Sunday, November 19, 2006

I learned it from a monkey -- jcarolek

When I was a little girl, my parents decided to get a new pet. Yes, we had the dog (Honey) and the cat (Yata), but into our family we welcomed Impy. Impy was a squirrel monkey. Now, I suppose it is natural for a family of eight (six kids and two parents) to NEED another mouth to feed, another joker to clean up after and, well, you get the picture.

Impy was purchased from a local pet store and it was clear from the beginning that he had some “issues.” He was generally afraid men and black gloves. Thus, the immediate analysis by my father, which was, of course, gospel to us, “Impy was caught in the wild by men wearing black gloves.” True, or false, the fact of the matter was that Impy was the first animal I had ever dealt with who had been born in the wild and then caught to be domesticated.

I learned a few lessons from living with Impy. The first was the lesson of instinct. This tiny monkey instinctively bit when he was cornered, or felt threatened…unless…the person threatening him was a child. How Impy knew the difference was beyond me, but children could squeeze him, pull his tail, generally irritate the living crap out of him and he would not bite them. But let an adult reach out in an aggressive motion and they’d drawn back a bloody hand!

Another lesson I learned was natural boundaries. Impy was never caged in our house. At night he slept in the laundry room, against the water heater and furnace. During the day he roamed free. In the good weather, we would let him outside where he would take great delight in cleaning the pests off our plants in the garden and off the fruit in the trees. And though we lived in a neighborhood, on a ¼ acre lot, Impy never roamed off our property. Nobody trained him to do that. He just did.

The final lesson I learned from this little guy was natural acceptance. As I mentioned earlier, before Impy came to live with us, Honey and Yata were already firmly entrenched in their positions in the family. Impy seemed to understand this instinctively. He was not shy, but he was not overly aggressive with them either. During the day, it was typical to find Yata, sleeping with all his effort, as only a cat can do, and Impy, curled up with him, enjoying the warmth Yata provided. Impy would curl up with Honey too, but my most distinct memories are of Impy “riding” Honey, as if she were his horse. The three seemed to simply get along, regardless of their obvious differences.

Sadly, we had Impy only four and a half years. He was an adult when we got him, but old age did not kill him. He died as a result of one of his regular fruit tree escapades. A peach tree, whose branches and peaches hung over the fence into our yard but which belonged to our neighbor, had been sprayed with insecticide. Impy did not know that the peach he tasted that day would be his last. Impy taught me lessons as a child that I find I use today. They say, “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” Well, for me that might be true, but I learned them from a monkey!

No comments: