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Friday, October 30, 2009

Beautiful and Moving

The Story Behind Our Photo of Grieving Chimps
Posted Oct 29,2009

The November issue of National Geographic magazine features a moving photograph of chimpanzees watching as one of their own is wheeled to her burial. Since it was published, the picture and story have gone viral, turning up on websites and TV shows and in newspapers around the world. For readers who’d like to know more, here’s what I learned when I interviewed the photographer, Monica Szczupider.

On September 23, 2008, Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s, died of congestive heart failure. A maternal and beloved figure, Dorothy had spent eight years at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, which houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade.

After a hunter killed her mother, Dorothy was sold as a “mascot” to an amusement park in Cameroon. For the next 25 years she was tethered to the ground by a chain around her neck, taunted, teased, and taught to drink beer and smoke cigarettes for sport. In May 2000 Dorothy—obese from poor diet and lack of exercise—was rescued and relocated along with ten other primates. As her health improved, her deep kindness surfaced. She mothered an orphaned chimp named Bouboule and became a close friend to many others, including Jacky, the group’s alpha male, and Nama, another amusement-park refugee.

Szczupider, who had been a volunteer at the center, told me: “Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group. The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy's chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration. But perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence. If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures."

Sanaga-Yong was founded in 1999 by veterinarian Sheri Speede (pictured at right, cradling Dorothy’s head; at left is center employee Assou Felix). Operated by IDA-Africa, an NGO, it’s home to 62 chimps who reside in spacious, forested enclosures.

Szczupider submitted the photograph to Your Shot, a magazine feature that encourages readers to send in pictures they've taken. The best are published on the website and in the magazine.

—Jeremy Berlin

Monday, October 19, 2009

Closure.....and Closure

We scattered my mother's ashes yesterday, in the same place we scattered my father's ashes, almost four years earlier. It's hard to believe so much time has passed. And time it was, as my mum had been sitting in my closet for almost two years.

The reverend read from Corinthians, focusing on the love between my parents, followed by a short prayer and then he read the same poem that I'd read at my dad's service (not sure if that was a coincidence or he'd taken note of it as I remember him asking me for a copy on the day I read it). We closed with the traditional hymn for those connected with the sea, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (aka "For Those in Peril on the Sea") and a short silence for personal 'prayer'.

Ashes, that is all that remains. I like to think that scattering these in the same place we scattered my father's ashes, has reunited them.

It was a carbon copy of my dad's service, same reverend, same people (less two or three out of town) and the same loving feeling of celebrating a revered person now lost from our lives. It is always interesting to me how people saw my parents, with so much of the warmth seeming to come from my father while my mother is more usually described as humorous. Which is, in reflection, pretty much how it was for their children.

The rose I cast forth was crossed by the rose my sister then cast forth - not sure about the significance, other than read on.....

Well, that was the first closure. On this trip, Rhona has ceased to be anything to me. She has once again dissolved into the most ridiculous intoxicated drama queen, has lashed out at me repeatedly and stepped way over any line I can ever tolerate. Some highlights of Saturday evening, where she turned up for dinner with her drunk hat on:

First there was the fact that she 'killed' my notebook by dropping it on the floor the night before - and made it my fault for mentioning it to her. Oh and also claimed she hadn't broken it.

Then there were histrionics about 'burying my mother tomorrow'. This from the woman who couldn't be bothered to go and spend Christmas with her mother even knowing it would be her last (and was only 5 hours away).

I was also to blame for not inviting our brother to the service the next day, even though she had agreed to take care of inviting people the week before. Not that he could come anyway, but I should have contacted him because she's not close to him. I'm not.

Apparently I had forced her to do things she wasn't good at, like making some of the arrangements for the service. Oh excuse me, I never realised I was so skilled at funeral arrangements.

Oh and let's not forget the "fucking vicar" she had to contact. Ummmm and agreed to when we discussed everything. (Please remember all this was being said/shouted in a restaurant and the F word was being used very liberally).

She hates the power I have over her. Well if there is any power, she has self-appointed it and plays into it. For example she hasn't bothered to open her own bank account where she can put her inheritance money so it's still in my account. Which means that every time she needs money, she has to ask me. And I transfer it to her with no question. She has given me that power (which I neither use nor abuse) and now resents me for having it.

There was much more, so much more, such as the favour she had done for me in keeping the business running/running it into the ground, whichever way you want to look at it. And that I hadn't ever bothered with the 'accounts' she sent me - hardly relevant as accounts when they failed to record any of the substantial amounts of cash I continued to inject into the business.

The pièce de résistance, however, was the fact that I am not looking after Lupo properly (in her book) because, apparently, I'm a "fucking fat lazy cow". Nice one don't you think? This is after I get up at 5:30am to walk him, make sure he has two long walks a day and also that he has a couple of evening walks and always one just before bed. But because I don't personally take him on every single walk (pretty hard to do when one is working, I have engaged the services of a dogwalker) I am a "fucking fat lazy cow".

At that point I got up, went and paid the bill and left with Steve and Lupo. We haven't spoken two words to each other since, not even at, or after, the service yesterday. She returns to Tenerife tomorrow, to fix up my apartment and remove herself and her asswipe boyfriend from it and a legacy of nine years of free rent. Finally, though she has some other business to take care of over there and I reminded her of that.

As the saying goes: Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Friday, October 02, 2009

My Boys

Update 5 October:

The vet gave me some appetite stimulants for Lupo yesterday and he ate, and enjoyed, his first complete meal since he arrived. Note to self: Wash fingers after handling those tablets if they can do what they did for Lupo in the space of a couple of hours!!

The boys arrived in fairly good form a week ago.

Toffee has settled in to what must seem like heaven - love, food, attention, love, food, attention.

Lupo, my darling, beautiful, amazing boy, however, isn't doing very well. He hasn't eaten a proper meal since arriving, subsisting on some hand-fed food, some treats and not too much more. I'm taking him to the vet on Sunday (am back at work today and yesterday and tomorrow are holidays here so no vet).

He's happy when at the beach and swimming, running or the ever-popular frisbee-catching, good when resting at home (yes, I let him on our bed and sofa), but morose the rest of the time.

Thank goodness he's still drinking lots of water.

Rhona and I differ on our approach to this lost appetite. I favour finding things he WILL eat and if necessary hand-feeding him. She shouts at him when he doesn't eat from his dish and orders him around. She is using this very slow adjustment to his new life to chastise him for not eating and then telling Steve (she wouldn't dare say this to me) that she will take him back with her.

The climate is not what he's used to, I now find out that she's back with the asshole boyfriend who has a dog which is Lupo's buddy, he's in all new surroundings. It will take time for him to settle into his new life without his regular buddy and which cannot include three-hour outings every day - as I explained to her, noone can sustain that and have a job. I had to bite my tongue so as not to say "and have their rent paid for them for almost nine years".

Steve adores him, he adores Steve. They even went for an after-dinner walk/run yesterday which was so good for them both to be together like that. Of course Rhona had to use it against me as being yet more proof I'm not looking after Lupo. I slapped her down with just one sentence - a reminder that only under her care, had the poor dog pooped in his own home, a source of awful embarrassment for one of the cleanest dogs I've ever known. And the reason for that embarrassment? She slept through his crying to be taken out with a sore tummy. No doubt a wine-induced slumber.

Fingers crossed we can sort out his eating. I will sit on the floor and hand-feed him every kind of meat he loves, to get him over this. I hope the vet can help, too. It saddens me more than I can say, to see him like this.


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