There’s something I deeply respect about non-humans who are reserved. The ones who would never just give away their affection to whoever passes by.
Don’t get me wrong, I love pups I’ve never met who run up to me like I’m a long-lost friend or chimpanzees who immediately want to play with strangers.
But for animals I expect to have a long-term relationship, I’m drawn to the aloof. The stand-offish. Even the disgruntled. Those who demand you earn their affection, because they deserve no less.
This is what first won me over with Negra.
She is not happy-go-lucky. She’s not one to seek out the attention of caregivers for a game or just to hang out. She’s the Queen, after all.
I’ve started to go through videos of Negra taken over the last 13 years to put together a video compilation for the Queen’s Brunch next month. It’s really great to revisit and be able to relive those moments with Negra where she allowed me or another caregiver to be a friend. It’s going to be difficult to whittle down the clips, but I hope you appreciate the video when we show it on June 13th.
Jamie, unlike Negra, constantly seeks out the humans, but interactions are almost always 100% on her terms. She knows what she wants from us (usually some variation of walking around Young’s Hill), and she expects us to comply.
Today, she indicated that she wanted me to walk around the hill shortly after we had put out a lunch forage. I dutifully started the routine on the human-side of the fence. Instead of continuing the walk, however, Jamie planted herself in a fire hose hammock partway up the hill. I know from previous experience that she expected me to wait for her. Or maybe today she just wanted to be the subject of a photo shoot.
Missy, as we’ve said many times on the blog before, is a “chimps’ chimp”. She seems to view the humans as peripheral to her social circle. We serve a purpose in bringing her tomatoes, but most of the time she’s not looking for anything more than that from us. This is why it is always special when she spots a caregiver from a distance, gives a look, and takes off for a game of chase. Or when she comes up to the caging where a caregiver is sitting, turns around, and presses her back up, allowing, for a short while, the caregiver to groom her.
I don’t have photos of that from today, but I do have these photos of Missy gathering the bulk of the lilacs that Anna carefully placed in the treat rock.
Our dog Honey B was very much aloof. If you know dog breeds and I say she was a Chow Chow, you likely have some idea of her personality. If you are suddenly confused why we had a dog named Honey B before there was a chimpanzee at the sanctuary named Honey B, I direct you to this blog post that tells the unlikely story of the direct connection of these two.
Honey B the dog had no time for anyone’s nonsense, so the fact that she chose to bestow her attention on me was a huge gift. Still, I had to work for her affection and respect her boundaries every step of the way.
There’s another nonhuman at the sanctuary right now who has similar qualities: Honey Cow.
Little by little, she is warming up to her caregivers. Yesterday, she was lying down in the sun, and I sat in front of her. I was sure she was going to get up when I reached out and touched her head. She half-heartedly swung away, but she stayed. One of these days, maybe one of us will completely win her over. On her terms.