Dewey rhesus macaque, a legendary resident at the Primate Rescue Center, passed away peacefully on March 2, 2021, after over 23 years of a full and beautiful life in sanctuary. Dewey’s life defied the odds at every turn, and we were so fortunate to witness his incredible resilience, kindness, acceptance, and fortitude firsthand. Those of us who were lucky enough to know him will always remember his wonderful personality. His spirit and perseverance will remain forever woven through the fabric of the sanctuary – and persist as a beacon of hope for all those who need a second chance at life.
Dewey is estimated to have been born in the mid to late 1970s, most likely in a breeding facility designed to supply laboratories with primates for biomedical research. Dewey ended up at a university in Michigan as a test subject for narcotics research that involved the placement of a catheter device through Dewey’s skull to administer powerful narcotics to his brain. Dewey spent all of his time in isolation and could only see what was directly in front of his restrictive cage, which was just large enough for him to turn around. Dewey had many infections and issues with this catheter site on his head. Those who cared for the laboratory primates would treat his infections, but they were obligated to reinsert his catheter again and again. Because of this, Dewey’s health deteriorated to the point that he was no longer a viable test subject.
Especially in the 1980s and 1990s, laboratory institutions would euthanize animals once they were no longer needed for testing. However, Dewey’s caregivers had developed a deep and meaningful connection with him over the years and wanted so much more for him. After much effort, they convinced the authorities to allow Dewey to live out the assumed little time he had left at a sanctuary and made arrangements to transfer him to the Primate Rescue Center in 1997. When he arrived, it was clear that his tiny body had already endured so much – pale skin from never experiencing the sun, no hair on his body, and a host of medical concerns. It was here that sweet Dewey began his journey to rehabilitation and recovery. Living to be over 40 years old and in sanctuary for more than 23 years, Dewey is a true 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.
Although Dewey arrived in extremely poor health, he quickly recovered from his health issues and responded well to sanctuary life. Dewey was introduced to other rhesus macaques and formed close bonds with his companions. The sanctuary performs vasectomy procedures on all the male primates living at the sanctuary to curtail breeding. However, these procedures reversed themselves…twice for Dewey, and he became the father of two babies born on-site to Bailey rhesus macaque (Sawyer and Jane). Dewey was a very kind and gentle father and watched over his family with great concern. After his son Sawyer reached puberty and began to surpass his father’s strength, the two could no longer peacefully coexist, and Dewey moved to another enclosure and met Crunchy, an elderly female pigtail macaque.
Dewey and Crunchy looked just like an old married couple! After such a rough start in life, Dewey’s appearance was not typical of other monkeys his age. Dewey spent most of his life in an environment where he never felt the warm sun on his skin. His hair was sparse and grey, and his skin was pale and aged. Crunchy was the oldest monkey resident at the time. She was very petite, had some missing teeth, and had 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.
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, jump off, and even let him hang from his tail! Both Dewey and Crunchy taught Carlos how to be a monkey and made him feel safe and loved.
After Crunchy’s passing 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 joined another group of monkeys closer to his age, and Dewey met little Bubbles long-tailed macaque. And once again, Dewey fell madly in love. Dewey and Bubbles were one of the most cuddly, snuggly, sweetest pair of companions ever to live at the sanctuary. They spent much of their day side by side while eating, grooming, napping, and enjoying the peace and comfort of sanctuary life. They knew just what the other needed and tended to each other dotingly and delicately. Dewey’s favorite pastime was laying in the sunshine and having Bubbles groom his back while he drifted into an afternoon nap. The contentment on his face was undeniable, and he truly relished these peaceful and happy moments.
In 2020, a new little bundle of joy entered Dewey and Bubbles’ lives when Nikki, a young vervet monkey, joined the pair. Once again, Dewey had the opportunity to be a father and continue his legacy of kindness, compassion, and love towards those in his care.
Dewey was so unique and very much loved by every monkey and human who met him. He had a gaze that could melt any heart, a certain way he liked to sit with his legs propped up, a distinct stride to his walk, and a love of back scratches and peanut butter sandwiches. His pale skin and thin hair were as soft as a baby’s…perfect for Bubbles to nestle right under his chin. Their love was unconditional and unrelenting, and Dewey was fortunate to have Bubbles by his side until the very end.
The impact that his life and inspirational story have had on the many caregivers, volunteers, interns, Pals, members, and friends of the PRC who love Dewey is widespread and profoundly moving. Dewey showed us all that despite the cards you are dealt, you can survive and experience a fulfilling and happy life. We are still in awe of Dewey’s desire to thrive and the strength of his spirit. Dewey’s life was meaningful, and he had an impact on so many. He was a shining light for all of us through any dark time, and although he has moved on, he will continue to be that same resilient and robust spirit eternally in our hearts.