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  • Emily arrived with a bottle of wine and two Polaroids. In the first one, she is sitting behind the grand mahogany desk of a mayor. She was there to interview him for the newspaper she worked for and ended up on his telephone. A good story. How many mayors think to snap a Polaroid like that? But it was the second photo that caught everyone's attention. Immediately a knot of people gathered around her to hear the unlikely story of how a journalism student became a monkey trainer. Emily took a plate of food to the living room, sat down on the sofa and began to explain.

    "Wendy was a really sweet monkey and a little shy, which is why she is clinging to me," she said, as she looked down at the picture.

    For two years prior to graduating from Boston University, Emily trained Wendy, a capuchin monkey, to be a helper for quadriplegics. As a trainer at Helping Hands in Boston, Emily bathed Wendy, socialized her and worked to teach her tasks like turning off and on light switches, working a remote control and operating a microwave. Emily took us through her memories of working at the center and being in the toy-filled playroom of monkeys watching "Dora the Explorer."

    We laughed (and you can still hear it in the recording) as we passed the photo around and Emily told us of the challenges and joys of working with Wendy's personality quirks.

    It takes many years to train these monkeys to become helpers. So when it came time for Emily to graduate, Wendy had to be transferred to another trainer to continue her work. Emily was surprised by how deeply attached she had become to Wendy.

    "It's really hard to give your monkey up," Emily said as her face softened.

    "It makes sense to me people would want a picture with their monkey because it's kind of a special bond that you have."

    The next day I looked at the bottle of wine still sitting on a kitchen counter. The label read "Manoir du Capucin."




    This recording was made on May 17, 2014 at a Polaroid Party hosted to celebrate the success of Shake It: A Modern Polaroid Love Story by Megan Jones and Vanessa Lowe. I invited friends to bring their Polaroids and their memories to share.
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