What I have had to experience, and what I am experiencing once again, is the inevitable aging process of a dog that lives a long life.
Kodi is going deaf. Going. Gone. Kodi has gone deaf. I have to adjust that sentence because just a month ago I could say that he was only going, but now, as we sit just seven days until his eleventh birthday I have to admit that he has now gone deaf.
It started out slowly enough, a missed command here, and refusal to look at me there. I made the mistake a few times in the beginning of assuming he was being disobedient, but when I realized that if I used a hand signal paired with my verbal command he responded without fault, and I knew that it was his ears and not his attitude that was the problem. Now, actually, it bothers me when I run across the park to fetch my non-responsive dog and explain to those around us that my dog is deaf and they make a joke about “selective deafness”. I want to leap to his defence. Kodi is a good boy, Kodi is very well trained, very trustworthy, and unfalteringly loyal. He just can’t hear me.
Kodi is my best friend and this change in him is the first indication, besides perhaps the grey hairs on his face, that he won’t be with me forever.
One of the reasons we have this problem at the dog park, however, is because Kodi doesn’t act or look old in any other obvious sense. Veterinarians have mistaken him for being only half his age, he runs with the same speed and enthusiasm he always has, he wrestles daily with his little brother Badger, and he still comes to work with me to teach obedience. He does not limp along, he trots. His eyes are clear and he hasn’t gotten fat and shaky on his feet. The most common response I get when I tell people how old he is is “Wow. Really?”
So I suppose, I can forgive them, just a little bit, for not believing that my dog is old enough to be anything but selectively deaf.
This is, however, the first of my many responsibilities to come when it comes to taking care of my aging dog, and I have to approach this one with the same commitment that I will need to approach the day that he can’t get up and down the stairs by himself, and the day he starts wetting the bed, and eventually the day he tells me without doubt that he is ready to leave me.
Until then, as his needs change and grow my care needs to change and grow with him. He has given me his youth so that I can take care of him in his old age. Today I am ordering a vibrating collar. Kodi isn’t ready to resign to wearing a leash on our daily off leash walks, his swift trot is still too fast for me to keep up with. What we need is something to replace my voice when I need to get his attention, be it to warn him of approaching people, children, dogs, or bicycles so that he is not startled, or to get him to look at me so that I can give him the hand signal for ‘come’ when I need him to return to my side.
I intend to document the training as best I can through the use of video and a journal and I’ll post the progress here as we go along so that whether you are starting with a deaf puppy or coping with the aging process of your own dog you can follow along with Kodi’s new training.