It’s interesting when you have time to reflect and think about how different your life is now because of one seemingly small decision you made a long time ago. For me, that decision was knocking on the front door of CHCI asking if they had any volunteer opportunities.
My parents were students at CWU when Washoe and her family first arrived in 1981 so I grew up hearing stories about these amazing chimpanzees. I was definitely interested in meeting Washoe, Tatu, Dar, and Loulis but never really thought I would do much more than volunteer as a docent. I slowly became more and more involved at CHCI and started working as an intern and then eventually became a graduate student.
I developed a strong passion for all living things and I have Washoe to thank for that. She taught me to take everyone on their own terms and blurred the line between animals and humans. The way I see the world and my place in it has definitely changed forever. I never thought on that day I knocked on CHCI’s front door that I would become so passionate about captive chimpanzee care and advocacy. But now, it’s all I do and all I ever want to do!
Caring for chimpanzees has taught me humility and gratitude. It has made me appreciate the small things–every time I make even a simple choice for myself I am reminded how lucky I am that I do not live behind a cage, and how grateful I am that Washoe was able to forgive us for putting her there.
Today I am thinking about how much Washoe influenced my life. I know that so many other people all over the world are connected to me because of that similar feeling of gratitude toward such a luminary in our history. As Roger said in Next of Kin, “It was Washoe who taught me that human is only an adjective that describes being. The essence of who I am is not in my humanness, but in my beingness.”
We miss you, Washoe. HUG/LOVE.