'Kasey to the Rescue' Author Ellen Rogers Talks About the Monkey That Helps Her Paralyzed Son

More on PawNation: capuchin, disabled, helper monkey, MonkeyHelper, Service Animals, Spinal cord injuries, TherapyAnimals

helper monkey photoNed and Kasey. Claudia Kronenberg Photography

In June of 2005, Ellen Rogers got the call every parent fears. Her 22-year-old son, Ned, had been in a car crash. He'd suffered brain injuries and was paralyzed from the neck down. The Rogers' lives changed in an instant, but they survived the ordeal, thanks to Kasey, an Argentinean capuchin monkey trained to assist the disabled.

Rogers recounts the touching story in her new book, "Kasey to the Rescue: The Remarkable Story of a Monkey and a Miracle," which hits stores this week. Rogers recently talked with Paw Nation about Ned, Kasey and life with a monkey.

After your son's accident, why did you decide to adopt a helper monkey?
It was enormously challenging to hear that he had been in a terrible car accident. His injuries were devastating. It was a very difficult time. Once he was stable enough, we took him to a spinal-cord specialty center in Atlanta. They brought in a dog that had been trained specifically to help people who are in wheelchairs. Somehow or another this thought came into my head. I said to Ned, "Didn't we once see something about monkeys that help disabled people?" He rolled his eyes. That evening I got on my laptop and the first e-mail in front of me was one from my daughter's school saying that Helping Hands, which trains monkey helpers for the disabled, would be doing an assembly at her school. It was like divine intervention.

Ned was still focused on trying to come to grips with his injury. I had gone to the website and seen all the wonderful things monkeys can do. I didn't need to be convinced. From that moment on, I was on a mission.

Was there a bit of adjustment period when Kasey arrived?
Monkeys are a lot of work. They have a very sophisticated hierarchy. The first challenge was that Kasey had to understand the hierarchy in our house. I have five kids and two crazy dogs. We have a lot of nurses and aids that come in to help my son. [Kasey] had to understand where she fit.

She was a little aloof in the beginning. She did do wonderful tasks for my son. He'd ask her to itch his face or fetch the remote, and she'd do it, but then she'd jump back over to her cage. Over time, once she learned to respect her recipient and her caregiver -- Ned and myself – then she started to feel comfortable. As soon as that happened, the bond between my son and Kasey really began to develop. But it took several months.

What other sorts of things does Kasey do for Ned?
She'll turn the lights on and off, get him a bottle of water, put a CD in his CD player and turn it on. Earlier on, without being told, if his arm would fall off the armrest of his wheelchair, she'd pick it up and put it back on the armrest. She'll adjust his feet on the bottom of the wheelchair.

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