One of my favorite stories about Jody involves a baby mouse and a top hat. A blue velvet top hat, to be precise. And on a side note, who doesn’t need a blue velvet top hat and why don’t I have one?! But I digress.
A couple years ago, when Jody began exhibiting more of her seemingly natural “den mother” inclinations, I found her lying on her stomach in the greenhouse gently grooming the tiniest of baby mice with her lips. My heart sunk. But again and again, Jody would set the mouse down gently and watch them with seeming concern and curiosity, only to pick them up and touch them with her lips again when they squeaked.
As you may have seen us mention on the blog before, chimpanzees are territorial beings by nature and extremely intolerant toward any other animals being in their home space. Any time any animal is in the chimps’ enclosure we do our best when possible to invite the chimps into another area (i.e., attempt to bribe them with a small treat like gum, for example) in the hopes of being able to close off the area the animal is in and safely enter on a rescue mission. It should also be noted that once something has caught the attention chimps, they are not typically ones to forget about it and walk away. Sadly, I knew this baby mouse was probably not going to make it on their own, but I still wanted to spare it further stress. So we offered the chimps a treat in the front rooms and I was happy to see everyone leave the greenhouse and rush inside. But what did Jody do? Well, she scooped that baby mouse up, grabbed a nearby blue velvet top hat, gently placed the baby inside and carried hat and all into the front rooms to collect her treat.
Once in the front rooms, Jody set the hat on the ground next to her and whenever one of the other chimps would push it aside, she calmly reached out and pulled it back next to her. I waited for Jody to decide that mouse had to go. But she never did. She just sat quietly and continued to guard her mouse and her hat. While the chimps enjoyed their treats, and we watched our rescue plans growing dimmer by the minute, dear, sweet, Annie approached Jody, curious to see what all this top hat business was about. When she looked inside the hat, I suppose she didn’t expect to see a mouse and that woman screamed at the top of her lungs (thank goodness it wasn’t a snake) and tossed the hat and poor mouse across the room in a fright. And Jody silently went to collect them.
I wish I could say that the end went well for that precious wee mouse. And I wish I could say what Jody had been thinking. We were able to finally retrieve the mouse and relocate him or her to a calmer final resting place in the garden. For a story not ending as I would have liked, it remains dear to my heart for some reason. Intriguing, from a behavioral perspective. But mostly, endearing. And somehow, quintessentially Jody.
I captured beautiful Jody enjoying a minute of solitude in the shaded doorway to the greenhouse, inspecting this blue-haired, bunny slipper clad troll doll in much the same way she did that sweet baby mouse. It made me think of that story again. And that blue velvet top hat I still need.