Travis the chimpanzee, a veteran of TV commercials, was the constant companion of a lonely Connecticut widow who fed him steak, lobster and ice cream. He could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and dress and bathe himself.
He brushed his teeth with a Water Pik, logged on to a computer to look at photos and channel-surfed television with the remote control.
But on Monday, the wild animal in him came out with a vengeance.
The 90kg animal viciously mauled a friend of his owner before being shot to death by police.
Investigators are trying to figure out why — whether it was a bout of Lyme disease, a reaction to drugs or a case of instinct taking over.
Travis attacked 55-year-old Charla Nash as Sandra Herold frantically stabbed her beloved pet with a butcher knife and pounded him with a shovel. Nash was in critical condition on Tuesday with “life-changing, if not life-threatening,” injuries to her face and hands, Mayor Dannel Malloy said.
In recordings of calls to 911 dispatchers released on Tuesday, Travis’ grunts can be heard as a frantic Herold cries that her pet is “eating” Nash and must be killed. The attack lasted about 12 minutes.
“The chimp killed my friend!” says a sobbing Herold, who was hiding in her vehicle. “Send the police with a gun. With a gun!”
The dispatcher later asks, “Who’s killing your friend?”
“My chimpanzee!” she cries. “He ripped her apart! Shoot him, shoot him!”
Police said that Travis was agitated earlier on Monday and Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Police said the drug had not been prescribed for the 14-year-old chimp.
In humans, Xanax can cause memory loss, lack of coordination, reduced sex drive and other side effects. It can also lead to aggression in people who were unstable to begin with, said Emil Coccaro, chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
“Xanax could have made him worse,” if human studies are any indication, Coccaro said.
Investigators said they were also told that Travis had Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness with flu-like symptoms that can lead to arthritis and meningitis in humans.