By Mary Lynn Campbell
When I look at this photo of our “Miss Opie,” my smile (inside and out) is for her unbelievable ability to surprise us at every turn as she did with this photo. Welcome once again to our monthly post here on the Primate Care site. This is the story of a re-homed girl monkey with a boy’s name, I must add that it took several days to finally get her permission to talk about her in this post. She is definitely a girl monkey who has a mind of her own!
When I went to pick up Opie from her previous owners, she let me know instantly that she was ready to be my monkey. Her eyes were full of acceptance and awe. She had a wonderful home with her owners but after experiencing life with her they felt she needed to be with other monkeys and wanted her to have an opportunity to bond with my troop.
She is smart and beautiful but there is a list of “nutty” things about her that is a mile long! Many of the things that have made up her list have been caused by a sketchy early background that we have been trying to piece together.
About Opie, the nutty capuchin monkey
Many times when receiving a re-homed monkey it is not always easy to get helpful information about their early programming. We do know that Opie was purchased as a boy monkey and the other monkey that was purchased at the same time was her brother. It was told to the previous owners by the original owner (who she came from) that when they took them both in to be neutered was when they found out that she was not a boy after all but she was a girl. When the original owner divorced and then chose to leave her home state, she decided to take Opie with her and leave the other monkey with the person who had cared for them often when she traveled. So, Opie was dealing with a big change already when she was re-homed to the people that I received her from.
When they arrived to the home of the original owner to pick her up, the original owner took them to show them where she was in her big cage. She also brought with her a bottle of milk and then called Opie over to drink some of her milk. While she was doing this she then began to tell them that she had medicine for her to help control her diabetes and that she drank two bottles of formula each day along with a regular diet of meats, fruit and vegetables. She then told them that she was very gentle and never was ugly to anyone.
The next thing that happened was the owner walked over and unlocked the cage and allowed Opie to run and jump all over the house without a diaper on. She said that she did this all of the time. It was very hard to get her captured from her flying through the house but together they were finally able to get her and put her into her collapsible plastic travel cage.
Opie In Her Highchair
So, off they go with Opie. Neither one of them had ever been around or studied about having a monkey but they felt that they should say yes to take her when she was offered to them. Being dog and bird rescuers they knew that they would try to do what was right for her and they would get her to a good place.
It didn’t take her very long to fall in love with her new owners but not so much to their grandson. When he came to visit, she definitely did not wish to share her new monkey parents with him at all. So, life with her family of dogs, a cat, birds and an occasional visiting (un-liked boy) settled into one happy household.
As the weeks passed with Opie, they learned many things about living with a monkey. They learned how to tail wrap a diaper when she came out to eat and play in the morning and the evening. A very deep bond developed with them all very quickly and they knew they would love her forever. Each evening they devoted their time to entertaining her and allowed her in return to entertain them with her crazy ways. She made friends with one of the dogs instantly but hated the cat and showed signs of being very capable of destroying it whenever the cat showed it’s face. They found out that she was so good to wear her diaper but did not wish to wear the beautiful dresses that were given to them when they picked her up. They tried other outfits that they purchased but she definitely was not going to be a clothes wearing monkey. She loved toys and especially baby dolls with hair. Every night she would enjoy grooming the doll as she would settle down after some heavy playtime.
Opie Diapered And Ready To Play With Her New Lead
They were committed to doing the very best that they could do to make Opie healthy and happy and that meant getting her to eat all types of food. They were sure that with a diet change that she would one day be able to get off her medicine for diabetes. Opie was extremely overweight when she first came to them and they were sure that this was because of the formula that she was consuming everyday.
Thank goodness there were helpful articles and people available to help them learn what they needed to do. Opie would still be living with them, but one thing that kept bothering them was that they believed that animals need to be with other animals of their own kind. This was what had disturbed their peace and the fact that she would not eat one bite of food until they would both return home in the evenings. Each day they were so excited to be home to spend time with Opie, but they were very concerned about her not eating. They were giving her diabetes pills that were long acting and she was not eating for a long period of time during day .
One of the other things that she did excessively was to sit and rock in her elaborate cage. I am sure this was a very stressful thing to see her do day after day. Great stress and pain was beginning to enter their minds about what would be the right thing to do for Opie’s future life.
Soon after they picked her up, they decided to take her to the vet. It turned out to be the same veterinarian that I was using. They asked the vet if there were any monkey people around the area and he gave them my name to contact about getting some help with Opie if they needed a monkey sitter or other monkey information. I still remember the day that Lisa and I met them and heard a lot of stories about their newly obtained monkey Opie. It was so apparent that they were both totally in love with her.
We became friends and we spoke often about how Opie was doing and they were always eager to learn more about being better monkey caregivers of their little treasure. One night I got a frantic call from them. They were in shock and full of worry all at the same time. Earlier that day they had come home to find something that was absolutely impossible to even be able to explain. When they opened the door, their first thoughts were that someone had broken into their house and totally ransacked their home. They were in the process of calling the police when they saw Opie sitting on the cabinet behind the door smiling and holding her tummy. She did not come to them when one of them went over to pick her up. I guess she knew from the look on their faces that she was in terrible trouble.
While Opie was out of the cage (probably all day) she had opened and drank an entire six pack of cokes; she had gotten into all of their medications. She had offered them to all of the dogs in the house as well. She had shoo-shooed all over everything and of course torn up everything (literally) that was out on the tables and cabinets all over the house, not keeping any of their things sacred. It looked like a war zone after she had spent the day out loose in their home. It took hours and hours for them to be able to get their home back together so that they could lay down to rest for the night. But more than the lost medicine and the mess in the house, they were worried about each and everyone of the animals in their home. They knew that there was a chance that any of them might not make it through the night due to the things that had been offered to them through Opie’s rampage through the house.
They told me later that it took Opie four days to finally be normalized and there were times that they were not sure if she might not make it through her eating all of the medicine and other things that she ate that day. I have listened to them retell the story about that day and even now, every time I watch their faces and read their energy, it is so apparent that it was one of the worst experiences they had ever had in their time with Opie.
When I received the call about taking Opie, I did not even think about the experience they had gone through with her as I listened to them tell me why they wanted Opie to come to live with me and my troop. I have learned over time that this very experience of Opie and her escape made them realize that she needed to be with other monkeys.
Lisa and Opie
The decision to re-home Opie to me was such a hard decision for them. They knew they were not meant to keep her, but to be a stepping stone for her to come to me and the troop. They wanted her to be with other monkeys and to be able to have someone with her during the day to make sure she ate properly. They wanted her to be in a place where she might not need to rock so much in her cage. It took such love and care for them to let her go. They loved her so very much.
With great joy in my heart I can say that it has worked out with all three of them to be able to have their special time together. It took time for Opie to understand that they were not coming to get her, but just to visit, have snacks and their old playtime sessions together. This was a terribly hard choice to make and one that still gives them heartache to think of even now. But their visits are always fun for them and Opie in return has a special place in her heart for them too. This part of Opie’s story has had a great ending.
Opie’s ability to be able to enjoy her previous owners in itself is an amazing thing. She knows that it is okay to still love and enjoy them, but only when I am not in the same area while they are having their time together. She is very loyal to me when I am around, but the moment that I am not around she is playing and eating snacks and having all kinds of fun with her other family members.
They have become my very good friends now and have blessed us here at SunShine MonkeyShines in so many wonderful ways. They are also able to follow the monkey rules of the house and make sure Opie follows those rules when they are having their time together. Yes, I must agree with everything that has been written here, that little Opie should definitely not be on the “Nutty Monkey” list, but only one half of the story has been told. Continue to read more and you may change your mind…..
When I arrived home with Opie I had her cage all ready in the kitchen where she could be close to the action in the heart of my house. After awhile I decided to get her out and put her into a diaper and carry her around the house to see her new home and meet the other monks. Things went really well. She was so good with me, almost as if she had known me all of her life. I had noticed that she and Willy were making a lot of smack-smack monkey sounds, and I thought that while I had her out that I might try putting them together for a moment while I was standing at his cage. That didn’t turn out to well. She definitely did not like grand kids that were boys, and she did not like Silly Willy. She instantly attacked Silly Willy and my heart hurt for my little guy. He and I had both misread the signals she was giving him by making the smack-smacking sound. Thank Goodness I was there to pull her away from him quickly! So, she was being a sweet loving monkey to me and hating my Silly Willy.
Mistakes I Have Made With Opie
I am a big one on taking so many things that happen with the monkey’s as my fault because in being a good monkey caregiver this is the way we become the best that we can be. By talking about the things that we have learned and grown through with our monkeys and even sharing them as I do, it makes us powerful and able to predict possible things happening before they happen. It also helps others not to criticize us, but to join in on compassion and understanding. We must all be able to express our ups and downs with the monkeys and that means our mistakes as well. The reason that I take responsibility for the mistakes is because I feel like it is my fault as a primate mom. I am responsible for their care and where they live, and how they live every moment of each day.
Soon after I saved my Silly Willy from the bad monkey named Opie, her time-out was over. Later I decided to come back and once again put her into a diaper and take her to meet the rest of the troop of monkeys. First, I let her meet a few of the girls and then I turned and walked over in front of the cage of my monkey named Pincher. She instantly lunged at the cage and grabbed him through the bars of the cage as if she was going to kill him. It was all that I could do to be able to pull her away from him. I am still wondering how in the world she knew he was a boy and how she pulled both of us towards that cage. I was (at least I thought) a safe distance away from Pincher and his cage. She was so sweet to the girls but mean to my two boys! She fooled me once…and then she fooled me twice, but not again…not again where the boy monks are concerned. I can honestly say, my boys are never fooled by her even though she sends out such sweet love smack-smacks towards them and turns her head just right from side to side while holding her tummy with both hands. We all knew pretty quick that she definitely had a good start at falling into the “Nutty Monkey” role in my troop.
The truth about Opie’s Past
Now, to more of the story about Opie… the truth has away of coming out and the truth came out about our sweet Opie’s past.
While I was getting to know Opie in the kitchen cage during the first couple of weeks, I knew that something was definitely not right. She was going into her monthly hummy time two to three times per month. It seemed to make her very aggressive with the other monkeys and very vocal. Soon after her arrival here we decided that she should be taken to the vet to find out what was happening with Opie. In order to try to prepare for her possible surgery we all felt that we needed to try to gain information from the veterinarian’s office who had prescribed the medication for her diabetes.
After doing this we found out that they had not spayed her at that vet’s office. They remembered when she had been brought into their clinic and how gentle and sweet acting that Opie had been. They were also glad that she had a loving family and was being cared for properly. Her original owners had many animals and were breeders of dogs. They did not have any records of her being treated at their clinic except for the diabetes. After hitting a dead end with our discovery process, we knew that surgery would be needed to understand more about her monthly cycles.
When Dr. Ratliff did the surgery, he found things did not look normal. It looked to him as if the ovaries were diseased and that she had been a mother once before. He said that he would send her ovaries off to be examined and that we would need to wait for the pathology report. Because due to the look of the ovaries, the veterinarian felt that this was the reason for many of her problems. We were so glad that she now had a chance to be healthy. He also noticed another problem with her private parts. He said it looked as though she may have experienced trauma to her vagina and that it may be painful if he were to try to correct the injury that she had sustained.
The surgery incision was larger than normal due to the position of her uterus. This type of wound would be a challenge but I assured the vet that I would do everything to get it healed properly.
Opie Healing After Surgery
When I look at the photo from the beginning of my post I know why I call her a nutty monkey. She opened up her incision and made it difficult for her to heal.
It took almost three weeks for her test results to come back. We were all dealing with our feelings about the outcome of her test results. Finally, when the test results came back it revealed that her ovaries were diseased.
Within the the first month after her surgery she felt much better but the one things that did not change about our little nutty monkey was that she still did not like the boys.
After spending much time putting the piece of her life together we have concluded that she had been poorly mistreated by the boy monkey that she once lived with. The original owner had lead us to believe that Opie had been fixed so obviously she had not been fixed and experienced the loss of having to give up her baby.
I would love to say that little Opie is all straighten out with her rocking and covering her head but she is continuing to do this behavior. I can report that she is very happy with one of my troop’s other “nutty monkeys”. At first she bonded with Chewie due to his being beside her in the kitchen. I guess he has been the only boy that she has ever wanted to be close to. When it was time to introduce her to Sophie in the bigger cage, she detached from Chewie and bonded with Sophie. They are still good friends but are no longer bonded. They visit from time to time but do not share the same cage anymore.
This photo was taken when Opie first come to us when she bonded to Chewie.
Opie’s Nutty Behaviors
- she does not like to be around other boys accept Chewie our 20 year old marmoset
- she is always making trouble with Sophie in the monkey room
- she is eleven years old and is just growing her tuffs of hair – we all thought she was not going to have them
- she swoons the boys to make them think she has chosen them to share her charms with
- she rocks all of the time when she should be playing
- she can escape her cages very easily
- she is very destructive to anything that she can get her hands on
- she rips and tears all of her blankets
- she is a great cuddlier and loves to sleep with me but when she awakens, she is not happy until she rips and tear everything up around her
- she suffers from divided loyalties and has trouble going from one person to the next
- she is very disruptive with her crazy loud cries of excitement when she sees Silly Willy
- she has not been tested with children again since she was so ugly with the previous owners grandson – so we consider her not good with children
- one great thing for the list is that just because she does not like boys or boy monkeys does not mean she does not like men – she seems to like men very much
- she also does not like cats in her vicinity ever
I must say that this “nutty monkey” has kept me continually on my toes. She is so loving, silly, smart, sensitive, and very capable of expressing her likes and dislikes. The gift of Opie coming into my life also helped me heal from letting go of another monkey that was with me for a time and looks very much like her. I will always remember the joy in finally getting to see Opie for the first time after saying ‘yes’ to adding her to be with the troop. The two monkeys are different in their personalities but in looks they are very similar.
Another wonderful monkey in my troop
I have felt so very blessed to have yet another wonderful monkey in my troop and another wonderful set of friends in her former owners. She is such a special gift and is not only deeply loved by me but by many others that are close to the lives of the SunShine MonkeyShine’s monkeys. Opie gives us such amazing hugs.
Lisa and Sophie
Kim and Opie
Hopefully, Opie and Sophie will be able to help each other cope with being different and will have many happy years together. They seem to like the same men that are in our world and even though Opie does not like the boy monkeys it does not seem to bother Opie for Sophie and Silly Willy to have playtime together. Sophie and Silly Willy were raised together in the beginning after Sophie came to us at 18 months old so they have been bonded for quiet awhile. Sophie like Opie is very set in her own way of being but has never chosen to be ugly to her special Silly Willy. She loves to have playtime with him as often as I arrange it.
Opie and Sophie
Jesse and Sophie
Hope you enjoyed these photos of Sophie and Opie and our friends.
When a person chooses to mix a re-homed monkey into a settled monkey troop, it is very possible to have personality problems such as we have experienced with Opie. It is hard to know or understand all of the things that a re-homed monkey has experienced and how these experiences and emotional (ups and downs or maybe even physical injuries) will play out as we are introducing them into a new troop or single monkey home.
I suggest that you choose differently from the way that I did when I introduced Silly Willy and Opie together. I was blessed that a bad accident did not happen between them on the day that I let them be in the cage together. I did not have all of the facts to responsibly move them together so soon nor did I know she was not responding in a normal (love-love) way to Silly Willy. I was thankful that I was not fully trusting of the two of them together in the cage and of my quick response which made the event turn out differently.
It Is Very Important To Obtain All Personal Knowledge From As Many People As Possible,Who Have Spent Time With A Monkey You Are Choosing To Re-home.
I know that in the beginning of obtaining your baby monkey that you never think it would be possible your monkey would be re-homed but we never know what life changes may come to us. Please consider keeping all information about your monkey in a notebook so if they are ever re-homed the information will be there for the new owners to read. This is a gift not only for your special monkey but for the new owners.
We hope you have enjoyed hearing stories about what it is like to live with “Nutty Monkeys.” During my years of being a monkey caregiver of many different monkeys, I can say that many of them seem to be able to go from being “Not Nutty” to ”Being Nutty” in a blink of an eye, but you know, that is the way people can be too.
Choose to be the very best Monkey Caregiver that you can be.
Thank you for visiting us here at Primate Care. We are committed to bringing good information for you to think about and share with your family, friends, and other monkey caregivers. In the next posting on the Primate Care Site we will be talking about “A Monkey Caregiver’s Journal.”
Written by Mary Lynn Campbell author of “Living With Monkeys”