Archive for the ‘Dolls’ Category

The Things We Carry

Friday, May 26th, 2017

A few months ago, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest was invited to contribute to an exhibit in the Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University. The exhibit, entitled “The Things We Carry,” would feature objects of significance to the members of our local community.

Our community, of course, includes seven chimpanzees, and you’d be hard pressed to find objects of greater significance to their owners than the boots and dolls carried by Jamie and Foxie.

During the opening reception for the exhibit, Dr. Jessica Mayhew, who is both a professor in the Primate Behavior and Ecology program at CWU and a CSNW volunteer, provided some very moving remarks on the installation:

When you have the opportunity to go in and experience the exhibit, you’ll see some objects that undoubtedly look familiar to you.  A pillowcase, a toddler’s dress, empty bags of potato chips.  Also encased are some cowboy boots and dolls.  Cowboy boots in this region are common, and many of us can surely remember the various iterations of Troll dolls beginning in the 1960s.

But what’s special about these boots and these dolls, is that the objects do not belong to humans, they belong to two chimpanzees from Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest: Jamie and Foxie.  Jamie and Foxie are only two of seven chimpanzees residing at CSNW, and they are not the only chimpanzees that carry objects, but their object carrying has become iconic, picked up in popular news stories across the US and globally.

As a primatologist, I have watched my fair share of object manipulation, tool creation, and object play in macaques, in capuchins, in the large-bodied apes.  Jane Goodall first described tool use in chimpanzees in 1960, when she observed David Greybeard termite fish with a piece of grass.  We’ve been grappling with the implications of those observations ever since.

Objects occupy a wide functional range in the lives of primates.  Some are used in the acquisition and processing of food – capuchin monkeys carry large, hard hammer stones up from nearby riverbeds to their nut cracking sites; chimpanzees have been observed to carry sticks, stems, and sturdy grasses from one location in their home range to termite and ant nests, where they know they will not find suitable fishing materials.  Objects do not always have to be inanimate: mother primates regularly carry their infants, most often on their backs, but sometimes on the chest, which can make walking a bit of a challenge.  Still other objects are used in ways that we have only begun to observe and decipher: stone handling in multiple macaque species, log and rock cradling in chimpanzees.

But there is something different when the object is one that’s familiar to us; one that may have played a large role in our childhood, like dolls or action figures, or is an object that is perhaps a part of the larger cultural fabric of a place, like cowboy boots.  When familiar objects are put into hands that are a little less familiar, it makes the divide between human and non-human a little bit narrower.

There are 7 chimpanzees at CSNW, all of them very much individuals, all of them vibrant and compelling; they were known as “The Buckshire Seven”, because they were housed at the Buckshire Corporation in a windowless basement, and spent the majority of their lives leased out for various biomedical studies.  Jamie was born in captivity around 1977, and she spent the first nine years of her life in the entertainment industry before entering into the biomedical realm.  Foxie, on the other hand, was born into the biomedical industry in 1976: she was used in vaccine trials, she was used as a breeder.  Each time she gave birth, her infant was carried away by humans.
This group became “The Cle Elum Seven” when they moved to sanctuary in 2008.  Jamie has spent the last nine years of her life, taking chimpanzee patrols around the property with her human friends, who are always in boots.  Foxie has no shortage of dolls to carry with her, and no risk of them not being there each day.

The exhibit description tells us that, “Objects hold memories. Physical things carry traces of people we have loved, times of joy and terror, and places we may have heard of, but never visited.  They connect us to distant homelands and important moments in personal and family memory. Through our objects, we carry with us complex emotions and histories.  Sometimes, in contemplating these material things, we discover new insights about where we have come from and whom we might become.”

Maybe Jamie’s very specific love of cowboy boots comes from her early days reared with humans.  Maybe Foxie’s love of dolls comes from never fully experiencing motherhood.  Maybe, I’ll leave that for them to know, ultimately.  But I will say that these objects serve as reminders for us, as onlookers, for where these chimpanzees have been and for what humans have done to them.   They are powerful expressions of both great sadness and great silliness.  But they also serve as symbols of hope, that circumstances can change, that life can be better and full of kindness and compassion.

The exhibit title, “The Things We Carry” seems all the more fitting now with the inclusion of these artifacts from our closest relatives.  This is a community-curated exhibition.  Not just this local community of humans with stories to tell, and memories to conjure, but the deep roots shared by humans and our closest kin.  Indeed, we are all carrying physical, emotional, and metaphorical things.

 

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For Jody and all the mamas

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The weekend of celebrations continues in the chimp house today as we celebrate not only Mother’s Day, but beloved Jody, on her 42nd honorary birthday!

I was in my gracious neighbor’s magical backyard bright and early this morning, heisting two armfuls of lilacs. Many of the chimps enjoy smelling and eating them and even now, late in the day, the scent of fresh lilac occasionally is wafts through their home.

We started the celebration off with a beautiful breakfast forage of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, watermelon, and baby bananas on a bed of lettuce, strawberry and banana smoothie, and more sparkling cider.

The greenhouse was bright and sunny as we set up the party. Pineapple tops are a favorite of the birthday girl so we hoped Jody would find this pokey treat:

And she did:

Nothing says party like shoving an entire pokey pineapple top in your mouth:

Dora had a gift for someone:

Foxie gazing at Dora while enjoying her fresh lilacs and melting my heart into a big ol’ puddle:

Annie enjoying a party plate:

For Jamie, parties are even (or maybe I should say especially) serious business. She was methodically looking for her favorites and keeping a watchful eye on the three pinatas hanging from the ceiling until she could get to them. Jamie loves a challenge so this was her kind of party:

The lilacs are quite popular with a few of the girls and Annie was doing her best to collect some on the sly while avoiding the eyes of the more dominant Missy and Jamie and she collected quite a few:

Gorgeous Missy enjoying a treat box:

Burrito was a wild man all morning long. Riling up the girls, rattling the caging, displaying throughout the chimp house. Pretty much normal stuff, but with an extra dash of wild today. But he did find time to settle down and enjoy the company of his friends on their special day and even went to Annie’s defense to reassure her when she got yelled at for picking the “wrong” lilac:

Burrito and Foxie:

And then there’s Negra, who ended the celebration by collecting all the lilacs she could and winding up with a beautiful bouquet:

Mother’s Day is a special day at the sanctuary. If you’re new to the blog and just learning about the chimps, we only know that Jody was most likely born in the wild sometime in 1975. We chose this day to celebrate Jody in honor of the nine infants she gave birth to, but who were stolen from her during her time in biomedical research. With the exception of Jamie and Burrito, all of the chimps residing here had children and were denied the right to raise them. So today, with full hearts, we honor each of the chimps, their loss of their own mothers, and their children who lost the opportunity to grow up with their amazing mothers. You can learn more about each of their stories here.

Mother’s Day can feel like a bittersweet celebration here at times. But what I am finding is that with each passing year, as we’re astounded and privileged to witness the strength, healing and resiliency of these amazing beings, the pain of knowing the horror they endured for so long starts to fade into the shadows, eclipsed by the incredible light of each of these special souls. While we will always honor all they’ve been through, it’s really become about celebrating all they’ve overcome as unique individuals, the hope and joy they embrace each day with, and the family you’ve made possible for them to have. I hope with all my heart that they feel the same.

Happy Birthday, beautiful Jody!! We love you so very much!! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there! And I really think that’s all of us in some shape or form. 🙂

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Where Foxie goes, so goes her doll.

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

The photos below were taken last week when Foxie’s doll of the day was Dora the Explorer’s blonde friend.

If you don’t know the history of Foxie and her dolls, learn all about it here.

Since her initial interest in troll dolls, she has expanded her collection of favorites to include Dora and friends with the rare but occasional interest in other dolls.

Not all of the interactions she has with dolls are of the affectionate nature – see the video at the bottom of this post.

 

A video from a few years ago:

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Walks in the rain

Monday, May 1st, 2017

There is a gorgeous book recently written by a mother and daughter in Hawaii called “Hānau ka Ua” in which they recorded over 200 hundred names for rain in the Hawaiian language. It is written that their kūpuna, or elders, were so attuned to the environment that they gave individual names to the variety of rains and winds on the islands. They knew each rain based on where and when it fell, the intensity and duration, the effect it had on people, the sound it made on the trees, and even the scent it carried. So in tune to their environment they considered it their kin.

In this part of the world, spring is ushered in on the winds. Not just any old breezes, but winds that come off the still snow-covered mountains and barrel down the valley like a freight train, that kick and buck like a wild horse, and throw sticks and stones for good measure. The days like that are sunny, but often leave all the primates taking cover. But on the days when the wind’s wild rumpus finally settles, like today, it can be cloudy and rainy. A gentle, soothing rain.

When not on Young’s Hill, the chimps chose to spend the entire day in the greenhouse, under the sound of rain on the roof. Annie nested there all day, as she often does when it rains. During a downpour at lunch we all just sat taking cover together, faces turned upward listening to the soothing rhythm.

Foxie keeping France Dora safe:

When Jamie insisted on multiple walks in the rain today, I marveled at the transition she’s made to being a Pacific Northwest chimp, virtually un-phased by the showers. Each walk for each kind of rain was different, but all were joyous and calm.

In a gentle, but steady light rain we didn’t dawdle, but she walked surprisingly slowly, the only sounds the raindrops on my Gortex jacket and our feet moving through the wet grass:

 

Later in the day when the rain let up and turned to only a few sprinkles was when she decided to kick up her heels and run:

On the final walk of the day most everyone decided to come out (though it was too wet for Negra today).

Burrito:

Jody:

Foxie and Dora:

Missy:

I’m so grateful that the chimps have the opportunity to be so connected to their home. To each rain and wind, snow and sunny day. To be kin with their environment and the wilderness in their hearts. Just as they were meant to be. Just as we were all meant to be.

Foxie and Pinky’s Adventures

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

From the moment I walked into the chimp house this morning, Foxie had a companion – a bright, pink- haired troll doll, whom I named “Pinky”.

I decided to follow Foxie and Pinky around throughout the day to see what sorts of adventures they would go on. They spent quite a bit of time this morning relaxing in the Greenhouse, where Foxie alternated between holding Pinky and hiding her in the ceiling.

Afterwards, Foxie took Pinky for an adventure on Young’s Hill.

They climbed on the treat rock (a representation of a termite mound found in wild chimpanzee habitat)…

And then made their way back toward the Greenhouse…

..for more rest and relaxation.

But then, somehow, Pinky “transformed” herself…

…okay, maybe not. Looks like Foxie found another friend to keep Pinky company.

What a day!

Time to Move!

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Foxie look camera

 

In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move. ~Henry Rollins

 

Photos from today.

 

Foxie & Burrito:

Foxie and Burrito walk

Foxie climb twister

Burrito walking

 

Jody:

Jody walking

 

Missy:

Missy running

 

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To Each Her Own

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

One of the most important things we offer to the chimpanzees here at the sanctuary is the freedom of choice. We provide the ingredients for a happy, healthy life, and the chimps take what they want and leave what they don’t.

Blankets are one of those ingredients. We put out so many blankets each day that there are plenty for everyone who wants them. Surprisingly, though, not everyone does.

Most of the chimps use the blankets we offer to build big, soft nests. The process of building the nest is just as important as the end result. They painstakingly wrap each blanket around their bodies or spread them out underneath them in just the right configuration. Sometimes they weave the blankets through or around other objects or structures.

This morning Jamie and Foxie were each “nesting” in their own way just a few feet from each other in the playroom, and the difference in their styles was apparent. They do have one thing in common: they like to have their favorite things nearby.

Foxie and a troll doll:

Jamie and a boot:

But that’s where the similarities end. Jamie likes to gather as many blankets as she can and twist and wrap them into a big, cushy circle.

Foxie, though, prefers the heated floor.

As much as it might make our own bones ache a little to see her lying on the bare floor, we appreciate that everyone has their own idea of comfort. Foxie makes her own choices, and we’ll always celebrate her in all her quirky glory.

Happy Birthday, Doreen!!

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Today we are celebrating the birthday of a dear friend of the primates at CSNW, Doreen Hughes! This fabulous day of sanctuary and celebration was sponsored by her twin sister, Donna, (who is obviously celebrating her own birthday as well!). Donna shared this special message for Doreen:

“Happy Birthday Doreen, the Best Sister Ever! I know how happy you will be to know that your birthday gift has helped Foxie and her friends!!! Your love, devotion and support to all animals speaks for itself! I know what a great year 2017 will be for you, we are so hopeful to meet Foxie and her friends – ape and human – in 2017! Eye on the prize, Doreen! xo xo Donna”

Doreen and Donna, HaPpY BiRtHdAy to you both from all of the primates here at CSNW!! May your day be bursting with love, laughter, and all that makes your heart do Foxie-style backflips, pirouettes and spins! We could not be happier to celebrate with you. We’re so happy you are in the world!

Don, thank you so much for sponsoring this special day as a gift for the chimps and for all you both do to make the lives of so many others better.

From your pal, Foxie, a tribute to twins: