Koko was born in  San Francisco 38 years ago and had the wonderful good fortune of meeting up with beautiful little Dr. Penny Patterson, a Stanford Graduate,  when she was just a baby. Dr. Patterson taught her, a lowland gorilla, to sign, to speak American Sign Language, and she has learned over 1000 signs and understands spoken English.

What’s so wonderful here is that she seems to have the same emotions we have. She can be “…happy, sad, jealous, frustrated, angry, willfull, funny”.  But, to me, her most marvelous human quality is her love for animals. She loves kittens and still grieves for the death of her first kitten, All Ball. One fascinating note to the religious community is that when All Ball died, Koko signed, “She’s gone to a better place.”

Koko is also an artist and her work can be purchased from The Gorilla Foundation. Her work appears in galleries and artists and critics are impressed with her use of color and technique. Many gorillas have artistic talents and elephants, too. On the home front? I think I’m going to go right out and buy Ari an easel, some brushes and some paints, who, by the way seems to have many human emotion.  Maybe Penny will give me some tips on how to begin.

Penny, Dr. Patterson, says, “she’s just as much a person as we are.”  And what Koko wants most of all is to have a baby . She has informed Penny that she will teach it to sign. Her late male companion, Michael, was also a fluent signer,  a prolific painter, and intelligent beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. These animals, by all accounts, are personable, empathetic and intelligent.

Do they have a soul? Well, it would be my hope that, if humans have souls so do they. Other animals, too. Who knows?  The truth is, no one knows.

You can find out more about Koko by looking for Koko.org. in your search. Lots of videos on YouTube. So many books, painting, DVD’s. Koko’s World, Penny’s Team Journal, KokoTV and a bibliography. Wonderful things you can purchase for yourself or give as gifts that will help build the gorgeous Maui Ape Preserve  which is pending completion on land  generously donated to the Foundation by Maui Land and Pineapple Company.

My wish is: I wish it were on Kauai, but it is in Hawaii, this great and magnificent blue state.

By the way, I found this description of blue states, “Blue states are wealthier, better educated and more moderate and “modernist” in their religious culture and tend to be Democrats.  We are more committed to a later age at family information, and more tolerant of different family forms.”

Red states? Well, they have lost economic ground and socially have become more Republican, more committed to traditionalist values, and more troubled by divorce and teen and non marital births.

Koko and, hopefully, her family belong here. This endearing animal, so often pictured signing “Love” perhaps can help teach all of us how to be an even better beacon of reason and intelligence to this mess up country.


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