Search This Blog

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.

No automatic alt text available.

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.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Invading Chickens Bring Reinforcements

Yesterday morning, the chickens from across the fence were back. But this time, they were bolder. And they brought reinforcements.

I could see the chickens from a great distance, and they seemed to have made it quite far into my yard from their initial illegal border crossing.

I could hear the neighbors calling to them from the distance: "Here chick--ee chickee. Here chick-ee chick-ee, chick-ee!" But if I had not herded them toward the fence, they probably would have stayed right there.

 Shortly afterwards, they came right back. I was watching them from my kitchen window, and I thought I saw two dogs run right through the spot where the chickens were crossing and then disappear into my unmown pasture, which right now is more like a wildlife preserve than a pasture.

By the time I approached the chickens, the dogs were nowhere in sight, but they were on my property and not the neighbors'. And this fact seemed to embolden the chickens.

Now the chickens were not running so fast to get away from me. They were strolling at a leisurely pace.

They even paused for a short while by the new apple tree in the orchard. And even when they had crossed over to their own side of the fence, they just stood there and looked at me.

They seemed to be saying to themselves:"Let's wait right here until she leaves. Then we go back in!"

On my stroll back to the house, I was suddenly confronted by the neighbors' dogs, who came out of  my overgrown pasture. One of them was my old friend Cowboy the Neighbor Dog. He is very well behaved. But his young and much bigger friend was much less socialized, and he actually dared to bark at me on my own land, as if I were the one who was trespassing.

When I glanced over at the other fence line, I saw the chickens were still there, on the other side of the fence, watching and waiting for the chance to cross back over. Were the dogs and the chickens from my neighbors' yard acting in concert? Was this a planned invasion?

Dogs and chickens can coexist and even work together. But it's not always the case. When I had chickens who were kept separately from my dogs, the dogs eventually got to them and killed them. Yet where chickens and dogs are allowed to roam free, coexistence does not seem to be such a problem.

Why is that? What can we learn from this about humans and chimpanzees?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Let it Be

Bow reads about the animal shelters closing
When I moved to this county, there was no animal shelter. Stray dogs wandered freely in the neighborhood. Every once in a while someone adopted a stray. Every once in a while a pack of stray dogs attacked livestock or somebody's pet, and the leader of said pack was summarily shot. It was a wild west kind of world, as far as dogs were concerned. But by and large, we all managed to live in peace. Our first dog, Teyman, was a stray who found us on October 3, 2001.

Teyman and Sword in 2002

Of course, by the same token, somebody's stray cattle could always turn up on our land unannounced, like this  calf that showed up on November 2, 2002. You just have to expect this, living out here in the country.

You could not always tell, either, which dog wandering on your property was a stray and which was a dog owned by one of the neighbors.  Often, they did not wear a collar, either way. So you needed to exercise common sense when reacting to the presence of a new dog. It would not do to be trigger happy and shoot every stray who showed up. Most of the time, tolerance reigned.

Negev was a stray who adopted us -- but was later killed by a pack of wild dogs
(I modeled the hound in In Case There's a Fox after him.)
When we adopted a stray, there was no middleman. When we enforced justice, there was also no middleman. People paid for their own decisions about what went on on their own property. Sometimes things did not turn out as well as we might like, because there is a price to freedom. We lost Negev, pictured above, to the pack of wild dogs that killed him. After that, we built the fence. Before there was a fence, Teyman and Negev roamed freely. After we built the fence, whatever dogs we had stayed put..

Brownie was a stray who adopted us after Sword's gymnastics class in Houston
(By the time we got him, we had a fence.)

And then in 2006 the animal shelter in our county opened. They solicited donations and were a non-profit organization. They took in strays. They encouraged adoption. They showed pictures of dogs on social media. We got used to the idea that they would always be there. And this past week, they closed their doors for good, half a million dollars in debt. How do you go half a million dollars in debt? Who even has half a million dollars to lend?

TASTC financial struggles
Image source

I mention this, because I am constantly being  badgered  by well-meaning people about how I should send Bow off to live in a sanctuary. Sanctuaries are nonprofits, They have seemingly unlimited resources. They could provide Bow with so much more than I can -- wide open spaces (not!), plenty of mates and the best food an ape could hope to eat. Don't I care about Bow? Don't I want him to have all these things? Why not just send him to a sanctuary and free myself from my twelve hour days, seven days a week, always with Bow in the pens -- unless I can pay a sitter sixteen dollars an hour for every hour I'm away. It's a win-win, right? Better life for Bow, better life for me.

But do you really believe that any sanctuary could afford to replace me? If we forget housing, utilities and food, it would still cost at least $70,000.00 a year to give Bow the full time babysitting that I give him for free. If you take into account the almost fifteen years that I have been sitting for Bow, twelve hours a day, seven days a week -- or paying for someone else to do so -- that would come down to a million dollars. Just for the care of one chimpanzee.

The world cannot afford that! No sanctuary could possibly afford that for every chimpanzee they took in. And some of the people that work for them will require more than sixteen dollars per hour to put their lives at risk to interact with chimpanzees. Even though many of the sanctuaries will prevent any humans from ever going in with their chimpanzee inmates, still the cost in human employment fees will be high. Think about the benefits that each employee will have to be given -- health insurance and retirement benefits, FICA and FUTA -- all things that I did without. Think about the operating costs. And when the economy takes a downturn and there are no more donations and the current administration stops pumping money into "liberal causes", what will happen to all those chimpanzees trapped in sanctuaries? Who will feed them? Where will they go when the nonprofit goes belly up?

Nothing works quite as well as laissez faire. And while all these nonprofits are pretending to be private charities, they really are not. They are operating with impunity, because when they go under, none of the people responsible for the bad decisions ever have to pay for their mistakes personally.

Building a shelter and having people work there is always going to create expenses that eventually will harm the dogs who are meant to be helped.  There is another shelter that is closing in this area, mentioned in the article. It is called Diana's Grove Dog Shelter. They, too, have fallen on bad times. And they are trying to charge people $100.00 a dog for "adoption fees." Do you think that if I had had to pay $100.00 a dog for Teyman, Negev and Brownie, that I would have adopted them? These shelters are not helping stray mutts find owners. They are pricing homeless dogs right out of ever getting adopted. Nobody can afford that for a dog with no papers. If they wanted to pay that kind of price, they would go to a breeder and get a puppy with a pedigree and no history.

The free market and stray dog anarchy work a lot better than these do-gooder charities. If there is a dog that nobody else wants, and somebody chooses to adopt him, the natural purchase price is zero.That's the market price, and that is the going rate. Without the intervention of anyone, dogs place themselves.  Sure, down the road there will be vet fees and food costs, but each person will decide for himself how much to spend on those things. Meanwhile, without the middleman, more dogs can find a home, because more people can afford them.

And what if they don't find a home? Some will hunt for a living and some will beg, and a few will be shot. But isn't that better than spending half a million dollars in public funds on a shelter that has to close in just a little over a decade?