I’m not sure what year Frankie was born. But I recall what it took to pry him from his mother’s clutches. As I pulled his small fingers from her breast hair, I could see SuzieQ’s face. He was one of the first, but not the first, people I took from a family. I had him sold for $3,000.00. I knew he was going to a household where he would be treated like a pet: a ‘family member,’ yet I could comprehend it all back then. I understood the buyer’s desire to have a baby in her arms. After all, that’s how I got my start with primates. I hated taking a baby because I could see how much anguish it caused the whole squad, but I always justified it. The funds raised would be put to good use. More fresh fruits and veggies, bigger and better cages. Frankie was little and adorable in his Pampers. I had chosen the ideal residence for him.
I received a call about Frankie a year later. He had the same name as me, but he wasn’t as little. He was now in a new house. This is his second. The “ideal home” I had found decided they couldn’t live with monkey poo on the furniture, and Frankie was becoming extremely independent, pulling off his diapers and roaming around the house. He was a Java Macaque, and the pair had decided that a capuchin would be a better match for their requirements. The new house had high plans for Frankie’s training. They had heard that if they placed him in a dark closet for many hours while he was acting up, he would learn to calm down. The new “mother” also expressed her love for him as if he were her kid and her determination to educate him not to bite. When he bit her, a monkey specialist with organ grinders suggested her to simply push her finger down his mouth and choke him. She was doing just that.
I began to think about Frankie and how it must have felt for him to spend a year with a family before being hauled away because he despised diapers. In a new family, you must learn all new rules. Trying to find out where he fit into the new human squad. He never followed through. By the age of two, he had become “out of control.” He was sold again and over. Always into a household that desired a monkey as a part of the family. A ‘permanent home,’ promising a beautiful life. He has visited many residences across five states.
Janet had a Java Macaque loose in her house and was afraid, so she dialed my number. He was said to have come from me. Her home was in shambles, and she was imprisoned in a bathroom with a male macaque called “Frankie” perched on top of her refrigerator. Her small children will be returning home from school shortly. She paid a lady $1500.00 plus shipping for this monkey. He was supposed to be a loving monkey that she could dress up and take out. Frankie was his name.” She wasn’t even able to catch him.
My heart was breaking for Frankie. I knew I needed to get him out of Janet’s kitchen and away from the pet trade. It took many hours to find someone nearby who could assist. He walked over to her home, captured the monkey, and placed him in a container. Janet then changed her mind about my taking Frankie. She would strive to make him her friend. After all, she had about $200,000 invested. Frankie spent weeks in a cargo box.
He had never tasted true independence, a group of his own, or pleasure in life at the age of five. I located a roadside zoo in need of a male java for a solitary female and convinced Janet to take him there. Every now and again, I phoned to check on him. Frankie was the ideal monkey. People gazed at him as he cowered in the corner of the cage. He was never fond of the female monkey. He was labeled a loner by his owners. I tried not to see him sitting in a corner on the dirt. But I felt he was protected now, which was preferable than the pet cycle. The roadside attraction shuttered two years later, when Frankie was seven years old. Frankie was sent to Arizona to live with a lady who claimed to have had macaque experience. She already had three in containers in her kitchen. Her husband was a truck driver, and when they were on the road, they just piled the boxes in the back of the truck and drove away, taking everyone with them.
She phoned me to express her disappointment that Frankie was not impregnating her girls. She would sedate him and confine him in a box with a female for days on end. Her gripe: He simply sat there, facing the plastic cage wall, grooming himself till he bled at times. Occasionally, he would fight with a female, and a vet would be sent to patch them up. Listening on the phone to Frankie’s life fade away reminded me of the day I stole this kid from his mother. I had given Frankie seven years of suffering for $3000.00.
I misplaced the lady and her kitchen macaques.
I wasn’t selling many monkeys two and a half years later; the phone calls were exhausting me. Frankie was only one of many. A broker from Miami contacted and requested me to acquire three adult macaques that were arriving from Hawaii the following day. They were great breeders, sent to a monkey retirement refuge in Hawaii with a baby; however, the recipient only wanted the infant. For the rest, it would be a return trip to the mainland. Before they landed in Hawai’i, they were sold to a broker in Miami. I didn’t purchase them, but I promised to meet him at the airport and keep them until he sold them.
I didn’t pay any attention to the crated macaques at the airport. I turned down the windows to escape the stink. I did see one that appeared to be rather ancient. Perhaps arthritis.
Back at my facility, I began looking through the papers. I approached the male’s container and began reading. “My name is Frankie,” it began handwritten. I’m nine years old. Exotic Cargo in Florida is where I was born.” I knelt and peered through the wire into the container at this shell of a monkey, his empty eyes, his head falling down in submission, his crooked bones protruding. His black and decaying stubbed teeth. I wailed, yelled so loudly and for so long, shouted at God, wondering how He could allow this to happen. I despised everyone who had come into contact with this primate’s life because of the injustice they had caused. The world was my adversary. I was filled with an indescribable hatred and wrath. Then it occurred to me.
“The buck stops here,” as the saying goes. I am the one who initiated this pattern of abuse, and I must confront it. Frankie would remain.
It took two years to convince Frankie to climb or enjoy the fresh air. To deter him from self-mutilating, I kept a TV on all day and night, wrapped in plastic when it rained. I slept outdoors at his cage a few times, making vows I knew I’d have to fulfill.
Frankie has quit grooming himself to the point of bleeding. He’ll never be a normal monkey, but he’ll be fine. He is my teacher, my guilt, my sorrow, and my salvation all rolled into one. Many primates born here were saved by him.