Saturday, April 03, 2004

Doubt is Gone--Jake is Quite Deaf

Signals have been so mixed with Jake that I wasn't entirely convinced it was increasing hearing loss rather than some obscure sort of reverse training that had numbed him to his name.

Yesterday morning, Jake was lying here in my office, awake, gazing lackadaisically out the window. My housemate was preparing for work in the dining area, which is about 15 feet away with no wall between there and here. She got out some ta-ta dog goodies, and the other dogs were prancing around with enthusiasm. Jake showed no sign of being aware of anything going on. She called his name. Several times, getting louder. I had to go over and touch him--he didn't have a tremendous startle response, but somewhat of one. When I pointed out the housemate and the goodie, his enthusiasm overflowed and he charged in there to get his just reward.

Today I was gone for the morning. My sister dropped me off out front (so the usual garage door opening & closing didn't happen) and I came in the front door--keys rattling, door unlocking, greeting the other dogs bouncing around. Jake was at the top of the stairs barking in a desultory way, the "yeah, what they said" type of bark that says there's another dog here, too, even if he doesn't know what's going on. As I stepped into view of the stairs, he had already turned so that his head was down the hallway and had stopped barking. I said his name. I said it louder. He just kept walking casually away. I called several times very loudly. Nothing. I banged on the wall, at which point he started barking a little again and came casually back around the corner to see what was going. When he saw me, he turned completely into the little wiggling welcoming happy guy.

How very sad. He's still so good on the agility course. There are deaf dogs competing, but they and their handlers learned to do agility while the dog was deaf. I don't think that Jake understands the concept that he is now differently abled. I don't know that I can handle a dog on course when he's so fast but will have to rely entirely on body language--there are times I just won't be able to get in front of him. I'll have to think very hard about ways to turn visibly for him rather than just signaling with a call and a hesitation in my stride or a slight turn of the shoulders.

I suspect that there's a little vision impairment, too, but (again) nothing I can explicitly put my finger on. Just a few things here and there--

I guess I could retire him. But he seems to be having fun, doing the agility with me. Now that I'm convinced of what the problem is, maybe it will be less frustrating for me to go out there and feel that I've done the right thing yet watch him go on and do some odd and unexpected behavior. If I can treat it as purely for fun and not for competition.

Which means that it might not make sense for me to be planning to run him at the USDAA [intern]national championships in Arizona in November. Those tend to be tough courses.

And the CPE nationals are in June. The courses aren't usually as tough, but there are plenty of them where voice command is very important. If we want to keep competing, I'm going to have to seriously think about training him to really look at me after every obstacle instead of assuming that he's going straight unless called off. What a challenge. Could be interesting. Could be frustrating.

Good thing Tika's doing great now--

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