Caregiver Corner: ‘Cleaning with Koko’ by Jill F.

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Koko has three rooms in her building, which we refer to as A, B and the kitchen. Her rooms are divided by steel mesh and gates, with the A room having a chute to the outdoor yard. Koko generally has access to her A and B rooms, and the kitchen area is where she invites her human guests to join her for a visit. Jill Firstenberg, one of Koko’s caregiver’s, describes an interaction with Koko that took place on August 14, 2004. 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. As a caregiver for Koko one of my daily duties is to move Koko from one of her rooms to the other in order to clean. Koko’s cooperation is crucial. On this particular day, as well as many others, Koko is cooperative and helpful. I enter Koko’s kitchen. Koko: Purr#. Jill: Hi sweetie pie. Koko: Purr#. Jill: Koko, I’d like to clean your other room would you like to bring anything from that room into this room before I close the gate? Koko looks around her room, picks up one of her favorite toy lizards, known as party lizard, and comes into her larger room, the A room. Jill: Is that all? Koko: Purr#. Jill: Okay if I close this now? (pointing to the hydraulic gate that separates her A and B rooms.) Koko: Good. Kiss#. I close the hydraulic gate and enter into the closed off B room and start to clean. Koko comes close to where I’m cleaning. She has two small water bottles and a roll of paper towels in her hands. As I clean, Koko starts to pour out the water onto the floor then use the paper towels, a few at a time, to clean the floor and walls of her room. I clean one room, and Koko cleans the other. Jill: Koko, are you cleaning? Koko: Purr#. Jill: You are doing a great job Koko! Thanks for helping me sweetie. Koko: Purr#.

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