6 min read

My First Valentine

My first Valentine's Day card was given to my mother. I was enamored of her and followed her everywhere I was allowed to, but since she was an operating room nurse in a large hospital, there were times I simply wasn't allowed to be with her.

I didn't understand why, or have any concept of work or money or responsibility-or even why I felt sad or frustrated outside her presence. Most people were good to me, though, and I became interested in the myriad of new things and people around me, which helped with the brief separations.

As I grew a little older and started expressing some independence, I found great delight in my little explorations, freedoms, and the things I was learning in school, and dear mom was temporarily forgotten-until someone's scolding, or an accident, or a fearful event pulled her immediately to mind and I would get to her as fast as I could for comfort and support. She was my protector and my security base as I began to explore the world around me. At some point, I don't remember when, the Valentine's Day cards to her stopped.

When I first saw little Teddy, I quickly connected with how essentially anxious he was. He was bred at a private zoo and taken from his mother and sister at four months of age to be sold as a pet.

Inconceivably, cruelly, most primates bred for the pet trade are taken from their mothers at less than two weeks of age (frequently at just a day or two old) and then sold for profit to a human who is simply ill-equipped to be a proper monkey parent-regardless of the best of intentions. So, compared to other "pet" monkey babies, the little rescued vervet we took in was not as badly traumatized as most. But still, his nervousness would frequently come out and he would overact fearfully in some situations, and then seem completely unaware and nonchalant in others.

As we worked with him and attempted to reassure him, it became increasingly clear that what he really needed were other monkeys in his life. We introduced him to Charles, an adult male vervet, and the two did quite well together. We watched as Teddy became more self-assured day by day and smiled as he began to mimic some of Charles' adult behaviors. He also became secure enough to start teasing, stealing food, and running laps around the tiring older vervet-and all of that was very good-but Teddy still needed more.

When we introduced Bouf (an aging, sometimes grumpy female vervet who, at a young age, had been dumped by the side of a road in Detroit), Teddy immediately took to following her around and grooming her (and teasing, as he is wont to do, being a monkey and all). It was clear that they both benefitted from each other's company.

After all this time, here was Bouf, having never reared babies of her own, and little Teddy, who only had a very short time with his mother, finding comfort in each other.

Soon, Teddy will mature into a hopefully well-adjusted adult vervet and will be much more secure and much happier for his time spent with Bouf: his new "mom."

For my part, I think my mom is due a card this Sunday.

For the primates,
Tim