Friday, March 28, 2008

Just a bunch of monkeys? -- jcarolek

When I was a kid, we had a monkey....well, actually, we had two over my childhood, but the monkey of which I write is Chico...the number two monkey....the capucian. When we moved to England in 1968 Chico had to go into quarantine for a period of months. While in quarantine, Dad arranged for Chico to have a little "dental work." Unlike our first monkey, Impy, a squirrel monkey, born and raised in the wild, but instinctively gentle with children, Chico reacted to all, children, adults, family, strangers, in similar fashion....if he was scared, he BIT. And with those canine teeth in place, the bites were wicked! So, Dad had the monkey dentist extract Chico's most dangerous weapons.

After the surgery, recovery and eventual release from quarantine, Chico was a different monkey from the one he had been prior to his Atlantic crossing. He was decidedly NOT fond of Dad. Now Dad was the owner and as such, was to enjoy a certain amount of respect from Chico. But, as is often the case with animals, the more we try to be "friendly" with them, the more they prefer others.

Still. Dad found a way to "encourage" Chico to like him again. He "established" fear of others, in Chico. After a while, all Dad had to say was, "Chico, Look, See!" and Chico was on guard, bearing his canine-less, most fierce, "grin" at the latest bogyman. We were all bogeymen in the beginning, but eventually, we learned to use Dad's trick to ensure Chico would crouch up against US, fiercely grinning at whomever we had indicated was the latest bogeyman!

This little tactic was quite useful in such things as catching Chico when he had "escaped" and was racing around eluding capture. It was also a rather "fun" trick to show guests.....(we actually THOUGHT they were impressed with Chico and our tricks with him....when, in later years I SUSPECT, they were simply taking notes for what they surely suspected was an eventuality....the news reporters asking about "those Fletchers" after some newsworthy craziness had occurred....Yeah, I remember them....they were NEVER normal....I ALWAYS thought there was something REALLY weird about THEM").

But, eventually, the game of making Chico scared of others, to ensure he "liked" us better grew old. Chico though, was still inclined to go into his defensive grin stance whenever someone new crossed the threshold....and we spent a fair amount of time then, soothing him....assuring him that this was a "good person."

Years later, as an adult, and parent of two children, children who had never lived through the "infamous Fletcher monkey experiments," I watched as my children and their friends vied for the loving attention of our animals....and I watched as the cat and dog always seemed to choose who they wanted to be with, rather than the one who wanted them the most....and I watched my children as they learned how to ensure the animals would seek THEM out, rather than the other way around....if they just went about their business, and did not chase after the animal's attention, the animal came to them of their own free will......but then again, these were not monkey's...animals closer in the tree to us....they were just dogs and cats....

And I learned from the animals something that I also find true for humans. I will never successfully convince someone to "like me" by making them dislike/fear someone else. And if I go about my business, living as I know I must to be true to myself, those who like me will naturally be there to share my world, and those who don't, well I couldn't enjoy convincing them to do otherwise matter how much I think I'd LIKE THEM, it is not something that can be forced......

...........unless we are all just monkeys.... and have been subjected to months of quarantine.... and had our canines removed.....

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