Tyler was obtained in June 1995 from a pet shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. My boyfriend Vinny and I were on vacation when we came upon Tyler at a pet store while browsing around. When we first saw him, it was love at first sight, and he reminded us so much of the “baby” we hoped to have together. Tyler would suck his thumb and glance up at us. He was dressed in a diaper. He was lying on the back of a teddy bear, closely holding it. The shop manager let us hold him, and he cried when we put him down. We initially met him on a Friday, returned to see him on Saturday, and concluded we couldn’t leave without him.
Now that I know better, I recognize that all of Tyler’s lovely baby-like mannerisms were the consequence of bad experiences that he encountered around the time of his birth. Constant thumb sucking, sobbing, and grabbing at a plush toy are all aberrant behaviors that occur when breeders cruelly remove monkeys from their mothers’ arms at a young age. Monkeys frequently suckle and cling to their mothers’ backs for up to two years in the wild. Tyler was only four weeks old when I purchased him, indicating that he was probably kidnapped from his mother at a young age.
It didn’t take long after bringing Tyler home for me to know that no healthy infant would act like this wild beast. Within two years of his birth, he was tearing off diapers as soon as we placed them on him, destroying some of our most prized items, and aggressively attacking my beloved Vinny whenever my partner told him to behave. Tyler, on the other hand, had become a part of me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him under any circumstances. Tyler had bit both my parents and my boyfriend, but he had never attacked me in the five years I had nurtured him. I fooled myself into believing Tyler and I had a particular link and that he would never exhibit anything other than his compassionate and caring side to me. On the fourth of July weekend of 2000, I warned Tyler that he couldn’t gnaw apart a straw rocking chair in my family room. He began biting into me after hearing me utter the word “NO.” I panicked and was terrified of him for the first time in my life. I phoned the cops, and they sprayed mace into his eyes to force him back into his cage. I sobbed as he sobbed over being shot with mace.
Tyler’s bites put me in the ER, and I was informed how fortunate I was. He could have sliced my wrist if he had bitten a little higher up my wrist, and I would have perished. I couldn’t go close Tyler after the assault. As soon as I approached his cage, he would try to attack me. In despair, I phoned Jungle Friends, and Kari rescued me.
It was tough for me to relinquish Tyler’s birthright and send him to Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, which I now refer to as “paradise on Earth for monkeys.” I nearly changed my mind the night Tyler was about to leave for Jungle Friends, but I realized how selfish and cruel I was being. Kari Bagnall, Director of Jungle Friends, came to our New York home to assist us in preparing Tyler for the voyage, since I was no longer able to manage him. I made the correct decision. Tyler, my mother, and I flew to Gainesville, Florida the following day to meet Kari. We remained with Tyler at Jungle Friends for almost a week to aid him transition. I recognized how appropriate this was for Tyler the instant I brought him to Jungle Friends and wished I had known better sooner.