Eugene led a solitary life in a front window display case of a Quebec City pet shop. He arrived at Fauna in 2014 when the pet shop closed. Originally he was thought to either have come from a zoo in Ontario or research laboratory.
Beautiful, kind, innocent Eugene.
Eugene arrived in the early evening of March 19th. He arrived for the first day of spring, and he got to see the world transform right before his eyes…the birds arrived, the trees and flowers bloomed, the gardens around his home grew and stimulated senses. He had rain on his body, wind in his hair and the hot summer sun to bask in.
Watching Eugene was like watching a youngster explore everything for the first time…he looked wondrously out at the world around him. When he was not in the window looking out, he was trying to see what Theo was doing, or what Darla and Newton and little Sophie were doing.
He tried everything he was offered to eat, sniffing and tasting tiny bits before deciding he should try this new food. When he arrived at Fauna, he didn’t recognize foods at first, perhaps because he had to eat in a dark box, never really seeing what he ate, only able to identify by taste, not by sight. He savored his food, taking the longest time to chew and enjoy. Eating must have been his only pleasure in the bleak and dark world he was living in, with nothing else to do. And so with a bucket of food to eat, he perhaps took his time to savor the moment.
He didn’t eat much at a time but he certainly savored each mouthful, chewing for the longest time, moving the food around in his mouth, enjoying all the sensations and all the new flavors. From tangerines to leeks, his pallet was being stimulated and he was enjoying every moment of it. He must have loved his new routine — going from eating once per day from a bucket in the dark, to being served three times per day, having browse and enrichment available to eat all throughout the day. We watched him transform to eat little bits all day long, the way monkeys are supposed to eat.
Eugene’s new living space was originally Theo Baboon’s, when he first moved to Fauna. Then it was Sophie and Little Man’s, our Capuchin couple lived there. After Little Man passed away, Sophie’s space was modified with ramps and wider wooden platforms, made for seniors. She was so frail and weak she cannot get to that room anymore, so it was vacant.
That front room, with two big windows right next to the kitchen and away from the others, is somewhat private, with a fantastic view of the creek and the open cornfields next door. The ducks and geese swim and eat right in front of the Monkey House, there is a constant flow of wildlife passing by. It was all right before his eyes, and Eugene seemed to be in awe of all the goings on.
His first full day here, he met a few new friends. Caregiver Lindsay was taking care of the monkeys, and she was the first to meet him on that Thursday morning. She found him to be kind, easy going, and very relaxed. He was that way with the other staff here at Fauna, too. I knew from the very first night he was here that he might be a very easy-going personality, with no demands and no expectations. His life of depravation has certainly had an effect on him.
Eugene was born in 1986. There are conflicting stories of where he came from, either a zoo in Ontario or a research facility. One day maybe we will be able to find out the truth of his past. What we do know is that he was with a pet shop owner for 27 of his 28 years. My guess is that when he was little, he was carried around and used as an attraction. Then, he was locked up…put into a concrete cell with just a window, no fresh air, no natural light, no sounds or smells. A vacuum tight space, with people staring in at him, day in and day out, as he sat on a piece of plywood, slept on the piece of plywood, or in the plywood box built behind his concrete room that was his eating space or his sleeping space.
When we arrived at the pet shop to do the rescue on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, there were lots of people there to see Eugene — media and their cameras, staff, friends of the owner, and customers taking advantage of the closing sales.
The pet shop closed in April 2014. There were 40 or 50 people all around Eugene’s cage. I had to go outside to warm up my car. He had been hosed to make him move, so he was cold and wet. He was quite upset at all the people around him and started shaking his cage. We did what we could to get him out as soon as we could, but once he started to shake it, he really didn’t stop. He was stressed at this time, and must have felt very vulnerable there in front of everyone in such a small space.
Once we moved his cage outside, he stopped. The sun was shining and the air was fresh and cold. He suddenly went completely still, I thought for a moment he might have a heart attack or be in shock. He just sat there staring out, not moving. As we lifted the cage into the back of my car, we had to roll it twice; it would not fit in right side up. I would have expected him to be very stressed about this but he was not; he took the move in stride just following the cage as it tilted over. Once he was in position, he placed his hand on the side bars of the cage and just sat there staring out.
The TV cameras were on him once again, but this time he did not seem bothered at all. He was curious and amazed by the light, the sounds and the smells.
As we drove off with our passenger secure in the back of the car, I turned to look at him, his eyes flicking side to side as he tried to absorb all the sights around him. He was totally amazed and curious. Once we got on the highway leaving Quebec, we had to go under some overpasses. Each one seemed to frighten him a little, and he would close his eyes and duck his head a little, yet still looking at the sights around him. I felt at one point he might feel nauseous if he didn’t stop looking at everything. Thankfully we got out of the city limits before he was, and we were on the long road home with not much to see but trees and sky. In some ways I was grateful the sun was not too bright that day; coming out of the dark like he did could have been hard on his eyes. The weather was perfect, the ride calm and smooth, and Eugene peaceful and curious.
We stopped once and he lay down in the cage to rest, he was not anxious or nervous. He was ready for change and a new life. As we came to the last leg of the journey off the highway and at a stoplight, I turned to look at Eugene, to see how he was doing. Eugene was a Japanese Macaque, which has a normal lifespan of 30 years or so. Being only a few years from his natural lifespan, he did indeed look old.
However in that moment as I looked at him sitting in the cage, still holding onto the side of the cage and looking so curiously out the window he suddenly looked like a little child. His eyes were open wide with amazement, he was so curious so aware of all that was going on, a few snow flakes fell around us, and he was trying to watch them all. I turned to offer him something from my goodie bag, a little treat. He had eaten almonds, and tangerines earlier but now I offered him a lollipop…his eyes lit up and his hand reached for the candy. It was like taking a child for his first ride in a car, he was just so content.
When we arrived at Fauna, he remained calm and to my amazement so did the current residents of the Monkey House. Theo Baboon, Darla and Newton Rheuses Macaques, and Sophie Capuchin were all quiet as they watched the new arrival come into the Monkey House. We placed his cage inside the room he would be moving into. We tied a rope on the door of his carrier, I removed the lock and we closed the main door of his new room. Then we pulled the door of his cage open, he came out right away, and went up to the resting platforms. There he sat looking all around him for the next few hours. He did not go to the floor in those first hours, just sat up high looking out of the picture window in his room at the ducks landing for the night on the creek in front of his new home.
Eugene’s new home had been enriched and decorated with toys, bowls of water, food, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, blankets and even a welcome home sign. He was in awe, and possible overwhelmed for a moment, but he did not show it. He just sat in the same place turning to look in the room behind him at the new neighbors, trying to peek through the beaded curtain at Theo, and then fixed on the sights out the window. He was shaking at first, but then he stopped.
We left him alone so he could settle in and have a rest, poor dear fellow had a long and exciting day. I knew he had food, water, and a clean warm home, so I gave him some time alone. When I went back an hour or so later he was still in the same place, just gazing out the window. He came to me to eat a piece of banana, and a dried apricot which he rolled around in his mouth with such delight. He had not touched the food on his platform, clearly the whole thing a new experience for him. His food had been served before in a bucket once per day in a dark box…or handed to him in his hand.
He ate, he looked out, then he tried to go down the ramp…it was then I saw how frail and weak he was. His upper body looked good, his hair long and puffed up a little from the excitement…however once he tried to walk down the ramp I could see he needed to hold onto the sides, and I could see how skinny and emaciated he looked, his legs all shakey and weak. He was having trouble walking, and maneuvering the slope of the ramp. After 27 years in the small space he came from, with no climbing structures except for one tree, and a bunch of rocks on the floor, it had made him lose his muscle, and most definitely he was malnourished not having an adequate diet.
I suspected he was diabetic, or borderline diabetic…he drank a lot of water, and had eaten poorly for years. He has had no sunshine, or natural light on his body all that time, no exercise, and he had not breathed fresh air in years. I could barely hold my eyes open in the space he lived in, they were burning and my nose was running at the stench…it is not possible for an individual to live in that environment and not be compromised in some way.
We all witnessed Eugene make progress, witnessed his rebirth. We bore witness as he experienced spring for the first time — flowers, spring rain, birds, wonderful smells, new monkey friends, and human friends. Life was full and enriching for him at Fauna. We are so grateful to give him what we could while he was with us…knowing it would never be enough.