The heartbreak of sending Missybelle to a sanctuary


Missybelle's former owner, Lorraine visited the sanctuary and has created a photo album of her visit. November 2002 Sanctuary Visit All photos can be sent as greeting cards.

Missybelle is a 7 year old Java Macaque that now calls Mindy's Memory Primate Sanctuary home. Her former owner misses her and loves her very much. I write Monkey Tales, the online newsletter for Mindy's, (just click to subscribe) and every time an issue goes out, I know that I can count on Missybelle's former owner letting me know how much she enjoyed it. When I asked if I could share her comments, I was shocked by the reponse that I received, as she had never been able to write about Missybelle before. Now she is ready and would like to share her story about the heartbreaking decision to give Missybelle up to a sanctuary. She has also made up 2 photo albums, one of Missybelle before Mindy's. You will see that she was a member of the family, and everything possible was done to make her happy. The second album is of Missy Enjoying Life At Mindy's. All photos can be sent a as an ecard. Once at the albums, click on an image, when it enlarges, you will be given the option of sending the photo as an ecard.

Here is a portion of what Missybelle's former owner has written:

"Missybelle is a beautiful soon to be eight year old Java Macaque, who now resides in a beautiful sanctuary in Oklahoma. I had the pleasure of Mothering her for 7 years. I don't know if it was a pleasure for her being I was so ignorant to her needs for nurturing even nutrition. I was misinformed about her care by the profit making pet shop that sold her to me. Could you imagine that they told me that "monkeys don't need water they get enough in their food." Even I knew that any living creature needs water. I should have been more concerned when I requested the breeders name and address so I could talk to him about her care and they refused to give it to me.

Linda (Director of Mindy's) had asked me to write my story about Missybelle a long time ago. Everytime I would try I would get so upset and start crying that I couldn't do it. Linda thought that if I wrote about having and loving Missy and then having to to give her up for her sake it would discourage people from putting themselves and other primates through the heartbreak of separation, and maybe put a dent in the breeding of primates in captivity for profit. If I told my story some people considering purchasing a primate would have second thoughts. When I first got Missybelle she was a helpless seven week old infant that had been ripped from her mothers arms within days of her birth. This I found out later with much distress and research. She was adorable, so dependent on me for everything, almost like a human infant. As Missy grew it became more and more evident that she wasn't a hairy little helpless human, but a maturing wild primate whose needs are very different from those humans.

I knew I had to do something for Missybelle. I loved her so much, but there is only so much I could give her because I am a human primate and she needed the comfort and companionship of a non-human primate. I noticed she was getting more and more depressed. She was sleeping alot. She was getting more aggressive. I was the only one who could be around when she was out of the cage or she would strike out at others. She had bitten everyone in the house and some very serious bites that I myself received. I tried everything to keep her amused. I bought her stuffed animals, toys, had a custom cage made for inside and out so she would have plenty of room. Took her outside to swim in the pool, play in the sprinkler, but all this was still not enough. Plus she was alone when I went to work. She needed a constant companion of her own kind so she could be and act like a monkey. So I started seeking help on the internet, where I met Kari from Jungle Friends who told me about Linda and Mindy's. If you only knew what I put Linda through when I first thought about sending Missybelle to her. She gave up on me a few times, saying I wasn't ready, I think what she really wanted to say but was too polite to is "Stop wasting my time, I have more important things to take care of rather than consoling you about bringing Missy to the Sanctuary". I kept grilling her about how much property, how big are the cages, what she feeds them, how she feeds them, if she could send me pictures. I just drove her crazy. I'm so glad she didn't completely give up on us. Every time I thought this is it, she's had it with me, I would get back in her good graces by sending a picture of Missybelle and ask her to reconsider, how could she say no to this face (the second picture is my favorite). Then she would forgive my ignorance and consider taking Missy. We drove from NY to OK straight through because we couldn't stop at a motel with Missybelle, some may allow pets, but I don't think that includes monkeys. Missy surprised us because she was a great traveler. She gave me no trouble through the whole trip, 30 hours. Linda was gracious enough to open her home to us. She let us come with Missybelle to check everything out and see if I thought this would be a suitable home for Missy. When I put Missybelle in the cage at the sanctuary and she held on to me through the cage I could have died. It felt like I was abandoning my baby. That night we left and went to the hotel, needless to say, I did not sleep a wink, I cried the whole night. My husband was getting worried, thinking I may be having a breakdown. By morning my face was so swollen from crying that my eyes were just slits. I think my husband and Linda thought I would be bringing Missy back to NY with me. Then the next morning when we returned to the sanctuary Linda had put Missy and Phoebus another Java Macaque together. She had done it while I wasn't there because she knew that I would be devasted when Phoebus would let Missy know he was the boss. Linda said that there was a few bites, pinches and screams, afterwards they were just fine. Phoebus kept following Missybelle to get near her and she was playing hard to get. Putting her nose up in the air and walking away, but when he would walk away from her, because she was not accepting his advances, she was right behind him being a tease. I knew then this was meant to be. I think it must be like when your child gets married and you have to let go. Only she was still such a baby, even though she was 7 years old she was still my baby. She had never been away from me since she was 7 weeks old. I still fed her 4 bottles everyday as well as other food. Every time I would try to stop the bottle I felt she was not getting enough to eat, so the bottle came back. I wasn't doing her any favors, just making her fatter and fatter. What I couldn't do for 7 years , Linda was able to do in 2 days, wean Missy off the bottle. I won't say leaving Missybelle wasn't one of the most traumatic things I have ever had to do, my heart was breaking for my loss, but I also knew it was the right thing for Missybelle and it was a great gain for Phoebus. By the way, I fell in love with Phoebus immediately. I couldn't have picked a better mate for Missy. He's not only one of the handsomest monkeys I've ever seen but he had a similar temperament as Missy. He was also a New Yorker, HaHa. When Linda and I were talking about them one day we realized that they had both been treated by the same Vet on Long Island. Small world.

Well, I was finally able to tear myself away from Missy and started on the journey home. I cried for 2 more days, and couldn't wait to get home to run to my email to see if there was any news about Missy. I came into the house, went straight downstairs to the computer, my heart sank when I saw the empty cage next to my computer and the tears started flowing all over again. Sure enough the news was good and I felt better. Not good but better. Linda writes almost everyday, she gives me updates and tidbits about the monkeys.

The best part of this story is my return visit. We returned to Oklahoma in Novemeber 2001, Missy had been there since August. Then I was positive that I had done the right thing. Missy had lost some of her baby fat and was not struggling to climb due to all that excess fat she had when I first brought her to the sanctuary. She was spry, running, climbing, playing, teasing and being teased by Phoebus. Even her face looked more alert and happy. When she first saw me she did nothing until I said her name, then she grabbed me through the cage and held me. kissed me and would not let go. It was almost like she was telling me I'm Okay, I'm Happy and Thank You. I was so afraid she would have forgotten me or worse rejected me. Phoebus was a little jealous that she was paying so much attention to us. So he would chase her away from us. I think he was afraid we might take her away. I could never separate these two, they were made for each other. Linda was so gracious, she welcomed us to stay with her. It was wonderful. I would look out one window and there was Missy and Phoebus playing and grooming. I would look out the other window and we had the capuchins looking at us through the window. I think we switched roles. They were watching us the same way we were watching them. Even my husband fell in love with one of the capuchins named Cookie. He talks about her all the time. I can't begin to tell you how hard Linda works with and for the monks. She is up at 4am cooking sweet potatoes and making riceball treats. Then she hands each individual their share of the food to make sure no one gets cheated. She knows who likes their bananas peeled and who likes to peel their own. She knows who likes raw sweet potatoes and the ones who prefer them cooked.I could go on forever, she just never tires. Then she makes sure they all have fresh water, then it's time to clean cages. Then it starts all over again for lunch. She gets finished with one task then it's time for feeding again. If she hears something in the middle of the night she's out there checking on all the monks, making sure everything is OK. I have no idea when she sleeps. I wish there was more I could do to help her. I'm hoping to retire in 7 years and be able to spend more time there and give Linda a hand. What keeps me sane is knowing how well Linda takes care of Missy, that she keeps me informed about Missy and all the monks and my anticipated visits. Now Missy has a full life with Phoebus and the addition of an adopted little girl Sunshine.

Thanks again for the newsletter, now you know why I am thrilled everytime I receive it. Especially when there is something about Missy and Phoebus in it. I love to hear about all of them, but there is always that little tidbit that I wait for, like a proud mother hearing good things about their children. You can't buy the kind of love and care Linda gives the monks, but you can help support the food, housing and necessary essentials."


Lorraine, Proud to have been Missybelle's Mom. Even prouder that I was able to find her companionship with her own species.

Thanks from Missybelle too