Saturday, December 15, 2012

Goodbye Stoffel Dear Friend

October and November have been the darkest days of my life - my beloved friend Stoffel is dead.

Stoffel was almost 25 years old, ancient for a Vervet Monkey which, in the wild, has a lifespan of about 9 to 14 years.

I had long been expecting her passing and tried to mentally prepare myself for this eventually - nothing could ready me for the circumstances and the reality of her death - I am devastated.

Stoffel had always been very healthy and the only times that she was ill was usually with Diarrhoea, caused by the strange things she sometimes ate.

About two weeks after I returned home she suffered from Kidney failure - I had noticed that she was moving with difficulty and becoming incontinent, peeing wherever she was sitting, which was unusual because she was always very clean and hated being grimy or sticky.

One Saturday morning she stopped eating, refusing all food and liquids. She was obviously in pain because she was sitting and lying hunched-up in an unusual position.

I was unable to determine exactly where she was hurting but the signs were that internal organs were shutting-down. The weather was extremely hot and that afternoon, using a small feeding bottle, I started regularly forcing a solution into her mouth because she was dehydrating. I instinctively realised that her end was approaching.

Her illness was age-related and there was not much that could be done - in the oppressive heat I was loath to stress her out by driving 200 km to a Vet familiar with treating Primates. I hoped that she would just pass peacefully but, it was not to be.

By Tuesday she had perked-up a little and, though still refusing any food, she started drinking copious amounts of water on her own.

Disaster struck on Wednesday afternoon when she fell and, probably as a result of Osteoporosis, broke her spine - I found her lying paralysed on the floor like a rag doll. She was trying to drag herself along with her one remaining functional limb, her right arm.

I contacted Axel, the Vet who, so many years ago, had saved her life after her electrical accident. I asked him how long she could survive in her present condition. He did not answer my question and instead replied that my only consideration should be to 'be fair to Stoffel'.

That evening I placed Stoffel next to me on the bed where she squirmed around restlessly, unable to come to terms with the loss of her legs.

My Soul was in turmoil - I was living a Nightmare, facing the most difficult decision of my life.

I don't often consciously Pray but, that night, I prayed for one thing only - Wisdom.

My waking awareness the next morning was crystal-clear, I Knew what my duty was, what I had to do.

Stoffel was lying tucked-up against my side - she was lying still, exhausted and in pain, she had given-up on trying to move. The bedsheets were wet beneath us.

I placed Stoffel on a duvet on the floor, facing the rising Sun and contacted the local Vet - I begged her to come to my house. She must have recognised my anguish and agreed to my request but due to other commitments, could only come late in the afternoon.

I sat with Stoffel throughout the day, feeding her an electrolyte solution, grooming her, talking, singing and weeping over her, desperate to convey my Love.

Stoffel had always been a pretty creature but that day, as she lay on her tummy staring at her hand, slowly opening and closing her fingers, she radiated a serenity such as I had not seen before - she had never looked more beautiful.

The Vet arrived shortly before Sunset.

I buried Stoffel in the Fern Garden in front of one of her favourite windows, together with her Brush, her only worldly possession.

Stoffel's death left me an emotional wreck, my Spirit has been ripped apart and the days following were the most intensely difficult of my entire life - I replayed the events leading up to her death over and over in my head, searching for sticks to beat myself with - was there anything I should or could have done differently?

I saw Stoffel everywhere in her favourite spots and was unable to release her Spirit - "Go Dear Stoffel" I kept saying, "you're Free now, go play" - and each time I would call her back, I could not let go.

I lay naked and quivering like a new-born babe before the Universe, screaming for relief - but the Universe is impartial, indifferent to my pain ... there are no Chosen Ones.

I've realized that my tears are not for Stoffel, she enjoyed a long and healthy life.

My tears are for me - I must live with the inescapable Truth that I, the person she loved and trusted most, ended her life.

Why was I placed in a position where I was forced to take such an awful decision? It seems so unfair.

In anger my mind dwelled much on the God of Abraham, a jealous God who requires Blood Sacrifice as appeasement; a God Omnipotent yet so insecure that He commanded a mere Mortal to slaughter his child in order to prove his love and obedience? - this is not my God - such a malicious Entity was conceived and exists only in the diabolical mind of Man.

I'd always considered it my Sacred, or Cosmic, duty to protect and care for Stoffel, a feeling amplified after the electrical accident in which she lost her left arm and tail. I believe that, in my imperfect way, I discharged that Duty - right until the bitter end.

Everyone I've spoken to, including Doctors and Vets, have assured me that the decision I took was the correct one - but still it hurts ... so badly.

How much worse would her suffering have been had I not been there when she fell ill? Could I have felt even worse than I do now had I not been with her at the end?

Perhaps, in a twisted kind of way, the Universe was merciful ...

Stoffel was never trained to do any 'tricks', she was not regarded as a Pet, she was an integral member of the family - she grew up with my kids and their friends, playing and fighting with them. She was the Little Sister with special needs.

We were her troop, the only family she knew - she was a defining influence and, life decisions were taken with Stoffel's welfare a priority.

When she was a babe, at night she wore new-born baby daipers with a hole in them for her tail, to prevent her from soiling the bed. In the mornings I would wash and dry her bum, just like a baby.

Her body was shaped much like that of a human and, after she lost her tail, this similarity became even more pronounced - she had long slender fingers and toes, with fingerprints, like us.

I was the Alpha Male in her life, the Troop Leader - the only person she ever deferred to.

Stoffel was no Angel - she had a quick and vicious temper and never hesitated to defend her perceived position as No 2 in the troop hierarchy. I was eventually obliged to ask Axel to remove her razor-sharp incisors because her bites were becoming dangerous.

She was mischievous and caused much property damage during her lifetime. Things like superglue and chewing gum were banned from the house - if she bit into a tube of glue it could have had disastrous consequences. Chewing gum was outlawed after she got hold of a piece and, while I was having a nap, she came and lay down against my neck and spat the gum out on my pillow ... when I awoke I had to cut a large chunk out of my hair.

In her later years Stoffel mellowed-out considerably. Though ever quick-tempered she did not bite as readily as she did when she was younger ... she never lost her jealousy though and always became highly agitated if anyone approached me, especially females.

She was madame of the House which was, in fact, built around her - I often had to confine her to one section while I worked on another.

My only regret about Stoffel's life is that she was not able to fulfil her true purpose and become a Mother - I would not allow her to mate as this would have meant more Monkeys in captivity.

Although she shared her Wild attributes with the two other Fur People outside, Tumbili and Lucky, she was also very different - a step ahead of them.

It's difficult for me to adequately describe the magical bond which existed between us without the risk of being thought weird.

We met and interacted in a unique place that was between Human and Monkey.

She was my real Imaginary Friend, a furry visitor from a Parallel Dimension- we experienced Love free from the demands of ego or hope of reward.

I've had a hard time dealing with the loss of Stoffel and I hope that writing this difficult post will be cathartic - that I can move on.

It was a Blessing and a privilege to know and take care of her, the experience has shaped the way I think and who I am - She is in my Identity.

All things must pass.

Goodbye dear Stoffel, we were good Buddies - we were Love

Go now Little Sister, you're Free, go play.



  1. How very sad Graham and I feel your pain. You did the right thing and Stoffel is now at peace.

  2. Dear Graham, what a tragic loss you must feel for dear Stoffel. You have written a beautiful tribute to her and shared some wonderful photos. I pray the days, weeks, months and years ahead will lessen the raw pain and leave you with only beautiful memories. Hugs. xx

  3. I never thought I would shed tears over a monkey, but I cried for Stoffel--& you. You opened your soul to us, & obviously to her--& she to you. I hope you both find peace.

  4. I don't know you so much, I've been following your blog from Italy since october but I'm sad for you my friend. I cried like a baby. So sorry.
    Best wishes,

  5. A sad and beautiful tribute. She will always live in your heart and in your mind's eye.

  6. Graham, My heartfelt condolences in losing your friend. May you find peace in the fact that you were there when Stoffel needed you most. Be sure that she felt your love to the very end ♥

  7. So sorry to hear of yourloss Graham, big strongs for you


  8. I am so sad for the passing of your dear companion and friend. I cannot lessen your loss but i feel your sadness and understand the pain that comes with such a decision also.
    you are in my thoughts and prayers..

  9. goodbye Stoffel. hello Graham.

  10. Such a moving tribute, I'm glad you got to her in time. It seems clear that she understood better than anyone the bond between you, and best of all she trusted you. That trust also meant that you could do no wrong, and that you would take the pain away, which you did. At my ending I would have someone like you around, and after my passing someone to grieve for me, as you have done.

  11. I do hope your sharing of this sad and wonderful (the living/caring memories are wonderful) story helps bring you peace. She was family to you. Family become part of your heart. Wishing you good healing.

  12. Thank you for sharing your life and growth with us Graham. I am moved and sad, but only by your sadness, not for the great life that Stoffel had. Know you are a very good man, and what you did was out of unselfish love. Have peace.

  13. A beautiful tribute. I'm sure she's sorely missed and she knows you love her tons:)

  14. Dear Graham - I am so extremely sorry for you - it is devastating to read about .. and I do hope the writing of your post - gave you some cathartic release ... my thoughts to you .. Hilary

  15. Dear Graham, I am so sorry for your loss of Stoffel. It was so good that you were there with her. Stoffel was your family and you were hers. She loved you, she had a special relationship with you, and when she became ill, you were there to take care of her. You didn't take her life, you helped her transition out of her pain. Animals know when their time has come and another day is not important to them. My Angel, German shepherd dog, my love, died a horrible death from bloat one night last May. I would have done anything to end her pain, to have the vet come, but that was not to be. Graham, please know that you did what was best for her. You did the right thing. Sending love and hugs, Inger

  16. Dear Graham, It is clear that Stoffel and you shared a very special bond of love and the pain of loss must be equally great. I am so sorry for the pain and loss that you are feeling. Yet the time will come when you can again realise that you were both blessed with something special .and a blessing to each other. Be at peace. Because of you, Stoffel enjoyed a long and full life and she lives on in your heart.

  17. Graham , thank you for sharing your story. No you are not weird in any way at all. My Aurora is now 10 yrs old and I am aware that a dogs life is considerably short and know that the day he passes will be extremely painful. I absolutely dread dread that day and often will say to him we will go together. There is a special bond with other mammals, different from our own species. People look at me as though I am crazy when I tell them I never travel because I don't want to be apart from my companion, even other animal lovers don't feel this strong. I am very sorry for your loss . You will heal in time <3

  18. I am so sorry for your loss. It is just so hard to say good bye to an animal that's been part of your life.

  19. Graham I am sorry I nearly missed this post as we are off to Casablanca tomorrow for Christmas and I had decided not to read any more blogs until we returned. How ever I am glad that I did have a quick look through this morning and I decided that one more comment was necessary. I feel for you so much as I know what you must be going through. The finest show jumper I ever owned, a true champion and a great friend started getting colic very badly. We tried everything over 6 months until the vet agreed there was only one solution as no treatment worked. I felt so, so bad but finally agreed that it was the kindest thing to do. After seeing the post mortem I realised his life would never have improved and I had done the right thing. This did not make it any easier for me, especially as he could have lived on for another 10 years at least in good health.

    Believe me you did do the right thing, there would have been no quality of life left for Stoffel under the circumstances. You will never forget, but please forgive yourself, your decision was as it should have been. Take care, have a good Christmas and I will be in touch on our return. My thoughts are with you. Diane

  20. Dear Friends

    Thank you all for your responses to my sorrow - I have taken much comfort from your words of wisdom.

    I wish you every happiness during the festive season.

    Fond Regards.


  21. So sorry Graham. I know how hard it is to put down one of our animal friends but it is always to save them from pain and that is a kind and noble thing. I hope you'll find a way to get through it all.

  22. So sorry to hear about that my thoughts are with you!

  23. Good Morning Graham. I can read only now this very sad post.
    I think I can understand very well your Feelings.
    It happened to me two times I had to kill my dear animal companions.
    It's terrible. My only confort is the thougt it was my last act of deep friendship.
    They died with a friend without suffering anymore.
    It's a kind of Grace I know I will not have. I saw many human friends dying in strong pain.
    For us someone decided this is not allowed...
    We could speak a lot about this... I think...
    You did the best: You didn't allow agoism predominate Love.

  24. If it helps at all, Graham, please know that I share your sadness and sense of loss. Right now, that's the direction your senses and your heart have to be facing. But I assure you they will eventually turn and see the goodness and beauty that's been standing alongside them all along. You are not alone, my friend!

  25. Thanks for stopping by Graham. I know Christmas will be difficult for you and I will think of you from time to time. I wanted to stop by again to wish you all the best for the New Year. Hugs, Inger

  26. I'm sorry to read this dude. My kids loved the posts featuring Stoffel, you had a special and unique experience with her. Thanks for sharing that, and this post ... if it's possible that sharing grief helps lesson the load, then we'll gladly share it with you.
    peace and love

  27. Graham, I just finished listening to this old favorite of mine. It reminded me of you since you probably have spent much more time in the desert than I.

    Here's the youtube link

  28. Just wanted to wish you a very Happy New Year and we hope that 2013 is a healthy and prosperous one for you. My you meet new furry friends and we hope the building goes well. Take care Diane and Nigel

  29. My heart was heavy reading this touching record of the demise of a dear friend. May strength and peace be your portion in 2013

    Dave Hambidge

  30. That was quite beautiful. I hope someone has such lovely things to say about me when I go.

    Peace to you.


  31. Hi Graham, good thoughts are still with you at this time. I'm just dropping by to wish you a peaceful and pleasant transition to 2013. May 2013 be filled with many good things for you and your loved ones. x

  32. What a beautiful heart felt post. I hope your sense of loss is eased a little and you still feel her spirit around you.

  33. There's no love like monkey love. I so identify with your pain, having been through that experience. One thing though, all those beautiful memories will stay with you.

  34. Just found your site thru Joan. And right now my heart aches over your loss yet I smile thinking of this most incredible relationship. Your photography is amazing. I wish I was getting to your part of Africa on this upcoming trip to SA.

  35. No words Graham. I am so sad. Nothing I can say but send you a big hug my friend! You were the greatest friend for her and you will ever be. The one and only. See you friend!

  36. Oh No Graham that is so sad....... peace be with you my dear friend you did the right thing ...... Oi my heart goes out to you this is such a beautiful story I obviously knew the beginning but only read about the end now as I only got to hear about your blog as from yesterday