So, yeah, my dog has officially gone deaf, but unlike people when they suddenly acquire such a disability, she doesn’t seem to mind (or more to the point, doesn’t seem to notice). She used to hear, now she doesn’t — it’s as simple as that. Dog Zen. But the truth is, I think it’s actually worked out quite well for her. For starters, the word “no” has disappeared from her life (not to mention any command of any sort) and she now lives in a world — in her mind at least — where everything is “yes”:
“Yes, I know I don’t usually have Thai food, but I think I’ll eat that green curry right off your plate”.
“Yes, I know I usually go in the same direction as you, but I think I’ll wander off over here into the bushes and see if I can find some poop to sniff”.
“Yes, I know I’m usually silent while you eat, but I think I’ll continue to bark at you until you give me some”.
“Yes, I know I’m usually not fond of the vacuum, but I think I’ll continue to lie here in the middle of the hall now that the dog eating setting no longer works”.
And so on.
Truthfully it’s rather endearing — she’s like a big puppy — and really, timing wise, if it was going to happen, now is probably the best time. At 14, for a service dog, she’s really passed the point of retirement (no, that’s not a euphemism), but since she doesn’t do anything physical (i.e. pull a wheelchair), and she’s in great shape, she’s been able to keep working. In fact, hearing loss aside, when we put her vest on, all aforementioned anarchistic behavior disappears and she’s ready to go to work. She may not able to pick stuff up for me anymore — she can’t hear things fall or take instructions — but she can still open and close my front door, and that’s a huge assistance to me.
So basically she’s in semiretirement, which is really another way of saying she still has all the perks and privileges of a service dog — being able to go everywhere I go; restaurants, theatre, concerts, movies, airplanes, what have you — but almost none of the responsibility. It’s a hard knock life, to be sure, and I suppose a hearing monkey or something might make the Club Med like transition a little easier, but since monkeys hardly seem trustworthy, we’re just going to have to go with what we’ve got.
All this said, what’s been most difficult is not being able to talk to her anymore. And I’m not talking about commands. The command thing is working itself out — she’s smart, and she’s already starting to learn hand signals (especially when food is on the line). No, what I’m referring to are the expressions of love and encouragement I give her with my voice when I’m stuck in bed and I’m unable to reach out and pet her, or when we’re out on the street and she’s doing a good job and I want to let her know. This is what I miss, and I wonder if she finds it odd that she no longer hears my voice.