I was just reminded of one pretty solid indicator that the guy who works for me in the afternoon actually sees me as a real person.
Whenever he leaves, he says really casually, “See you guys later.” Always has, since his first day here. Just did it again about five minutes ago.
He means me, the dog, and the cat. He addresses it to all of us. He realizes that when he’s in my apartment, there’s four sentient creatures in the room including himself.
There was a staff person I knew in California who was the same way. She talked to me and to my cat, neither of us with baby talk, as if we were actual people. She was training to be a speech pathologist, and I think she’ll make a good one.
(I’m remembering in particular how Fey and I used to watch her while she did stuff, and she talked to both of us when we did that, “Why are you two staring at me!?!”)
And I’ve found that staff who instinctively see the dog and cat as worth talking to, just casually, and acknowledging them like that, tend to see me as a person, and an equal, as well. Not a hard and fast rule or anything, but so far I haven’t met many exceptions.