I stepped out of my Uber in Boston, MA and looked up at the building in front of me. Sitting in the second floor window were two capuchin monkeys curiously watching me.
I came all the way from Dallas to take a tour of Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers and I could not wait.
Established in 1979, Helping Hands is a non-profit that raises and trains capuchin monkeys as service animals to provide daily in-home assistance to people living with spinal cord injury or other mobility impairments. Helping Hands supports each service monkey and his or her human partner during their many years together through interactive mentoring of the placement, and close supervision of the monkey's behavioral, nutritional and veterinary needs. The average cost to raise, train, place, and support a service monkey is $40,000.
The monkey playroom, where I had seen the monkeys from the street, is like a breakroom for training monkeys. They can sit in the open window on nice days (and it was a beautiful one) and enjoy the fresh air. There I met Samson and his trainer. This room is where monkeys can play with each other and just generally take a break from their training duties.
We saw rooms with toys, which are used to begin training monkeys with positive reinforcement, a room filled with pvc pipes for swinging and climbing and a replica apartment/home room. It had a bed, computer, small kitchen, etc. Here the monkeys learn to do what they are asked as well as NOT do things they are not asked to do. Monkeys are naturally bright and curious so teaching them not to touch things, like computer keyboards, is important.
Finally, we saw one of their resident monkeys taking a bath. As monkeys age, they return to Helping Hands to live out their retirement years. The average placement usually lasts 7-10 years but some monkeys stay much longer - such as Kristi, who was with her person, Becky, for 26 years. It is possible for a monkey to be placed with more than one recipient over their lifetime.
These monkey helpers provide warmth, companionship and assistance to those in need. What a blessing for each recipient.
A recipient testimonial:
"Cell phone drops? Cell phone back on my lap. Bottled water drops? Water back on my lap. House lights turned on? Check. Trash in waste can? Check. My ability to live life as a disabled person? Priceless. With the help of Minnie my independence and laughter has been restored."
~Craig and Minnie
Caption for the photos:
"My little Sig Muffin means the world to me. She gives me purpose, and I cherish each and every day we spend together. Thanks to the guidance and unwavering support from the Helping Hands staff, our bond has blossoming into everything I imagined it could be!"
~ Travis and Siggy
"Melanie always just sees me, never the wheelchair."
~Scott and Melanie
All photos are owned by Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers. Trillium Studios is to thank for the lovely picture of the monkey helping his friend!