Monkey Business

I admit I’m a sucker for NPR — National Public Radio.  Whenever I’m in my car, the dial goes immediately, not to music, but to 90.9, our local FM Station.  I’m interested in the news, of course, but equally fascinated by the different kinds of social, economic, and cultural segments they offer.


baby chimpRecently the topic was monkeys – more specifically, chimpanzees.  You may not know that chimpanzees are mammals that have the closest DNA relationship to Homo sapiens (98% to 99.4% from recent genetic studies), or as scientists say,  they are the “closest extant relative[s] to humans.”


So now I’m intrigued.  I share 98% of my DNA with those hairy creatures with the big teeth?  I listened with interest to the story of a scientist who had raised a bonobo chimpanzee, indigenous to the Congo and an endangered species, from infancy in a human environment.  When she tried to return the chimp to the wild all sorts of craziness occurred.  Lucy, the bonobo chimpanzee, stopped eating, she pulled out her hair, she followed her human mother around and would not venture into the wild.  After a year – yes! a year of living with Lucy in a wilderness habitat, Lucy still would not let go of her human lab

The story ends tragically for both Lucy and her mother, so I won’t dwell on the rest of the story, but I found myself thinking about Lucy – Lucy who learned sign language to communicate, Lucy who “spoke” using a code of computer keyboard strokes, Lucy who clearly had the ability to remember and bond and – dare I say – love? like a human.


It was fascinating, eye-opening, and so very sad.


I don’t currently have a pet.  We used to have a beautiful pedigreed black Labrador named Ebony who was a 100-pound softie and whose antics were a joy to watch.  I had a cat named Tammy when I was a youth and I remember crying when she struggled to recover from her spaying surgery.  My son Tyler had a lovely blue ribbon snake that was forever getting out of its cage and curling up around his sisters’ feet.  Good times.

blue ribbon snakeBut I’d never considered having a monkey as a pet.  But then, I’d never consider having a Rottweiler or a pit bull as a pet either.  I like my pets small and furry and cuddly.  I’m afraid a chimpanzee pet would outfox or outmaneuver me in some way.




What about your pets?  What do you prefer, dogs or cats, fish or hamsters?  Have you ever had (or considered getting) an unusual pet?  I once had a college classmate from Florida who brought a baby alligator across the country and kept it in his bathtub until it got too large.  Crazy, I say, crazy!

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  • Deanna says:

    I’m very much a dog person and used to have a couple of dogs for pets. We don’t have any at the moment but I’d really like another one at some point.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Deanna, I’m afraid all you got today was a rooster. The Golden Rooster. He is barely house-trained and not all that domesticated. He does love Tim Tams (ask Helen) and other sweet treats (ask anyone who has hosted him). The good news is, after he wrecks your house and raids your pantry, he will doubtless leave you and go home with someone else tomorrow morning. Fickle fowl! 😀

      • Deanna says:

        LOL. What a dreadful character. I’ll try to keep him well fed though and out of too much mischief. I better stock up on Tim Tams. 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Hi, Deanna! Glad to see you beat everyone out for the rooster today. Maybe it’s a good thing you don’t have a dog and the chook in the house at the same time. Mr. Golden Rooster tends to be rather needy.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’m a cat person, in spite of the fact that they’re pretty aloof animals and you never quite know what you’re getting with one of them.

      But I’ve always wanted a dog, or maybe just the idea of a dog, lying on my feet at the foot of the bed!

  • Jane says:

    Hello Jo,
    We never had pets when we were kids and since then I’ve only had fish. I like bettas, but if I ever become rich I will get myself a koi pond. One of my friends had a ferret, but I steered clear of it.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Bettas are beautiful, Jane. In case not everyone knows they’re Siamese fighting fish (Yes, I had to look it up lol). Fish are fascinating creatures to watch. A koi pond sounds lovely.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Aren’t ferrets a little aggressive? I know it’s illegal in California to have a domesticated ferret.

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Jo, I haven’t found ferrets to be aggressive at all. Everybody I know who has them says they make wonderful pets.

        Never heard of them being aggressive–well, not any more than any other animal. All animals will bite on occasion.

  • Helen says:


    At the moment we have a Mereema dog they are Italian sheepdogs he is white and over large and loves playing in puddles when it rains lol. I have had a Lt of dogs and cats over the years and of course birds and fish but nothing unusual although having a monkey would be interesting one of my friends kept pet rats years ago

    Have fun

  • flchen1 says:

    NPR has the most interesting stories! (That and the Wall Street Journal…) We don’t have any pets right now, but I have to say, I don’t think I’d ever considered a monkey as a possibility! Wow!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      It’s a little creepy to me, too, Fedora, but mainly because I think they’re more intelligent than I think they are. Does that make sense?

      Wahhh, I like the Wall Street Journal too, but can’t afford it!

  • Mozette says:

    I’m a bird person… through and through… what I don’t know about birds isn’t worth knowing… and um… did you know that chickens are related to snakes? Yep, they are… through dna they are… look at the chicken’s feet the next time you come across one, all scaly like a snake, that’s the part of their dna that’s in them… how I’m not sure, but I’ve learned that.

    Unusual… let’s see… my next door neighbours I have breed spotted pythons. Yeah… nuts, but they’re lovely people. And Spotted Pythons only grow a metre long and are lovely critters… these people also have 2 cats. 😛

    Personally, I wouldn’t have snakes as pets… but we have owned a lizard when I was little… it was my brother’s. He was a Bearded Dragon and was the most gorgeous thing called Spike. We did need a permit to keep him as he’s a wild animal; and a native animal of Australia.

    But mostly, I’m a bird person. 🙂

    • Caren Crane says:

      Mozette, somehow the fact that chickens and snakes are related doesn’t surprise me too much. Considering, you know, our inhabitants of the Lair and all. I knew the Golden Rooster was a suspicious character!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Birds are lovely creatures, Mozette. I love watching their antics outside my window in the backyard.

      I did not know that about chickens and snakes! Weird.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Jo, my father was a veterinarian and there were 5 of us kids. You can only imagine the number and variety of animals in the house when we were growing up. Mostly dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats, but also mice, gerbils, hamsters, birds, turtles and fish (LOTS of fish), Many different sorts of each type of creature, too. It was exhausting.

    As an adult, I have no desire to to have anything other than my one outdoor cat, Kimba. He was an orphaned feral rescue and we’ve had him since he was about 4 weeks old. There are coyotes in our neighborhood (in suburban Raleigh, NC!), so we have to put him in the garage before sunset every night and let him out in the morning.

    He likes to play and wrestle. I’m sure this is because he was orphaned as a baby. It took a while for him to figure out it was okay to put teeth on people but not to break skin. He is very playful, but like to use his teeth…gently. 😀 He has quite a setup in the garage, with a large cotton area rug (his playmat), his kitty condo with varying bedding for different seasons. A light for warmth in the winter. A fan to cool things off in the summer. More toys that you can shake a stick at (or FIND in the rather junky garage).

    The nice thing is, since we’ve had him from so young, he doesn’t mind being shut up every night. That’s his routine, so he just trots in and expects to be fed and have the door closed. He’s the easiest cat we’ve ever owned! Except for the whole getting stuck in a tree while it was snowing thing in February…that was expensive and traumatic.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Awww, your description of Kimba sounds wonderful! That’s the kind of cat I want. And actually Kimba sounds like he has a pretty cushy deal in the Crane household.

  • Becke says:

    I may be in the minority, but I believe wild animals should not be pets. That said, I don’t agree with raising them domestic and then ditching them in the wild. We live in a throw-away society. Living things should not be in that category.

    I’m a dog person and we have a Moyen Poodle.

    In my youth I caught anything I could get my hands on: baby opossums, alligator from Florida, fish, squirrels, rabbits, birds, turtles, chickens, cats, guinea pigs, and frogs. I don’t do snakes–creep me out.

    On the ranch we had cattle, horses, llamas, dogs and cats.

    I’m with you on mammals. I prefer furry creatures. They don’t have to be small, but they do need to be friendly and not aggressive. That would exclude cows and bulls.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I sure agree with you on the no wild animals as pets philosophy, Becke. They’re too unpredictable IMO.

      Sounds like you’ve had a wide experience with all kinds of animals.

      These friends I had from Florida (last name was Boone and there were about 5 brothers), they drove across country with the baby alligator and kept it in the bathtub until it grew and grew. I don’t remember what happened to it but I believe there was quite a kerfluffle with it and the campus authorities!

  • Shannon says:

    I’m a cat person. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, but they’re so much work even though I see what they give back to their owners.

    I lost Bobbie, a domestic black shorthair who weighed 22 pounds at his prime) to cancer several years ago, and a year ago 4th of July I had to have my Julia (Bobby’s sister) put down because she was convulsing from a brain tumor. I need to move from my current apartment to another (cheaper) apartment until I am able to buy again. So no kitty-kat for me. I have a much greater selection of places and price-ranges. But on bad days, I miss Julia curling up beside me and keeping me company.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    As most people know, I’m a cat person 🙂 I’ve always rescued cats and most of them have been black or tuxedo, because people are less likely to adopt them (for ridiculous superstitious reasons) and because they are mean to black cats.

    I would love to have a penguin or two, but that might not be practical LOL! I’ve settled for adopting them in the wild instead.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      A penguin, Anna?? How would you care for it? Where would you keep it? I must confess I’d never thought of a penguin as a pet. Don’t they need cold weather or is that just me being ignorant :-))

  • Amy Conley says:

    Merlin the cat just passed away this past Sunday. He was 12 years old and spoiled rotten. We also have Gwennis, short for, you guessed it, Queen Guinevere, she’6. Then a couple of years ago I found a kitten we named Lancelot. He was so beautiful, the longest, golden blonde hair, and jjustice 1 as sweet as can be. Too bad someone stole him one night. And now we have Skittles. Talk about spoiled! She belongs to grand#2, but he has to keep her here. And oldest son has a beautiful part lab, part golden retriver named Dakota, or Kota as we call her. She’s 8 and the most loving dog I’ve ever seen.
    BTW, ALL our pets, living and dead were all rescuses. We live on a dead-end road and people just dump their animals down here.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, everyone! A bit of blog mixup today — nothing new as we’re all a bit crazy in the Lair!

    Anyway, you’re stuck with me — again! — today.

    I hope everyone is having a nice Sabbath day, and wherever in the world you are, life is sweet for you.

  • catslady says:

    I pretty much love all animals but currently I have cats and care for ferals (and feed raccoons, possums and birds and whatever else is out there lol.) I’ve had two wonderful dogs and many inside cats and some special ferals/strays and also had fish. I do know that my husband when living in Africa cared for a neighbor’s monkey and he said he was very mean but that could have been how he was raised or the type of monkey. I think a lot of animals are smarter than we think and have emotions if not exactly human emotions but emotions all the same.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I suspect animals are a lot smarter than we think too, Catslady. I really find it fascinating that dogs, with their superior sense of smell, can apparently tell when someone is critically ill, like with cancer.

  • Steve Doyle says:

    As an asthmatic child with allergies, all we could have in the house were spiders, snakes, and praying mantises. My poor mom! As I grew out of allergies, dogs and cats came into the household. I tend to relate more to the cats as I am comforted by their Zen-like qualities. I do have an exotic pet. Thoreodore, or “Thor” for short. He is an African Pied Crow and is quite a handful.

  • Jo, what an interesting post. I must say I’ve always been an animal lover. Like you, I don’t have a pet at the moment – I tend to make a huge fuss of my friends’ animals! I grew up on a farm so we had cats and dogs and I had a horse and a budgerigar. My mum used to make pets of the chooks when she grew up – apparently they used to sit on her lap when she was a little girl just like a cat would. I kinda get the snake. A friend of mine’s boyfriend used to breed them for pet shops and after my initial, No way, Jose reaction, I actually came to see the beauty in them. Mind you, Australia’s pythons and carpet snakes really are beautiful, even if you don’t particularly want them living in your house!

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    Personally my son and I both prefer cats, I do like dogs but cats match my lifestyle better. To me cats are calming.

  • Great post, Jo. Like you I am a huge fan of NPR. It is the only radio station to which I listen – car or house. So many fascinating articles and programs and of course, music that is much more to my taste – classical, blues, jazz.

    This idea of raising a “wild” animal and then rehabilitating it back into the wild seldom ends well for the animal. If you raise the animal in captivity you are obligated to give it the very best life you can – either with you or in a safe sanctuary environment. Any animal that has learned to trust humans in any way is a sitting duck if released back into the wild. And the idea of raising an animal with the intelligence of a chimpanzee or other higher primate and then forcing it into the wild is cruel – pure and simple. When dogs are dumped at shelters after years of living with the same family they are almost always euthanized because they spend weeks and months in mourning for their family, which is not conducive to getting them adopted. They lie or sit in the corner of their run with their face to the wall, they start at every voice and every footstep only to be crushed because their family isn’t coming back for them. How much more then does a chimpanzee feel abandoned when the only family they have known tries to dump them into the wild. Do I think people should be allowed to keep “wild” animals as pets? No. But once you take a fellow creature into your house to raise you are responsible for seeing they have the very best life they can have – if not with you then in a safe, secure sanctuary with the knowledge you will visit them often. Just my two cents.

    As anyone who has been a long time Lair visitor knows I have had quite the variety of pets. I have had everything from tarantulas to ferrets to hedgehogs to a Russian blue fox to a wolf hybrid to a 13 foot python to a six foot iguana to a 50 pound White’s throat monitor lizard to several parrots – one with an absolutely atrocious vocabulary. Now I am fairly tame with dogs and one cat who rules the house with an iron paw. We are ALL afraid of Miss Rebecca Marie!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL at Miss Rebecca’s “iron paw,” Louisa.

      I agree with the concept of owners’ responsibilities for their pets, not only traditional ones, but non-traditional ones. Raising a pet is like rearing a child — it’s a lifetime commitment.

  • We don’t currently have pets, but we had lots when I was growing up. We lived on a country road where people would unfortunately dump their unwanted animals. They would find their way to our house and then they’d become our much-loved companions. I’m more of a dog person than a cat person, though I love both. Alas, my allergies don’t let me have cats around very much anymore. I would never in a million years have a snake because they creep me out. During my freshman year of college, one of the gals in my dorm had a pet snake and it got loose. I kept having horrible visions of it making its way out of the air vent next to my bed. I was so relieved when they found it.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      And when a snake gets loose it will search for a warm body to curl up to. The way my son Tyler lured him back was to put a lamp down on the carpet. It would draw the snake to it. But several times, it wormed its way into the covers of one of my daughters. It’s amazing that either the blue ribbon snake or Tyler survived!

  • That’s fascinating, but sad to hear about Lucy, Jo.

    Since I’m highly allergic to cats, I prefer dogs. We had a standard poodle when I was growing up and then we’ve had Rocky, who was a Boxer/Lab mix and now Rusty, who is a Boxer/Red Healer mix. (I like my dogs big.)

  • Jo Robertson says:

    There’s something very comforting about a big dog, isn’t there, Suzanne? Our Ebony, at 100 pounds, would wait on the back patio until one of the teens from the baseball field behind our property would hit a fowl ball over our fence. Ebony would wait until the kid got close to the ball, immobile but with a low growl. Just when the kid picked up the ball, he’d run like heck and chase the kid back over the fence. We caught a lot of softballs back in the day!

    Ebony loved that little game. The kids? Not so much.