Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer In Your Hands

By Jesse Pool

FEBRUARY 21, 2000: 

Bringing Up Ziggy: What Raising a Helping Hands Monkey Taught Me About Love, Commitment, and Sacrifice by Andrea Campbell (Renaissance Books), 208 pp., $21.95

Andrea Campbell has a better understanding of monkey business than most people.

Her book, "Bringing Up Ziggy," tells how raising a capuchin monkey has enriched both her and her family's lives while simultaneously trying their patience.

"Raising a monkey isn't like having a pet," she says. "It's a lot more like raising children."

Campbell repeatedly proves her point with stories and anecdotes about how Ziggy and the rest of the family dealt with growing up.

The Campbells got Ziggy in the summer of 1989 when she was only 5 weeks old. Campbell wore Ziggy on her wrist most of their first 8 months together — "like a furry Timex," she says — to simulate the way a mother capuchin would let her infant cling to her in the wild.

Ziggy's arrival came at a time when Campbell was at an all-time low. The four years before Ziggy were a constant struggle with a rare tumor that caused her to go through several reconstructive surgeries to replace part of her jawbone with part of her hip and finally part of her skull. She says Ziggy is the spark that got her life going again.

As Ziggy got older, Campbell and her husband, Michael, experienced the joys and pains that any parent feels; from watching her learn and grow to dealing with dirty diapers and hurt feelings — Ziggy's and theirs.

Their sons, Courtney and Jordan, also had to deal with the ups and downs of having a monkey for a sister. At times, the boys would be at the bottom of Ziggy's ever-changing hierarchy, and become the targets of her frustration. Other times, they would find that Ziggy upstaged them.

In one passage, Campbell remembers one of Jordan's baseball games where Ziggy came along and she ended up missing his base hit while trying to avoid the crowd of children following her and Ziggy around excitedly.

Ziggy more than made up for the distraction in Jordan's high school years when she was a "chick magnet," as he recalls in the "Other Voices" chapter where the rest of the family gets to write about their experiences with Ziggy.

One of the hardest things that the Campbells knew they would have to face was the fact that some day their little girl would be all grown-up and go out into the world. (Capuchins live 30 to 40 years.) That day hasn't arrived yet, but from the book it feels like that day is coming soon. Ziggy's destiny is to become a service animal for a quadriplegics. Ziggy is a Helping Hands monkey.

Helping Hands, which will receive some of the proceeds of the book, is a charitable organization located in Boston that matches capuchin monkeys with quadriplegics based on the monkey's preferences and the person's needs.

"It's kind of like the dating game," Campbell says.

The same things that make raising capuchin monkeys difficult is also what makes them good helpers around the house. Capuchins are small, quick and incredibly strong, on average weighing less than 12 pounds. They have sharp eyesight and are able to use their feet and tail like extra hands. Capuchins' troop mentality also makes them willing to help and love the people that they become attached to.

Helping Hands' monkeys can fetch things, operate small appliances, and do other minor chores. They also provide companionship and affection for their owners, while giving an occasional break to a caretaker.

The monkeys can also help eliminate some of the alienation that quadriplegics face in public, Campbell says.

"They're generally ostracised, say at a mall, but people flock when they see a monkey and they barrage them with questions," she says. "The monkey helps to form a psychological bridge."

Campbell gives two personal accounts of people who have benefitted from the program. One of them, Tom, lives a very active life with the help of his monkey-friend, Mango. Tom tells Campbell that he was so excited when he got Mango that he sent out birth announcements when he arrived.

Campbell wrote "Bringing Up Ziggy" both to help inform other people about Helping Hands and to help others who are raising a monkey or are considering doing so.

Although Campbell's book may be of more interest to monkey lovers and owners, it is definitely of interest to the curious.

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