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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Visitor for Bow: Friendship and Sharing

Yesterday Bow had a special visitor. Linda, the daughter of our computer consultant, Tracey,  had a day off from school, and she came by with her dad just to see Bow. She was shy at first, but Bow did his best to show her his friendly side. He knew in advance that she was coming, and he was on his best behavior.

Bow can be quite intimidating when he chooses to be, flinging himself at the pen doors and displaying his strength to anyone who doubts it. But with Linda, who is eight going on nine, just like him, Bow was friendly, jumping up and down and trying to engage her in a two way interaction. He restrained himself admirably and did not start showing off his strength until she was more comfortable in his presence.

"Does he ever laugh?" Linda asked.

"Yes, he does, but he does it without using his voice." I demonstrated by doing a voiceless "ha, ha, ha", which is more like panting, and less like talking. As soon as I started, Bow joined in with his voiceless "ha, ha, ha", just to demonstrate. Then I tickled him, and he laughed louder, and this time for real. It's hard to tickle a chimpanzee, because they are all muscle. You have to apply a lot more force than with a human. But the laughter is the same, only without vibrating the vocal cords.

When Linda felt really secure with Bow, she let him have some cherry/lime soda that she had brought in a styrofoam cup. Though Tracey and Linda could not go in with us, they could share the soda with Bow through a straw that fit into the holes in the grid. Bow finished the drink, but there were still a cherry and a slice of lime deep within the styrofoam cup. To get those, I would have to bring the cup into the pen for Bow.

"How about you thank Linda for the soda," I suggested to Bow.

He spelled: "No," in Hebrew.

"I think you should," I insisted.

Bow switched to English. "T-H-A-N," he spelled, but there was a huge pause at this point.

"K-Y-O-U," Linda suggested.

Bow spelled: "K-S", opting for the shorter version.

He ate the cherry rather quickly, but the lime piece took a lot longer to consume. First he sucked all the juice out of it, slowly, puckering his lips at the sourness. Then he ate all the pulpy part. And after that, he kept chewing on the peel as if it were the greatest of delicacies.

"You make that look so good, Bow," Tracey said, "that after I get home I'm going to get me some, too, and try it."

No sooner had Tracey said this, then out came the lime peel from Bow's mouth, what was left of it, and Bow tried to stuff it into a hole in the grid so Tracey could have some. And they say chimpanzees don't like to share!

"No, no, that's okay," said Tracey, who didn't really want to share Bow's treasure. But Bow kept trying for a very long time to get that slice through the grid.

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