I thought I would share a moment from yesterday morning, before Missy’s birthday festivities began, that is a testament to how human grief looks so similar to non-human grief. In attempt for you to better understand the sentimental meaning behind the moment I witnessed, I will first share something personal that has happened to my family in the past week. I want to preface that I don’t want this blog to be about me, but I want to provide context for the relatability in the moment that I witnessed.
A week ago today, I had an emergency with my dog Oliver. My husband, Adam, and I had to make a lot of hard decisions regarding Oliver’s life, which at one point we thought we were in the clear, but sadly in the end, we had to make a choice that felt impossible to make. We chose to say goodbye. Oliver had been with me since I was 23. He had been with our family for almost 9 years. The word “dog” underestimates just how special and important Oliver was in my life. Oliver followed me to Canada. He traveled everywhere with me, I was never alone when I was with him. Oliver came into my life at a time when I was silently in my deepest grief after losing my father. Oliver gave me purpose and he gave me a reason to move forward. How do you grieve when the individual who carried you through everything else, isn’t there to get you through this one?
Tuesday was my first day back at work and all the chimps were so nice, I mean they always are :). But it felt different, more gentle. However, a moment that sticks out was with my friend, Missy. Missy is an individual who loves her people. It’s hard to know where humans stand in that, because well, she doesn’t need us, she has her people. On occasion, Missy will ask me to play. And that occasion happened to be on Tuesday. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe she knew I needed a distraction, but I will never know the answer to that. Missy and I spent a long while playing lazy tug-of-war, knuckle rubbing her back, and playing a short game of chase. She made my sad heart feel a little bit of warmth.
Yesterday (Wednesday), I was carrying grief on my shoulders, I could feel the physical weight of losing Oliver. At one point in the morning, I came back inside near the front rooms after having give Foxie her dolls in the Green House. Jamie started to breathy pant at me and got very excited to touch my boots (a pair of boots that do not necessarily wow her anymore). She playfully laid on her back and flailed her arms and legs around, laughing the whole time. She would bend over, stick her butt in the air and start laughing harder. Eventually, she asked me to put her favorite pair of Doc Martins on and go on a walk around Young’s Hill with her. I quickly apologized to Chad for leaving him alone to deep clean the Playroom, and I took off to join Jamie. Nothing could prepare me for the walk we took. It felt like a walk with individuals who were grieving – it’s hard to explain. Initially, things were normal. Jamie had requested I drive the Sidekick with her boots around the Hill. Missy joined us, so it ended up being Jamie, Missy, and I going for a walk. We started up the steepest part of the Hill, but less than halfway through, Missy peeled off to the right and Jamie paused. I was trying to take a video of Foxie carrying her dolls on her back when I noticed what everyone was doing… gathering. It looked like Burrito, Foxie, Annie, Missy, and even Jamie (from a far) took a moment to themselves to pay their respects to Jody around her burial site. I understand that this is my interpretation and that we may never actually know what they were thinking or doing in that moment. However, all these grieving people were in one place. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful moment and it struck me. Later, after everyone started going further up the Hill, Foxie hung back to climb up “The Twister”, which used to be something Jody would do with her, while always giving her encouragement and the courage to climb higher. But today, Foxie climbed it “alone”, but maybe someone was nearby giving her that same encouragement she had before. Foxie only went up a little more before she ultimately climbed down and joined everyone else at the top on the Hill.
Personally, this year has been a hard one, losing both Jody and my Oliver. Grief is a funny thing. It’s never completely gone and you never know when it is going to decided to show up and smack you in the face. There are good days and years, but also waves of sadness that makes things feel like they are crashing down. The date, May 1st, is always hard for me and this year marked 9 years since the passing of my dad. Some years have gone by and I have noticed his presence missing but have been able to keep moving on, while other years, like this year in particular, I feel like I lost him all over again. I know that in my own grief with losing Jody, I often will think about her during forages for the chimps or when I’m ordering produce thinking, “Oh, Jody will love this!”, only to feel a pain in my heart realizing she is no longer here. On party days, I think about how she used to walk bipedally down the Hill with an arm-load of leafy greens! Jody had been with her group members for most of their lives so it’s normal for their to be a continued absence. Though the chimps are doing quite well and have gone back into a routine since Jody’s passing, I think it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that the chimps do have the same stages of grief that we do. I am sure that they too have good days and others where there is a hole that only Jody could fill.
Thank you for letting me share this story.
Just a bonus photo of Foxie with a doll on her back:
And for my Oliver, who I will forever be thankful for and will always stay in my heart. I miss you. I love you so much.