Playing Charades with Dogs

The True Value of Patience

I have a deaf Pug. He wasn’t always deaf, though. Auggie gradually lost his hearing over the past year and a half. Now, he’s as deaf as a post, a door knob, a rock.

My little old man

I still talk to him all the time, just like I always have, except now Auggie can’t hear me. And, I feel cheated, like I’ve lost a conversation partner, a confidant. An interlocutor.

I know he couldn’t understand a word I said before; but, now he can’t even hear the words. That he couldn’t understand before.

He no longer turns his head to look at me with that wonderful look of expectation when I say his name. I think I miss that gesture the most.

Auggie’s life has always been a grand adventure and he’s always seemed to expect the best in any situation. Especially if treats were involved.

Now, stuck in a world without sound, you can almost see the wheels turning in his head. Trying to figure out what’s happening or what’s expected of him. Trying to tell me what he needs or wants. Sometimes, it’s a little painful to watch.

It’s like Auggie lost part of himself when he lost his hearing and doesn’t know how to adjust.

Playing Charades with Dogs

Unfortunately, god love him, Auggie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So, he’s never figured out referential signaling to the degree our other three dogs have – especially Millie.

Referential signaling is a non-verbal form of communication, a type of gesturing meant to convey a message. For instance, when Millie needs to go potty she comes over to me, stands up on her hind legs, puts her forepaws on my leg, and pushes while looking at my face. If I don’t respond right away, she pushes harder.

When she wants her belly rubbed, Millie lays on her back and wiggles back and forth – fast. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

These are referential signals. I’ve tried to teach my dogs to use the Head Turn with no success whatsoever. The head turn is when your dog looks at you and then turns its head to look at an object s/he wants. Back and forth until you get the idea that your dog is pointing at something.

The variation I tried to teach my dogs is to walk in the direction I tilt my head. Like signaling someone across the room at a party that you want to head for the door. Never worked.

Referential signaling between dogs and humans is remarkable because it’s true inter-species communication arising from sharing existence for over 30,000 years. It’s especially amazing because young human children do it all the time.

What’s a Deaf Dog to Do?

But Auggie doesn’t seem to grasp the concept. So, he barks. A lot. His barking doesn’t really signal anything – unless he’s in his crate. Then, barking means, Let me outta this thing!

He also scratches the bottom tray of his crate when he wants out – like he’s trying to dig a hole under the prison walls. You know, that might be considered a referential signal because scratching at the bottom of his crate always means the same thing – Let. Me. Out.

Auggie’s barking is like being in a detective movie. We need to figure out what he wants because the poor guy can’t hear verbal queues any more. Outside? Drink? Toy? Treat? Walk? Those words, at least, he knew. Those words plus No Pee. Auggie has had a lot of practice with that one.

So, we need to figure it out. Fortunately, at 11-years old, Auggie is a creature of habit. He goes outside to the bathroom at certain times. He eats and gets his treats at about the same times every day. Others are trial and error.

Check the water dish to make sure our four dogs didn’t drink it dry – or wash their dirty paws in it. Toss his toy to see if he chases it – or give you that What’s wrong with you? look. Walk to the garage door where we keep his halter and leash – and see if he follows.

Or just give up and give him another treat. Probably what he wanted all along, anyway.

Driving in Circles

Having a deaf Pug is unfamiliar territory for me. Auggie’s learning how to cope without his hearing. Actually, he just plods along, oblivious to things like looking both ways before crossing the street. I’m learning that communicating with a deaf dog requires a new set of skills – and a healthy dose of intuition.

What I don’t want to do is be so focused on Auggie’s deafness that I drive around in circles – doing the same stuff over and over again – instead of exploring a circumstance that should bring us closer together.

How have you handled having your dog lose his/her hearing? How did it change your relationship? What did you learn from the experience? I would love to hear your stories.

Having a deaf dog teaches me the True Value of Patience

~ George

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. – Edward Hoagland

EXTRA STUFF:

Fantegrossi, D. (22 June 2018). Scientists decode the meanings behind 19 common dog gestures. Retrieved online at: https://iheartdogs.com/scientists-decode-the-meanings-behind-19-common-dog-gestures/

Wikipedia. (11 Feb 2004). Animal communication. Retrieved online from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_communication

Zachos, E. (06 July 2018). Dogs use 19 signals to tell us what they want. Retrieved online from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/07/dog-referential-signaling-gestures/

Zuberbuhler, K. (Dec 2003). Referential signaling in non-human primates: Cognitive precursors and limitations for the evolution of language. Retrieved online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251450107_Referential_Signaling_in_Non-Human_Primates_Cognitive_Precursors_and_Limitations_for_the_Evolution_of_Language

Baggage

The True Value of Second Chances

Now that I’m home, bathed, settled and fed,
All nicely tucked in my warm new bed.

You’re New but I’m Tired. Can I Trust You?

I’d like to open my baggage
Lest I forget,
There is so much to carry –
So much to regret.

I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You; But, I Was Excited.

Hmm . . . Yes, there it is, right on the top
Let’s unpack Loneliness, Heartache and Loss,
And there by my leash hides Fear and Shame.

I’m So Afraid You Won’t Want Me Anymore.

As I look on these things I tried so hard to leave –
I still have to unpack my baggage called Pain.

I Didn’t Mean to Bite You; But, I Was Afraid.

I loved them, the others, the ones who left me,
But I wasn’t good enough – for they didn’t want me.

Waiting for Adoption in the Loneliest Place In the World

Will you add to my baggage?
Will you help me unpack?
Or will you just look at my things –
And take me right back?

Table Chewing Millie
I Was Afraid You Would Never Come Back.

Do you have the time to help me unpack?
To put away my baggage,
To never repack?

Suitcase Stowaway
Please Help Me Unpack. I Want to Stay With You.

I pray that you do – I’m so tired you see,
But if I come with baggage –
Will you still want me?

Jailbird Auggie
Please Open My Door and Let Me Love You

Written by Evelynn Colbath

That’s the True Value of Second Chances

If Dogs Could Talk, What Would They Say?

The True Value of Love

My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful to me. Remember that before you buy me. (or adopt me)

Vanderpump Dogs Grooming
Millie’s Gotcha Day_040817

Give me time to understand what you want from me.

I don't know what to do!
I don’t know what to do!

Place your trust in me. It’s crucial to my well-being.

Boy and Dog Playing
A Boy and His Dog Playing

Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your entertainment and your friends. I only have you.

Auggie the Pug
Please don’t be mad. I try to be a Good Boy.

Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it’s speaking to me.

Stella Got a New Dress On
Stella Got a New Dress On

Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.

Millie the Toxirn
Treat me right, treat me right. Open your eyes, maybe you’ll see the light. – Pat Benatar

Remember before you hit me: I have teeth that could easily crush the bones of your hand, but I choose not to bite you.

Dogs at Play
I got chompers. You got chompers. Let’s go chomp someone!

Before you scold me for being un-cooperative, obstinate or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, or I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak.

Stella the Frenchie
Snuggling with Daddy helps when fireworks go big bada-boom. (Name that movie!)

Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old.

Rocky the Boston Terrier
Rocky recently was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.

Go with me on that final difficult journey. Never say: I can’t bear to watch it or Let it happen in my absence. Everything is easier for me if you are there.

Lucy with Cushings Disease
Lucy Elliott (2001 – 2014)

REMEMBER THAT I LOVE YOU.

This is the True Value of Love

Heaven goes by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out.

(Man) is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. ~ Mark Twain

~ George

Be kind to your dogs – they love us more than some of us deserve.

 

Dogs as Family

The True Value of Belonging

Kids at Grand Canyon_1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen the letter from a woman who used the Internet to shame those of us who call ourselves Pet Parents?

I guess she took exception to calling dogs our babies and our apparent ignorance of the difficulties in raising human children compared to the lowly canine.

I raised four (human) children – my son and daughter and twin step-daughters. I had sole custody of my son and daughter and very often found myself having to fill the shoes of both Mother and Father – from when they were toddlers until middle school.

Our children were raised with dogs and Arabian horses – great lifestyle choice, by the way. And, no, raising dogs and horses was nothing compared to the mixture of trials and triumphs that come with human kiddos.

My Babies

I was recently interviewed for a college project about the Los Angeles Pug Meetup.

Q: Do you call Auggie your child?

A: No, my wife does cuz she never had kids – although she helped raise mine for a few years.

Q: What about your baby?

A: Baby? They’re all my babies!!

So, there you have the awful truth. I refer (in public, no less) to my domesticated canines, descendants of majestic wolves, as my Babies! Because I’m a Pet Parent and proud of it.

I draw the line at calling them my children; though, in many ways, pet owners are also pet parents. That doesn’t make my pups my children. But, you’d never know it.

Part of the Family

Flower Millie_052417

I came down to the Kitchen this morning and Ellen said, “We need more children’s hangers for Millie’s clothes.”

Okay, so my Toxirn wore dresses when she went to work with me. Every day.

Since this blog was first posted, I went to work for the largest alcohol, drug, and mental health treatment center in California. Hospital setting = no Millie.

It’s weird, though. The pups all have sweaters for when it gets chilly; but, other than that, I would have never dressed a dog in clothes. Are you kidding me? Clothes on a dog?!

Of course, then I met Millie, the Heart Grabber, the Affection Stealer, the…well, Daddy’s Little Girl.

Kimpton Goodland, Santa Barbara_070717

When I come home from the gym or wherever, Ellen says, “Your daughter cried when you left.” When Auggie marks in the house, I tell Ellen, “Your son peed in the house.”

I guess I can see how that would be a little confusing to someone like the woman who wrote about Pet Parents.

Our dogs are our Family in a very real sense. When we walk in the door, the pups run to us – and I mean run – just like my son and daughter did when they were young and I picked them up from daycare. Beatin’ feet, Baby!

We come home to happiness and unmitigated joy every single day; so, is it any wonder that we call Millie and Stella our Baby Girls; and, Auggie and Rocky our Boys?

Pet Parenting

Why are pet owners, in many ways, like Pet Parents? Because the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year old child. The really, really smart dogs (like yours)? The same as a 2 ½ year old child.

Have you raised a 2-year old?! If not, I hope you have children someday so you can experience the joy. No, wait. That sounds like some kind of curse.

Collin & Ashley_Jun 1991

Seriously, though, I wouldn’t trade the experience of being a single father with sole custody of a 3-year old son and 2-year old daughter for anything.

The world is filled with wonderful things to a 2-year old. Everywhere you go, there are things to see and touch and, if Daddy’s not careful, to taste. Things to learn. Everything new and exciting.

It’s the same with dogs. I daresay it’s exactly the same with dogs. And, both children and dogs depend on us for their very lives.

Let’s face it, your 2-year old child cannot survive on its own any more than your designer dog can. (The further away from wolf-like a breed gets, the more it was designed to be that way.) They depend on us for literally everything to continue living; and, if POOF, we’re suddenly gone? They die.

Nirvana Sweatshirt Auggie_070817

Would a German Shepherd be alright, you ask? Yeah, probably. If it could get out of the house. And if it got out of the house, if it could get over the fence or wall.

And, if it managed to get out of the house and over that 6-foot block wall around your back yard, all it would have to do is find water and chase down a rabbit or squirrel or three.

Every day. And fight every other animal trying to do the same thing.

But, your miniature Poodle or my Pug? Forget it.

So, it falls on us, the Pet Parents to meet their needs, keep them safe, and teach them how to act – exactly like a 2-year old human child. (Sorry, letter writing woman.)

That’s the True Value of Belonging

~ George

Your dog loves you; but, it also needs you. Be a good pet parent.

Want to read more about dog intelligence?

American Psychological Association. 10 August 2009. Dogs’ intelligence on par with two-year-old human, canine researcher says. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm

Bryner, J. 8 August 2009. Dogs as smart as 2-year-old kids. Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/5613-dogs-smart-2-year-kids.html

Unknown. 12 November 2017. Dog intelligence. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_intelligence