By Dustin Rhodes

When Amy the chimpanzee died suddenly this past fall, it hit me hard. Actually, I don’t think there was a dry eye at the entire sanctuary; Amy was legendary, and everyone loved—bordering on worshiped—her. But I was surprised by my own reaction—living more than a thousand miles away and not knowing her, intimately, as her caretakers did. I was one of Amy’s sponsors, and because I have been getting updates about her here and there over the years, I felt invested in her—more than I was even aware. It felt like a real loss.

I received Amy’s sponsorship as a (very generous) gift from one of my closest friends a few years ago, after watching her dog for a few weeks while she was on vacation. She chose to sponsor Amy after spending some time on our website perusing the stories of the animals we rescue; Amy’s story moved her.

Amy was born in captivity and spent many years in a lab before being rescued by Primarily Primates in 1997. What was so remarkable about Amy—something we humans would be wise to emulate—was her extraordinary resilience, strength and even kindness she exhibited every single day of her life at Primarily Primates. She was known as “the peacemaker” at the sanctuary. And once, with my very own eyes, I watched her break up a fight between two of her habitat mates—an experience I will never forget.

Eventually, my own family also became monthly sponsors of Amy—because the investment not only felt worthwhile, but special. Animal sponsorship is surprisingly a great joy and gives in ways that even I—an employee of Friends of Animals —didn’t expect. I always thought, “this is such a nice way to feel like I am helping,” yet it’s more than that. It’s a way to follow along and get to know to know the story of one of our animals in a way that’s more intimate. I love getting photos and sporadic updates. Over time, it’s practically impossible not to feel truly invested in the life-saving work that Primarily Primates does. And best of all: You develop a sense of wonder—even awe—about the animals Primarily Primates works to save.

I just signed up to sponsor Mighty Fine—one of the newly rescued chimpanzees from the struggling refuge in California. Already, I received a note from Brooke, the sanctuary director, that Mighty Fine is the “smallest chimpanzee I have ever seen,” and for inexplicable reasons I am even more intrigued; Brooke also excitedly told me, “you are going to love him”—which I already know is true. It’s only a matter of time before Mighty Fine, like Amy, becomes an obsession.

I absolutely encourage you to sponsor one of our 300-plus animals. Not only will you be helping with the day-to-day care and enrichment of one of the animals, you’ll also be getting something surprising, and perhaps ineffable, in return: It’s a feeling of relationship, wonder and even love. It’s worth every penny.

You can visit our webpage to see the animals in need of sponsorships. 

Development Director Dustin Rhodes is in charge of fundraising for Friends of Animals and is a contributing writer for Action Line. He resides in Asheville, North Carolina — a progressive, animal-loving community in the Blue Ridge mountains.