Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
From  Issue
18 August 2002
Missybelle's Happy Ending

By Lorraine Pirillo
- [email protected] 

Missybelle is a beautiful soon to be eight year old Java Macaque who now resides in a beautiful sanctuary in Oklahoma. I had the pleasure of Mothering her for seven years. I don't know if it was a pleasure for her being I was so ignorant to her needs for nurturing, even nutrition. I was misinformed about her care by the profit making pet shop that sold her to me. Could you imagine they told me that "monkey's don't need water they get enough in their food." Even I knew that any living creature needs water. I should have been more concerned when I requested the breeders name and address so I could talk to him about her care and they refused to give it to me.

Every time I would try to write about Missybelle I would get so upset and start crying that I couldn't do it. I thought if I wrote about having and loving Missy and then having to give her up for her sake it would discourage people from putting themselves and other primates though the heartbreak of separation, and maybe put a dent in the breeding of primates in captivity for profit. If I told my story, some people considering purchasing a primate would have second thoughts.

When I first got Missybelle she was a helpless seven week old infant that had been ripped from her mother's arms within days of her birth, this I found out later with much distress and research. She was adorable so dependent on me for everything, almost like a human infant. As Missy grew it became more and more evident that she wasn't a hairy little helpless human but a maturing wild primate whose needs are very different from those of humans.

I knew that I had to do something for Missybelle, I loved her so much, but there is only so much I could give her, because I am a human primate and she needed the comfort and companionship of a non-human primate. I noticed she was getting more and more depressed. She was sleeping a lot. She was getting more aggressive. I was the only one who could be around when she was out of the cage or she would strike out at others. She had bitten everyone in the house and some unsuspecting friends and family, some very serious bites that I myself had received. I tried everything to keep her amused. I bought her stuffed animals, toys, had custom cages made for inside and out so she would have plenty of room. Took her outside to swim in the pool, play in the sprinkler, but all this was still not enough. Plus she was alone when I went to work. As she became more aggressive she had to spend more time in her cage for fear she may hurt someone.

She needed the companionship of her own kind so she could be and act like a monkey. So I started seeking help on the Internet where I met Kari from Jungle Friends who told me about Linda and Mindy's Memory Primate Sanctuary in Oklahoma. If you only knew what I put Linda through when I first thought about sending Missybelle to her. She gave up on me a few times saying I wasn't ready. I think what she really wanted to say, but was too polite to is "Stop wasting my time I have more important things to take care of rather than consoling you about bringing Missy to the sanctuary." I kept grilling her about how much property, how big are the cages, what she feeds them, how she feeds them, if she could send me pictures. I just drove her crazy. I am so glad she didn't completely give up on us. Every time I thought this is it, she's had it with me, I would get back in her good graces by sending a picture of Missybelle, and ask her to reconsider, how could she say no to this face? Then she would forgive my ignorance and consider taking Missy.

We drove from New York to Oklahoma straight through thirty hours because we couldn't stop at a motel with Missybelle. Some may allow pets, but I don't think that includes monkeys. Missy surprised us because she was a great traveler. She gave me no trouble through the whole trip. Linda (director of Mindy's Memory Primate Sanctuary) was gracious enough to open her home to us. She let us come with Missybelle to check everything out and see if I thought this would be a suitable home for Missy. When I put Missybelle in the cage at the sanctuary and she held on to me through the bars, I could have died. It felt like I was abandoning my baby. That night we left and went to the hotel, needless to say I did not sleep a wink. I cried the whole night. My husband was getting worried, thinking I may be having a breakdown. By morning my face was so swollen from crying that my eyes were just slits. I think my husband and Linda thought I would be bringing Missy back to New York with me.

Then the next morning when we returned to the sanctuary, Linda had put Missy and Phoebus another Java Macaque together. She had done it while I wasn't there because she knew I would be devastated when Phoebus a dominant male would let Missy know he was the boss. Linda said there was a few bites, pinches and screams, afterwards they were just fine. Phoebus kept following Missybelle to get near her, and she was playing hard to get. Putting her nose up in the air and walking away, but when he would walk away from her, because she wasn't accepting his advances, she was right behind him being a tease. I knew then this was meant to be. I think it must be like when your child gets married and you have to let go. Only she was still a such a baby, even though she was 7 years old, she was still my baby. She had never been away from me since she was 7 weeks old. I still fed her 4 bottles everyday as well as other food. Every time I would try to stop the bottle I felt she was not getting enough to eat, so the bottle came back. I wasn't doing her any favors, just making her fatter and fatter and less healthy. What I couldn't do for 7 years Linda was able to do in 2 days, wean Missy off the bottle.

I won't say leaving Missybelle wasn't one of the most traumatic things I have ever had to do. My heart was breaking for my loss but I also knew it was the right thing for Missybelle, and it was a great gain for Phoebus also. By the way, I fell in love with Phoebus immediately. I couldn't have picked a better cage mate for Missy. He's not only one of the handsomest monkeys I have ever seen but he had a similar temperament as Missy. He was also a New Yorker (HAHA). When Linda and I were talking about them one day we realized they had both been treated by the same Vet on Long Island, small world.

Well, I was finally able to tear myself away from Missy and started on the journey home. I cried for 2 more days and couldn't wait to get home to run to my email to see if there was any news about Missy. I came into the house went straight downstairs to the computer my heart sank when I saw the empty cage next to my computer and the tears started flowing all over again. Sure enough the news was good, and I felt better. Not good but better.

Linda writes almost everyday, and she gives me updates and tidbits about the monkey. The best part of this story is my return visit. We returned to Oklahoma in November 2001, Missy had been there since August. Then I was positive I had done the right thing. Missy had lost some of her baby fat and was not struggling to climb due to all that excess fat she had when I first brought her to the sanctuary. She was spry, running and climbing, playing, teasing and being teased by Phoebus. Even her face looked more alert and happy. When she first saw me she did nothing until I said her name. Then she grabbed me through the cage, held me, kissed me and would not let go. It was almost like she was telling me I'm Okay, I'm Happy and Thank You.

I was so afraid she would have forgotten me, or worse rejected me. Phoebus was a little jealous that she was paying so much attention to us. So he would chase her away from us. I think he was afraid we might take her away. I could never separate these two, they were made for each other. Linda was so gracious, she welcomed us to stay with her. It was wonderful. I would look out one window and there was Missy and Phoebus playing and grooming. I would look out the other window and we had the capuchins looking at us through the window. I think we switched roles. They were watching us the same way we were watching them. It was like I died and went to Monkey Heaven. Even my husband fell in love with one of the capuchins named Cookie. He talks about her all the time.

I hope to retire in 7 years and be able to spend more time there and give Linda a hand. What keeps me sane is knowing how well Linda takes care of Missy, that she keeps me informed about Missy and all the monks, and my anticipated visits. I love to hear about all of them, but there is always that little tidbit I wait for, like a proud mother hearing good things about their children. You can't buy the kind of love and care Linda gives the monks, but you can support the food, housing
and necessary essentials. I happen to be very lucky as well as Missybelle having found Linda was a lifesaver. Now Missy has a full life with Phoebus and the addition of an adopted little girl Sunshine.

Two photo albums have been created of Missybelle, in the first one you will see Missybelle in her home prior to the sanctuary. There are photos of her loose in the house, in the backyard and in her cage. As you can see, she was treated as a member of the family. Yet, she was still becoming depressed. 

The second album is of Missybelle enjoying her life at Mindy's Memory Primate Sanctuary. 


Lorraine, Proud to have been Missybelle's Mom. Even prouder that I was able to find her companionship with her own specie.

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