This is a story I first told at our gala in June. Though now it has a very exciting ending or maybe more of a beginning of an ending. It’s a lot of words… feel free to skim and skip down to the photos of Honey B I took today.
I don’t myself believe in fate, but I could see how this tale might be interesting for those who do believe in predestination.
The story begins when I was working at a sanctuary called the Fauna Foundation in Quebec, Canada. The fifteen chimpanzees that I worked with at Fauna had all been used in biomedical testing at a laboratory called LEMSIP in upstate New York. When LEMSIP was closing in the late 1990s, there was a scramble, led by LEMSIP’s head veterinarian, to get the chimpanzees into sanctuaries instead of being shipped to the Coulston Foundation, a laboratory in New Mexico that was ill-regarded even within the laboratory community and had amassed numerous animal welfare violations.
The sanctuary world was very small at that time and there were not many places for chimpanzees. Gloria Grow, founder of the Fauna Foundation, had never cared for chimpanzees before, but she had a sanctuary for wayward farmed animals and she wanted to do something more.
A former LEMSIP employee had given Gloria a list from 1993 of all of the chimpanzees who lived at LEMSIP. We would pour over that list, looking for relatives of the 15 chimpanzees who arrived at Fauna in 1996. She helped to identify where some of the other chimpanzees went, whether to other sanctuaries or to Coulston.
Over the course of the three years I worked at Fauna, I spent hours looking at that list with Gloria’s handwritten notes on it. I wondered about the personalities behind all of those names. I wondered if they were okay.
I don’t know why, but some of the names just stuck with me. Honey B was one of the names on that list.
I had heard that Honey B was the half sister of Jethro, a large adolescent guy at Fauna who loved to play chase. I knew that Jethro, Honey B, and another chimpanzee at Fauna, Binky, had all been together in the “nursery” at LEMSIP after they were taken from their mothers.
In 2005, I found myself outside of New Orleans at a shelter that was taking care of dogs and cats that had been left behind after Hurricane Katrina. This was a few years after J.B. and I left Fauna for other academic and professional adventures. We were living in upstate New York at the time, and there was no way (well, maybe there was a small way) I was planning on bringing home a dog to our peaceful feline household.
But a dog at the shelter adopted me and her owners did not want her back. She was not the dog I would have chosen if I had been deliberately searching for a pup. She chased cats and didn’t want anything to do with other dogs, or other people for that matter. But she decided I was her person, and I accepted this without questioning it for very long. I broke the news to J.B. over the phone and he also didn’t question it.
Now, we needed a name for her. The name that I landed on was Honey B. Not Honey Bee, though I’m sure that’s what most people thought of when I mentioned her name. No, this somewhat surly Chow Chow from Louisiana that was my new best friend was named after a chimpanzee I had never met.
Honey B the dog, J.B., me, and our three cats (Cuba, LouLou, and Peanut) moved from our Victorian house in upstate New York to work at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in 2008, just a month before Annie, Missy, Jody, Jamie, Foxie, Burrito, and Negra arrived from Buckshire, the laboratory holding facility where they had lived for decades. Buckshire leased out the chimpanzees they owned to different laboratories, including LEMSIP before it closed down.
Buckshire provided us with some of the medical records of the seven chimpanzees who now called Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and Cle Elum, Washington their home. I was looking through Missy’s record, and lo and behold, I discovered that she was the mother of the chimpanzee Honey B! I dug up the old LEMSIP list that for some reason I had moved with me from Quebec to Massachusetts to New York to Washington and confirmed this information.
I thought, “what are the odds of that?!”
Honey B the dog didn’t pay much attention to the chimpanzees, but after the chimps’ two-acre outdoor area, Young’s Hill, was built, J.B. and I would take her on walks around the outside of the perimeter fence. Despite her lack of affection for more than a few (okay, two) people, she was a really easygoing dog in a lot of ways and didn’t need to be on a leash. Every once in a while, she and Missy would run down the hill on opposite sides of the fence together.
In May of this year, I learned that the chimpanzees at Wildlife Waystation were in need of new homes. I knew that Honey B the chimpanzee, the daughter of Missy and the namesake to my beloved now-deceased Chow Chow, lived there. I had still never met her. Side-note: Missy’s son Josh also lives at Wildlife Waystation.
We were just wrapping up the first phase of the expansion at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, expecting to bring three or four chimpanzees in need to (hopefully) expand the chimpanzee family of seven.
After visiting Wildlife Waystation, we knew we could and needed to immediately help at least some of the chimpanzees there. J.B. and I met all of the 42 chimpanzees. They are all wonderful and deserving. Their groups vary in size, but there were only three groups of an appropriate number for us to consider bringing to CSNW. After talking to the care staff about personalities, it seemed clear that Honey B and her group mates Willy B and Mave, would have the best chance of integrating into our group of seven.
Less than three months later, J.B. and I drove down to California and returned with Honey B the chimpanzee and her two friends.
Four days ago, mother Missy and daughter Honey B touched each other for the first time after 30 years of being apart. It was clear from the records we have that Honey B was taken from Missy when she was less than a day old, and there’s no indication that they recognize they are related, but we hope there’s a chance they will become friends.