Roy Carlson and his “son” Mikee were one of the most recognizable duos in the east metro. That’s because Mikee was a monkey.
With his humanlike ways, the 19-year-old pigtail macaque regularly stole the spotlight while cruising around St. Paul lakes atop Carlson’s shoulders. He’d snack on peanuts and grapes while posing for thousands of photos over the years.
“He was kind of a celebrity over here,” Carlson said. “He put a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces.”
Mikee died unexpectedly Sept. 1. Doctors believe Mikee had a heart attack after fluid built up around his heart.
Carlson said Mikee’s death was shocking, because there were no signs that the seemingly healthy monkey was in distress. The day was like any other: the two ate a breakfast of fresh fruit, got dressed and showered, and spent the morning playing outside.
“One gasp of air and he was gone,” Carlson said. “I tried to resuscitate him, but couldn’t bring him back.”
Carlson kept the news to himself until recently, because he was too sad to talk about it.
“I have to avoid driving by Dairy Queen,” Carlson said. “A cone with a bit of ice cream was his treat for being a good boy.”
Mikee comes to Minnesota
Though his species originated in the rain forests of India, Mikee was born in 1997 in California right around the time that Carlson and his wife had become empty-nesters. After raising five kids, Carlson and his wife wanted to adopt another child. The couple had been on a waiting list for two years when Carlson met Mikee as an infant while training boxers in Las Vegas.
“My whole world changed when I got him,” Carlson said. “He grew into being a part of the family. It’s unbelievable how human he was.”
Because Mikee was already living in Minnesota before a state law went into effect in 2005, banning most exotic animals as pets, Carlson was “grandfathered” into the legislation and allowed to keep Mikee.
“He was the last legal pet monkey in Minnesota,” Carlson said.
At their home in Maplewood, the couple bottle-fed Mikee and changed his diapers. When he was about a year old, Mikee wanted to go everywhere “Dad” went: to the family’s St. Paul towing company, festivals, Saints games and daily walks around lakes Phalen and Como.
The two were inseparable and were even told on several occasions that they looked alike.
“He had a natural flat top, but I had to cut mine,” Carlson said. “It really was like monkey see, monkey do.”
Carlson and Mikee ate the same diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean fish. Carlson said he has Mikee to thank for being in good health at age 69.
“I’ve never been sick one day in my years of having him,” Carlson said. “He made me bullet-resistant.”
St. Paul’s resident monkey
Most people who walked around St. Paul’s lakes saw Mikee at least once. On days when the temperature was at least 50 degrees, Carlson would bundle Mikee up in his favorite silky sports jersey and start walking, with Mikee perched on his shoulders.
What would have been a 30- or 45-minute walk, usually turned into a 2½-hour outing, with dozens of people stopping Carlson and Mikee to ask questions, take pictures and share a snack of unsalted peanuts and berries.
While Mikee couldn’t talk, Carlson said he definitely had opinions, especially about clothes. Carlson would lay out six outfits and Mikee would choose his outfit of the day by tossing the ones he didn’t want onto the floor.
Mikee weighed 52 pounds and liked clothes from Target or Walmart in a 5T or extra small. He also loved to shower and brush his teeth.
He enjoyed watching Saturday morning cartoons, local news stations and the History Channel. During election season, Mikee would make a face at the candidates he disliked (if he could have voted, he would’ve voted for Donald Trump, Carlson said).
“He made me eat better, think better,” Carlson said. “We had a human connection.”
A public celebration of Mikee’s life will be held Nov. 5, from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Czech-Slovak Protective Society Hall, 383 Michigan St., St. Paul.