Saying Goodbye

The experiences I have had at CHCI have changed me in so many ways. They have certainly changed how I see the world, how I see the other beings we share this world with, and how I see my place in it. When I started at CHCI (nearly six years ago!) I was just 18 years old and newly living in Ellensburg on my own. As an undergraduate student I was looking for something to do other than go to classes, and I decided to volunteer as a docent for the  Chimposium Program

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Leading an observation for guests while Loulis checks everyone out.

After just a short time as a docent I became fascinated by this family of chimpanzees and decided to learn everything I could about chimpanzee care. To that end, I signed up for Prim 220 and started volunteering. As a student intern I learned all about safety, cleaning, meal preparation, and providing enrichment. I felt that I had found my niche so, after finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to continue working for the chimpanzees and become a graduate student. Once my graduate studies began, I trained on direct chimpanzee care which included serving meals and interacting with the chimpanzees. 

Now that I have completed my Master’s degree (which is really exciting!) it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter in my life. For my last day as a volunteer, I decided to put together some of the chimpanzees’ favorite foods as a special treat. Breakfast included fresh fruit bowls with organic bananas and an atypical breakfast item – cherry tomatoes (hey, they are technically a fruit!) and was followed by a dried fig forage. As a mid-morning treat I served some delicious pineapple coconut juice which was a bit hit with Tatu and Loulis although Dar opted instead to sit in the sun rather than have juice.

All three chimpanzees came in for lunch and after eating soup were served “ants on a log.” Instead of the traditional raisins on celery with peanut butter I used blueberry juice infused Craisins. In my personal opinion they were delicious, and the chimpanzees seemed to agree – everyone was food grunting excitedly! A mid-afternoon snack of granola bars was a particular treat for Loulis. For dinner I served fruit sandwiches on rolls with a side of pickles. The after dinner treat, to Tatu’s delight, was string cheese, one of her particular favorites. All in all, everyone seemed pretty pleased with the exciting food options today!

Over the past several years I’ve built strong relationships with all the primates that live and work at CHCI, so it was not easy for me to say goodbye. I would like to say to all the humans who accepted me into their family – thank you for everything! And, of course, I owe a thank you to the chimpanzees: to Washoe, for being such an inspiration and for teaching me to take everyone on their own terms; to Tatu, for always keeping me on my toes; to Dar, for his subtle but excellent humor; and to Loulis, for his tireless upbeat attitude and endless games of chase.

Being able to care for these amazing beings has taught me humility and gratitude. It has made me truly appreciate the small things. Every time I make even a simple choice for myself I am reminded how lucky I am that I have been granted freedom and how amazing it is that I can use that freedom to benefit the lives of those who do not have it.

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Signing FRIEND while interacting with Tatu

(Written by Debbie M.)

About Debbie Metzler

Debbie began working with chimpanzees in 2005 while she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Central Washington University. She continued on to earn a master's degree in primate behavior, and after graduation joined the adjunct faculty in the primate behavior department. Debbie is an experienced coordinator for education, outreach, and advocacy programs. Currently she is working toward putting an end to the exploitation of non-human apes everywhere.
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