.
Jamie certainly has a way of implanting the desire to find more things that she likes – to fill her life with these moments of satisfaction that I can’t say that I completely understand, but that I appreciate beyond words.
Her boots, all of them donated to her, have been outgrowing their plastic bins for a while now, and it just so happened that the boot closet we were using for staff cleaning boots was emptied now that we have more space in Phase 1 of the expansion. So, I had the idea that we should put Jamie’s boots and other sundry things in that closet.
It’s in the perfect location because Jamie can see it from the playroom loft.
I had moved Jamie’s things into the closet when Anna was on vacation last week. Anna returned on Tuesday, and Jamie wasted no time in pointing out to Anna this exciting new home for her personal treasures. In case you too want to add to Jamie’s collection, I’ve added some more books to our wish list. When we receive items, we will put them in her closet so she can point them out for us to get for her.
In case you are worried that the other chimpanzees feel left out, I think they are just as mystified by Jamie’s attraction to certain objects as I am. Once in a while, I see Missy flipping through a book, and I even gave one to Burrito last week, which he unceremoniously tossed to the ground and walked away.
I guess you have to be a collector to get it.