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George, a wild Philippines Monkey,  came into our family on 4/13/2008.  I don’t know what his true birth date is but that is the date I use as his birthday.  I had plans to give him at least a cup cake next year.  That would have been interesting.  Of course, non-chocolate as it would be bad for him and Jessie would likely steal it.

Philippine Monkey George

I don’t know George’s history but his body gave us some clues.  His front right paw had obviously been broken and didn’t heal just perfectly.  This would have been enough to slow him down and make a life in the wild hard for him.  Sometimes this paw hurt him, as he didn’t want it touched sometimes.  When Jessie would run with him, you could see that he had trouble with that paw.

George also had a break in his back leg but it was not as obvious.  I noticed it the first time in the last week or two that he was with us. Jessie found a large scar on him.  It went from his left underarm all the way around, over his back, to his right shoulder.

George had been neutered and his canines had been removed or broken, we don’t’ know which.  We suspect removed so that his bite would not be devastating.  Those canines were meant to protect him while in the wild.  Recently he lost his two front teeth.  Jessie thought they were baby teeth and his new ones were coming in.  I don’t know.  They looked like they had decay on them but they didn’t seem to hurt him at all.

We don’t know his age but he was small and male Philippine Monkeys get quite a bit larger.  He was also growing quite a bit.  He was more than twice his original size when he died.  His death was under suspicious circumstances.   This is a celebration of George’s life and the contribution he made to our lives.

George was shy and afraid when we first got him.  I think he was also sad.  We didn’t realize that then.  He moved slow and was afraid to let us pick him up.  This was so terrifying for him, he’d jump, like a human does when startled.  But in just a week or so, he was totally over this.

I was the first person that could pick him up by putting my hands on him rather than letting him climb up on us.  I can remember where I was the first time he allowed me to do this.  He was on the stairs in our Bogo City home.

Soon though, came time for his first shower.  Now that was quite the ordeal.  He tried constantly to grab anything to help him get away.  Then one day, I realized that If I held him close to my chest, he calmed down.  He was still afraid.  He held on for dear life and the way he clinched the hair on my chest was painful but I didn’t mind.  It was touching.  He was no longer trying to escape.  By the time the shower was over, he would be limp like a rag doll.  He now loved showers, though he never got completely over his fear he was on his way.

He was a mischievous little bugger too.  In recent weeks, I had learned how to train him.  When he did something we didn’t want him too, i would say no and then move him away from us.  More than anything he wanted to be with us.

Memorable times included his fascination with mirrors or any where his reflection was visible to him.  With mirrors he would try to reach behind them.  He would lick the mirror.  He certainly missed his own kind and I really wanted to get him a friend.  But we needed a large cage built.

When i first took pictures of George, he wouldn’t look at the lens.  i know now that he did this as it is a threat to look at a primate in the eyes.  I’m sure the camera looked like a face to him.  No matter which way I turned the camera, he would look the other way.  I thought he was afraid of the flash but it was the “eye” he wanted to avoid.  That was until he saw his reflection.

Once he saw himself in the camera lens, he climbed up as close as he could and even licked the lens.  Luckily I had protection on the lens so he only licked the protective filter.  I have some extreme close up video of him.  I will share it once I get the cable I ordered last week.

We had to learn much from and  about George.  Some of it we learned on Animal Planet.  i searched for monkey gestures and other topics on the web but we never found much.  The expats told us he was a squirrel monkey.  I can see why they would say that, he looked a lot like a squirrel.  Right down to the ears and the color of his fur.  But he was a Filipino Monkey.

Some have told me they are very common here but I’ve not seen one in my six months here.  Jessie, who has lived here for 30 years has never seen a monkey like George.  Not one that you could put on your shoulder and walk around town.  Or could be near and even on the kids.  Now Jason (8) eventually harassed him and from then on George was unfriendly to him.  Kids will be kids, he was following the lead of the other children.

On one of our last walks, George tried to jump on one girl.  Not as an attack but because he wanted to be with her.  He sometimes wanted to make girls his girlfriend.  He only did that once but that was enough.  I grabbed him before he lunged on to her back.  Might have been exciting but not the kind of excitement I needed.   On that walk he also jumped into trees twice.  He was in a playful mood that day.

He really enjoyed the walks around town and he enjoyed being outside.  I know he would have been safer inside but he wanted to be outside more.  The walks helped to stimulate him and get him exercise.  He would sometimes find grass or plants that he wanted to eat.  I usually allowed him to do so.  I figured he knew what he was doing and it was good for him.

Jessie would run with him once we got just outside of the city.  The first time I took him on a walk with us I noticed his heart was pounding.  I think he was excited, he seemed very happy as he walked with his proud King Kong type walk.  For a while I took him every time but the last month I took him every other time I went walking.  He slowed me down and I need to keep my rate up.

At first people would nearly fall off their motor cycles when they saw me walking around with a monkey on my shoulder.  Eventually people got use to it.  The old Filipino was the most shocked.  A Kano (white people) is odd.  Someone with a tame monkey is very rare.  A white guy with a monkey on his shoulder is unheard of.  I’m known around town, or I was as the “Monkey Man”.  But it seems people know now as they’ve stopped asking “where’s your monkey, where’s George.”  Many people, especially the children knew his name.

The last couple of weeks, George finally got where he would cuddle with me.  He always would with Jessie but I was a male and that was different.  It seemed he couldn’t allow his guard down around me.  But finally he started using me for a pillow too.

He loved sleeping in our bed.  I’d try to leave him with us as much as possible but it was unsafe and unclean to let him stay in our bed all night.  Even though he thought he was King Kong, he was rather fragile.  But only physically.  Mentally George was super monkey.

I would jest and ask when he’d stop acting like a monkey.  But the more use to us he got, the more of a handful he was and the more his real personality came out.  He was trying at times.

He would get this look in his eye then pounce on you then jump away before you could react.  Not long ago I was outside and not paying attention to him so he ran up and bit me on the back of the leg.  Then quickly ran away.  That got my attention!  It wasn’t a bite hard enough to break the skin, but it wasn’t all that comfortable either.  This is how George played.

For a long time I thought he was baring his teeth at us but I learned when they do that with an open mouth, that is a grin.  Only with a closed mouth is it a threat.  And his threats were more body posture.  Leaning forward.  Patch of hair on his head thrust forward.  On his knuckles rather than open hands, trying to look like a muscle man.  That’s what he did to children and strangers and he meant it.  It was go for his ego when they backed down.

For a long time, George would only sit next to my hip, curl up in a ball and lean on me.  I would put my arm over him.  Made it rather hard to type but he seemed to like it.  In recent weeks, he’d push his head under my arm, to force my arm around him.  I felt so touched when he would do that.  Yes, dogs do that but the dog was never a wild animal and George was always a wild animal and even lived as one at some point.  But he came to trust me, to count on me, he came to love me.  Of this, I have little doubt.

It was such an honor to be treated as one of his own kind.  I miss him, nearly as much as I would a child.  Nothing quite compares to that loss, I’m glad I’ve never had to endure that.  At least not in finality.

George was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me.  When we got him, I felt so alive, I felt like I was experiencing a new world, I felt like an expat living in the Philippines.  He wasn’t the only reason, Jessie has a lot to do with that of course, more so than a monkey.  But the monkey was truly special.

When I started this journey, I made a decision that i would be someone other than I had been.  That I would not let lupus and other ailments rule my life.  I am going to embrace life.  Do new things, try new foods.  I didn’t have to be that person, I could be bold and sure.  I could start over.

George was the symbol of that transformation.  I spent a lot of time with him but I wish I had spent even more.  There is a lesson there, I wish I could spend more time with the people that I have cared about, even some of the ones that turned their back on me.  I wish I could shake Eric and Shane and tell them to stop this non-sense.  Life is too important and when it is gone, there is no going back.

I never thought George would be with us for a long time but I was hoping I was wrong.  To have him die under mysterious circumstances made it a lot harder.  I think he was taken from us.  But I’m not certain of that.  But this is about the joy George brought me.

Even though he is gone, he can and will still be my symbol of the new me.  Trying new things, embracing life and trying to embrace people.  George enriched my life and there will never be another George.  Perhaps, there will be another monkey.  I’m willing to work with them to tame them even if it requires leather gloves.

Goodbye George, we miss you.

For a picture album of George’s time with us.  Not all of the pictures are perfect but in this case, I don’t care.   Every picture is precious to me now.  Visit Tribute to George in Pictures.

George Born To Us 4-13-2008

Died 7-28-2008