21 Sep 2020

Beloved monkey Laurie dies after tough life and a lot of love

From Checkpoint, 6:25 pm on 21 September 2020

Laurie, the 30-year-old monkey who escaped a life in the circus to spend his twilight years with a foster family and his best friend - a cat - has died.

Laurie was first on Checkpoint in 2019 when he had an emergency trip to the vet after he started losing a lot of hair and weight.

He had a tough start in world as a monkey in a circus, and over the years he suffered broken ribs, stress alopecia, and more recently, a form of Parkinson's disease.

Today his carer Carolyn Press-McKenzie had to say goodbye to Laurie, after he stopped eating and quickly deteriorated.

"I didn't know if you can have a good passing," she told Checkpoint.

"It was quite beautiful, because he's so weak he snuggled in a fluffy blanket on my knee, and we were able to just hold his hand and tell him we loved him. Tell him New Zealand loved him, he's affected so many people's lives, and then we gave him an injection, just to make him go sleepy, and then he had the injection to send him to heaven.

"He was very much in our arms and loved, he just gazed at us ... You could see he was ready, but you could just see gratitude, which seems like a strange thing to say but the connection we had with him makes me feel like at least I know from the bottom of my heart, we got it right. And we got it right at the end, I'm just so sorry that he was so broken then we found him.

"You do feel guilt that society has caused so much damage, and we have one monkey who's still in our care, Carol, and she's actually old, she's even older than Laurie. Her thumbs have been chopped off - when she was in the circus - she had quite a strong personality so they chopped her thumbs off so they can't grab and hold things quite so tightly.

"We've still got four monkeys to love and care for. But for me, you have a special person in your life, Laurie was my special person. So definitely very devastating but I'm very proud of him."

Press-McKenzie said Laurie was very calm as he was being put down. "He makes jungle noises, and he does it when he's happy.

"When he was in his prime I'd walk into his big enclosure, so full of trees, I'd walk in and he'd just dive bomb me from above. He'd dive on me upside down and I'd have to quickly sort of hook my arm under him, and then he'd wrap his tail around me and swing and he'd literally laugh. It was just such a cheeky little giggle, I'd tickle his tummy and he'd smile.

"And although his body was weak and he was clearly failing, just wrapped in my arms just now, I was giggling with him and he was making little tiny jungle noises. His eye contact, just the way he looks into your soul – it was really special.

"It was very peaceful, he trusted completely, and we had some really special moments, so I will treasure them forever."

Laurie had also raised a kitten called Jungle, in Press-McKenzie's care. They had been together for more than 10 years.

"Jungle is at home and her life is about to change because she's just lost her best friend."