The Chimp Who Loved Me: And other slightly naughty tales of a life with animals
Never work with animals or children, or so goes the old axiom. The Chimp Who Loved Me—And Other Slightly Naughty Tales of Life with Animals is, as the title implies, about animals. The premise, as laid out in the book description, sounded like it might be just the change of pace I was looking for, something out of the ordinary, perhaps lighthearted. More importantly it heralded the promise of something authentic—and it didn’t disappoint.
I know what you’re thinking; you see the title—The Chimp Who Loved Me—and wonder if my proclivities are suspect. The closest thing to any biblical cross-relations with the animal kingdom in this book is Annie Greer’s unnerving story about babysitting a baby chimpanzee named Sammy. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you think chimps are cute and cuddly I would highly recommend you get a copy of this book and absorb the first chapter, which highlights the underlying theme of our role at the top of the food chain and why we should respect it . . . and the animals.
Ms. Greer and Mr. Vandehey structured the stories such that they provide not only laugh-out-loud instances of human/animal miscues, but Annie is very emphatic in her warnings concerning our predilection for getting up close and personal with wild animals. She does an admirable job of not just saying “keep a safe distance,” but also explains why the need to do so. Ants in your pants are a picnic compared to the relative dangers of a squirrel in their stead. Camels do more than spit (nasty enough in itself); small deer possess agility and sharp hooves; and of course chimpanzees make a drunk redneck look safe by comparison. Speaking of which . . .
I have been to Florida, but as with many tourists, my travels were along the typical tourist corridor through Orlando. The picture Annie paints of Florida’s denizens outside the relative safety of this corridor is at once genuinely funny and equally disturbing—a brisk and hair-raising walk, hip-deep, through patches of backwater Florida’s genetic detritus. While this likely would dismay the Florida tourism authority it adds color, a Deliverance kind of backdrop, to these remarkably entertaining stories.
The Chimp Who Loved Me is engaging, gathering its gravitas from a faithful adherence to real life. Annie and her husband Kent have an enduring love for the animals they care for, but they don’t present their stories in the sterilized, Disney-esque fashion you might expect—the real world just doesn’t work that way. Dr. Dolittle dressed snazzy and used proper English when talking to his charges, but the world of the Greer’s is often chaotic, demanding, and unpredictable, three ingredients which rarely call out the saint in any of us. The Chimp Who Loved Me is real life, described in real language, but in the most honest and genuine manner.
So do yourself a favor—take a break from your regular reading material and get yourself a copy of The Chimp Who Loved Me. Scamper through the pages, smile and laugh at our own idiocy wrapped in the best of intentions—or sometimes just the idiocy of others. I promise you will enjoy it as much as I did. As a bonus, 20% of all proceeds will go to various animal welfare organizations.