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A Note from Fauna about Yoko’s Health

January 23, 2014 • Posted in News Articles

Update: Sadly, Yoko died Jan. 30. From all of us at NEAVS, we wish you the wings you so deserve to take you safely home.

This post is from Gloria Grow, founder and director of Fauna Foundation Sanctuary in Montreal, QC and Project R&R co-chair. The following introduction is from NEAVS President Theodora Capaldo, EdD.

The eloquent voice of Gloria, as she lives through another pending death in her family of chimpanzees, touches every corner of the experience of being present to letting go and loss. It comforted me to again know how gently and insightfully she and her staff provide for the Fauna chimps. Those chimps, and all the others rescued from labs or still waiting, deserve the dignity and care she took the time to let us know this one "Little Man" was getting. Thank you Gloria from all of us who care. We pray that we have such love ourselves when "comes the day in every life." -Theodora Capaldo, EdD


Recently we posted some news about Yoko on our Facebook page and as always, I was deeply touched to see how many friends our dear “Little Man” has. We have been receiving wonderful cards and letters wishing him well and many prayers to help him along. Bless you for thinking of him at this time, and for caring enough to write, these kind words. Your blessings are a comfort and a  source of strength for all of us.

Yoko has been going through a difficult time, he is weak and he is very tired, one of the many conditions related to his heart failing. He is taking medication to relieve the pressure, diruetics which keep him comfortable and other medications to help him relax and give him strength. Recently Yoko decided he wanted nothing to do with some of his usual medications so we do our best to give him the essentials that will keep him as comfortable as possible. We can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want too do, so we always need his complete co-operation. He has been a surprisingly wonderful patient, making us love him even more – if that is at all possible.

When I was reading through the comments recently posted on Facebook I was struck by one that I felt deserved a response from me. “Perhaps its better to put an end to his suffering.” It is most likely a feeling shared by others and I wanted to explain and share what it is like to be the person who decides if one should live or die, and to explain the process a little so you all understand the implications.

Yoko started his decline several weeks ago. He had been getting slower and slower this past summer but he still had enough energy to discipline his boys, Jethro and Regis, to go outdoors and to have interactions with the neighbours. This certainly doesn’t  happen anymore. Yoko sleeps most of the time and when he is up, he has Jethro, Regis, Petra, Chance or Rachel near him. There is always someone there by his side once he wakes and most often Regis is sleeping not too far away.

The Fauna staff of caregivers are on a palliative care schedule meaning every 30 minutes someone goes to him to see if he needs anything, to whisper his name so he knows they are there and then wait to see if he wishes to drink or eat. Fauna staff members have been fabulous; caring, loving, nurturing and kind. You would be as proud of them as I am.

There was a period in October when Yoko wanted to be on his own and not to be bothered with his family. This was mostly because it takes a lot of energy to be in a family group, he has always had a temper and not much tolerance for the daily outbursts from his family. He has also always been one of the quickest fellows here, our great and mighty warrior. Initially I had written that all that had changed, but it hasn’t really … when Yoko doesn’t want them near, he still has the power to stop them ... only now he cannot chase them away. Yoko simply grunts or raises his hand, and they understand and leave. That is power.  

There was a period a few weeks back when I felt Yoko should have a chance to be on his own and he seemed to be interested in that. So, we made up a bed in one of his old rooms, and waited to see if he would come in. He did come in and he did look at what we had done, he checked, he knew this would be a place where he could be alone and have all that he needed without anyone bothering him. In the past he had chosen to stay in these places, as do many of the chimps when they are not well, or not strong enough to take on the daily challenges.

Yoko turned and left the room. In that moment he decided he wanted to be with his family, endure their pesky ways and their thievery. He loves them and chose to be with them regardless of their wicked ways. He was not going to come into a room and be separated from family. He wanted to be with them more than he wanted to be with us.

I feel I had no choice but to listen to his request, even knowing how much more difficult it would be for us to care for him and for him to protect himself from the group. Yet I understand completely his desire to do just that.

He has been through great hardship in his lifetime and has had to take on men in tyvek suits shooting darts at him from all sides of his small 5’x5’x7’ cage. He experienced near death each time they shot at him and injected him to put him under anesthesia. He was forcefully injected repeatedly with many different strains of the HIV virus. Over and over he endured syringes filled with toxic chemicals until he was so weak he could endure no more. He has had his body cut open repeatedly so chunks of his liver could be removed, pieces of his lymph nodes, his bone marrow extracted, while at the same time being injected with experimental drugs to determine the damage done to his liver. Day after day, week after week, year after year, Yoko endured this torture.

He was taken from his family and friends and locked alone in a cage suspended from the ceiling. He was tortured, left alone when he was feeling dreadfully sick from the chemicals and he was forgotten.

I understand him not wanting to be alone. He wants his family with him, protecting him from us. I understand that.

So the question:

“Perhaps it’s better to put an end to his suffering. Why put him through the slow, painful shutdown of his system? Do we not owe him more than that?”

Please let me answer this and comment in a way that I hope we can all make sense of. I can assure you these questions are a daily struggle. I would be lieing if I said I had it all figured out, or if I knew the right thing to do. I don’t. Only God does and if God wants to take Yoko’s life, then God will. I need to cherish and protect him while he is in my care, my hands.

Perhaps it is better to put an end to his suffering, but my question is how am I to do that? I think we all feel that the medication Yoko is getting is helping with his suffering. It is what we believe and it is what we see. He seems to do better when he takes his medication. If he misses or decides he does not want it, he seems more uncomfortable.

There is only one way I could get Yoko in a room alone at this point and it would be if we injected him and put him under anesthesia. Yoko will not just present us his arm for a needle. He never sits that close to us. He is not the same as Pepper was. She wanted us to hold her hands, rub her body, and hold her. Yoko doesn’t trust us enough with that. He has been hurt in so many ways all his life and it his his right to reject us, to keep his distance and to have his private space. I love and respect him for that.

Knowing how hard it is for me to accept affection and how much I lose by not being able to accept it, I know how much he is losing too, but it is his choice and he has his people … he has so much love and affection from Regis, from Jethro, from Petra, Chance and Rachel. He is deeply, deeply loved and he is touched and hugged daily. Why would I want to take him away from them and make him stay alone in a room while he died. What would “they” think if I did that to him? We would have to dart him with a dart gun – shoot him in front of his family, take him out of the area and separate him in a room on his own while everyone looked on. I would then have to euthanize him to end his suffering.

I just cannot do that. I have thought about it. I have questioned myself. I have had discussions with my family and staff on the situation and I have made a decision.

I don’t know if it’s the right decision at all. I don’t know if this is better for Yoko or worse for him. I don’t know if it is better for his family to see him slowly decline, or should they have it over with? We have the means to euthanize Yoko, but what would that feel like at this time. Is he ready? Are they ready?

The question, “do we not owe him more than that?”

Absolutely!! We owe him so much more than we will ever be able to give him …

His freedom was taken and it can never be returned … not even in death.

He will surely go to another place, but he will not ever have had the chance to live the life he was born to live.

I believe that all of Faunas friends and supporters feel this way too … they all care enough about the chimps to want to pay them back in some small way for all they have endured; for their pain; for their losses; for their suffering. Each and everyday we care for the chimpanzees with us we are trying to give them back some of what they lost, we are trying to pay back for all the wrongs and the injustices they have had to endure. We work with organizations like NEAVS who want to end ALL animal suffering in research. We care for our beloved chimpanzee family in the best way we know how, but we can never really pay them back or erase their suffering. We owe them so much, but most of all we owe to them to never stop fighting to see the end of animal research …

I love Yoko. I love Yoko’s family. I wish Yoko was not going through this and I wish he never had to die. I wish he had never suffered the way he did in a bio medical research facility and I wish he had been free, I wish he and his family could have lived the way God intended them to live. Sadly humans tore him from his mother and put him in chains … locking him behind bars for some of the most inhumane and unimaginable tortures anyone could ever endure …

Now I pray he is surrounded by those who lov and care for him. I pray that each morning I will hear: “Everything is good in the chimp house.” I pray I will get the call “Gloria, come to the chimp house, its Yoko” How terrible is that?

I want him to be there and I want his pain to be over … but when I pray for his suffering to end, I am praying for his death. I pray he will go in the night and go peacefully. I pray Annie, Pablo, Donna Rae, Billy, Jeannie, Tommy and Pepper come oh so quietly for him at night and gently carry him off to their heaven … that is what I pray for, even if it means I will never see him again.

Please understand that I can’t do it yet. I’m helping him in everyway I can and when the moment comes where I can do more, I will. Right now he is far too present, far to aware and still so alive.

Today for the first time we went in with Yoko … he is so weak and he cannot move with his group. So, he stayed and his group reluctantly left … Petra and Regis stayed close to watch what was going on.

My sisters and my brother went in with me to take care of the area, to clean around Yoko so his family could come back and join him, instead of him having to move … we changed his bed and offered him some of his favorite items, then let him rest before his family returned. He was so happy to have them come back to him …

They have been absolutely amazing. I feel so much pain for them at this time and for their loss … he will be missed. Yoko is loved. Yoko is cherished. Yoko is still a warrior …

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