I believe repeated trauma to the head is what eventually killed him.
This week you may have read about Darwin, the rhesus monkey who became an brief Internet sensation when he suddenly appeared in a Toronto Ikea, shuffling around in a tiny coat. Little monkeys in tiny people clothes are adorable, but totally illegal, and potentially deadly. Darwin was taken by animal control services to a sanctuary where he currently resides. Everyone’s totally fine with this except Darwin’s self-proclaimed “mother,” Yasmin Nakhuda, who says he, the monkey, should have the right to choose. My advice to her is this: If you love him, let him go.
When I lived in New York my apartment had a mouse problem. I didn’t particularly care. Their ingenuity was impressive and I took to crafting increasingly complex trap arrangements. My roommate wasn’t nuts about mice though, so we started putting out glue traps. These work pretty well but they end up putting you in a difficult position down the road when you have to decide whether to let the trapped mouse starve in a goo pile or kill it outright. About the third time around I decided I’d had enough killing and that it was time to do the right thing. I painstakingly extracted our victim from the trap and named him Milford.
I bought him a cage and velvet sawdust, and fed him fine cheese. I supplied him with water, the occasional Cheerio, and conversation. But Milford was having none of it. Even after weeks he cowered in my presence, a furry hump poking out of the sawdust, visibly quivering. When I was out of the room I could still hear him jumping repeatedly against the top of his cage in an attempt to escape. Clack, clack clack. I believe repeated trauma to the head is what eventually killed him. He was buried in the woods outside the family estate in Pound Ridge, New York.
“Why, Milford,” I thought. “I was trying to help. I gave you food and shelter. I lifted you out of the gutter of the universe into a higher existence.” I was wrong. Like Darwin's owner, I was projecting human needs onto the animal that were never there. I thought I knew what he needed. I thought he would learn. But there’s a reason that dogs are the most common pet on the planet. We share a deep bond. Animals can learn indifference in their lifetime, but true acclimation and domestication is the subtle bending of instincts over generations. At the risk of making an obvious statement, a mouse is not a dog. Nor is a rhesus monkey. Disney was wrong. Very few animals are your friends. I have seen Outbreak. The best thing you can do for most animals is let them go. Fly, Willy. Fly.
(That scene has not aged well.)
Anyway, without further “stories-about-things-emotionally-balanced-people-don’t-do,” here’s your Weekend Reading!
Learn the story of Deadliest Catch producer Thom Beers, the man took over reality television one blue-collar profession at a time. Charles Homans, The New York Times.
"Beers and his crew found themselves stuck at sea for a week as the boat battled an uncommonly ferocious storm. Waves swelled to the height of a four-story building. Beers pitched in with the work on deck, only to fall victim to the fisherman’s ailment known as 'the claw,' the muscles and joints in his hands knotting up hopelessly. Still, he was aware of the elemental intensity of the footage: the crew lurching back and forth on the slick wood and steel in their orange and yellow rain gear, the prehistoric strangeness of the snow crabs, the terrifying void of the heaving sea. When he got back to California, he called Burns. 'Listen,' he said. 'There’s something big here.'"