Friday, October 7, 2011

Fauna on the Montreal Dog Blog by Nat Lauzon

Nat Lauzon formerly from Mix 96 came by this past August to interview Gloria and write a story for her blog called "Montreal Dog Blog"

Her is her story entitled "This one's for you Pepper!"

As you may recall, several blogs ago I wrote about Cruelty-Free Beauty and how we should all be aware that animal testing exists, and that it all comes down to consumer choices – there are many products today that don’t test on animals, and it’s up to all of us to make better and more ethical choices if we want the future of research to change and not involve animal testing!

After I wrote this blog, I had the chance to go with MDB creator Nat Lauzon to visit the Fauna Foundation. Our mission was to meet the Fauna Team, get to know the chimps and what they have been through, learn what it takes to keep the Fauna thriving, and of deliver lots and lots of toys to the chimps who call Fauna home. I know that neither one of us will forget that day and all we learned from the experience.

Our road trip started early. First stop-to pick up all the goodies. Luckily, Natalie Gore, Owner and Founder of Bailey Blu in NDG, allowed us to advertise her store as the drop-off spot for all the toys. Thanks to Natalie and to everyone who donated toys and other needed items. We had 6 bags, overflowing with rattles, videos, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, little tyke toys and so much more – even a couple of hula hoops and 48 bananas I picked up along the way…:)

Click on the link below for the full article

A special message from Gloria

The Montreal Dog Blog’s Shelly and Nat

Visitors to Fauna are always a delight and this summer was no exception. This summer we had the opportunity to spend time with some of our cherished supporters, new and long time volunteers, and first time visitors. Among the new supporters we found two special people, we now call friends. I had the pleasure of meeting Shelly Elsliger and Nat Lauzon when they came for the first time in July.

Nat is well known for her years as being a radio host in Montreal for Mix 96 (now Virgin Radio). A lot of Montrealers have grown up listening to Nat. She has always been a friend to animals and has been involved in animal welfare issues in and around the area. Unfortunately her voice can no longer be heard daily as she recently left Virgin Radio to concentrate on her animal projects and voice work.

Shelly is a career advisor at Concordia University in Montreal and also uses her power of words as a blogger. She lends her expertise to cover not only animal topics, but likes to concentrate on sustainable living, educating readers on cruelty free product shopping. Both her and Nat are the main reasons that the Montreal Dog Blog is so successful today.

They have produced an amazing and much needed Blog that is specific to Montreal and addresses many of the questions and concerns people living with companion animals have. It is a concise and accurate tool for anyone who cares about animals.

I think the Blog is a wonderful resource and I was delighted to hear of its popularity and success. There is such a need for this information, and I was very interested in meeting the people behind the Blog.

They had contacted us after learning about our work and the chimps to ask if there was anything they could do to help. A sanctuary like ours is always in need of something, so naturally we do have a very long list of items on our wish list, and that seemed like the perfect place to start. They spread the word on their blog about Fauna, asking people to donate what they could from our wish list of items we would like for the chimps, and they had a wonderful response.

A few weeks later, Shelly and Nat were delivering a van full of goodies to Fauna, and it was like Christmas in July.

I met Shelly and Nat at the office, saw all the wonderful gifts they brought, and then off we went to the chimp house so they could meet our amazing residents. When we arrived at the gate, there to greet us were Pepper and Sue Ellen. They were sitting up high in the new section of sky walk (an elevated section of caging), a wonderful location right at the front gate, with a perfect view of everyone who comes to the chimp house or passes by in a day. With Fauna’s 15 or so employees, volunteers and contract workers there is an awful lot to see in a day, and it is wonderful to see that Pepper and Sue want to be a part of the action, it helps pass the long days and gives them so much to look forward too, never knowing what wonderful surprises we have in store for them. Today’s surprise would be two special new friends. I would have the chance to introduce Nat and Shelly to our new socialite Miss Pepper and her best friend Sue Ellen. For all the years Pepper hid in the back of the chimp house or hid up high in the building out of sight, these past few months have shown us a new and very exciting side of Pepper. A side of her we didn’t really know about.

I don’t know what happened exactly, or why she came out of hiding- all I do know is that it has been a remarkable breakthrough for this very special soul. From terrified, aloof, shy and introverted Pepper to the outgoing, outspoken super social Miss Pepper- the transformation has been simply magical. When we opened the gate Pepper just greeted us with the warmest welcome, I know she was curious to see the cast I had on my leg, and I am sure that was part of the excitement as well as the site of new people.

Pepper was so excited, we hadn’t seen each other for a few days after my accident, so to have a nice visit was really important. I knew Pepper would want to see why I had a cast on my foot, and to see for herself what was up. She is very compassionate and concerned about others so for her to need to see was very special and important to her and to me. I had the choice of going up the stairs to be close to her and leave my guests behind, or invite my guests to come up with me. Pepper did not appear to be stressed at all by the guests and was interacting right away with them, looking them in the eye, greeting them with her gestures and in general just interested in a visit with me, my cast and new people. She wasn’t too bothered at all by the visitors, and I knew how important it was to Pepper to see me close up after such a time away from her, and it didn’t feel right to stay so far away and not interact with her at this time. I decided to invite my guests to follow me up the stairs to the mezzanine level, explaining to them what they had to do, and how they should react in this area where visitors are not usually able to go because it is more dangerous and stressful for the chimps. There is always caging and lots of bars between the chimps and the humans, but it can and is very dangerous if you are not careful, and I trusted that my guests would pay close attention to everything we discussed earlier about safety.

Pepper was there, Sue Ellen right beside her and Chance was off in the background. I could see right away that Shelly and Nat were not sure what to do or how to act, but within minutes Pepper and Sue showed them. It is amazing to meet a chimpanzee in person, and to feel the energy that is exchanged between them and us. I know how impressive it is and I could see that my guests were feeling it too. When Pepper responded to my comments and questions, when she went to bring over the empty water bottle asking for something to drink, how she passed me the cup I asked her for, we were in a conversation and to see that is rather impressive and overwhelming. I know it was for me the first time I met chimpanzees at CHCI, many years ago, and I can only imagine what my visitors were feeling.

We sat for more than 20 minutes admiring Pepper, chatting with her and talking about her life in the lab and her life at Fauna. I could see that Pepper had two new admirers, and I was so happy for her that she had been recognized as the truly amazing soul she is.

Nat and Shelly were clearly moved by the whole experience and it made me feel very much at ease with them, knowing they understood how special this moment was. We left Pepper and Sue Ellen after a lovely visit with them. We went for a little walk to see who else might be outside before going into the building, and as we went around the corner heading towards Billy’s Island we noticed we had two followers, there they were again, Pepper and Sue Ellen following us to see where we were going next. They had gone into the building, up two sets of stairs, crossed over the tunnel, down another ladder into a night room, then out into the sky walk heading towards the Island. It was a long walk for them, but they really wanted to stay with us.

I knew they must be completely comfortable, because they wanted to continue the visit. We were delighted to see them again, and knowing that Pepper had chosen to spend time with these enlightened guests was lovely. They were definitely worth Pepper’s time, and that was obvious.

Pepper is a wonderful judge of character and would never participate in a visit if she did not want too. Pepper sat looking at us then requested my hand for grooming. While she was grooming me she kept looking at Nat and Shelly and I knew she was curious about them and would probably like to engage in a grooming session, a very important social activity for a chimpanzee. It is difficult for me to just allow a chimpanzee to touch a human through the bars, the risk is high and can be extremely dangerous.

So, I knew what Pepper wanted, but I was processing. It is always a risk, and not something I would do just because a human wanted an interaction with a chimp. I would do it if the individual chimpanzee was inviting the interaction maybe. Well, it was as though she was reading my thoughts, and helping me make the decision. Pepper turned her back to us, a clear and obvious invitation, and usually a safe interaction, she looked over her shoulder at me. I respected her invitation and touched her back, then she glanced towards Shelly and Nat, that was it, they had been invited to groom her. Indicating that she was the one in control, and she was making the decision. I could never have asked her to do that, and I wouldn’t ever ask her to allow someone to groom her, and she wouldn’t do it anyway even if I did ask her too.

It was lovely to see Pepper so at ease and feel comfortable enough with them to invite and initiate contact. My darling Pepper, after 14 years here at Fauna, coming out of her secret world, a world of loneliness and fear is truly heartwarming.

She didn’t stay long- but it didn’t take long for her to not only allow someone to touch her- but for her to touch someone in the most remarkable way.

Pepper has magical powers, she can melt your heart, open your eyes, and fill you with so much love your heart can barely stand it. That is how we feel around her.

Thank you Shelly and Nat, for taking the time to spread the work about Fauna and our mission. We need friends like you and we hope you can be there for the chimps for a long time.

The chimp’s wish list is a long one, and never a day goes by where we aren’t trying to find another new way to help them stay active, emotionally healthy and stimulated by their environment. We will always need you in our lives to help us make their lives in captivity better.

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