Frisky's supporter sees monkey-business connection

Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary, in Woodstock, relies on the kindness of strangers.

Strangers bring injured and abandoned animals to the 4-acre site, where they are sheltered and nursed to health. And strangers volunteer at the nonprofit organization, which has no paid staff.


Heather Wandell has been volunteering at Frisky's since her son, now 22, spent a summer volunteering there before his sophomore year at Mt. Hebron High School. He moved on to other interests, but Wandell was hooked. She volunteers at least one day a week, and is on Frisky's board.

"She's like a sponge," said Colleen Layton-Robbins, the founder and owner of Frisky's. "She wanted to learn it all. It was really refreshing."


Layton-Robbins said she has been caring for animals since 1970, and moved Frisky's to its current site in 1991. It now shelters about 500 animals at a time, she said, including bunnies, small birds, raccoons, fawns, hummingbirds, alligators and monkeys, she said. "We never know what's coming to the door."

That's why having someone as dedicated as Wandell has made a difference for the organization.

"She doesn't just do a duty of making sure a water bottle is cleaned and filled," Layton-Robbins said. "She wants to know the details of why things are placed where they are. She always pays attention to the details."

Wandell recognized one way to gain support for Frisky's would be to let people see it in action. In 2007, she began organizing community tours, which are offered four times a year, "so people do have an opportunity, on a registration basis, to come in and see the animals," she explained.

She also writes articles for the Frisky's newsletter, which provided the narrative backbone for her newly released book, "Monkey Business: 37 Better Business Practices Learned Through Monkeys," published by iUniverse. A portion of proceeds from the book, which retails for $18.95 in paperback or $28.95 for the hardback, is being donated to Frisky's. The goal is to raise money and awareness for "what I think is an absolutely incredible organization," said Wandell.

The money will go to "support wildlife rehabilitation, pay vet bills, and everything else that goes along with keeping the animals happy, healthy, and thriving," she said.

"Everything that comes to the door needs help," said Clayton-Robbins. "It's like the E.R., but they don't have a voice box to tell you what's wrong and what happened."

Wandell said inspiration for the book struck during a World Laughter Tour Conference in Columbus, Ohio, which she attended through her interest in therapeutic laughter. One of the speakers mentioned that getting published is a good way to build awareness for a business, she said. "The idea for the book was born" on her drive back to Maryland, said Wandell, 50.


"It is my goal to create 'aha' moments," she said. These are when "people have a new awareness or understanding of something at a deeper level than before. These moments give us a new way of thinking or being that reduces our own mental suffering."

Learning from the behavior of monkeys can provide those moments, she said. One example, Wandell said, is the concept of "do or do not. ... We often as humans use the word 'try' and really it's a real non-commitment. so the practice is, you either do or you don't. There is no try."

The book was edited by Dana Knighten, who, like Wandell, is a member of On Purpose Networking for Women. "Dana helped me turn the columns into a book, and suggested themes, the introduction, and putting the practices at the end of each chapter," Wandell said.

Layton-Robbins agreed that primates have traits that are similar to those of humans, and manage to convey a great deal of meaning without benefit of speaking.

Wandell's offer to donate a portion of the income from sale of the books to Frisky's was "a bonus," said Layton-Robbins. "She's very generous with her time and her work and of course with her support as well."