Marisol climbs into my sports bra for a secure ride.
Baby monkeys cling to fur; it's a matter of life and death as their mother travels through the trees. But Paul and I are very slippery as surrogate parents go, so we have to improvise. (Marisol would be happy in our hair but she likes to chew on it, and there's the risk of us becoming poopheads.)
Mornings are hectic (feeding, cleaning cages, doing monkey laundry). And some things - pulling up your pants, putting toothpaste on your brush, hanging towels on the line - are particularly difficult one-handed.
Hopefully Marisol will be ready to venture off us soon and spend time playing with Venecia.
Katira slept through the night beside Marisol, cuddled against my stomach (I sleep on my side). Except for her first night, Marisol goes to bed when I do, gets up when it gets light - which is when I throw back the covers - and never pees or poos in bed. Katira followed suit!
At 6:00 a.m. Marisol drank 10 cc of milk in a few minutes. Katira took 45 minutes to finish 1 cc of Pedialyte and 8 cc of soy formula from a syringe with a special tip. Unable to open her mouth, she'd purse her lower lip, I'd put a drop or two in it, she'd swallow, and we'd do it again. She was hungry and I knew she was happy...she could drink and purr simultaneously!
I put salve on Katira's tight, dry burns after breakfast and noticed the scab on her nose was barely attached. She reached up, rubbed it, and it fell off - revealing a soft (albeit gray) nose with no disfiguration. I was thrilled.
When I fed Katira again at noon the left side of her mouth started to open, almost imperceptably, and within an hour or two should she could open both sides normally. Her tongue was intact, but the front edge of it was gray with square ridges...she had either clenched it against her teeth or bitten it when the electricity shot through her.
Katira wasn't well when she woke from her nap around 4:00 in the afternoon. I dribbled 1 cc of pedialyte into her mouth and watched as she appeared to "freeze" and stop breathing. Thinking she had choked, I called Mark (an ER veterinarian from Wisconsin who lives minutes away) and gave her mouth-to-mouth...alternately sucking in case there were fluids, then blowing gently into her nose and lungs. Mark wasn't convinced she had choked, and when he listened with a stethescope there was no congestion. Still, she could barely catch her breath. We tried what we had at our disposal; a shot of atropine, sugar water for energy, breast milk from a Tica neighbor, subcutaneous fluids, and Colicort drops for colic since she was crying like she had spasms. It wasn't until later that I realized she hadn't eliminated - pee or poo - since breakfast. Although her superficial wounds were healing, her body was shutting down. [Note: In hindsight I believe Katira had tetanus; lockjaw, and body rigidity and muscle spasms, with a typical onset 10 to 14 days after receiving second and third degree burns.]
Paul and I took turns holding Katira throughout the remainder of the evening - she received continuous body contact from the moment I adopted her - and when I climbed into bed with Marisol and Katira I was hopeful that somehow everything would be better in the morning.
At 12:28 a.m. Marisol woke me up, gently touching my face and purring, and I knew instinctively what she was telling me. I reached under the covers to feel Katira's body, still warm against my stomach...but she had slipped away.
Paul buried Katira this morning under Lynn's memorial tree, beside Hershey, within the circle of large stones.
Mother Earth will swallow you,
The family that rescued Katira, and cared for her for nine days.
On Friday afternoon I got a call about a howler monkey whose mother had been electrocuted on uninsulated power lines - something that happens all too frequently when they mistake the lines for vines. The campesino family that rescued her said she was drinking very little, and they were concerned that the inside of her mouth was burned.
My initial reaction was that I couldn't help, because I have no experience with burns. And then, in a very "Celestine Prophecy" moment, I remembered that our future neighbor Mark, who is an ER veterinarian, had arrived the day before on a five week vacation...
Road sign 3 miles outside of town by a one-lane bridge.
Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. Mark, Alexa (my Tica neighbor), and I headed for Katira...a town so small it isn't in the GPS or on the folding paper road map of Costa Rica. The drive took almost four hours through beautiful countryside and past Arenal volcano, which I hadn't seen before.
Katira (named after the town) had burns on her face, scalp, tail, stomach, and one hand. The pain in her eyes and sad noises she made were heart-breaking, and she couldn't open her mouth wider than the tip of an eyedropper...Mark believed there were adhesions from the burns, and that she might even have lost her tongue.
The whole family bid Katira farewell at the door - except for the father, who wasn't present during our brief visit because he was afraid he would cry when she left. Hopeful that we could save this baby who had probably been nursing when her mother was electrocuted, and bravely lived for nine days with the wonderful family that rescued her, we drove the four hours home to San Ramon...after a stop for pain medication (Tramadol) in the first town with a pharmacy.
We know the odds are against us all...
Is Venecia trying to text Home?
Venecia has gained weight steadily since she arrived a month ago, from 694 grams (24 ounces) to 872 grams (31 ounces). And although that's not quite half a pound, it's enough to snap the deck plants instead of bending them. The time has come to head into the jungle to play.
[Postscript from the next morning. FAIL. Venecia was convinced Paul was going to abandon her...with no trail of breadcrumbs to follow. However Chiquito, our spider monkey, had the same reaction initially. Soon Paul will be trying to spot Venecia among the leaves.]
Our hope is that wild howlers will eventually join the babies in the trees on our daily outings, like they do at Jaguar Rescue on the Caribbean coast. And then, that wild males will patiently hang around the cages, waiting for the girls to be released, like they do at SIBU Sanctuary in Nosara on the Pacific coast. Time will tell.
Jane Goodall has always been my hero, and working with primates an aspiration. Africa wasn't in the cards the summer I turned 16, when my parents offered to send me to volunteer, and there was only one class (in physical anthro-pology) when I wanted to study primatology in college.