Monday, August 23, 2004

It's Been A While/That Old Deaf Dog

My, time flies when there's not enough of it.

Jake still teases me with his Am I Deaf Or Ain't I? scenario. When we're at an agility trial, walking to the start of the ring, I let him get ahead of me and turned away. There's a lot of ambient noise and distraction. I say his name loudly and he spins instantly, ears perked, eyes bright, looking for the goodie that he knows I have in my hand.

Sitting in my office, I have goodies in my hand. I wait until he's lying on the floor, head turned away from me. It's completely quiet except for the sound of the computer. I call his name. No response, although he's lying there with the ears-in-the-back-of-the-head posture, as though he's expecting to hear something. I call his name louder. Nothing. Finally he turns his head casually, as if it's something he just decided to do, then suddenly perks up when he sees me looking at him and holding food. Thirty seconds later--he knows I have the food--repeat with same results.

This puzzles me.

The other evening I was out with my sister in her car. Came home through the front door, rattling the lock and jingling my keys. Tika and Casey came blazing downstairs in a frenzy of ThankGodWe'reNotAbandoned-ness. Jake remained upstairs, out of sight, with the "woof----woof----" that says "I don't know why the other dogs are aroused and running around, but in case there's an intruder, I want him to know that I fully support the other dogs in whatever they choose to do." I started stomping up the stairs, saying his name louder & louder. Same level of time-delayed woof----wooof----woof-- until I poked my head around the doorframe into the bedroom, at which point he looked startled and shocked, and then absolutely delighted to see me there.

It's a challenge.

Talked to another agility person who runs a deaf Border Collie. I've been trying to come up with a gesture vocabulary for things--touching my nose means "good", swooping my open hand palm-up away from me and him means "release/OK"; I've always often used the forearm-swung-across-the-chest for "come" and forearm-swung-up-at-elbow for "sit", so you'd think he'd know those, but he seems oblivious. In agility, I've always tried to use a raised arm for contact equipment rather than pointing as I do for other obstacles. With Jake I've started using a wavy hand for weave poles.

She suggested having signs for every different obstacle that I'm likely to have obstacle discrimination on, so including a different gesture for tunnels than for jumps. Not a bad idea. She uses a closed fist for tunnels. I like this idea; we've been missing a lot of gambles lately in straight carry-outs to tunnels that he used to just blast through; now he seems to head out there, turn back towards me, see that I'm still pointing & gesturing, and loop around and sometimes make it back out to the tunnel. Maybe if I had a different signal that was for tunnels only, it would help. But I'll have to practice it a zillion squillion times and I don't know whether I have the patience for it.

People are asking me when I think I might retire him now that he has just about every championship in the book. (NADAC NATCH and O-NATCH; ASCA ATCH; CPE CATCH; USDAA ADCH and veteran's version APD. And even higher titles.) I keep looking at him running and thinking I have no physical reason to retire him. He looks like he's having a good time. Seems particularly to enjoy the time with me without the other dogs. Runs as crazy fast as he always did after his squeaky.

Oh, and that's another thing--he still squeaks a squeaky to make it squeak. Can he hear that? Can he detect the vibration? Is he just assuming that it's squeaking? Inquiring human minds want to know.

It's especially interesting to me now that I've been suffering for nearly 3 weeks with an ear infection or something that makes it extremely difficult to hear from my right ear. It's not like losing half of my hearing; it's like losing 3/4 of it. It's amazing what difference it makes, having only one side of good hearing. So I suppose Jake could have the same thing--maybe it depends on which ear is turned towards me (which I've sometimes had my suspicions about).

Oh, well, it's all a Learning Experience.

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