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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Surprise is Blown

Every time the delivery lady comes by, Bow hides in the corner, moving the potty aside to make room for himself.

"I can see you," she says. "I can see you there, you and your blanket. Do you want to come out and say hi to me?"

Bow has different routines with different people. He does not do this with everyone, but that is how he behaves with the delivery lady. Yesterday, after she had coaxed him to come out, he started moving toward her, with his blanket, almost in slow motion. For a chimpanzee who is usually so fast with every movement, it was remarkable how excruciatingly slow he was.

"You're moving like a sloth," she said. "Do you know what a sloth is?"

Bow did not answer, but he kept approaching the grid of the front door to the inner pen in slow motion. Then when he got there, he examined the lady's shoes, felt her fingers through the hole in the grid and looked as if he wanted to kiss her hand.

"Your blanket isn't in good shape, is it?" she asked. "But he's getting a new blanket, isn't he?" she said, turning to me.

"Yes, but it's a surprise."

"Is it under the tree?"

"No. I haven't put it there yet."

"Oh, can he see the tree from there?"


Then she and Bow went back to interacting together, but soon she had to leave.

I didn't really think much of this exchange until much later in the day when Bow took my had and spelled:           יש לי שמיכה חדשה
                     "I have a new blanket."

I answered: "Yes, how did you know?"     ? כן איך ידעת                    

He spelled:          הדודה אמרה
                          "The lady said."

When I told him he could not have his new blanket till Christmas, he got a little mad and tried to tear up what remained of his old blanket. But he soon calmed down and went back to appreciating the blanket that he's got.

Anyway, the surprise is blown. Bow knows exactly what he's getting for Christmas. I mean, he always gets a blanket for Christmas, so it's not really that much of a surprise. But now he knows I've already gotten it for him, and it is hidden somewhere in the house.

That's why I tell people: "Don't talk to me, talk to Bow." If they forget and start talking to me, they end up saying things  -- and I end up saying things --  that Bow wasn't intended to know, and we all tend to forget that even when it's not addressed to him, Bow is still listening. And he still understands.


  1. Awww, bummer that he knows! After having experienced an encounter with Bow, I can honestly say though that it is a very different meeting than what most people are used to. It is very hard to carry on a one-sided conversation and I can see where it would be easy to forget that he can understand, even if he's not responding (in our perception anyway).
    It's hard to remember that Bow understands what's being said, unlike our babies that we talk to or our dogs, while simultaneously holding another conversation with someone in the room.

    1. Hi, Kathy. That's true! It's hard for me to remember sometimes, too, and he hears me talking on the phone, as well. But it's one of the ways that Bow gathers information. People who practice selective mutism also have that advantage over others, because if we don't hear someone speaking, we tend to forget that he still can listen and understand.