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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017 and Bow

It is turning out to be a rather gloomy Easter outside, with stormy weather and rain and skies so dark that there is  very little light in the inner pens. But before it started raining, we managed to have some of those warm, fuzzy moments that come from good intentions and mutual affection and respect.

I had begun to feel that maybe we had outgrown Easter egg hunts and candy eggs, considering that Sword is seventeen and Bow is fifteen. I was ready to put aside those traditions, at least until there are grandchildren.

But Sword surprised me this morning with a generous Easter gift. She paid for all the loot with her hard-earned money, and she made the pastel-themed basket herself.

I know, the lighting isn't good, but it's so dark in here today, even with the light on. Bow saw the gift that I got, and he saw that I had also gotten an Easter egg for him, and he knew at once that it was Easter. I was thinking of just giving him the candy-filled egg as a part of his breakfast, but after finishing his grapes and cereal, he spelled., "תני לי לצאת." "Let me go out."

That surprised me, because the egg was displayed on his breakfast table, and he hadn't asked for it. "You just want to go out?"

But then he spelled, "תני לי לצאת. תני לי ביצה." "Let me go out. Give me an egg."

So I understood that he wanted to do what we do every year. I pretend to hide eggs outside, and then he goes out and finds them. Admittedly, it's not much of an Easter egg hunt with just one egg, but I went out and placed the egg in plain view in a high spot in the outer pen. Then I let Bow go out there to find it, and he was perfectly happy to do so. He was excited and cheerful as he went through the maze of corridors to get there.

Finding the egg and retrieving it was no problem at all. But opening it was a completely different matter.

You can see how Bow asks for help in the video. First he motions at me with his left hand while holding the egg in his right. Then he reaches out with his right hand and gives me the egg. I've got to say that removing the shrink wrap with no tools except my keys was not easy. But even after I did that and handed the egg back to Bow, and he had taken it to a different spot to open, he still needed help.

Those eggs are not designed to be opened without serious effort!

Very soon after he had finished eating all the sweet tarts, Bow asked to come in again. It had started sprinkling outside, and very soon after that the sky grew dark, and it began to rain in earnest. So Bow asked for his blanket, and now he is taking a nap.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

You Can Tell It's Spring When....

There are lots of ways that spring announces itself here in the Ozarks.

There are the cherry blossoms, blooming forth one at a time.

There are the pear blossoms, opening up in clusters.

There are the dandelions that spring up on the lawn.

And there are the Weigela blossoms in all their glory,

But one sign that invariably heralds the arrival of spring is the appearance of Jehovah's Witnesses at our front door.

 Bow was relaxing in the outer pen today, when there was a knock at the front door. It was two women, and they came bearing pamphlets and an iPad. The pamphlets are an old tradition. The iPad was a new twist. They handed me a pamphlet and invited me to an event celebrating the death of Jesus. The pamphlet they handed me said that at the event there would be an explanation of how "his death can benefit you and your family."

I thanked them for the pamphlet and offered to give them a free book, too, But they declined. They wanted to show me a video about Jesus on their iPad, instead. When I said I didn't have time to watch a video, they said that was okay, I could watch it later on their website. They've gone modern on us!

We parted politely, and I hurried back to Bow with the pamphlet. At first, he looked it over intently, but then he decided to nibble on one of the corners. I highly discourage eating literature, so I took it away.

Anyway, it's definitely spring. No doubt about it!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Primping for the Selfies

Today is such a beautiful, sunny day. Bow and I decided we would go outside together and take some selfies. Before we went outside, I decided to brush my hair. Bow seemed to think that he needed to do the same, because when I was experimenting with camera angles, I suddenly saw him behind me, brushing his hair. He was very diligent about it.

Everything has been blooming lately, nature putting forth its most attractive face.

The apple blossoms have opened wide, even though there are still no pollinators in sight.

The daffodils are in full bloom, and the peach blossoms are doing their part.

No wonder Bow also wanted to look his best for his photo shoot in full sunlight.

He needed his chance to shine, too. He waited patiently for me to find just the right angle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bow Asks Why

It's such beautiful spring weather right now. We're still in February, but already the grass in the backyard is green and unexpected flowers show up here and there.

This yellow crocus sprouted up unbidden, half hidden between new blades of grass and brown, dead leaves.

It was there for only a short while, and then it disappeared forever.

It's been raining off and on for the past couple of days, but Bow has taken every opportunity between rains to sun himself in the outer pen.

It's a spacious area. There is plenty of room there for more friends.

On Monday, February 20, Bow had company. My daughter and I took advantage of the clear, sunny day to get her senior pictures taken. Lawrence came to sit with Bow, but he did not come alone. He was accompanied by two eight year old girls, his own daughter Lori and her friend, who was staying with them. Bow was happy and excited to see the two girls.

"I want them to come in," he told Lawrence by spelling out the words.

"No, Bow, they can't come in."

But Bow was insistent. He took Lawrence's hand again and spelled: "I have to have them come in."

When Lawrence told him "no" again, Bow spelled out one word only: "Why?"

"'Cause Momma says so," Lawrence told Bow. Then one of the girls also wanted to know why they could not go in. Lawrence told the girls that when they are eighteen, they can talk to me about becoming interns. That's only ten years away. At the rate that time has been passing for us lately, it will be upon in the blink of an eye. Of course, by the time they are eighteen, Bow will be twenty-five.

"That's the first time Bow has ever asked me why about anything," Lawrence reported to me. He was quite amazed.

Of course, Bow's asked me why before, many times. But that was years ago, when he was about the age of those girls,  and we don't talk about it much, anymore.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bow's Birthday Party

Today is Bow's birthday. He is fifteen years old. But we had the party for him yesterday.

As usual, we sang the birthday song, blew out the candles, had cake and ice cream and opened presents. The video, once edited down, takes only a minute to watch, but the party took quite a bit longer.

Highlights for Bow were the cake and ice cream.

He also enjoyed seeing so many of his friends there all at the same time.

There was Sword and Charla, as well as a friend of Sword's, Brian.

There was Lawrence's daughter Lori, and Lawrence himself. Bow is not very materialistic, so besides the food and the companionship, he showed a lot less interest in his present, a new hammock seat with bright colored cushions.

Before the guests left, Bow asked to go to the outer pen, where he showed everyone, including our dogs, how high he could swing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bow Reenacts Opening a Birthday Card

Bow is almost fifteen
Bow is not so small anymore. He is almost fifteen. Today, a card came in the mail addressed to him.

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I handed the card to Bow, and he began to open it.

Bow had just started opening the card when the cell phone camera cut me off, because there was no more storage space. So I did not get to record his delight in the card and the music it played, or how he danced a little to the music. By the time I had cleared more space on the camera, it was much later in the day, and the initial excitement was over.

On the inside of the card, Bow's friend who brings the bananas had signed her name. But since Bow told Lawrence her name was "girl", she also added that in under the signature.

For some reason, when you run out of storage space on my cell phone, and then you delete the last item that put you over the top, you never go right back to being able to record. So I spent several hours deleting images trying to clear space so I could go back to filming Bow interacting with his birthday card. By then, he had lost all interest in the card, and all he wanted was for me to start dinner.

I could see how frustrated he was with me. He was getting a little bit snappy. But I made a deal with him. "Bow," I said. "I'm sorry my camera cut off when you were first opening the card. Could you open the card again and let me film that? And could you act the way you did the first time? After you do that, I will start dinner right away."

Bow thought about it. The idea of having me start dinner right away seemed to please him. So he took the card from me, and I told him to wait till I was ready before he opened it. Below is the reenactment. It's not as good as the first time he opened it. You can tell how eager he is for me to take back the card and go fix dinner. But you can also  see what a good-natured fellow he really is, humoring me like that!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Is our Territory Big Enough?

I have been getting some odd comments lately on my videos. One woman stated that I should not be allowed to have any more chimpanzees, because my house is not big enough. Well, it's true. I live in a fairly modest house. Many people who are not wealthy do. But when they are planning to add to their family, do people tell them they have barely enough room for themselves, so there's not room enough for another soul?

Just sitting and talking
Look at the picture above, where Bow and I are just sitting and talking. There would certainly be room for another chimp or another human to the right or to the left of us. It's not so crowded nor so small that we could not accommodate another soul. The question  -- as it is with humans --is whether that other soul is compatible or not with us. A female who accepted Bow's friendship would not have trouble living happily in the same shared space with him. A male who wanted to challenge his territorial rights might be a problem. No matter how big the range, there is only room for one dominant individual. But where everyone is at peace and there is agreement on who that is, there might be room for an entire family. It's the same reason you don't have room for strangers to live in your house, but you do have room to accommodate extra family members and friends who are in harmony with you and need a place to crash.

My daughter is going off to college in the fall. We have been looking at diagrams of dorm rooms.They are so small! She is expected to share a tiny, tiny space, much smaller than Bow's system of pens, with another student -- a complete stranger. Under such circumstances, it matters immensely who in particular that stranger turns out to be.

Of course, the saving grace in the college dorm situation is that you don't have to spend every waking hour in the dorm room. But that's why I want to turn the five acre pasture I have into an island for Bow and his potential companions.

Five acres of nature preserve is not enough to sustain a chimpanzee in terms of foraging for a living. But if that chimpanzee is well provisioned from the modern grocery store, as Bow is, then having five acres to roam in might provide sufficient Lebensraum. It might not be necessary to invade neighboring territory just to feel able to breathe free and stretch one's legs. Right now, Bow has access to the outer pen, but of course I want more for him.

Why does Bow have to be limited to the outer pen? You might as well also ask why my dogs have to be fenced in. When the neighbors' dogs and chickens have free run of my entire ten acres, why are my own animals so limited in their freedom?

I am okay with the neighbors' livestock occasionally showing up on my land. I am a fairly tolerant person. But I feel that if my dogs or my chimpanzee ever set foot on the adjoining property, the situation might not be as friendly. I think they might end up getting shot. Maybe this is because I am overly cautious. In the not-so-distant past, there have been chimpanzees who wandered freely in small towns in Missouri, and the neighbors were amazingly tolerant. I remember hearing of a home invasion that reminded me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Here is how I told this story on a different site that has since gone defunct:

Cherry Pie Filling

Before I adopted Bow, I spoke with other people who had chimpanzees, in order to find out what I could expect as he got older and matured. One woman, who is a pioneer in raising chimpanzees, told me this story which I am about to share with you.

She has since raised countless chimpanzees, but the story I am about to tell is one she told me about the very first one she had, a male whom she raised as if he were her own child. The story takes place when the chimp was past puberty and prone to roaming. And in those days, it was possible to keep a chimpanzee in your home without locking him up. And this particular chimp was big and bulky and had a taste for sweets. His favorite thing in the world was cherry pie filling.

One evening, the neighbors heard strange sounds coming from their kitchen. They peered in, and this is what they saw. A chimp was seated at their table, with an open can of cherry pie filling, and he was eating it with a spoon, completely oblivious to the fact that it wasn't his house, his table, his chair, his spoon or his cherry pie filling. Beside him was the can opener that he had found while rummaging through the drawers of his neighbors and had used to open the can of cherry pie filling.

The neighbors could have been incensed. They could have called the police. They could have taken out their shotgun and killed the intruder. But instead they laughed, picked up the phone and called my friend to come pick up her naughty chimpanzee who had broken into their house to steal their cherry pie filling.

It was several decades ago when that happened. Today, we can't count on having such understanding neighbors. We cannot allow our chimpanzees to roam free, because people are afraid and will shoot them or call the police, and the police will shoot them. That's why I built the pens to house Bow, when I realized I could no longer control where he went and what he did there.

When people ask me why I have Bow locked up, I tell them the cherry pie filling story. It's not that chimpanzees are necessarily violent or bad. But they don't quite respect property rights, and there is no way to trust them around somebody else's cherry pie filling. And because we live in a world with so much mistrust, the safest thing to do is to keep our chimps to ourselves, rather than sharing them with the neighbors.

I want Bow to be able to roam, but I am realistic about it. I can have a sense of humor about my neighbors' chickens on my land. After all, they are only stealing insects from my lawn, and I have no use for those insects, anyway. But the neighbors would not  be able to see the humor in it if Bow showed up on their land or tried to borrow something from their cupboard,

Then why not send Bow to a sanctuary, where he can have access to more land and to mates? Because the sanctuaries I know of  would not allow Bow to roam freely and would not allow him to reproduce and would not allow him to choose who he wants for a roommate. And they would never let him see me ever again. He would not be better off there.

It takes seventy thousand dollars a year to provide for a chimpanzee in a sanctuary. But Bow lives with me for much, much less, because I take no pay for my time with him. If you want to help Bow and other chimpanzees who might come to live with him, send me your donations, so I can build him that island on five acres and get him the chimpanzee companionship he desires. And write to your Congressman to demand that all the anti-chimpanzee laws and regulations be repealed. Because Bow can't have a girlfriend until they make it legal for American chimpanzees to breed again.

Our house and land, as modest as they are, are plenty big enough for us. We just need to be allowed to use all the space that we have as we see fit.