By Mary Lynn Campbell
Lisa Covington With Her Monkey “Tiki”
This is a post that I have wanted to write about for a very long time. My pathway with living with monkeys has been different from many others. Therefore, I have actually very limited experience with living with only one of them. My first monkey was only with me for 6 short months prior to receiving my second one.
After receiving my first monkey named Penny, I started acquiring monkeys, one, two, three, four, five, etc. I suppose it was meant to become another part of my journey with having them. I can truly say that this was not at all what I planned to do, but they started coming. Now I certainly can see how important it was for me to learn from having several monkeys in my life and being able to share my life experiences. My mission definitely evolved into a deep need to understand these special creatures that God had sent into my life.
You can not imagine how many times I have said to not only myself but to many others, “I have had so many monkeys that would have made amazing, singly homed, monkeys.” I secretly feel that I have really missed out on having a special unique relationship with just one monkey. This longing was probably anchored in wanting to experience everything possible that has to do with being a monkey caregiver.
When Bob and I met Danny and Lisa, I had my first opportunity to begin to understand what having one monkey in your home was like. I have spoken many times about our meeting so it is possible that you already know our story but I think the most important thing to tell now is that we became friends on Facebook.
Lisa and I had commented on each other’s posts, but had never spoken before she posted that their beloved Tiki had accidentally ran away from their monkey sitter while they went to a doctor’s appointment. As it turned out, it was later in the evening when I read the message Lisa had posted and even though it was late, I felt that I had to messaged her to see how I might be helpful. She gave my phone number to Danny who was out driving and calling out the car window for Tiki. She said to me immediately, “I am sure Danny will wish to speak with you.”
The first thing I remember him saying to me was, “Mary Lynn, we have to get him back. He is like our child and he is alone and out for the first time in his life!” I totally understood how they felt due to a similar thing happening to me with Penny when she was in Florida with a monkey sitter there. The thing that was very different was that this was their only beloved monkey who was lost outside in a huge area in the country. As it turned out, thankfully Tiki was found and this started our very special friendship with the Covington Family.
The information that I shared with the Covingtons to use in finding Tiki is here on this site. It is called “Help, I Have Lost My Monkey – Part One and Part Two“. By the way, Tiki and Silly Willy actually turned out to be half brothers who came originally from Natural Bridge Zoo when they were infants. We were amazed how at 4 ½ years old when they met again, they seemed to love and respect each other. There was no doubt that they remembered being together in the past.
First Photo Of Our Boys Together
Tiki (age 1)
Visiting Natural Bridge Zoo where Tiki and Silly Willy were born
Silly Willy (age 4 1/2)
Tiki (age 4 ½)
What About Having Only One Monkey?
With the prices soaring on baby monkeys, this has caused many people to only think of having one monkey and I understand why, don’t you?
The sale of my book, “Living With Monkeys“, has enabled me to build wonderful relationships with many new monkey owners. Often when their baby monkeys begin to mature physically and emotionally, they will message me about adding another monkey for them to have as a playmate for their monkey. I begin my reply by asking many important questions.
- What age is your monkey?
- Remind me, do you have a girl or a boy?
- How is your monkey’s behavior?
- Does your monkey prefer men or women or does he/she like all people including children?
- BIG QUESTION: How close did you follow my book when you raised him or her?
- What change has happened with him or her or maybe with you that has made you wish to add another monkey?
- Do you wish to add another baby monkey into your life or do you wish for the monkey to be re-homed?
- Do you wish the new monkey to be a boy or a girl?
- If they have not told me in their message, I always ask why they wish to add another monkey and what type of monkey they are thinking of getting.
- Are you prepared for the expense of adding another monkey into your life?
- Are you prepared to get a monkey who might not like being around your monkey?
- Are you prepared to split your time between two monkeys?
- Are you prepared to add more money for an extra monkey in your emergency fund?
When we open to change, we have no way of knowing how it will turn out. This is just part of living on Earth. Our faith in life unfolding as it is meant to unfold seems to be the only thing that we have on our side as we live one moment at a time. I must also offer to the monkey owners that all-important suggestion, “Let peace guide you. This is always your highest pathway because God speaks to us through peace, not fear.” I wish only to be truly helpful when monkey parents are contemplating adding another monkey into their lives so the answers to these questions need to not only be thought about but talked about before I can offer suggestions for them.
I have known several people who have added monkeys into their lives who do not care for being with other monkeys and they prefer being with a chosen human. The reason I am mentioning this is that many of the monkeys who have come to me (who were raised singly) have had difficult times adjusting to another monkey as their friend. This is why I feel that many of my troop would be great singly housed monkeys but even with this being said, I am very blessed to say that each of them has a playmate even Pixie my Capuchin monkey, and Kizzy my Squirrel monkey, play very well together.
There is always a chance that a monkey who is raised singly will be more relaxed and feel more living as a single monkey when re-homed. Because I have several monkeys, I have had many options to offer my single raised monkeys, when they have come to SunShine MonkeyShines. I believe this has made all of the difference in matching each of my monkeys with a playmate.
When considering adding a re-homed monkey into your life as a playmate for your first monkey, even if they do not live 24/7 together or even if they only end up having another monkey in their home, it will add many wonderful things into their lives. They will have their life enhanced especially when it is time for you to leave them at home together.
A good friend of mine recently has taken the plunge of adding a second monkey into her life. She and I were just talking this week about how she sees her four year-old, boy, black and white Capuchin monkey, relating to his new sister who is a tiny female black-capped Capuchin. She and I both agreed that (chances are) he will be way too active since he is a black and white Capuchin, to spend much time with her. But I believe that just having another monkey in the house will be very enriching for them both.
In our conversation she also made a very (ah-ha) kind of moment happen for me, and that was when she said, “You know, Mary Lynn, he seemed to reach a place where he started becoming very bored with having me all of the time to himself so this is what started making me feel that I needed to add a second monkey as a playmate. These words have had a major effect on me and the way I have been looking at having only one monkey. I hope and pray that I will never have just one monkey to care for, but I feel myself growing in understanding with how many people do come to the conclusion that they need to add another monkey into their lives.
As time with my monkeys passes, I understanding how these wonderful creatures of God’s grow in emotional maturity as they are living in my home. They are constantly amazing me with their level of understanding and intelligence. Just tonight, while I was walking down the four steps to take Silly Willy and Pixie to their play cage, I had a special moment with Silly Willy. I have been experiencing trouble when going up and down the steps from arthritis pain, and he did something amazing. I usually put Pixie in my right arm but tonight I put Silly Willy in my right arm and Pixie in my left arm. When he felt me weaken and not have support with both of my arms and hands being full of the two of them, he reached out with his right hand for the railing to steady all three of us. He understood that he needed to do this and I will allow him to help me from now on as we are going up and down the steps. I always praise him for not only being such a good boy, but for being such a gentleman. He has had an amazingly gentle spirit in his 12 years of life and I love the way he is maturing emotionally throughout his teenage years.
I had no idea when he came to me that his pathway would lead to helping so many others in the raising their monkeys. The writing of our book “Living With Monkeys,” turned out to not only be a gift for the many readers that have read it but as I was writing it I had to slow down and analyze just how I wanted my Silly Willy to be as he was being raised. I treasure him in my life.
When Willy turned 3 ½ years old, a negative thing started developing in his personality. From the time that I received him, I started sharing him with my audience both young and old. He loved to be gently stroked by any of them and then suddenly at one job that I took him to, he made it very clear to me that he had made a change in his desires to have a child approach us. I simply noticed as the three-year-old birthday girl came running up to thank us for coming that Willy flexed his body muscles and began to lean down towards the child as if he was going to hurt her. When this happened, I was so thankful that I was aware of the change in him immediately. He had never shown me his dislike for children at any time. I was prepared for this possible behavior change in him to happen due to the great number of monkeys who develop this same behavior as they are maturing during “toddler-hood.”
Because I was aware of the possibility of Willy choosing to not like children, I had always been prepared with my thoughts about what I would do if he began to be aggressive. Understanding your monkey’s reactions and even their muscle flexing is a very useful tool when being an owner of a monkey and knowing ahead of time what your reactions should be when a problem arises is a must-do when you live with a monkey in your home. This is one of the reasons that I continue to share my stories and experiences with all of you who visit us here on the Primate Care site. It is important for you to share with your family members the things that you are learning here about your monkey’s possible behaviors, so that everyone will be prepared with a proper reaction. Accidents can happen so quickly with a monkey. Please be prepared to step in and take your monkey away from your husband or son if and when you are reading a change in their energy especially if you are the primary caregiver. Knowing your monkey and what might happen with them is just as important as feeding and caring for them daily.
Many monkey owners will say often to me that they wished they had handled a situation differently from the way they did after a problem has or was about to happen. I was lucky that Willy did not hurt the child at that presentation we were doing. I learned many years ago that when I am out with my monkeys that I am always turned into my monkey so much that they are an extension of me. I am first and foremost interested in keeping them safe at the same time I am reading and watching the energy of the people that are around me. I have a great responsibility upon my shoulders when I have my monkeys out in public.
Please do not think I am perfect all of the time in reading my monkey’s behaviors but becoming aware of what I will do if a problem arises has worked very well for me. May I suggest to you that you also become a safety-first type of monkey owner and spend time thinking about what you think you should do if certain behavior issue occurs?
It is always okay for us as monkey caregivers to choose to not use behavior modification to change a behavior in our monkeys. Sometimes it is best to learn that we should respect and simply use caution with our monkeys especially when they are challenged in certain situations. This is what loving and respecting a monkey is all about. I have never given Willy a chance to show another child his dislike of them because I chose to simply respect his attitude change. Someone else might look at this differently but this has worked for me. He loves to be praised and is very sensitive when he must be reprimanded because bad behavior. Protecting him from a possible problem and choosing to respect his likes and dislikes has worked remarkably well.
Now, let us return to the many things that I learned from our friendship with Danny and Lisa when they first came into our lives with their single-homed monkey, Tiki. Since they were first-time monkey caregivers they decided to raise him as they did their children. He was never caged or out of his diaper. He lived right with them 24/7. They choose to be available at all times to care for him.
He was so very loved and cared for but as it turned out he became an insulin-dependent baby monkey at the age of seven months old. Tiki came into the world with Type I Diabetes. It was a very traumatic time for his owners since they had to go through the concerns for his early symptoms, the diagnosis and the acceptance of such a life change. Tiki was very ill and the treatment of giving him needles with insulin every day, and all of the diet changes were life-changing for all three of them. Because of all of these changes and concerns it added to the shaping of his unique personality. His diet did not cause this illness but he had to go through major daily changes to be able to live. They were all challenged with these changes that had to be made in his life.
As we began to know each other, I learned more about having a single monkey and they learned more about having several monkeys. We all went through a learning experience. Lisa and I learned that we both loved to sew together so Tiki began to make day trips over to our house and since he did this he was able to learn how to be caged which turned out to be a real gift for Danny and Lisa. They now were able to have time with their grandchildren together instead of them having to split taking turns caring for Tiki. They also learned more about being able to control his diabetes which made his behavior much better. Since our experiences with diabetes were different we learned from each other.
Tiki is such a smart little monkey. He had been raised with them to do everything, therefore, he learned how to open doors, turn on and off the lights, open every cabinet door and drawer that they had in their two large room area that they hung out in with him. He understood so many phrases and words. I truly believed that he did not know he was a monkey. He was as amazing as he was difficult. He was much larger than Silly Willy was and he had real challenges with being around their grandchildren and some of the adults too.
Tiki (Age 5)
They quickly learned that they had broken the three rules that are talked about in my book. We did not dwell on this fact but as they learned by watching us with our monkeys they began to make changes in Tiki’s life. The boys have always been so special together and have always shown love and respect towards each other, Their behaviors have always made us owners feel as if these two boys were meant to bring us together.
A big change was coming for Tiki. There was a call that came in from a monkey owner needing to find a family to take his monkey. He was in a life change and was very eager to move forward with finding Casper, who was his four-year-old Wedge-Cap Capuchin monkey, a new home. He asked me to begin looking for a family who would be willing to pay a fee for him and be willing to work with his bad habit, which was his lack of respect for women.
In the following weeks, he and I spoke often but I was not able to find a home for him. A few days later he called to tell me to come and get him that he had thought about it and felt that I was the right person to be able to work with him. I was not sure what I was going to do because there were many things to work out to bring him here.
The story of Casper coming to SunShine MonkeyShines was full of many exciting twists and turns as he was brought to Tennessee. It was wonderful to see him finally when Danny brought him in the door from picking him up at his home in New York City.
The days and weeks that followed were full of extremely hard times for me with Casper. I always choose to have a bonding time that I go through with each monkey who comes to SunShine MonkeyShines. As we were going through this time I began to learn many things about him, and two important things were that he was not happy being with a woman and he was deeply disturbed about leaving his home and family.
Because Casper was so emotionally disturbed and continuing to bite me without any rhyme or reason, I had to begin thinking about what the best option would be for him. He had been neutered so he could not become a breeder and we had already learned that he hated women so what was left for him? At first, I thought of maybe sending him to a sanctuary, but he had never been with another monkey and they would certainly wish to be able to put him with a companion. He had not shown any success at being able to make a monkey friend while he was with me so then I thought of re-homing him to a family who might have lost a monkey. He had been raised with children and the previous owner said that he had enjoyed being with his kids.
The last thing that I wanted to do is to put Casper on a pathway of being re-homed many times. How could I send him away from us with so many problems? I decided that until I felt peaceful that I would need to just keep him with us. The days were hard to face knowing that I would probably keep getting bitten but I loved him and I could not move forward unless I truly felt that he had a chance of being successful in a new home. I will never forget the last bite that he gave me. As I turned to wash the blood off of my arm, I saw Willy and Pixie looking at me from the corner of my eye and this was when I said I can not live any longer with this happening in front of my two wonderfully behaved monkeys,
My heart was so heavy as I lived through the next few days with him. I knew that I had to do something but what was I going to do for him? This is when I decided to ask Danny and Lisa to try giving him a home with them. When we spoke together at the table that evening they were most concerned about Tiki’s responses to having another monkey in his world. They did not wish for either of them to be hurt or unhappy.
We talked about Tiki and Casper in great detail, and we all knew that it was something that we would just have to wait and see what would happen between them. As it turned out Tiki and Casper became instant friends, but it took a long time for him to settle into his life with Danny and Lisa. He had to have a period on medication to help him with the changes that he had to go through but with their time and patience, he became the perfect monkey for them to have with Tiki. The two boys have a wonderful life together and are great company for each other. They enhanced each other’s lives and have made it possible for Lisa and Danny to feel as if they have given both of the boy monkeys the best possible thing to make them happy, well adjusted captive monkeys. and that is called “friendship.”
What I Learned
Change can be a very hard thing for humans to embrace in life. I think that the most important thing to always remember when we are embracing an upcoming change is to understand that both positive and negative things may happen during this life change. When we are open to this possibly happening, then we are capable of staying much more grounded in our responses to whatever comes our way.
None of us know everything that we are going to need to deal with during a life change, but we do know that we will get through it to the other side of that change especially if we remain open to moving forward. I will always be so glad that I knew to make a change when Casper was not happy with me. I wanted to be successful in giving him a new home with SunShine MonkeyShines but more than anything I wanted him to be happy in his new life.
I am so glad I made the right choice for Casper. As I had spoken about earlier Danny had made the trip up to pick Casper up and as it turned out he was the best possible person to bring into his life. He and Lisa have a loving relationship but Danny is the one who helped Casper to be able to love and bond again in a new life. As it turned out Casper became Danny’s trusted friend on their long drive from New York City to Tennessee. I love to have happen endings, don’t you?
Tiki and Casper Playing
Friendship and companionship are very important in living with monkeys. I feel that it is always best for me to encourage people to do what feels peaceful for them to do when it comes to making the decision about adding a second monkey into their lives. Yes, there are going to be many ups and downs in the process if they choose to do this but I truly believe that peace guides us on our highest pathway with God leading the way forward.
Choose To Be The Very Best Monkey Caregiver That You Can Be
Mary Lynn and Silly Willy
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 post, we will be telling you about “Saying Good-bye To Cheech (our 50 plus year old monkey.)
Written by Mary Lynn Campbell author of “Living With Monkeys”