I thought since today was Giving Day for Apes I would reflect on this amazing opportunity that I get to call my job. I am a caregiver for primates and a handful of farm animals. Chimpanzee have changed my life. The Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute was my first introduction to chimpanzees. To be honest, I always wanted to work with marine mammals, but after I met Tatu, Loulis, and Dar I fell in love with chimps intelligence, their playfulness, their physical strength, but most importantly their resiliency. When I learned about the pain humans have inflicted on primates I wanted to make a difference and from then on I never looked back. I followed Tatu and Loulis to Canada and than I came back to Washington where I was lucky enough to get a job at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. It was hard to leave Tatu and Lou who I had known for 7 years, but the Pacific Northwest was my home. And to be lucky enough to get a job at CSNW, you just can’t say no to that!
There is a lot to the word caregiver. Being a caregiver is one of the most valuable parts of my life. I have learned how to put all of their needs before my own, feel so much compassion it hurts, and have a side of me be so silly I don’t care who sees. But there is also the side of being responsible for the well being of the individuals you are caring for and the humans involved. It can be emotionally straining, especially at a time like now. Care giving during this introduction period has been a challenge, the most amazing rewarding challenge! On one hand the friendships being formed are the whole reason we are doing this and it is so awesome you could cry! We want the best for the chimps and we also want to provide more homes to more chimps. But on the other hand it is one of the more stressful events in my career. On the human side watching your friends meet a bunch of strangers! Talk about social anxiety! But, as written in many of our blogs, you have to trust them. Each chimp has stepped up and gone above and beyond what we thought would happen. The hard work isn’t over, it might not have even started yet, but it is truly an amazing time to be at CSNW.
The chimps, as I’ve mentioned, are so resilient. Every chimp has a different background, some were raised by humans and given to biomedical research once they were too old to control, others where caught in the wild and taken away from their mothers, many were breed in captivity never knowing what the outside world felt like and would never know what it would feel like to be a “real” chimp, a wild chimp. Theses are just a few scenarios and there are so many more. But the fact that these chimps can form relationships with humans after what people have put them through will always blow my mind. And more than that, when they get the chance in sanctuary to make relationships with other chimps, get that feeling of freedom or choice, or even just feel relaxed. That is were my job is the most rewarding. Here in a sanctuary they get the opportunity to become themselves, or at least as much as possible. They will never get to go into the wild again, that was taken from them, but that they can make friends with other chimps or people and go onto the 2 acres must feel freeing in some way.
A few little moments that make my heart melt that I hope makes yours too: Annie making sweet bird noises, Burrito food squeaking so loud, Willy B lip smacking for food, Mave being a friend to all and her jumping up and clapping her feet when she wants to play (eekk!). Negra going out on the Hill alone, Jamie making a fort laying on a nest intertwined with boots and books, Honey B laying in a bunch of brown paper wrestling around in it, the moment you hand Foxie her doll back and she is completely content. Missy, Honey B, & Annie playing and Jody caring so intensely about each of her friends. But the winner today is Missy and Willy B playing chase. I haven’t seen Willy B with this big of a play face yet! We hope you enjoy this short video!