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My dog is going deaf.

I've suspected this for a while. She no longer leaps to her feet when the key rattles in the front door. At a distance of more than ten feet, only a sharp whistle or hand clap gets her attention. But I didn't realize until the other night how bad it's gotten, that it's not just the selective hearing of the spoiled and occasionally obstinate dog.

When I came home on Friday, Henry (who usually sits on the sofa or living room chair by the front door in the late afternoons) was instead avidly sniffing the floor in the dining room. She didn't look up when I opened the door, so I called her name. She continued sniffing. I called her name again, louder. By this time the cats were yelling and running in mad circles around my legs, so there was plenty of noise in the house. But Henry continued sniffing unperturbed. It was only when she happened to look up and saw me in the doorway that she lit into her ritual spastic-bouncing "you're home!" dance, all joy and panting and clicking nails. Until she saw me, she had no idea I was even there.

It's to be expected, I guess. She'll be nine years old this summer. But I'm afraid for her now. My carefree, profoundly laid-back little dog seems so fragile all of a sudden. This latest circumstance is only going to make me more neurotic about her than I already am -- what if she gets off her leash somehow, and she can't hear me calling her?

We'll have to make some changes. All the little songs I sing for her in the mornings and at dinner and just, you know, whenever will have to be for my own amusement now (as if they're not already). When you think about it, there are so few ways to communicate with these strange beasts, and one of those ways has now been virtually eliminated for us. I'm looking for an obedience class that will teach hand signals along with voice commands, but the nuances will vanish. Is there a hand signal that means a coo, or a whisper, or a "who's my little fuzzy beastie? who's my good girl? who's my Henry?"

Replies: 9 Confessions

hey there.
I pulled this off the net for ya...

'Acquired nerve deafness develops when the normal neurologic structures of the inner ear are destroyed by disease. Underlying causes include neoplasia and administration of drugs toxic to the ear. Acquired nerve deafness may or may not be reversible, depending on its cause.

Older dogs often undergo progressive hearing loss (senile deafness), evidenced to the owner by apparent inattention, sound sleep, and lack of response to previously alarming stimuli. Senile deafness usually is a combination of conduction deafness, as the bones of the inner ear fuse together, and nerve deafness, and is considered irreversible.

Animals with hearing loss should be presented to the veterinarian for examination of the ear canals and possible radiographs (X-rays) of the skull. Underlying disorders should be treated. If no cause is found, or if the animal has an irreversible form of deafness, the animal's environment must be controlled for its protection. For example, deaf dogs should never be exercised off-leash, especially in strange surroundings or near busy streets. Dogs with hearing loss can be trained to respond to hand signals.'

Also, I have a heard that many people have success training deaf dogs with those citronella spray collars.

I'm sure you have already talked to your vet about all of this. Give Henry a little snuggle from me.

Keep us posted.

the other amy @ 02/11/2003 03:36 AM CST

I had a deaf cat when I lived in California. We could always get his attention by rapping on the hardwood floor. Of course, he never acted happy to see us, because he was a cat, but it did let him know when it was time to demand more food.
And you could sing to her if you made body contact, yes? Because she would feel the vibrations.

elavil @ 02/11/2003 06:58 AM CST

It's definitely deafness of the senile variety. At her checkup a few weeks ago, the vet checked her ears and there was no sign of disease or disorder. She's just getting old. And this has been noticeable for at least a year -- I just didn't realize how advanced it was.

We've talked about getting her a helper monkey, because how cool would that be!

amyc @ 02/11/2003 08:08 AM CST

Maybe Ouida could be Henry's helper monkey. He needs a job.

I'll have to keep this in mind when next I'm watching the pets. Can we have a hand signal for 'Henry! Slow down you freakin' spaz! No! Don't eat that! etc.'

Phineas @ 02/11/2003 08:37 AM CST

You think Ouida would help anybody? Even for money?

So when you pet-sit, I think you'll just have to carry Henry around like a baby 24hrs a day, just to be safe.

amyc @ 02/11/2003 09:05 AM CST

I just liked the picture of Ouida in the little red fez and vest is all...

Phineas @ 02/11/2003 09:14 AM CST

oh sweet henry.

hand signal training is pretty easy. there are even a few "reward" signals, but they basically indicate the dog is going to get a tasty treat.

My stupid great dane, who can hear, is hand signal trained. he responds better to hand signals than voice commands.

get her a monkey. that would be sweet.

shechemist @ 02/11/2003 09:41 AM CST

Sorry to hear about Henry's possible deafness. If it's any consolation, Satchmo the Wonder Basset has great hearing, he just refuses to acknowledge that he has heard anything. We get along just fine...I call him, he ignores me, I go get him, he comes along in that stupid basset manner. If it weren't for the occasional twitch of an eyebrow, I would have assumed he was deaf all along.

tbogg @ 02/11/2003 01:51 PM CST

Perhaps you should try singing. I'm sure lots of things rhyme with "Satchmo."

amyc @ 02/11/2003 03:08 PM CST

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