Twenty years prior, in 1995, I drove all the way to Dilley from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I was an undergrad student at the University of Alberta and was in Dilley for a field school taught by Dr. Mary Pavelka from the University of Calgary. Back then, the sanctuary was known as the Texas Snow Monkey Sanctuary and was located at a local ranch just outside of Dilley. It was an unforgettable summer!
In 1997, I once again made the long drive to Dilley with my daughter, but this time as a master's student. Under the supervision and mentorship of my advisor, Dr. Linda Fedigan, I was there to study the "Relationship between ovarian cycle phase and sexual behavior in female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata)" (the title of my thesis). Spending my days among the monkeys that year was one of the most memorable and special times in my life - despite the many run-ins with the cacti! Getting to know the individual monkeys and all of the unique personalities was an exceptional learning experience. After our time was finished, it was a teary farewell to a place we called home for the past year. I returned to Canada with fond memories of my time among the snow monkeys of Texas.
Though I no longer got to see the monkeys every day, they were always on my mind as I wrote my master's thesis and published journal papers. Just a few years ago, I was invited to write a chapter in the book "The Monkeys of Stormy Mountain: 60 Years of Primatological Research on the Japanese Macaques of Arashiyama."
Always expecting to someday return, life moved on and different roads led me further from that dream. Then, earlier this year, I moved to Houston, Texas and was within reach once more of Dilley and the sanctuary. After getting in touch with Tim Ajax, who is now the director of the sanctuary, I was invited for a visit. My daughter, who is living in Montreal, flew down for the occasion and we made the considerably shorter drive from Houston to Dilley.
© 2015, Ann O'Neill Deal