My Husband Has Problems & Other Fun Things
I’ve Learned from My Deaf Dogs
Deaf dogs, just like any dog, are eager to learn from us. They are sponges, yearning to soak up whatever knowledge we’re willing to teach them- whether it’s a new hand sign, a new trick, good manners or exactly why Dr. Harvey’a freeze-dried raw green tripe Power Pops are a much better treat than dirty underwear (Yes, that happens in my house. That story is here.). But you know what? For as much as I may have taught them, there are just as many things I’ve learned from my deaf dogs.
A patient, observant deaf dog pet parent can learn many things from their deaf dogs, much of it stuff you didn’t even know that you didn’t know. And some of it? Well, it’s just funny! Let’s start with the elephant in the room- one of the first things I learned from my deaf dogs…
My Husband Has Problems
My husband has problems. (I call him Ricky Ricardo and here’s why.)
So my husband, Ricky Ricardo, he’s a smart man. He left Cuba when he was 15 years old without his parents or sister, who were waiting for visas of their own when he left, and came to a foreign country- alone- where he did not speak the language or know the culture- but he made his way.
A teenager without his family, he graduated high school and then went to Pharmacy school. Not done, he then studied literature and literary translation. He speaks 3 languages and he can best anyone I know with
useless an impressive depth of Broadway musical trivia. His degrees are verifiable proof that he’s a smarty-pants. But when it comes to getting our deaf dogs’ attention, all that goes out the window. His brain shuts down.
When we adopted Edison just over 5 years old, we both knew going in that he was deaf. Then, a year later, we adopted Foster, also knowing he was deaf. And it’s not like the word “deaf” is some alien word or concept. Deaf, in this case, is exactly that: deaf. They cannot hear.
Simple, right? Make sure they can see you, use hand signs and your body language to communicate, toss in a few of these deaf dog hacks and you’re good to go!
Wrong- at least if you’re the love of my life, my own Ricky RIcardo.
Ricky and I both know, without a doubt and without exception, that Edison and Foster can’t hear a damned thing. But still, almost daily, I catch my husband whistling to get their attention.
And not just once, but repeatedly, and in lots of different circumstances and for lots of reasons:
He whistles when he wants them to come back inside.
He whistles when he wants them to stop roughhousing.
He whistles when he hears Edison gorging on the kitchen garbage like it’s Golden Corral and someone else is paying.
Surprisingly, and to Ricky’s daily head-scratching dismay, they don’t come running when we whistles, and they don’t stop playing or finishing off the last of the trash.
I’ve had many conversations with him about the ineffectiveness of his whistling to get their attention. I’ve explained the concept of “deafness” and that he needs to get in their line of sight because they can’t hear him if they can’t see him. I’ve even shown him the definition in the dictionary.
When that didn’t work, I tried explaining, “sordo”, the Spanish word for deaf, hoping using his mother tongue may help. But no.
He whistles. And he whistles. And he whistles. And I roll my eyes so often that I fear I will soon suffer from permanent Disgusted Bitch Face.
But My Husband Has Another Problem
When whistling doesn’t work, he starts clapping.
Edison and Foster can’t hear the garbage truck rambling down the street or those loud, screaming
monsters children moving past our house in small rabid packs groups, making their way from the local elementary school back home, so I’m not sure why he thinks they can hear a faint clap from across the room.
When they don’t respond to his first clap, he claps again. Then he claps louder. Then faster. Soon, he’s clapping like a test monkey desperately looking for his next fix of methamphetamines.
I’ve given up trying to explain that these “hacks” and “shortcuts” of his are neither hacks nor shortcuts, because THEY DO NOT WORK!
I’m at a point now that I let him whistle and clap until he tires himself out. Eventually, he’ll figure it out on his own. One day, his smarty-pants brain will kick in and a light bulb will go off and he’ll connect the dots…and he’ll begin to use proven methods that actually get your deaf dog’s attention. You know, the things I’ve told him to do.
Ricky is my sun, my moon, my stars and my gravity. I love him for exactly who he is even when he’s a whistling, clapping fool.
But then there’s me…
And I Have Problems Too
Though I get up between 5 and 6 AM every day, including weekends, I’m not a morning person by any definition. Once I get juiced up on a few cups of coffee, I’m at my most productive, creatively speaking- as long as I can do it sitting down. But until then, even Ricky Ricardo knows to avoid making eye contact with me.
When my alarm starts screaming each morning, I crawl out of bed and search the dark for my shorts and my Crocs (yes, I still wear Crocs in 2018 and I do it proudly, so don’t bother judging me).
Then I stumble through the house towards the kitchen to make my coffee, accidentally stepping on Busy Buddy Jacks (Galileo’s toy of choice) or tripping over cats with dangerously slow reflexes along the way. I walk into furniture, knock over chairs and even trip over my own feet. I’m a man on a mission with a singular goal- make the coffee!- and I generally leave overturned furniture and screaming cats in my wake.
Until I taste that first sip of caffeinated nectar, nothing and no one is safe. The dogs don’t approach me and most of the cats have learned to go hide.
I certainly don’t mean to step on the cats- I simply don’t see their small bodies in my pre-coffee stupor. That’s one reason I have big dogs. I feel terrible when I trip over one of our cats and always check them to make sure they‘re okay- they always are- but really, wasn’t it their own fault they got stepped on? Shouldn’t they have learned by now to run and hide when I emerge from my morning boudoir?
But what does this have to do with things I’ve learned from my deaf dogs?
Well, deaf dogs- and deaf puppies in particular- are perfect for people like me who aren’t functional until they get a few cups of coffee in their system. A hearing dog or puppy will wake up as soon as you do and approach with a list of unreasonable demands- things like feed me, give me more water and I need to go potty.
But a deaf dog will sleep through your morning ablutions. Once you’re properly brushed, washed and caffeinated, you can then go gently wake your deaf dog up and let them go potty.
But I Have Another Problem…
When you spend all day communicating with hand signs, it becomes second nature. You find yourself signing all the time- whether it’s needed or not. I do it at Starbucks, at restaurants and, well, pretty much anywhere I have to talk to people.
At home, Ricky Ricardo and I even sign to one another. It’s kind of our thing- one of those special loving things couples do in private, like farting on each other’s pillow or changing the Netflix password to “I_Faked_It_Last_Night” just for funsies.
We sign all sorts of things to each other.
Are you hungry?
I love you!
Let’s go to bed…
Are you putting out?
But I love you!
Which leads to my favorite hand sign- that magic middle finger extended high and proud….
Habitual signing only poses a problem when it’s neither needed nor appropriate. Take, for example, that time I caught myself signing “No!” and “What do you want now?“ to my boss at the animal shelter where I used to work.
It was during a senior staff meeting and we were all gathered around a large conference room table. I reported directly to the Director of Shelter Operations but there were leaders present from all departments of the animal shelter. I caught myself signing as I answered my boss’s questions. He wasn’t phased- he was cool and apparently I did this all the time so he was used to it.
But the Executive Director definitely noticed and wasn’t pleased. She must have thought I was actively, consciously being sarcastic because her eyes cut like daggers. I had to sit on my hands for the rest of that meeting.
So what did I learn from my deaf dogs? A bunch of signs that I can use in all sorts of situations which provide even more opportunities to be sassy, salty and sarcastic!