Tom was also born in Africa. Like Annie, he should have known the beautiful world of the wild chimpanzee. Ripped from his family, he spent his first 30 years in the cold world of the laboratory. In his 15 years at LEMSIP, Ch-411 was knocked down over 369 times. Completely uncooperative in the lab, he was even knocked down for cage changes. After enduring some 56 punch liver biopsies, 1 open liver wedge biopsy, 3 lymph node and 3 bone marrow biopsies, Tom gave up. Plagued constantly by intestinal parasites, he often had diarrhea and no appetite. When he had some strength, he banged constantly on his cage. Today, Tom lacks the necessary social skills to be a part of a social group - all of the skills he would have learned with his mother and his siblings where he should be right now, in Africa.
Date of birth: Born approx. 1965, celebrated May 1st - December 10, 2009
Aka: Thomas, Tommy, Bubba, Tom Tom
It would seem that someone with so much personality and character would be easy to describe, when in fact Tommy is one of the hardest chimpanzees to write about. There is a lot to say about this special fellow and not miss any details.
Many people never get to see the sides of Tom that we do. He is quite aloof and private. Once a stranger is invited into his world, though, they are forever moved by him.
Intuitive, strong, wise, loving, loyal, gentle, understanding, forgiving, passionate, confident, tolerant, compassionate, brave and curious – he is a amazing fellow.
Tom is wise and intelligent and understands nearly everything anyone talks about or asks him to do. He seems to understand pretty much everything. He understands when we need to do things for him that will help him. And, he understands when we are helping someone else. However, he gets stressed when he cannot participate in helping or when he has no control over the situation. For example, when someone he loves is not well and he cannot be in the room to protect him/her, look at their wounds, or nurture them, he gets aggravated and stressed.
Tom has learned to think things through before he acts. He did not have an abundance of social skills when he arrived. He was loving and a great friend to Pablo, Jeannie and Yoko, but he would get into fights without thinking of the consequences. Today, he thinks. Sometimes he even decides not to get involved in one of the daily quarrels. He has learned to share and is more tolerant of situations that used to cause him great stress.
If someone is in need or being chased or teased, he is there for them. Respected and feared, when he gets involved he makes a problem end quickly. He is patient with his chimpanzee family having developed the quality of forgiveness -- a great asset when living a captive life with others. This ability to forgive has been helpful for his position in the group. He has managed to live in harmony with a number of chimpanzee friends, defending and helping those who need him.
In the early years, he did not seem to know who or what to fight for. Now it seems pretty clear to him. He knows what is right, what is wrong, when he needs to intervene, and when he merely needs to glare at someone as warning. With these social skills, he is one of the most respected members of the family at Fauna.
We have witnessed great acts of kindness from Tommy. He has reached a place in his life where he seems comfortable expressing his emotions. Sincere and down to earth, Tom does not pretend he is happy when he is not. He will ignore you if he needs to. He is comfortable enough with himself to show his vulnerable side, something many chimpanzees try hard to hide. Tom is real and true. He is who he is. If he is angry, he stays angry. But when he is feeling loving, he expresses his love generously.
Chimpanzees learn by observing. Watching Tommy, the others have learned to trust more, be more open and accept our help. Whenever Tom interacts with his human friend Pat, there is an audience watching to see how he reacts and what is happening. Tom is in big part the reason we are able to treat wounds. He is willing to let us treat his injuries, apply ointment and sprays, clean infected areas and he often participates cleaning himself with his own bowl of water and cloth. He has, by model taught others to trust and be available for our help. He shows us his scratches and wounds, and now many others do too.
With Tom’s help, we had a huge burden lifted in being able to care for everyone without traumatizing them even more. They co-operate so we can help them. He is a great teacher and role model. He has taught us inspiring lessons as well -- like just how important our patience and love were in helping him overcome his fears and gain confidence.
Tom is extremely vocal. You can hear him in the early morning and throughout the day, letting out his wonderful calls. His voice is distinctively deep. Neighbors and visitors have the chance to hear his expressive call. It makes you feel as though you are in a far off land and realize just how special it is to have someone like Tom in your life.
Social Status: Respected, high-ranking but misunderstood, lacking some social skills which does cause difficulty.
Favorite Activities: Tom likes to get up early and go outside. His calls can be heard very early. After his 6AM call, he naps before we start work. He loves to relax. Often we find him snoozing with a stash of apples.
Tom loves to visit with his human friends in the morning. Then he likes to groom and play with his chimpanzee family --in that order. Sadly, most mornings he goes through a time of not feeling well. He seems to feel nauseous and gags. It takes about a half hour before he seems okay again. Once the episode is over, he eats his breakfast and rests.
Tom loves to clean with the hose. He will spend an hour cleaning. He loves to tie knots in ropes. It is a mystery where he learned this or why he enjoys it but he does. If there is a rope tied in knots in his room, he will work hard to get the knots out, making it impossible to hang recreational ropes anywhere Tommy can get to them.
Tom loves to be on the islands. High on the structures, he rests looking out over the fields. When outside, he enjoys being alone. He does play chase and tickle games with the guys, but taking fruit and juice to the highest structures seems to be what he truly enjoys. He is a pretty mellow guy.
Tommy loves a party. He gets excited and always participates, being one of the first to go to any gathering if there are presents and good treats. He loves to paint, especially for Pat. Tom loves to make Pat happy. Pat gets very excited when Tommy does a painting, and so this is an amazing past time for both guys while sharing a cup of hot tea with oatmeal cookies.
Tom also enjoys being groomed by Pat. He is happy to give Pat his hands or feet to care for the scratches he gets in a week. He loves to help Pat when they clean his wounds together and apply ointment. He is a very good patient but he also enjoys his role as doctor, looking after others’ wounds, even helping apply ointment. We have witnessed thorough and conscientious medical work by Tommy on his chimpanzee family.
Tom adores eating and is extremely particular. But he gets such pleasure from his favorite foods that it is no wonder he wants what he wants. He will not eat something that does not appeal to him.
Tom’s evening activity is preparing his night nest which takes him a long time. First, he brings up supplies, in case he needs a snack in the middle of the night. He brings apples, oranges and soda crackers. Then, he considers the number of blankets he needs to make the perfect nest -- often more than 10. He his very particular about their placement, the way they smell and their thickness. Tom’s night nests look incredibly comfortable -- fit for a king -- and Thomas is as sophisticated as any king.
Favorite Foods: Eating is one of the highlights of Tommy’s day. He knows just what he wants and finds a way to be sure we give it to him.
Tom has been like this from the day he arrived when he would demand tangerines and green peppers, nothing else. His list has since expanded, but he still goes through periods where he will only eat a few select items. Usually, he selects about five items, refusing to eat anything else. Wisely, he selects seasonal foods that taste just right.
His regular favorites are Washington State apples, switching to local apples in apple season. He loves Maroc tangerines and Big Florida Oranges or the fresh oranges friends bring him from Florida. He has brand and seasonal preferences. He likes pineapple, melon, mangos, pears and grapes, but only if just perfect.
He adores and cannot pass a day without lettuce and green onions along with soda crackers. He likes tofu dogs, out of the package but only Yves.
He loves oatmeal. When he sees us coming with the Quaker Oats package, he’ll sit and wait to be served. He prefers it plain, but if there are baked apples with it, he enjoys the combination or with one of his new favorites, homemade berry coulis which he will eat on anything.
He loves apple, orange and grape juice, switching his favorite weekly. He refuses juice if it is watered down. He is not fond of candy, but loves sugar cane. Very often we see him outside, looking for the perfect grasses to eat, even enjoying willow leaves when they are young and fresh.
Tom keeps us working hard to be sure he has just the right foods to eat. Although he seems very particular, we know he eats other things, he just prefers we don’t see him. For years we thought he was the only chimpanzee who did not like bananas. But, we discovered he does like them when they are just right -- with the little brown spots.
Tommy’s last day at Fauna - May 1,1965 - December 10, 2009
I want to thank everyone who has written to us with condolences and those special friends who have done tributes to Tommy in so many different ways. Tom was our oldest and best known resident. He was also the face of Project R & R’s campaign to end research on chimpanzees. He will remain the Ambassador for Project R&R.
Within a day, many of you heard of his passing. Some of you learned of Tommy’s death from Fauna while many others read the first words of his passing in a Project R & R e-Alert. Dr. Capaldo, Project R&R’s President, knew Tommy and gave him the honor of his position in our joint campaign on behalf of all chimpanzees still in labs. She knew his personality, his health issues, his day to day life. She has written some of the most beautiful and powerful words describing him. If you haven’t already, you can read about Tommy’s role in Project R&R by visiting:
We have special friends at NEAVS and their commitment to Tom and everyone like him in labs is undeniable. Like us, they feel even more determined to end this unimaginable torture and needless suffering.
I am so grateful Tom was given a voice. His call, evoked in the images of him on Project R&R’s outreach materials, cries out loudly – and as one reader of the New Yorker in which he appeared in a Project R&R ad said, “How could anyone turn away from him?” At Fauna, Tom will always be heard. And now, everyone else will hear his calls as well.
Two very dear and special friends to Tommy were John Mulcahy and Diana Goodrich. They did a beautiful tribute to Tom on their website at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
John and Diana worked at Fauna in the early years and were two of the lucky ones to be chosen by Tom as close friends. When I read their words, I so easily recalled those special days and their special relationship with Tommy.
Then, came a special email from Allison Argo whose award winning documentary Chimpanzees an Unnatural History left us all sobbing with great joy and pain. None of us who were there or saw it on film will ever forget the day that Tommy climbed a wonderful, tall tree. Nor will we ever forget how powerful Allison’s final words were in her amazing documentary that helped millions change the way they look at the life of a research chimpanzee. I go over those words again and again and remember that truly special day with deep gratitude that he had that moment and overwhelming sadness that he is now gone.
It is so difficult to speak about a day that changes your life forever. When someone is in front of you asking what happened, it feels easy to tell. But to write about it and remember the days and weeks before has felt so hard to do. And so, it is only now that I can write about Tom. It was becoming harder the longer I have waited. I know I can’t wait any longer in part because of the cards, phone calls and e-mails sent to us from all of you. I have read some of the most beautiful messages and I can feel how much you share our pain. So now I am ready to write about dear Tom. I am ready to remember every detail and share them so that you can feel as though you had been here with us.
If you are reading this you probably have been a big part of the Fauna family of chimpanzees. We have spoken about Tom many times. He is well known, respected and loved. Not only was he loved by his Fauna family, but by so many people from all over the world. Tom was passionate and compassionate -- there to support his loved ones in times of need. He could get angry and let them know it, but came to learn how to resolve problems, like any true leader. He will always be one of the most important members of Fauna. He was an Alpha -- a wise and great Alpha.
As you may know, Tom made a lot of choices about who he wanted to live with and where he wanted to be. He always knew what he wanted and we tried to give him it as often as possible. In the early years, we often had little success. But over the years, with his healing and growth, Tom was able to do so much more than he could in the beginning. His social skills increased and his life improved dramatically because of that.
Tom’s history of years alone in a lab cage left him with no opportunity to learn anything about how to live in a group. But even with that horrid history, he certainly knew who he loved and his bonds with humans were strong. As everyone who knows him knows his dearest love was Pat Ring, a human.
A few months ago I started to write a story about Tom, it was titled, “Doctor in the House.” It was a story about Tom’s nurturing and care-giving skills. I was hoping to describe to you what a special fellow he was and how he had just helped us get through a very difficult time with Regis. Regis had an infected bite wound on his head after a scrap and he would not let us help him. If it had not been for Tom’s intervention, we would have had a much more serious problem. It was not the first or the last time Tom would help us out in such a situation. His need to help take care of the others was quite important to him and to us.
He learned his nursing skills from Pat. In 1997, months before Tom was to move into Fauna, he had had a very serious foot injury. Once at Fauna, he continued to have recurring problems with his foot. Many of you know how much of a challenge Tom’s problems were for him and for us as we tried to give Tom the life he so desperately wanted. He wanted to run, to play and to live some kind of normal life with others of his choice.
Yet, often Tom had to be isolated while we tried to take care of his foot. It was hard for him to be separated again and again, but he let us do it and was very co-operative because of his love for and trust in Pat. He gave us his full support because he understood that it was for his well being. Not ours.
Tom spent many weeks and months in a smaller area usually with Pablo and Jeannie, or Yoko. What he learned during this time was valuable to him for his future in a group and for his newly self-appointed responsibility as a caregiver to the others. Especially the wounded. At first glace one might think it was Pat taking care of Tom’s injured foot, but if you observed long enough you would see that it was Tom doing all the cleaning. Pat did the drying. Tommy applied the ointment. What started out as Tom assisting Pat, ended with Pat assisting Tom. He learned exactly what to do and he did it to the others when they were injured.
This may seem amusing to some, but in truth this is why Tom was where he was the day he died.
Binky had had a fight on November 18th that left a deep gash on the bottom of his foot. What we did not initially see however, under all the thick black hair, was the rest of his injuries. Bite wounds on the top of his foot and on his calf.
He was given anti-biotics immediately after the fight, as we always do to not take chances. It is not uncommon to see injuries. We sometimes have to wait until the chimps are ready to show us or we watch to see where they are looking, or where others are paying more attention. Binky was interested in letting us see the bottom of his foot but not anything else. As many of you know, Binky is one of the most athletic guys at Fauna He is in amazing condition, strong and muscular, but for some reason he was not doing well, not responding to the treatment.
After the usual 10 day treatment, we saw that Binky’s foot was getting more and more swollen. He began to have more difficulty walking. It was around this time that Tom began to observe Binky more. Binky was not responding to the antibiotics and his foot and leg were becoming terribly infected. He was uncomfortable and had a fever. Tom seemed aware that Binky was in trouble.
By December 3rd, Binky came into a room to be on his own, away from his group. Tommy was in the area right next to him, with Spock, one of the chimps from the Quebec zoo with whom Tom had become close friends. They were both very concerned about Binky. They sat near him, grooming him through the bars.
On Tuesday the 8th, Binky moved himself over to Jeannie’s room, which is the room next to the two new rooms that were made for medical procedures, right in front of the clinic. He came for help. He was getting weaker and could not put weight on his foot at all, leading us to believe he may have also broken some bones.
On Wednesday December 9th, early in the morning, we put Binky under anesthesia, cleaned his wound, drained fluid from his foot, gave him fluids, antibiotics, and ran several blood tests.
Tom and Spock sat together patiently all day in their room waiting and watching all the proceedings. It was time for Tom and Spock to go into the bigger common area and be with Jethro. This was a situation that would usually please Tom. He loved his times with Jethro and with his new friend Spock. Not this day though. When the door was opened for the fellows to leave and join Jetho, Spock left the room and Tommy stayed behind. He sat up high and close to the door that led to the room where Binky was. He wasn’t budging. With Tom, we never tried to convince him to go somewhere he didn’t want to go. He had crossed through this door thousands of times in his 12 years at Fauna. They were the rooms he spent his first months and years in. But that day, he wouldn’t move.
When Kim asked me what to do, because Tommy was just sitting at the door that led to where Binky was, I said. “Let him go where he wants to go.” He wanted to go to Binky and he did. We opened the door and Tommy stayed in the room next to Binky most of the day, waiting and watching.
He could not go in right away with him, because Binky was still very sleepy. So Tommy positioned himself comfortably in the doorway with his head as close as possible to Binky. He was waiting for him to throw the covers off and sit up. Tommy was patient and looked ready to spend the rest of the day right there -- not leaving until he knew everything was okay.
We all talked to Tom, reassuring him that Binky was going to be okay. We served him his dinner in that room, Jeannie’s room. He ate and stayed there until midnight.
Binky slept for a long time. The bandage on his foot and leg seemed to immobilize him. Normally as soon as they see the bandage, they rip it off. It is always your hope that they leave it on for a little while to get the soothing effect of the medication and the cleanliness. Once it is off, you face more challenges.
But Binky seemed in shock. As if his foot and leg did not belong to him, he would not touch them. Just ever so lightly at first, then not at all. He made a call to Tom and the others, and then curled up and went back to sleep. It seemed to comfort Tommy to know Binky was awake and communicating with the rest of his family all through the chimphouse. Some of the folks could not see him and could only hear him – as it must often be for family living in the deep forests of Africa.
Tom just lay there watching and waiting for Binky to get up. We were all touched by Tom’s concern and throughout the day told him what a sweet guy he was for being there for Binky.
The next day was different, though. Tom was anxious and really wanted – needed-- to go in the room with Binky. I had fully intended to let him. The hold up was that Rachel was in with Tom and she is simply not as gentle with wounds as Tommy is. Yet, Rachel was anxious too, banging on the door to get in with Binky. Tommy, upset by her behavior, displayed and banged on the wall.
It was amazing to see how controlled he was. It took me back to the days he would watch Jeannie lose control, and just sit quietly by and not engage. He understood, somehow, that Jeannie was not in control of her rage, as he understood that day with Rachel.
I thanked him for not hurting Rachel. I looked at him sitting up on the bed, just looking the other way.
On this second day, Thursday December 10th, we had to be sure to get Binky’s bandage off. It could not be left on that long, Because he was not trying to get it off, we had some concern.
But, I wasn’t too worried because I knew I could just let Tommy go into Binky’s room and he would take it off. The problem was we had to make sure he went in alone, and not with Rachel.
We managed to find a new room for Rachel, away from Tommy. Yet, as soon as she saw me open the door for Tom, she started screaming and hitting herself and had one of her disturbingly severe anxiety attacks. So I stopped. I told Tommy I was sorry, and that I would be back later to let him in to visit with Binky, or to be closer to him in the next room.
I had called Pat the night before to tell him about Binky’s surgery. I told him in the message what had happened, and how we had to do something for the Binkster. I said if you are in the area, you need to stop by and visit because the Bub sure could use a friend right now while he was recovering.
Pat was surprised Binky was in such a condition and said he would stop by for sure. He said he was going to stop by that day to give Tommy “some love” anyway, since each time he had stopped by lately it was to give Tom his B12 injections. He wanted to just visit and play on a day that was not injection time.
This was all pretty perfect. Tommy and the Binkster would both be taken care of by Pat. All was well.
Except that in the midst of all of that, I had a call from the office telling me that Mr. Puppy was having a crisis. I could hear him yelping in the background. It was awful to hear him like that. Mr. Puppy is 16 years old, and he is close to the end of his time here on earth, a sad reality we face daily. My staff was heading out to take him to Richard’s clinic.
I had a call from Richard, after Mr. Puppy was dropped off. He said you must come to see him. He is really bad. So I left the chimphouse, with Tom waiting to go in with Binky and went to the clinic to see Mr. Puppy. During that time, Pat was on his way to see Tommy and Binky. I called to say I would be late. Pat said no problem, he was just going to be hanging out with Tommy.
I had asked him if he could stay late and help me get Binky’s bandage off, after everyone left. He said he would. I had to make a stop after the clinic to go to Costco to pick up vitamins, Glucosamine, and a few other things for the chimps. I had just looked at my list and was lifting the cover to my phone to call the chimphouse to ask a question.
When I put the phone to my ear, I could hear all this commotion. It was Kim from the chimphouse telling someone to get off the line. I could hear someone frantic in the background saying they needed a pump. Then there was the sound of Pat yelling and Kim. I tried to ask “Kim, what is going on?” but she was in two conversations. Strangely it was like all of us were on the same line at the same time, but we did not know it. Then Kim said, “Gloria ?”, I said “Yes, what is going on?” She was crying and saying, “It’s Tommy.”
I screamed, “What, what is wrong with Tommy?” She said, “Tommy, he’s choking. He can’t breath. Pat is in with him, and he is choking.”
I knew right away he would die.
I dropped everything and went back to the chimphouse as quickly as possible. While I drove, we all stayed on the phone -- Kim, Cindy, Richard, Isabelle (our vet tech) and Mario. All talking to each other, trying to get through the moment. Richard was giving Isabelle instructions. I was just listening and feeling like I was losing control. I hung up, told Richard to hurry up and get there. Then I called Dr. Capaldo –Theo – and sobbed nearly inaudibly, “He’s dying. Tommy is dying.” Then I tried to call my family.
Trying to get back to Fauna felt like an eternity. It was the longest 8 minutes of my life.
When I arrived, Pat was standing outside the building. I knew it was over. He would never have left Tommy if he was still alive. We just hugged and cried. The only thing I could say was that I was so grateful Pat was there. I could never have wished for a better way for Tommy to go than in Pat’s most loving arms.
I ran into the building to find everyone so distraught. I don’t even remember who was there. I just know that seeing Tommy laying on the floor was unbearable.
Pat came in with me, while I lay with Tommy. Then we all went in with him. My sisters came, first Linda, then Dawna. My brother in laws, Chris and then Tony. It was all so very very sad and so shockingly unexpected.
Kim was in the chimphouse when it all happened. She said Tommy was very happy to see Pat. They played. They groomed. They sat quietly together.
She told me Tom was sitting eating lettuce when suddenly he went limp, and seemed to be choking. His head dropped. Pat said “Open the door.” Kim did. Pat went in immediately and began to give Tom CPR. Isabelle was able to pass a tube down his throat and they gave him air. Pat was pumping his heart. Isabelle gave him another injection that kept him going for a few minutes longer. They kept Tommy breathing for minutes, but to no avail.
Tom left us that day and left an emptiness that is not possible to describe.
Pat told me he was looking right into Tommy’s eyes when he took his last breath and that is truly a great comfort. We should all be so blessed as to be in the arms of a great love when our time comes.
They had managed to keep him alive for a short while. But once we saw inside of Tommy we knew that he could never have survived, even if we had the finest trauma team in the world. He was ready to go and he had his best friend in the world holding him when he left.
To have the one who loves you most of all, there with you in the final moments must be the final comfort. The one who would do anything for you and loves and respects you and who’s heart will be broken forever because of losing you.
Pat is deeply deeply grieving. He knows that Tommy had a lot of health problems, but right now, he is missing his beloved Tommy.
As hard as the loss of Tom is for Pat and me and all of his human friends, the loss for the rest of Tommy’s chimp family is even more profound. They are still living it and feeling it. The emptiness and the quiet. Tom was a very big presence. Father figure, leader, teacher, disciplinarian, friend.
There is a silence in the chimphouse that is unimaginable. I cannot even imagine how difficult this is for all of them. They are hurting, scared and very angry.
Like poor Binky who once again witnessed the death of someone very close and very dear to him. Just 3 years ago, Binky was across from Jeannie when she died, in the same room Tommy died in. It was Binky’s calls I heard the night I walked back to the chimphouse when Jennie was so ill and I knew something had happened. I knew that Jeannie had died. I had kept a vigil with her, yet when she finally passed, it was Binky who was there with her.
Our dear little (he is one of our youngest) Binky, not only is he going through a painful and fearful physical trauma, but he is in the middle of another great loss. Tommy died right beside him, in the room waiting to go in with Binky.
With Binky’s procedure following Tommy’s death, I was reminded of just how terribly stressful all this is for all the rest. Tommy’s dying, Binky lying on the stretcher after his surgery. I understand what they must be going through and how hard this is for them after years of witnessing this kind of thing – dying chimps, injured chimps, sick chimps… one can only imagine how terrifying this time must be for them.
Since December 9th, Binky has been under anesthesia 3 times. We are having to be aggressive about his treatment to save not only his foot and leg, but to save his life. He had the x-ray he needed. Nothing is broken. He is having a hard time fighting the infection. And he is looking so depressed, isolated from his friends and family, which makes everything much worse.
The chimps call each night to Binky. He answers in a long and very different voice. They are needing reassurance. Yet, it was Tommy who we heard each morning for the past 12 years, and it was Tommy who made the last call of the night. The reassurance they had all come to rely on is gone now. And it will take time and change to appoint someone to that central role in their family.
With Tommy gone, everything will change. And, we will all have to find the energy that was Tom, the strength that was Tom, and feel the peace inside that is Tom.
Some say his soul is soaring free now. In my heart I know Tommy will soar over us eternally. Wrapping his enormous arms around us all, like the wings of an angel. He will give us the strength to fight even harder for his brothers, sisters, and cousins. And, for our own souls.
I was in the chimphouse on Sunday. Normally Sundays, a time when I am alone with the chimps, are wonderful days. They are relaxed and happy. But this Sunday they were dead quiet and not at all interested in anything.
In the quiet, I found a card on the counter. Inside I read a note from Sari, a friend and long time volunteer, who for years has dedicated her Sunday mornings to the chimps. Many times I have walked in on her, and caught her and Tom having private games of chase. They kept their relationship a secret from most of us. I was sobbing while I read her words:
“I will miss Tom. There is no way around that. The life Tom lived at Fauna was a miracle and meant to be. It is amazing to have seen him accept us, and be welcoming of us. …I am … one of the privileged to have come to know him, run with him, and blow in his ears. I am so sorry for this loss. I know Tom would be wiping the tears from my eyes.”
And someone else wrote that “ Somewhere in the sky tonight, a star is shining brighter because of him.”
When we think like that, then each time we look up we will see him, and know that all the other bright stars are those we have loved and we will be comforted.
Someone wrote “Tom is in Summerland, where all that is required is that he be himself. The air will always be sweet for him, the ground will be soft and covered with grass, and the sun will be kind. “
And, when someone wrote “our hearts weep and our souls grieve with you for the passing of this magnificent being called Tom,” I was touched deeply.
In closing, I know some of you have read the words sent to us from Allison Argo. For those of you who haven’t or for one last time for those of you who have, she wrote:
Tom had the gift to inspire greatness… he drew out the best in all who knew him with his gentleness, dignity and tolerance…. It was a tremendous privilege to know him. I remember so clearly writing the script for the end of my film. I only had a few days left to finish when I hit a block and started to panic about the final words. I decided to take a walk, and as I walked I focused on Tom high in the tree. I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to finally be able to look out towards the horizon – to see the landscape stretch out before him, so far from where his life had begun decades earlier. The life of this extraordinary being had been stolen- and at last, he could see beyond the bars. It was only a glimpse, but it must have been profound….Within a few hundred feet, the words had written themselves. I ran home in tears and pounded them into the computer. In hindsight, I think it was probably Tom who wrote them:
We know so little about this old chimpanzee-given the name “Tom” by someone, someplace. All we know is that he spent 30 years in a steel cage. Tom has reached the end of his journey at last.
…We can’t undo the past-but we can reconsider the future and the cost to the chimpanzee. Thousand like Tom have sacrificed everything so that we might live a little longer or laugh a little louder…Far from the forests of equatorial Africa, this old chimp can finally survey the strange landscape that has become his home. At last his trials have come to an end- but his story will live on: a reminder of the thousands like him, who are still waiting for a second chance.
Thank you Tom, for all you taught us. May your story continue to inspire goodness and change.
These words will be read, spoken, for a very long time, because they say it all. They touch us and remind us and force us to be better human beings. Tom can rest now, but we can’t. We must work hard to make up for all the wrongs that have been done to them and all animals. If we do this, if we try to end the abuse and make things better, we too will one day rest.
Meanwhile, every night I light a candle for those I have loved and lost. Tonight, light a candle for them and for all those who are with us and still need us.
With much love,
Many of you know how many health problems Tom had over the years. He was plagued with chronic diarrhea from the day he moved in. He had been repeatedly infected with many strains of the HIV virus. He suffered from a gagging condition every morning. He had a mass in his abdomen that was never determined. He could only eat certain things and he continually tried to self medicate in his food choices from what we offered. After he died, we performed an autopsy. With what we saw inside, he must have felt terrible and it is a miracle he was with us as long as he was.
Once we have completed results, we will share our findings. But know this, it was unimaginable that someone could have gone through all that.
He was at the mercy of the research community for 30 years, so there is not much more to say than that.
Except that he was tired. He had been tired for months, perhaps years. Tom can rest now. And like everything in his life in sanctuary, Tom got to make a choice. And, I guess he just decided it was time to go. We will miss you, Thomas.