Darwin—aka Doc—was one of the chimpanzees at the animal training school I attended. He was the simian star inside the space suit on Battlestar Galactica and in many other TV episodes and motion pictures. Doc took such a liking to me that he was willing to get into trouble to come see me.
I met him first through the bars of his small enclosure at the animal compound where he was kept. As I recall, he offered me several segments of the orange he’d been given as a snack (or was it the other way around? I can’t remember now, unfortunately, but I think he was the giver.)
He was adorable. (I’m a sucker for soulful brown eyes.) It didn’t take long for us to become good buddies, especially when he was allowed out of his cage to interact with us.
One day we budding animal handlers were standing in an open area with a couple of tall trees nearby listening to a discussion of some sort. Doc had been told to go up into the tree for a while, which he did. But as soon as I looked up at him and smiled, he swung down and ran over to me, climbing into my arms.
The trainer told him, “Get back in that tree!” He jumped down and went into the tree as commanded.
The next time I looked up at Doc, very briefly, he was looking right at me. I didn’t smile, because I thought that might have been what encouraged him to drop down again and come to me.
But looking at him was all it took. Again, he plummeted from the tree and rushed over to me, climbing into my arms.
The trainer yelled, “God damn it, Doc, get back in that tree!” Doc, looking stricken this time, held both hands over his head and headed for the tree, obeying immediately.
The trained then turned to me and said, “Stop encouraging him.” I said, “I didn’t realize I was encouraging him. I just looked at him. I didn’t signal to him or anything.”
He said, “He likes you. When you look at him, he knows you want him with you.”
I did, and I didn’t. I didn’t want Doc yelled at for taking action to come see me, even though he knew it would displease his trainer.
I felt really sorry for him. If Doc wanted to hang with me, why was that any worse than sitting in a tree nearby? He wasn’t misbehaving; he just wanted some companionship. And he knew I would be happy to provide it.
Through thick and thin, friends are like that.
I will never forget him…