In honor of a special Chimpanzee

There would be no Hurt Go Happy (American Sign Language for the happily the pain has ended) if it weren't for Patti Regan and her Center for Great Apes. When I was researching HGH, Patti and her small group of chimps and orangutans lived just down the street from my house in Miami. When we met in 1988, I was stumbling around trying to become a writer, and had this sketchy idea for a book about a sign language using chimpanzee and a deaf child. Patti took me seriously and let me hang out with her and her chimps, probably to the point of exhaustion. The Center for Great Apes is now located in central Florida and her work of giving a home to chimps and orangutans from the entertainment industry and unwanted pets, goes on.

There is a line in Hurt Go Happy where Joey turns to the lab tech at the research facility, after she rescues Sukari, and says, "Genetically chimps are over 98% human; that's more human than you people are."

Here's Sam's story which only goes to prove that point.

 Chimpanzee Sam, a dignified elder
Sam at Christmas time
Once again we have the very sad news of the loss of a dear chimpanzee, our 43-year-old Sam.  He was found early in the morning this past Babies tickle SamMonday curled up in his nest of blankets with his head on a pillow and all of his covers pulled up over his shoulders.  He had gone to bed the night before and appeared to have died peacefully in his sleep.
A longtime friend of Bubbles (Michael Jackson's chimp)(my note), both in California and in Florida, Sam also lived for Sam in aerial trailwayyears in a group with his companion Oopsie and her daughters Boma and Jessie and her grandbabies Kodua and Bobby-Stryker.  Sam was a wild-caught chimpanzee born in Africa around 1968 and was captured for the exotic pet trade.  He spent his first years as a pet in Los Angeles and then later lived at a Hollywood compound.  He never sired any offspring, but was a guardian and playmate to many young entertainment chimp babies who were kept with him for socialization.
Sam arrived at our sanctuary seven years ago when his owner/trainer decided to stop working great apes in the entertainment industry.  Sam was a gentle and sweet male who enjoyed sitting at the top of Sam tickles Koduahis 40-foot high tower in the dome gazing out over the orange groves surrounding the sanctuary.  He loved to play with the kids, Kodua and Stryker, having daily games of "tickle and chase" with them.  But most of the time Sam, Oopsie, and Bubbles would sit for hours high-up in the cupola relaxing with each other.  Sam was protective of his group (especially 37-year-old Oopsie), and he was fatherly and playful with the Sam and Bobby Strykeryoungsters. Sam was our dear old boy...after Marco, the oldest ape here.
On his last day, Sam spent the entire time with his family - being groomed by Oopsie, Boma, and Jessie and tickling and grooming little Stryker and Kodua.  He ate well and seemed to be content to lounge around with them in the aerial chute system.
Chimpanzees in the wild have been observed gathering around a deceased group member for final inspection and farewells.  So, Monday morning, after his group went outside, our caregivers carried Sam's body down to the floor and first let Oopsie alone back inside the nighthouse. She went to Sam, pulled the blanket off of him, and very gently lifted each leg and arm as if trying to wake him up. She patted him and groomed him for awhile, and she sat next to him for about 20 minutes. Then Oopsie got up and walked back outside. We then let the rest of Oopsie, Sam, Kodua, Jessie, Stryker and Bomahis group back inside to see him. The two chimp kids poked at Sam and seemed confused, but Oopsie pulled them away. Boma and Jessie very gently touched Sam and sat near him. They all stayed with him about 45 minutes and then eventually left the nighthouse together appearing to have had thier closure.  
It's been difficult for our staff to experience this sadness once again so soon after Grub's untimely passing, but we are grateful that Sam had some happy days before he died and that he went so peacefully in his sleep. He was a sweetheart, and he will be greatly missed...not only by his chimp group, but also by the humans who loved him.
  If you would like to make a contribution in memory of Sam, please click here. 
Your donation will help continue the care for Oopsie and her chimp family and is always appreciated.
Sam, 1968-2011 
Center for Orangutan & Chimpanzee Conservation, Inc. P.O.Box 488 Wauchula, FL 33873 | A not-for-profit organization