Innovative Solutions for People        Living With Physical Disabilities

Innovative Solutions for People
       Living With Physical Disabilities

Monkey Helpers - Robert & Hellion


Monkey Helpers - Robert & Hellion - Hellion assisting Robert

In 1975 when Robert Foster was only 18 years old, he got into a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. His life was changed forever. He was unable to complete everyday tasks such as dressing and getting up in the morning on his own. Because he couldn’t afford around-the-clock care, he was only able to eat twice a day. But six years later, in 1981, Robert met Hellion and his life changed once again, this time for the better.

Hellion was slated to become part of an influenza experiment until she was rescued by Helping Hands Founder Dr. M.J. Willard. Instead of being part the experiment, Hellion was the first official placement in Helping Hands history.

When Hellion was first introduced to Robert she wasn’t happy until he left the room. It wasn’t Robert’s fault at all, though — Hellion was scared of all men. Slowly but surely, these two learned to trust each other and formed a lifelong bond. She would do tasks for him that he was unable to do for himself. “It was like having a breath of freedom again,” Robert said. “To do what I want at my rate instead of saying ‘excuse me sir, ma’am would you, could you possibly…’ Now I can just ask Hellion!”

Robert’s struggles didn’t end with quadriplegia. He had seizures, multiple infections, two battles with cancer, and at one point was in a coma. Throughout all of it, his first priority was making sure Hellion was taken care of. “I mean, she’s not like a pet, she’s more like my child. I want her safe if I have go somewhere.” Robert explained.

Sometimes, when Robert was in the hospital, Judi Zazula, previous Executive Director of Helping Hands, was able to bring Hellion to him and the monkey would curl up next to Robert. His spirits would raise and he would be able to keep fighting. Judi believed that Hellion is what kept him going. For Robert to have a creature that needed him was vital. Robert described Hellion as: “the stabilizing force in my life. She comforts me, she loves me, and I love her.”

After the two spent 28 years together, Robert passed away in 2007. Hellion, by that time an elderly monkey by capuchin standards, returned to what is now known as the Monkey Living Center for evaluation. She was then placed in a special care home where she was loved and cared for until her passing in July 2011.

These two were an amazing pair that will forever be remembered not only for their historic mark on Helping Hands, but for their bright personalities that touched everyone they met.

If you would like to support the continuing care for post-service monkeys, please consider making a donation today. You can read more recipient stories here.