Edison, like most deaf dogs, is very bonded to his person. In Edison’s case, it is me whom he watches, shadows, follows and looks to when he needs a scratch behind the ear, a foot to sit on or a warm lap to rest his head. He is happiest when he can lean against me and help tie my shoe.
He doesn’t have separation anxiety; rather, he is most comfortable when he is in my company. If I neglect to let him know that I’m leaving the room to splash the toilet seat, he quickly searches the house until he locates me and then quietly returns, reassured, to the bay window reality show that he’s been watching.
My regular readers will know that Edison frequently comes to work with me and has done so since we adopted him. For the first six to eight months of his life, he did puppy day camp at the Humane Society of Greater Miami. Until recently, I shared an office with two other supervisors. It was a hub of activity, with lots of staff coming in to ask questions, seek guidance and generally hide out from wacky coworkers and potential adopters bedecked in aluminum foil head wear. It was within this environment that Edison spent his days. Even when I wasn’t at my desk, he had lots of staff and volunteers to rub his belly, practice a new hand sign I had taught them and generally adore him. He received lots of attention and had lots of activity to watch as he lounged on his bed.
I credit his keen interest in people and his impressive dog-savvy personality with spending so much of his formative months seeing, smelling and interacting with lots of different people and dogs, everyday. He has been very well socialized from an early age and I trust him completely in almost any social environment.
My new office is mine and mine alone, and it’s deliciously quiet. It is serene with oils of lavender and valor. Rufus Wainwright and Valerie June sing the day away and, very frequently, a special needs, fearful or reactive shelter dog is chilling out as I write reports or make doggie ice cream. People knock because, well, I keep the door closed. I am now summoned by the sweet whistle of a text message, no longer the grating screech of a howler monkey name Mara, and it is fabulous.
When we get to work, Edison knows the routine; he knows which door we enter through, where we turn left and where we turn right. When we get to the baby gate about fifty paces past the lobby, he knows to sit and wait as his man-servant swings open the door to the Magic Land of Never Ending Toys and Unapproved Treats.
This morning, I threw him for a loop. As my new office is in a completely different part of the shelter, we parked in a different spot. We entered through a different door, and we never came to the baby gate. Rather, I opened a real door to a quiet office with no admirers. I set up his bed, showed him the toy box and placed his food and water next to the filing cabinet. He was not impressed. In fact, I think he rolled his eyes.
Pretty much immediately, I had to leave him so that I could deal with an abandoned baby opossum (don’t ask). Once I had the marsupial safely on his way to the South Florida Wildlife Center, I made a pit stop at my office to check on him. As I looked through the glass panel of the door, I could see that Edison had rejected the bed and dismissed his loot of rope toys, Kong Wobblers and bully sticks. He was laying on the tile floor with his face pressed against the unyielding door. From above, I could see his eyes peering under the door, watching for movement, any sign of human or canine life: he needed to be worshipped and this awful new prison cell offered none.
For the next hour, I intermittently checked on him but he never moved. When I did come into my office, he simply stood there and glared at me. He disapproved of his new accommodations and I needed to know it. I tried to persuade him to rest, relax, maybe even enjoy a tennis ball, but no. He was opposed and he refused to budge. Until he noticed the tinted floor-to-ceiling window just beyond my desk.
At some point, he realized that he could see into the shelter. He could watch as staff and customers walked by. He could see dogs in their kennels. And he could, occasionally, see me darting past. It was about this time that the text messages started blowing up my phone.
Edison had used one of my chairs as a stepping stool and was standing on my desk. He wasn’t shuffling stacks of papers around or kicking the computer to the floor. He was just standing there, looking out the window at a brand new reality show. As he weighs eighty-four pounds, passersby couldn’t help but take note. I mean, in a shelter where all the other dogs are in rooms, crates or kennels, a deaf Dogo Argentino lurking on a desk in an empty office kind of stands out.
By the time I rode the elevator down one floor and walked half the length of the building to my office, he was laying down, watching the world go by. And he was happy! For the first time all day, he was relaxed and entertaining himself, and I couldn’t help but smile.
I knew this was behavior I shouldn’t encourage and I also knew that I should make him get down. But he was being a good boy, he wasn’t causing any damage and was only doing what he had been doing at work for the past year and a half: watching the people and watching the dogs and waiting for his person to come by and sign, “I love you”.
So, I relented. I scooped up the bed, slipped it under his firmly-planted feet, added a bully stick and signed, “Have fun. I love you”. He was too busy watching the carnival of activity on the other side of that pane of glass to notice that I had closed the door and turned my attention to the hundreds of other dogs and cats that needed some happiness too.