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Tales of Toby

The tales of Toby.

Toby was there for both Michael and Tim.
Read her story.
Make a gift. Double your impact.

Michael and Toby, Tim and Toby

When I tell people about my little Toby, I tell them: “My hands are broken, but her hands work perfectly fine.


Chapter One: About Toby

For more than 40 years, Helping Hands Monkey Helpers has been placing, at no cost, highly trained capuchin monkeys like Toby with people living with mobility impairments looking for more independence and companionship.

Over the course of September, Toby’s Tales will tell the story of her life and how she made such a difference in the lives of others - first Michael, and later Tim.

After a lifetime of caring for others, Toby is now in her golden years, and has retired from service at the Monkey College, where we now care for her.

Chapter 2: Michael and Toby

Michael Reed was a 23 year old delivery truck driver just starting out in life, when a diving accident caused him to become paralyzed from his neck down.

"When I was in rehab they pushed the idea of a service dog" said Reed. "But while a dog could go to the fridge and get me a can of soda, what the heck was I going to do with it then?"

Michael was first paired with his monkey helper Angel for 6 years. But when she developed insulin dependent diabetes, she came back to the Monkey College for long-term care, and Toby was placed with Michael.

Michael and Toby"I don't think it is possible to adequately thank everyone involved in bringing Toby into my life. Although it takes a hand to retrieve an item dropped onto the floor, I cannot describe our relationship by what Toby does for me. The intangible things are often the most meaningful.  Her playful, childlike antics bring me laughter and joy each day. The feeling of her human-like hands upon my face. The warmth of her body cuddled up against my neck as she takes a nap upon my chest. She is always giving and forever loving...even when she does nothing at all."

Michael and Toby were together until Michael passed away in 2011, and Toby returned to Boston to be cared for until she was placed again.

Chapter 3: Tim and Toby

Tim and TobyInjured in an ATV accident in 2002, Tim sustained a C4/C5 spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. As his application for a monkey helper progressed, Tim showed us that he had one of the most important qualities for any recipient: a sense of humor. During an email correspondence, Tim expressed his enthusiasm for receiving his monkey helper stating he was, “ready, willing, and disabled.”  As a former engineer, Tim’s ability to problem solve and find creative solutions to different obstacles helped him bond with Toby.

"Toby is always the first one I look forward to greeting each day, and the last one I must reluctantly say goodnight to each evening. In the seemingly eternal cold, lonely, days of winter in New York, she is an inviting, uplifting presence and we bring each other such joy. Her familiar 'happy squeak' is her way of saying 'hurry up and let's start playing-life is too short!'"  

After sharing his life with a monkey helper for 6 years, Tim's living situation changed and Toby came back to the Monkey College once more.

 Chapter 4: The Golden Girls

Toby was a dedicated helper and partner to both Michael and Tim during her lifetime. Now almost 34 years old, she spends her twilight years with fellow elderly service monkeys, 35-year-old Sadie, and 32-year-old Kyla. Together, they are the Golden Girls of the Monkey College.

Toby and Alison"She loves my toes, so we nicknamed her 'Toesy,'" says Alison Payne, Director of Monkey Care. "She's always trying to take my socks off and wrestle with my feet. Toby always wants to be acknowledged by the people around her and her silly antics make me laugh every single day."

Caring for aging monkeys like Toby, Sadie, and Kyla is similar to caring for aging humans. Arthritis, joint pain, digestive issues, calcium deficiency...just to name a few of the conditions that we need to treat. Often, climbing structures and toys need to be modified or chosen carefully so that elderly monkeys can still climb and play, even if they are slowing down.

Toby was there when she was needed. Today, SHE needs YOU.

You can help Toby and the other retired service monkeys at the Monkey College now. Your gift means that they can cuddle and groom, sit in the sun, play with their toys, and be well cared for and loved during their retirement. 

Be a part of her story. Make a gift today.


Did you know that your gift is tax-deductible? With the passage of the CARES Act earlier this year, you can now deduct up to $300 of charitable giving on your 2020 taxes, even if you do not itemize.