It’s no revelation to say that Jamie is a unique individual. Each of the chimpanzees are, of course. Jamie makes her wants and needs known each and every day in no uncertain terms. She isn’t always an easy person to be around, but she is a delight, a surprise and a mystery all at once. And some days, a little extra so.
I’m sure in no small part due to Jamie’s early childhood history of having been raised living in a human home with a trainer until the age of nine, her extreme intelligence, curiosity, willpower and general “Jamie-ness” were set on a path to blossom in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise. And through no fault of her own, the natural consequence of an unnatural situation, many of those ways tend to be very human oriented. We certainly wish for her that this hadn’t been the case. That she’d been born allowed to live her life as her wild-living brethren. But one thing I know for certain about Jamie is that regardless of the path her life took and the lack of choices she had in the matter, she is herself through and through. And I couldn’t admire or love her more for it.
Our volunteer caregiver, Miranda, went out to serve the chimps lunch in the greenhouse and a few minutes later she radioed to ask, “Do you know where Jamie is? She’s not here for lunch.” Well, that’s something that makes you stop what you’re doing and go to find Jamie. Immediately. I assumed she was involved in a DIY project or perhaps, supervising the construction from Young’s Hill. As I quickly strolled down the human hallway on my way outside I stopped short upon finding her in the front rooms on top of her beloved barrel, cowboy boot nestled in her hip pocket, looking sleepy and showing zero interest in heading out to lunch. Now if you know chimps, you know that they do not want to miss mealtime. So I sat with her a few minutes trying to determine if she wasn’t feeling well, or if perhaps she’d gotten overheated having just made staff caregiver, Anna, walk around Young’s Hill on this extra hot summer day and needed time to cool off.
After checking in with her, I decided to go and collect her lunch and bring it back inside and drop it in the food chute for her in the hopes she’d eat. Well! She spun around on her barrel, began hooting and breathy panting with me in excitement. I could barely breathe by the time we were done with all the breathy panting. Finally, continuing to recline on her barrel, she dug into her private lunch service, low moaning, food grunting and occasionally hooting, the entire meal. She wanted to dine in the privacy of the cooler front rooms at her leisure. As she should.
After lunch, I passed out a few plain ol’ ice cubes for everyone to enjoy, along with an offer of a small breeze from the handheld mister fan. Jody and Annie lowered their heads and then spun around and presented their backs for a quick misting. Foxie was, as I knew she would be, incensed that I would even offer to do such a thing and declined the offer. But Jamie in particular loves the fan and couldn’t get enough of it. She spent several minutes having me mist and fan her while she cooled off with her ice cubes.
Once everyone dozed off for their routine after lunch nap, I strolled through to check on them. And there was Jamie. Wrapped in a cool sheet, foot on her shopping basket, nestled in with her favorite boot du jour and magazines. At once, and always, her own person. As she was born to be. As it always should have been. And just as we love her.