STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Travis the chimpanzee's relationship with his owner was closer than those of some married couples.
Sandra Herold gave him the finest food, and wine in long-stemmed glasses. They took baths together and cuddled in the bed they shared. Travis brushed the lonely widow's hair each night and pined for her when she was away.
If she left the house alone, Travis would give her a kiss.
“If I left with someone Travis would get upset,” Herold said Wednesday.
Experts say the unusually human relationship would have been confusing for any animal. It may have also played a role in Travis' savage attack Monday on Herold's friend, 55-year-old Charla Nash of Stamford.
“This is a crazy relationship,” said Stephen Rene Tello, executive director of Primarily Primates, a sanctuary for chimps in Texas. “He was probably very bonded with her. I can kind of see it in his eyes this is his surrogate mother.”
And chimps like 14-year-old Travis, who was shot and killed by police, protect their mates and turf.
“If there is another person entering his space, he might consider it a threat to his territory, or even his mate,” Tello said.
Police say Travis attacked Nash when she arrived at the house to help lure the chimp back into Herold's house. Herold speculated that Travis was being protective of her and attacked Nash because she had a different hairstyle, was driving a different car and held a stuffed toy in front of her face to get the chimp's attention.
Nash suffered massive injuries to her face and hands, requiring more than seven hours of surgery by four teams of doctors to stabilize her. She was transferred in critical condition Thursday to the Cleveland Clinic, which two months ago performed the nation's first successful face transplant.
Hospital officials say Nash is being treated for her injuries and it's unknown if she will be a candidate for a face transplant.
Monday's attack was not the first time Travis bit someone, a former Stamford resident now living in Atlanta said Thursday.
Leslie Mostel Paul told The Associated Press the chimp grabbed her hand and bit it hard enough to draw blood in 1996, while the animal was sitting in Herold's car in a Stamford office parking lot. Paul said she had tried to shake Travis' hand after Herold gave her permission to say hello.
Paul described Herold as being more aggravated than upset about the incident, and said she had to get rabies shots because Herold was slow in producing Travis' medical records.
“My impression was she was more like, 'Oh, this is gonna be a pain in the neck,'” Paul said.
Paul said she reported the incident to police but received no follow-up calls.
“I told them this was serious,” said Paul, who spoke by phone from New York, where she was visiting relatives. “If it was a child, it could have ripped the hand off or an arm out a socket.”
In an earlier interview on NBC's “Today” show, Paul said, “I honestly believe if they had followed through, maybe the laws would have been changed sooner and this other woman wouldn't be in the hospital, fighting for her life now.”