By Nicole Rivard

Among the many things we have in common, my best friend and I love animals. Karla and I, having met in kindergarten, have been friends for almost 39 years, which is a gift in and of itself.

During one of the many phone calls we have a week—she lives in North Carolina now and I live in Connecticut, it came up that maybe we should sponsor animals for each other this year instead of exchanging gifts on holidays. Since she knows everything about me, she is aware that I work for Friends of Animals, which manages a sanctuary for primates in San Antonio, Texas, and that my very first visit there in 2014 was life-changing. 

Immediately I thought of the perfect pair of animals for us to commit to providing a recurring monthly donation to—best friends Missy and Danny. Danny, a handsome spider monkey, and Missy, a brown/weeper-hybrid capuchin, arrived last summer, and I was immediately enthralled with them during my last visit to the sanctuary.

An unusual pairing, Danny and Missy came to Primarily Primates sanctuary as a duo; they were raised together, in the same enclosure. The human couple who kept them as pets endured serious health issues, which necessitated their rescue and subsequent arrival.

In the wild, spider monkeys and capuchins would not interact—let alone co-habitate or choose to live together. But these two really are BFFs. Initially, care staff at PPI planned to introduce each of them to members of their own species, as it is part of PPI’s mission to rehabilitate. But it became obvious very quickly that their bond shouldn’t be broken and that PPI should accommodate this unusual circumstance.

Both Danny and Missy were very shy when they arrived; it’s a huge transition going from being a pet inside a home to a sanctuary that’s filled with boisterous primates. But Missy came out of her shell rather quickly and not only enjoys the presence of care-staff, she also likes to torment her next door neighbors Caulder and Greer—who are rowdy Rhesus macaques. Care staff members also report that Missy is exceptionally smart, and they’re always trying to find new ways to challenge her with enrichment activities.

One of Danny’s care staff reported that he’s one of “the most gentle and sweet-natured spider monkeys I’ve ever met.” That’s quite a complement considering that the sanctuary is filled with spider monkeys who also fit that description. Danny is also known to be Missy’s protector.

Karla and I both received certificates of sponsorship and photos of the animals. Feeling gratified by our decision, I thought the only thing that could make this sponsorship even better would be to be able to visit the animals on a regular basis.

Since I don’t live in Texas, I also decided to sponsor a horse at 13 Hands Equine Rescue, who I could visit because I volunteer there. Located in Bedford Hills, N.Y., It’s just a 30-minute drive from my apartment.

I decided on Penny, a beautiful bay mare who I can’t believe someone could surrender for any reason. I was one of the first to groom her, and, although a little nervous at first, she settled down and basked in the attention and affection. She has become a favorite with other volunteers for her nice ground manners. I am committed to helping her find a forever home, and relish the opportunity to be able to visit her whenever I want. As someone who wants to eventually adopt a horse of her own, this is the next best thing.

I know from working at Friends of Animals that recurring monthly donations to sanctuaries and rescues help cover the cost of care for the animals—it’s the lifeblood of such organizations. By helping them with expenses, you are able to help sanctuaries save even more animals. I can’t think of a better way to express affection for animals or show support for groups that make sure no animal gets left behind.

Today, Valentine’s Day, is the perfect day to commit to an animal. What are you waiting for?

If you’d like to sponsor a primate at Primarily Primates, visit

Nicole Rivard is editor of Friends of Animal’s quarterly magazine Action Line. She brings 18 years of journalism experience to the front lines, protesting and documenting atrocities against animals.