Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v07n10)
Howling at the Moon by Susan Smith
posted: May 14, 2010
Sometimes you read about people owning exotic pets and the drama associated. Such was the case last year of the woman in Connecticut who owned a chimp that attacked her friend. The 200 pound chimp on Xanax that mauled the woman beyond recognition and near death has prompted a nationwide push to ban owning primates. The Illinois Senate has presented such a bill to Gov. Pat Quinn. Pet stores have been banned from selling monkeys for years. Monkeys are not good pets.
When I was nineteen I moved in to an apartment with my best friend from high school. We had talked about it since we were fourteen. We were ready to begin our lives and what life would be complete without a pet? We went to the pet store in Speedway and impulsively (isn't that always the case?) bought a squirrel monkey. Sally had just broken up with her boyfriend Frank so out of spite she named the monkey after him. . . Francis. We brought Francis home with a large parrot cage. Squirrel monkeys are small; 10-12 inches in body and 1-3 pounds. But they are big in brain and intelligence, something we were not. They have the largest brain to body mass ratio among all the monkey species in the world. Now all we had to do was convince the landlady that Francis would be a quiet, non-destructive little pet that would not harm anyone or anything. After all, he would be in a cage all day. Her only concern was that she needed to fumigate the apartment for roaches because the last young guys to live there were untidy. We were told Francis would have to be moved out on that day. We discovered that Francis loved the bugs and couldn't eat them fast enough We did not love them and were grossed out, even more so when he would reach out of his cage eagerly grabbing for the ones that Sally had just squashed. We had a horrible relationship with that monkey. He hated us. I don't blame him. Monkeys are very social animals and we left him alone in a cage all day and most of the night while we went to work and then out on dates. When we would let him out he made the most of it and would not let us capture him. He would run up the drapes, across the shower rod and to any high places he could go. We would have to throw a blanket over him. We lived in a building on Meridian Street that was filled with older folks who probably thought we were fallen young women, when in reality we worked odd and late shifts as telephone operators for Indiana Bell. One day a guest came and we opened the door. Francis flew out and into the hall on the third floor. We finally captured him in the basement laundry room after nearly giving one old lady a terrible fright when she opened her door to see what the commotion was. I had visions of Francis flying into her apartment.
We dressed him in doll clothes and took him out on Halloween. We had a professional photo taken of the three of us and sent it as our Christmas card. But he became lonely and neurotic and sat on the cage's perch and pulled the hair off of his tail. We took him to the vet and were told to apply an ointment to the tail. It was a great way to get rid of dates that we didn't want to see again - invite them up to the apartment and then ask them to help put ointment on the monkey's tail. But there was my great husband Dennis. Sally and I broke up housekeeping (we are still the best of friends). She kept the TV and the ironing board and somehow I got the monkey. When Dennis proposed he made it very clear that the proposal did not include the monkey. My brother had a friend that was an exotic dancer. She worked nights and could be a friend to Francis during the day, so my exotic pet went to live with the exotic dancer and they were best buddies. Francis slept in her lap and they watched TV. Then one day Francis got pneumonia and died. Donna, the dancer, was grief stricken and called my brother to bury the monkey.
This is where my story ends. I swear it is true. I did not make up any of it. It is humorous and I dare any of you to top it with a pet story. Now the years have gone by and the immaturity of it is obvious. Too often we are foolish about our expectations of owning a pet. In the end it is the animals that suffer. I am glad that there are exotic animal laws and bans that protect them from such foolishness. Francis deserved better. He should have been allowed to live his life in South America where he belonged instead of swinging off my shower rod.
Pets make you smile. Harry, my brother, this one is for you. You need a smile. I love you.
Susan Smith is a life-long area resident and is the owner of City Dogs Grocery located at 52nd and College. Send your pet related questions/comments to susan@BroadRippleGazette.com