Chiquita


Alan from the Atascadero Zoo called me to check on Chiquita. One of their spider monkeys had stopped eating and developed diarrhea. She looked horrible when I examined her, appearing weak and listless, about to check out.

The zoo had no facilities to treat her properly. I needed to bring her to my house for convalescence. Because she had diarrhea, I sent a stool sample to the lab for identification. The lab would run a sensitivity test to tell me which antibiotic was the most efficacious. Placing Chiquita in a portable dog kennel, I brought her home and asked Mary if she could help me with the monkey's treatment. She told me we needed diapers and drove to town to buy some for newborn children. Cutting a hole in it for Chiquita’s tail, Mary diapered her just like any other baby. Besides medicating her three times a day, we also needed to feed this thing. Chiquita was weak; we started hand feeding her a regimen of monkey chow mixed with water for the next week.

Chiquita rallied and developed an attitude.

At first, she put up no resistance when we put her to bed in her crate, but as she got better, she made it known this was not what she wanted nor expected. Continuing to improve she roamed the house, but when she bent the curtain rods by hanging on them Mary told me it was time to take her to work with me. Chiquita still needed to be medicated every eight hours, so I didn’t want her back at the zoo yet. I carried her to the truck and brought her into the office where she relaxed, lying languidly on the counter under a heat lamp looking as if she were posing as the current monthly playmate in her diaper.

My brother Rick came down to visit us for Christmas. Chiquita instantly took to him. Briefly, they became a close and happy couple. There had to be some resemblance to ignite a spark of interest. Both had steel blue eyes, and Chiquita was attracted to Rick's scraggly beard, spending hours running her fingers through it. Maybe she was looking for fleas, but I think there was a mutual attraction.

Because I was expanding my practice into Atascadero, I arranged to have a realtor meet me at the building I was interested in purchasing. Needing to measure the rooms to see how I could adapt it into a clinic, I loaded Chiquita into the truck, placing her on the bench seat next to me. She was put in her crate only during bedtime now, so I just let her lie on the bench seat. The drive-in had become routine. Now we were leaving her container at home.

It was snowing one day I brought Chiquita with me. The drive into Atascadero was icy, and there was an area where the truck lost traction on black ice. The snow diminished as I drove closer to town. I left the monkey in the truck with the engine running and the heater on while I met with the realtor. It was a quick visit; I just needed measurements. I was due in the Paso office for surgeries.

We shook hands, and I left with Chiquita warm in the truck. Between Atascadero and Paso there is a mile-long dip in the 101 at Santa Rosa Creek, and as I drove into it the truck lost all traction. No matter what I did with the brakes or the steering, the vehicle began veering, to the left into the snow-covered median. Catching dirt the wheels suddenly found traction, somersaulting the truck into a roll turning us over one and a half times. The driver window next to me shattered as the roof collapsed. The truck came to rest on the passenger’s side.

Unhooking my seatbelt, I climbed through the broken window and jumped onto the ground. A Cal Trans fellow was in the vicinity and came running over.

He arrived to see me climbing onto the undercarriage. I needed to find Chiquita.

“Are you alright?” he yelled.

I reached the broken window and was peering inside for my monkey friend. Seeing Chiquita, I hefted myself higher. Dropping my right arm inside I fished around the jumbled mess of the cab contents. Finding Chiquita’s hand, I grabbed it and pulled her out just as the fellow reached my overturned truck. Holding her with both hands, I jumped to the ground from the undercarriage and pushed the monkey bundle at the fellow.

The fellow was severely startled when he realized I was holding a furry animal with long arms and legs wearing a diaper. Understandably, he jumped backward with a start.

“I have a monkey here… She’s going to get cold quickly,” I told him. I saw he had a Cal Trans truck with exhaust coming from the muffler, indicating there was warmth for Chiquita there.

“We need to put her in your truck,” I said.

Chiquita pooped her diapers, but there was no place to change her, so I set her in the cab of the Cal Trans vehicle then ran back to my truck to assess the damage. Because of the flipping motion, some of the doors of the compartments in the vet pack flung open and ripped off, strewing surgical tools, buckets, equipment, and medicines along the median. I set about picking these up. Soon a California Highway Patrol vehicle came on the scene. We had a short talk. The officer pointed to my tires; they were pretty bald. I agreed they were a bit on the smooth side.

As we talked, and I realized there were to be no infractions cited for my accident I became more comfortable with the officer. I told him I was not going to let the monkey drive my truck anymore.

The accident occurred between two towns. There was a dairy farm just off the highway. Cell phones were still only available on the Star Trek science fiction series, but I was allowed to use the CHP’s phone system to contact Kathy, the technician from the Paso office to come and help. By the time she arrived, I had picked up as many instruments and medicines as I could find. A tow truck came and was pulling my truck back onto its wheels to cart the crumbled mess off to the dealership. Kathy and I gathered up any remaining debris, pulled smelly Chiquita out of the Cal Trans vehicle, and headed to Paso. My neck was sore, but we still finished the scheduled surgeries. Mary drove into town to bring us both home.

Once I decided Chiquita was cured I relinquished her back to the zoo, happily. Her wellness made her a horrible roommate; she bent all of our curtain rods. I watched her climb high into a tree on our property with a leash to ensure I could bring her back if needed. And she always complained about being put to bed. In essence; I had a teenage daughter ready to be sent back to where she belonged. Later, Mary and I visited Chiquita when she was back in her zoo home, and every time she climbed to the same corner of her pen spending a few minutes with us, chattering exuberantly, to tell us what was new.

Last: Doctor, Heal Thyself

Next: Stealing Ostrich Eggs




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