Monkey Business

By MIKE MILIARD  |  October 21, 2009

Of course, due diligence is also done to make sure placement complies with state wildlife laws. In fact, Cook says California law almost prevented him from getting Minnie. It wasn’t until a couple years after his first inquiry that Helping Hands called to say the laws had been changed: “I was like, ‘Hell yeah, man! Bring it on!’ ”

Each time Helping Hands does a placement, says Talbert, “we’re there for days of on-site training with three staff members and a huge amount of follow-up. Monkeys have a hierarchy, and they have natural instincts to want stability in their lives. They’re not trained to be outside the home, in a grocery store, or a restaurant. But if you give them the right thing, they’ll flourish.”

Cook remembers meeting Minnie for the first time.

“They said, ‘Just let her come out and walk around and kinda get to know you a little. These monkeys need to know who the king of the castle is.’ After about the third day, she came out and looked at the handlers and looked at me — and came to me first instead of the handlers. They’ve got tears in their eyes,” Cook remembers, adopting an exaggeratedly weepy voice: “ ‘The hierarchy’s been transferred!’ ”

Helping Hands celebrates its 30th anniversary Saturday night with an event at WGBH Studios in Brighton. For more info, or to make a donation, go to Mike Miliard can be reached at

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