Woman’s Helping Monkey Makes Life Worth Living

Linda Brown, whose mobility is impaired, gives her Helping Hands capuchin monkey, Tracey, a hug after giving her a bath and photographer Susan Stocker was there to capture the moment.

Brown is paralyzed and her monkey helps her with simple household tasks, according to a recent article.

In Tamarac, FL when Brown wants to hear music, watch t.v., or adjust her bedroom lights she calls on Tracey, the article stated.

“Tracey can slip a CD into the player, flip a light switch or hand Brown the television remote with deft fingers,” said writer Sallie James. The little monkey began changing Brown’s life two years ago.”

“It doesn’t sound like a lot but that’s my world and it makes it more bearable,” said Brown, 51, a paraplegic, in the article. “When I started with her I was already in the wheelchair and I was so depressed.”

Tracey is a highly trained capuchin monkey whose job is assisting Brown with simple tasks, said James.

Brown suffers from syringomyelia, a degenerative spinal-cord condition that causes paralysis and chronic pain.

Enter Tracey, a six-pound monkey whose mischievous nature gave Brown a reason to want to live, wrote James.

“What’s unique about Tracey is that she can help me with simple objects,” reported Brown. “She can pick up the portable phone and hand it to me.”

About five years ago Brown’s doctor suggested she look into monkey helpers, so her husband went online and found the Helping Hands web site, according to research.

Three years later the Helping Hands agency matched Brown with Tracey and soon Brown found herself doing something she hadn’t done in years: laughing, reported James.

Brown directs Tracey by pointing a laser light at an object and using simple commands, according to the agency.

With the command “do bucket” Tracey crawls across Brown’s prone body and tosses a crumpled tissue into a wastebasket, agency staff report.

“Monkeys like Tracey initially spend six or seven years in foster homes where they learn how to interact with people, to fetch, be diapered, and take baths,” said Megan Keppeler, director of placements for Helping Hands. “When a monkey is matched to a recipient a trainer spends about eight days at the recipient’s home teaching that person how to work with and care for the monkey.”

Couple that with breeding and placement and each monkey costs the nonprofit agency about $33,000, according to a press release.

“What we look for in our recipients are people who say, ‘There is more out there than this and I want to do everything I can,” said Keppeler via email.

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