In September 2008 Dorothy, a female chimp in her late forties, died of congestive heart failure at Cameroon's Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. A photo of Dorothy's funeral, in which Dr. Sherri Speede was cradling Dorothy's head while her family of chimpanzees looked on, went viral after being published in National Geographic. The image was subsequently covered in hundreds of media outlets on television, in newspapers, and on blogs, deeply touching people around the world while showing once and for all that animals do indeed have feelings. Dr. Sherri Speede is the founder/director of In Defense of Animals-Africa and Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. Now she gives us Almost Human, a touching and scientifically compelling memoir that follows the chimpanzee's life from the time Sheri met her while Dorothy was tethered on a chain at Luna Park Hotel in 1999 until her death nine and a half years later at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. In Almost Human, Dr. Speede describes her relationships with Dorothy and other members of her adopted chimpanzee family, and their relationships with one another.
She demonstrates that chimpanzees, like humans, are capable of a broad spectrum of emotional behaviors. Dorothy was consistently kind, gentle, and forgiving. Along the way, Dr. Speede candidly reveals her own struggles as a stranger within a country and culture that were so different from what she had known. Books like Almost Human, which bring attention to the complex emotional lives of chimpanzees, can increase concern for their struggle to survive. But while this is a story about chimpanzees, it is also Dr. Speede's story. Major events in her personal life unfold in her story of Africa and run parallel to the development of Sanaga-Yong Center.