The Primate Rescue Center’s mission is to alleviate the suffering of primates wherever it occurs, with the goal of rescue, rehabilitation, and recovery for each individual primate we welcome to the sanctuary. Most of the primates we rescue have come from private homes; however, there are a few who came to us after having spent time in a laboratory setting. One such individual is Dewey rhesus macaque, and his story of life before and after arriving at the sanctuary is truly a remarkable testament to the strength and resiliency of the primate spirit and proof that rehabilitation and recovery are possible, even for those who have endured the worst of abuses.
Dewey is estimated to have been born in the mid 1980s, most likely in a breeding facility where he was soon taken from his mother and raised in a “nursery” setting until he was old enough to be sold or leased to a laboratory for medical testing. Dewey ended up at a university in Michigan, where he was used as a test subject for cocaine research. Researchers and veterinarians placed a catheter device through Dewey’s skull to administer cocaine directly to his brain for their research. Dewey spent all of his time in isolation and could only see what was directly in front of his restrictive cage, which was only large enough for him to turn around. Dewey had many infections and issues with the site on his skull, where the catheter was placed. Those who cared for the laboratory primates would treat his infections and reinsert his catheter over and over again. Dewey’s health deteriorated to the point that he was no longer a viable test subject.
Many laboratory animals are euthanized once they are no longer needed for testing. However, one of Dewey’s caregivers made arrangements with the Primate Rescue Center in 1997 so that he could live out the little time he had left at a sanctuary. It was here that sweet Dewey began his journey to rehabilitation and recovery…and, over 20 years later is still thriving under sanctuary care.
Although Dewey arrived in extremely poor health, he began to recover from his health issues very quickly and responded well to sanctuary life. Dewey was introduced to other rhesus macaques and formed a close bond with his companions. All male primates at the sanctuary receive a vasectomy to curtail breeding. However, Dewey’s procedures reversed themselves…twice, and he became the father of two babies born on-site to Bailey rhesus macaque. Dewey’s third vasectomy procedure was performed and has remained successful in preventing any additional accidental births. Dewey was a very kind and gentle father and watched over all of them with great concern. After his son Sawyer reached puberty and his size began to surpass his father’s, the two could no longer peacefully coexist and Dewey was introduced to Crunchy, an elderly pigtail macaque.
Dewey and Crunchy looked just like an old married couple! After such a rough start in life, Dewey’s appearance is not typical of other monkeys his age. His hair is sparse and grey, and his skin is pale and aged. Crunchy was the oldest monkey resident at the time. She had lost some teeth, was very petite and had a bit of a hunched back due to arthritis. These two fell madly in love and thus began Dewey’s next chapter.
Not long after Dewey and Crunchy began living together, a tiny, young long-tailed macaque named Carlos was rescued from Texas by the PRC. Carlos was only 14 weeks old and was in desperate need of a surrogate parent. The staff decided that since Dewey had been a wonderful father and raised babies of his own, he and Crunchy might be the best choice to raise young Carlos.
Dewey (left), Crunchy (right) and Carlos (bottom right)
Carlos (left) and Crunchy (right)
Once again, Dewey had a family to care for and both he and Crunchy were terrific parents to Carlos. Dewey cuddled and played with Carlos and was very tolerant of the youngster’s energy and rambunctiousness. He would let Carlos climb onto his back and jump off, and even let him hang from his tail! Crunchy was a wonderful mother and would carry Carlos around and groom him and comfort him when he was nervous. Both Dewey and Crunchy taught Carlos how to be a monkey and made him feel safe and loved. Some of the most touching moments of being a caregiver were watching these three together.
After Crunchy’s death in 2015 at the age of 37, Dewey needed a new companion and Carlos was grown enough to “move out of his parent’s house.” Carlos was introduced to another group of monkeys closer to his age, and Dewey was introduced to Bubbles long-tailed macaque. And once again, Dewey fell madly in love. Dewey, now nearly 35 years old, and Bubbles (estimated to be 20 years old) live together to this day, and the pair are still the cuddliest, snuggliest, sweetest companions at the sanctuary. They spend much of their day sitting together eating, grooming, napping, and enjoying the peace and comfort of sanctuary life.
Dewey (left) and Bubbles (right)
Dewey (top) and Bubbles (bottom)
Dewey (left) grooming Bubbles (right)
The impact that Dewey’s life and inspirational story has on the many caregivers, volunteers, interns, members and friends of the PRC who have learned about him is widespread and deeply moving. Dewey shows us all that despite the cards you are dealt when you are born, you can survive and go on to live a full and happy life.
Dewey will always bear the physical scars of his days in the laboratory. We are in awe of his desire to live, the strength of his spirit, and his ever-friendly disposition and undying love for his monkey companions. His caregivers’ devotion to his care are what kept him moving forward on this miraculous journey through rehabilitation to recovery at the Primate Rescue Center.
To learn more about Dewey’s life at the PRC and sponsor his care, you can become his Primate Pal through our symbolic adoption program. As Dewey’s Pal, you will receive updates and photos of him throughout the year, as well as an initial sponsorship package including a certificate of adoption, bio, and 5×7 photo of Dewey. You will also receive an invitation to attend the PRC’s Annual Member Event in June, where you can visit the sanctuary and witness firsthand the amazing recovery of nearly 50 primates, who like Dewey, found peace in the quiet, creek-side sanctuary of the Primate Rescue Center.