Medical assistant monkey

By CJ Cassidy

Wappapello, MO (KFVS) - Local couple considers primate part of the family.

When we think about service animals, we typically think of dogs, so one local couple's special helper may surprise you.
"I literally fell in love with her the minute I saw her," Lori Johnson says of her 19-year-old monkey, Jessie.
Johnson says her whole life revolves around the little monkey, literally. 

"Several years back I started having mini seizures and strokes", said Johnson. "We noticed just before I had a seizure Jessie would act real strange she would push me get hyper, shake me, anything until I sat down."

So Lori and her husband Jim decided to have experts evaluate the white-faced Capuchin.
"We figured out it was due to the fact that she could sense when I was going to have a seizure. When it would pass she would calm down," said Johnson. 
That's when the Johnsons decided to get Jessie certified as a medical assistant.
That lets Lori take Jessie with her to public places like restaurants and states that ban adopting monkeys as pets.
"We still have establishments that are ignorant about that on occasion", said Johnson. "Not many, but some will tell us to get out and refuse to give us service and think they are totally in the right. But they are in the wrong because the law under the Disabilities Act lets any service animals go where their patron goes".
The Johnsons even say Jessie saved Lori's life once when she passed out from a seizure.
"I had passed out, couldn't get to my button. She was smart enough she pushed the white button and then unlocked the door," Lori says.
"I can't say what would have happened, but she wasn't doing good when they took her to the hospital", said Jim Johnson. "I always believe if not for Jess, Lorie wouldn't be here today".
Of course Jessie's not beyond getting up to some monkey business.
She loves playing with the Johnson's dogs and cats, going for rides in her stroller and even cuddled up to reporter CJ Cassidy within a few minutes of meeting her.
"She's my little girl. I love her as if she was my own daughter," Lori says.
Lori says she couldn't imagine life without Jessie, and judging from the way they act around each other, it's probably safe to say the feeling's mutual.
Jessie has been featured on several national news networks and most recently a British documentary crew flew in to Southeast Missouri to do a special story on the Johnsons and their medical assistant.
Incidentally Capuchins are expected to live for about fifty years.