Maggie and the iPhone

Maggie and the iPhone

This morning I had just let chimps into the Playroom when one of our volunteers realized that she had left her jacket inside when we were cleaning. I told her no problem, I’d make sure to get in there and grab it for her as soon as I got chimps outside but she shook her head anxiously and told me that her keys and phone were in the pockets. I assured her that Maggie wouldn’t think to check the pockets of the jacket, but when I peeked my head into the Playroom, Maggie was sitting on the floor with the volunteer’s iPhone in one hand and her car keys in the other. Uh oh. Luckily, Maggie is probably the best chimp to have in this situation. Jackson would have destroyed the phone the minute he found it, Emma would be chewing on it, and Herbie would be thoughtfully contemplating whether he would rather smash it or trade it back to me for a treat. Maggie, however, is eager to please and sharp as a tack, so she knew at once the significance of her discovery. I quickly radioed another caregiver and asked them to bring a really good treat over to the Chimp House…immediately. For an object of this magnitude, I needed something worthy of trading for the phone because the chimps are brilliant barterers and they will only trade something back to you if they’re satisfied that the reward matches the worth of the object. I grabbed a bag of almonds that was sitting on a nearby shelf and calmly asked Maggie to bring me the phone. She gave me a calculated stare, looked from me to the bag of almonds to the phone in her hand, and then slowly walked towards me, pausing to sniff at an empty water bottle and munch on a stray peanut shell, as though to impress upon me that the ball was in her court and I could just wait until she was good and ready. “Maggie,” I said again, shaking the bag of almonds at her, “Bring me the phone.” She stared at me again and then strolled casually over and placed the phone in the feed door. “Good girl, Maggie!” I exclaimed, continuing to praise her as I fed her almonds. Then Allie arrived with the good stuff: gogurt and pudding. “Ok Maggie, go get the keys,” Allie said, pointing towards the car keys lying on the ground. This time Maggie immediately responded (gogurt and pudding will do that to a chimp) and made a bee-line for the keys, and then skipped back to us and placed them in the feed door again. “Yay, Maggie!” we sang. “What a good girl!” “So smart!” “Such a good listener!” I passed her a couple more almonds through the mesh, and then Allie said, “Alright, Mags, go get the jacket.” Maggie ran back to the jacket and dragged it over to us, stuffing it energetically into the feed door, and then sat back so we could pull it through, swaying in anticipation, her eyes never leaving the treats in Allie’s hands. “What a good girl, Maggie!” we cheered as Allie passed her the treats. She accepted them eagerly and then inhaled them one after the other, deaf to our continued praises. I sighed in relief as I handed the phone, keys and jacket back to the volunteer. Words couldn’t express how lucky she was to have gotten them back in one piece.

– Rachel Bronstein, Caregiver