Caregiver Corner: ‘Bedtime with Koko’ by Jill

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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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