Carrie McLaren is a guest blogger at Boing Boing and coauthor of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture. She lives in Brooklyn, the former home of her now defunct Stay Free! magazine.
As mentioned earlier
, I collect books by people who have raised apes or monkeys in their homes, so, as a service to Boing Boing readers, I thought I'd review them for you.
Toto and I: A Gorilla in the Family, by A Maria Hoyt (1941)
A charming memoir by an eccentric heiress who brought Toto home after her husband, working for the Museum of Natural History in New York, shot Toto's mother on the hunt for a specimen. Despite marrying a mommy killer, Hoyt goes to the wall to help young Toto, even moving to Cuba to accommodate her charge. There are lots of choice anecdotes in this book but my favorite involve sleep training the gorilla. Like many children, Toto insisted on sleeping with her parents. Caregiver Thomas and Toto slept in separate beds in Toto's room; each night over the course of month, Tomas moved his bed farther and farther away from Toto until he was actually out of her room. (Incidentally, this is essentially the same method recommended by the Sleep Lady.) Before Toto was weaned from cosleeping, however, she "punished" Tomas by locking him in her bedroom:
[Toto] slammed the door after him, deftly locking it from the playroom side. Since the windows were heavily barred, Tomas was now securely confined with Toto, his jailer, dancing in triumphant joy in the other room.... For over an hour, he stayed there securely locked up. Then, growing a little weary of the game, he called Toto to the door, scolded her severely and told her to unlock it and let him out. Shamefacedly, she obeyed...
Lucy: Growing Up Human, A Chimpanzee Daughter in a Psychotherapist's Family, by Maurice K. Temerlin (1972)
Touchy-feely account by a nut job (Maurice Temerlin, aka Maury) who goes to great lengths to maintain a relationship with his chimpanzee "daughter." Lucy is by all accounts an extremely precocious chimp; the stories here are lively and engaging but often for the wrong reasons. I could write at length about this book but instead I'll just share one telling anecdote. Maury, like many caretakers of primates, insists on calling Lucy his daughter. Most of such quasi-parents keep their charges in cages and use cattle prods or other devices to keep them in line. Not Maury. But he's got his own bizarre ideas of what it means to be a dad:
Lucy attempts to mouth my penis whenever she sees it, whether I am urinating, bathing, or having an erection. As a matter of fact I think it is accurate to say that Lucy is fascinated by the human penis since she attempts to explore it with her mouth whenever she can, unless it is mine and she is swollen in estrus.
So Maury frequently has erections in the company of his "daughter" and observes her putting penises (not just his own!) in her mouth. And, wait, there's more: "I found this a very interesting observation as throughout the years of my deep affection for Lucy I never experienced sexual desire for her. " Interesting? Really? She's supposed to be your daughter? And a chimp!
Maury ended up getting fired from his job as head of the psychology department at the University of Oklahoma. Lucy, however, triumphed: after nearly 18 years with crazy Maury and his wife (a record), she became one of the very rare chimps who was successfully re-introduced into the wild in Africa.