Sunday, March 29, 2009

deaf dog

The second love of my life is curled on a down pillow, tucked into the crook of my left arm. This is what we do before bed: Betty sits on the stairs next to my old four poster, waiting while I fluff her pillow just so. I smooth the pillow and she steps daintily onto the bed, waiting for my hand signal to fall into the feathers. I pull the down comforter over the two of us, Betty snuggles in, making a soft puppy sigh, followed by a cooing sound, like a baby dove.

It is a ritual I adore and my little dog likes it to. Since she came to us almost three years ago, Betty has slept beside me every night.

She didn't look like much the first time I saw her. Thin, long bodied, scruffy, thin hair, with very pink, freckled skin beneath. She was billed as a Westie. That's dog rescue talk for "small white dog of unknown origin." We were looking for a companion for restless Bill, a grouchy Jack Russell, when we went to Yukon.

Anxious to make a match, the staff let us take her. We took both dogs around the corner from the rescue to the hayfield cum dog park and let them loose to run. It was hot that September and mosquitos cruised thick above the puddles in the pasture.

The dogs sniffed one another briefly, then Bill took off. Betty took off. They ran side by side, in tandem, interacting not one bit. There she was, a scruffy, funny looking small white dog who ignored us when we called, who watched balls fly and did not give chase, who ignored her potential sibling. I don't know why we decided to go ahead with the adoption. Something about her, her strangeness, the oddities in her behavior.

In the car on the way back to Tulsa, Betty paced the back seat looking out first one window, then another. It wasn't until we were 30 miles from Tulsa that she settled down and went to sleep.

Pulling in the driveway woke Billy as it always does. We parked, opened the doors, I got my purse off the floor in the back. Betty slept. I called to her, nothing. Finally, I reached in and stroked her head. She woke up looking sleepy and dazed, let me pick her up and carry her inside.

In those first few days, I would often lift her, hold her next to me on the sofa or in a chair. From my first touch, she would move not a muscle and once on my lap or next to me, she'd stare straight ahead. Thin, long bodied, scruffy dog statue. Not a blink, not a twitch, absolutely still.

I figured it out somewhere around the fifth day she was with us. Drinking coffee, reading a book early that morning, Betty was by my side on a pillow. She was looking away and I said something to her. No response. A glimmer of suspicion about this odd little dog, so I loudly said her name. Nothing. I yelled, clapped, "Betty!" Nothing.

"Mike! Betty's deaf, she's deaf!" and I gathered her into my arms to kiss her little head. It's so strange that I felt instant guilt over not having known. All the signs were there from the first day she didn't respond to our voices, when she slept so soundly on the way home.

Mike came to look at her, administered his own tests, agreed we had a deaf dog on our hands. Our thin, long bodied, scruffy, pink and freckled deaf girl. Knowing made me cry. I imagined how terrified she must have been living on the streets of Oklahoma City, at the construction site where she was found begging food. Without the ability to hear, she is at such risk, even now.

And then I thought of what she misses out on. Happy voices praising her, inciting her to play. She can't hear me when I tell her she's the best little dog in the world. She doesn't hear us laughing when she does something funny and she'll never hear my voice telling her I love her.

We called the rescue folks to tell them of our discovery. The director answered the phone, was a little cool as I related our news. When I told her we'd been reading up on sign language for dogs, she began to laugh, then expressed her relief that we were not bringing her back.

Take her back? My skinny, brown eyed, freckled, scruffy haired deaf girl? Not a chance. She is the child I never had. I'm not a mom, never will be, so I laugh when I tell friends that I couldn't love a child more than I love this dog. Mothers all, they laugh along with me, but I am serious. Do you have ~ have you had ~ an animal love, one you couldn't imagine living life without?

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15 Comments:

Blogger Willym said...

My darling Lynette, you of all people will know how this resonates with me. And it so truthfully captures the overwhelming emotions I felt when I realized our Reese was deaf also. It explained so much - the not coming when he was called, the deep sleeps, the often far away looks.

I wept a bit - I do that a lot these days - as I read it because I know that my Reese and your Betty both found people to love them and care for them, who look on their disability as part of what makes them special.

My two - Bundnie and Reese - were loved and like you treated much as the children I will never have. When I lost them a part of my world was lost and I honestly think I became a lesser person for that loss.

At the end of April, 2 new little creatures will come into my life, not as replacements for but as a continuance of that love.

March 30, 2009 4:07 AM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

Willym, I know you miss your baby, honey. Little Reese had a wonderful home and that's a hard thing for a deaf dog to find. Lucky little pup.

Two new dogs? I know there's no replacement, but I am glad that you're going to have doggy companionship again. Yay! I'm sure they will find a spare spot in your heart, near your babies, but not replacing them.

March 30, 2009 9:25 AM  
Anonymous ewe said...

I enjoyed your story. I am not an animal person. I have no dog and the one time i adopted a little puppy from the Gumps dept. store window in SF years ago, i ended up giving it to a neighbor who had a home in the suburbs. I thought i was doing the little guy a favor and i waved goodbye as he turned to look at me and walked away. It was unfair because i lived alone and was never home. The poor little thing would not leave me alone every time i came through the door. I do walk my neighbors dogs and love returning them immediately afterward. I wash my hands after touching any animal and i hate the thought of an animal sleeping with me in bed. It makes my skin crawl. Maybe i am being too harsh, but it just makes me uncomfortable. When i dogsat i allowed it because she would wimper at the bedroom door until she was allowed to jump on the bed. I just felt unclean. Sorry. There was a time in my childhood i loved cats but that is over too. I like to see them from afar but to have them in my dwelling makes me feel like i am harboring a rodent. If i had a mice or rat problem, i would definitely feed and house a cat. I do not even want any fish. Dogs do love me though because i am a walker and i will take any dog along with me for exercise. That is the only reason i would own a dog. It seems to get older people out and about and gives the widowed meaning in their lives. I have personally seen that occur and so i understand the love people like you and others have for your animals. It do believe it prolongs ones life and gives people great meaning. I just do not want to smell like a dog, with hair on my clothes or furniture. no no no. Not for me Lynette. I am only being honest about my feelings. Touching story though. lol.

March 30, 2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...

My animal love was Baby..our pitbull that was afraid of loud noises and had been beaten to try to make her mean.

We found her living under our house. I was scared of her, a pitbull. I told my son to take her to animal control as we were on our way out of town.

As usual, he didn't do what I told him..and for that I am forever thankful. He discovered she was a well trained, well behaved girl that loved every living thing and never growled once in the 5 years she was alive with us.

Cancer took our Baby and a day doesn't go by that I don't think of her and miss her so much it hurts.

March 30, 2009 4:42 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

Ewe, I've just been working on giving you the willies the last couple of days. First hog butchering, now sleeping with dogs. But I hear ya. Before we got Bill, I was a dog hater. Serious, major, don't-like-dogs, who wants those nasty, stinking, slobbery creatures yuck.

makes me feel like i am harboring a rodent. . . . hahaha!! that kills me.

I would be lost ~ lost ~ without my Boo to sleep with. And a lot of times, Billy comes in a tucks under the covers on the other side. To sleep surrounded by the terriers is heavenly.

Dusty ~ I'm so sorry you lost your baby. Five years isn't nearly enough time. I'd be scared of a pit too, just because I've been bitten by so many big dogs. But there's a guy in St. Louis who started out rescuing fight dogs from the streets and he has mad MAJOR success in doing it. Randy Grim, he's written a couple of books. He never quits on a dog and they tend to live up to his love and expectations.

March 30, 2009 4:53 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wonderful, lovely story, Lynette...when my old cat goes, the grandgirls are planning our next pet...a dog for sure...we'll see! It'll have to love RVing!!!!! I've put up with cats all these years, when I'm really a dog girl. I fell in love with an older black spaniel named Othello at the SPCA, but we weren't quite ready yet...darn.......

March 30, 2009 6:08 PM  
Blogger Lily's Mommy said...

My parents didn't allow pets in the house so when I moved out at 18 my first stop after settling in was to go to the SPCA. I really liked this black and white kitten but there was this scrawny almost all black one at the back who kept on howling and smacking at me. I finally took him out and it was love. :) I had him for 8 years and then had to put him down from complications with Cushing's Disease. I was shattered. I have cats now but none of them are like Johnathon. I still remember the day he gave me that "look". Kind of like, I'm done here, give me some peace. Dang it, I'm crying again. :P

Now I have a wonderful 2 year old who likes to yell no and wash the color off of skittles.

March 30, 2009 8:44 PM  
Blogger lady jicky said...

I lost both my dogs this january a week apart. First my rescue pug and then my old boy Oscar . I loved them both.
I now have a little puppy and we do love him but.... he is not Rosie or Oscar.
I know intime we will be really hooked but he is at the very naughty puppy stage and my two dogs were both old. Its been awhile since I had a puppy.
Could I take him back? Never!! He is still my "baby" but he is not right inside my heart - yet! LOL

March 31, 2009 2:55 AM  
Blogger David said...

Courtney. I had her from day one - born under my dorm room bed. It's like the line from Steel Magnolias. I was there when she came into this life, and I was there, crouched on the carpet next to her as she left it. I do not remember ever crying so hard.

March 31, 2009 1:44 PM  
Blogger urfakecousin said...

Hi Belle's Family,
I just want to say that I never blog, BUT after I read your post, I cried. I had to sign up and comment. Realizing your dog is deaf is very emotional. My little guy, Ernie, is deaf. I adopted him about one and a half years ago from the SPCA. They did not know he was deaf and since he was only 4 mo. old, I chalked the strange behavior off to him being a puppy AND a hound(selective hearing, I thought)!! He is a bassett ?? mix and I have to tell you he is the love of my (sometimes unpredictable) life. I could fill pages, but having experienced living with a Ernie, I know he was meant to be in my life and those who disagree just don't get it! I have learned sooooo much! He is a total blessing and a huge marshmallow, loving kissable canine!!!

March 31, 2009 9:57 PM  
Blogger urfakecousin said...

I apologize--Betty's family!!

March 31, 2009 9:58 PM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

Lynette, many times I hear the pet/kids thing, as if only those without children could actually believe that love for pets could compare to "real" familial love. As mom to 3 kids and 2 dogs, I've never liked that whole either/or deal. I love my dogs beyond description. I already dread the days my human lifespan will outpace their short ones, as I know I will absolutely fall apart - I of the "suck it up and deal with it" school.

My boys are both rescues. Mason was abused badly in his previous life. I was actually looking for a younger, smaller, female friend for Batman, and ended up with this older, bigger, male, fearful neurotic mess with funky hips, a wart on his eye, and a heart murmur. Two years later, he's happy, mostly secure, and every time I look at his gentle brown-cow eyes, I know it was the right decision. Batman, he's the quintessential family dog, and I have no idea how a dog like him even ended up in a shelter.

When I was a kid, we always had dogs, but my favorites were the Great Danes. Two of them, in a tiny house in the suburbs. Loved those dogs. I still have soft spot for Danes.

April 02, 2009 7:15 PM  
Anonymous yvonne said...

Lynette, how touching. I'm so glad you and Betty found each other.

We knew of our cat's deafness before he came to live with us: he was the one kitten out of a litter of four whose idea of big fun was riding around on top of the loud vacuum cleaner as it was being run! We'd assumed a deaf cat might be shy or nervous...could never have guessed that he would be the most calm, confident, fearless animal we've ever known. He's also just meltingly affectionate...we are mad about him.

Aw, I do understand your wish that Betty could hear your voice, hear your loving words. But she was most likely born deaf, so she doesn't know that hearing exists; certainly, she will live her life with you fully aware, in every other way that animals experience it, that she is dearly loved.

A big hug for that sweet girl.

April 06, 2009 4:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Yes.

Serena, my silky black kitty, is lying across my left arm as I type. This is pretty much her blog pose.

She's pretty much the only constant in the last thirteen years of my life.

April 15, 2009 11:35 AM  
Blogger Jazzie Casas said...

Some things to look for that may indicate that your dog is deaf, suffering from hearing loss, or experiencing ear problems that have the potential to lead to hearing loss include: change in obedience or lack of attentiveness; excessive barking; unresponsiveness to sounds; head shaking; itchy and/or painful ears; a smelly discharge from the ears; difficulty being woken up; head tilts toward the side of the affected ear.



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