For me, winter has always been the time of year for introspection and reflection, a time when I remember the past with both fondness and sadness but look to the future with hope.
Washoe has been much on my mind of late and I wanted to share a story, one of my favorite memories, of a unique individual that I had the privilege to call a friend. She touched mine and many lives in so many great ways but it is in the small quiet moments that I remember her best.
Soon after I had finished my training as a caregiver I was working an “alone shift” (read Debbie’s blog post for a great explanation of what this is here). I was recovering from a ridiculous head-cold and, periodically, had to leave the night-time enclosures to blow my nose. Each time, upon returning, Washoe would get my attention by clapping and frenetically signing HURRY GIMME. I am ashamed to admit I was very slow to understand what she wanted. Each time I replied I DON’T UNDERSTAND until, finally, after the fifth or sixth attempt the light bulb went on! I suddenly asked YOU WANT A TISSUE? (I sort of improvised a sign for tissue since I wasn’t quite sure of the correct sign.) Washoe immediately responded with the exact same sign I had just used. I then proceeded to give her a tissue which she seemed to enjoy thoroughly. It wasn’t necessarily a remarkable moment, but it was one of the first moments of spontaneous communication between the two of us.
Sometimes it’s those little things that make up the moments that we remember for the rest of our lives. When I came to CWU as an undergraduate I could not have imagined the gifts I would receive in friendship, in love, in education, and in life. Now, I cannot imagine my life without them and I count myself blessed.