Research/Care Blog

Caregiver Corner: 'Bedtime with Koko' by Jill

Koko likes to

Date Added: 2005-08-29
During the summer months when the days are longer, the gorilla’s bedtime routines start at 5:30pm. They get their last meals of the day, and are closed in for the night.

(In Koko's responses, the pound symbol (#) after a word indicates that it is a vocalization by Koko; otherwise the word or phrase represents her response in American Sign Language. The kiss# vocalization is commonly used to get someon's attention.)



Bedtime with Koko, by Jill Firstenberg
May 7, 2005


Most evenings Penny and Ron put Koko to bed. Recently, on Saturday evenings, I have started doing the bedtime routine with Koko. As this is a new routine for me, I rely on Koko's help in making sure I don't forget anything. Koko knows her bedtime routine very well as you will see below.

I enter Koko's rooms with her bedtime meal at 5:35pm.

  Koko: Purr#.
  Jill:: Hi Sweetie, are you ready for bedtime?
  Koko: Good. Purr#. (Koko often signs good to mean yes.)
  Jill:: Okay, Koko, now I'm new at this so any help you can give me is greatly appreciated.
  Koko: Purr#.

As I’m reading through the instructions for Koko's bedtime routine, Koko moves near me at the mesh that separates us and kisses. (The kiss# vocalization is commonly used to get a caregiver’s attention.)

  Koko: Kiss#. Do there. (Koko points to her refrigerator in her kitchen where we keep the juice that she drinks, diluted with water, to wash down her supplements.)

I silently read the bedtime routine instructions: First prepare bedtime drink from juice in the refrigerator, then give Koko the contents of her evening supplement packet.

  Koko: Do there. (Koko points to supplement packet on the counter.)
  Jill:: Well, I don't really need to read this, you know what to do.
  Koko: Purr#.

Koko takes her supplements, has her drink, then gets some blankets and goes and sits in her connecting smaller room, known as her B room.

  Koko: Do there. (Koko points to the hydraulic gate controls.)

I continue to read down the list of bedtime routine instructions: Move Koko to her B room and close hydraulic gate.

  Jill:: I don't even need this paper sweetie, you can just tell me what to do.
  Koko: Purr#.

I close the hydraulic gate, leaving it open just enough to pass Koko her dinner tray underneath the gate. I unlock the door giving me access to her larger A room. I pass Koko her dinner. When she finishes eating, Koko passes the empty bowls and platter back under the gate to me. I do a quick end of the day cleaning of her room, leave her a few bottles of water, and a tray of yummy leafy greens that she can snack on overnight. I exit her A room and lock the door.

  Koko: Kiss#. Open hurry.
  Jill:: Okay, Okay.

I open the hydraulic gate giving Koko access to both rooms again. Koko comes into her larger A room and sits at the mesh near me again.

  Koko: Kiss#. Kiss#.
  Jill:: What sweetie?
  Koko: Sandwich there.
  Jill:: You're ready for your sandwich now? (sign/voice)
  Koko: Good. Purr#.

I give Koko her sandwich, which consists of soynut butter and sliced fruit on one slice of bread. I finish tidying up the kitchen area making sure that all electrical plugs are unplugged and that the intercom is on so the night monitor can hear the gorillas.

  Koko: Kiss#. Nut.

Koko knows she gets a cracked walnut last thing before I go as a bedtime treat.

  Jill:: Just a minute sweetie, I'm just finishing up.
  Koko: Hurry. Go.
  Jill:: Okay, okay. Pushy little thing aren't you?
  Koko: Laugh#.
  Jill:: Okay, I'm finished. (sign/voice)
  Koko: Purr#. Nut. Lights-off there. (Koko points to the light switch.)
  Jill:: Okay sweetie. I won't forget the lights. Sweet dreams. I love you.
  Koko: Blow-kiss#.

I give Koko her bedtime nut, turn off the lights and leave.

If only everyone had a helpful friend like Koko to help get their work done…what an even more wonderful world this would be.


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