None of us knows what breath will be our last. I try to keep that in mind every day—to face each day with interest and a sense of purpose, and to pay more attention to how I affect the momentary experiences of those whose paths I cross. Being an imperfect ape, driven by unseen influences both ancient and contemporary, I cannot say that I’m always kind, but I am almost always compelled toward reconciliation.
The act of reconciliation is a concept that is seemingly difficult for many people to entertain…particularly by those in power. However, Sheri Speede, a doctor of veterinary medicine, found this philosophical approach to be a requirement for her destiny in life. Upon entering her profession, she fought to prevent biomedical experiments on monkeys as well as the sale of cats and dogs for the same research. Paying attention to the suffering of these animals became her first cause. In so doing, she was required to establish a rapport with both the animals in question as well as the professionals she challenged. From there, she embarked upon the quest to create a sanctuary for primates in Africa. This endeavor materialized due to the fact that these animals were being slaughtered for ‘bushmeat’ and sold for great profits due to their succulent taste as well as a supposed propensity for enhancing sexual prowess. This treachery inflamed her soul, resulting in a dedication of love that remarkably unfolds in this book.
Cameroon is the destination Dr. Speede sought for the establishment of this sanctuary. With the assistance of volunteers, other doctors and village people, she eventually enabled many primates who had been at risk to live free, once again. In her quest, she encountered many stumbling blocks from disease, to unbelievable living conditions to serious difficulties with people of authority. However, she persevered and was able to create a paradise for the endangered animals which included monkeys as well as the chimpanzees. This book reveals wonderful details as to how Sheri learned to groom, and be groomed by, the chimpanzees she saved. She learned to make peace with them, developing a bond that is almost surreal. You will find yourself making a connection with these animals, understanding their passion, feeling their grief.
This chronicle is a love story. The serene beauty of its contents is contained in the manner in which the author makes you feel that you are communing with these animals as if they were family. If we are fortunate in this life, love will enter our hearts from many sources. Sheri discovered that she was enveloped in a love which glorified her life and, in so doing, elevated the concept of humanity to global heights within her soul. We could all be reconciled to that.