On Christmas morning, Koko ate her cereal and opened her stocking. It was filled with nuts. Koko threw the nuts aside and went to her next present.
Koko unwrapped a doll.
“That stink,” Koko signed.
Then came the velvet cat.
“That red,” she signed.
Koko often uses the word red to express anger. Koko was very upset. She started running back and forth, banging on her walls. She was doing display charges past me. They were angry, angry charges.
It is natural for gorillas to display when frightened or in great danger. They run sideways, pound their chests, then go down on all fours, and run back and forth.
But this was Christmas, usually a happy day for Koko, and she was with people she loved.
Later in the day, Barbara, a friend who had knownKoko since shewas a baby gorilla, arrived.
“That looks like a black cat,” Barbara said to Koko. “Would you show it to me?”
Koko did not answer. She pulled a blanket over her head.
“Could I see it?” Barbara asked.
Koko pulled a rag over the toy cat, then tossed it in the air. “Cat that,” Koko signed.
“Please let me see it,” said Barbara.
Koko gave her a toy dinosaur instead.
I finally understood Koko’s strange behavior. She was unhappy with her Christmas present. I had made a mistake. Koko did not want a cement and velvet toy cat. Koko wanted a real cat.
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