Our beloved pooch, Hershey, traveled to the great beyond a few months ago. My brother called her our "watched" dog because she was the queen of the skittish. On nights when we returned home late, Hershey would run up the back stairs and sheepishly peer from the loft to see if we were friend or foe. Satisfied with the cues, she would run down with great flourish and greet us with, "Of course I knew all along it was you!"
Yesterday when I saw this bulldog with headphones, I was reminded of Hershey and what she could and could not hear.
Well before the end, Hershey's hearing had deteriorated. She couldn't hear us come through the door anymore and she would startle when we touched her. I don't know who was more scared. Hershey of the unexpected contact or me of scaring Hershey. It was quite a conundrum. At other times, she'd unhurriedly turn to me with an, "Eh?" after I had exhausted myself calling out to her, unaware that houses half a mile away could hear me, but not she.
Hershey had drooping ears and apparently this design did not make her the best "hearer". Dogs with straight up ears can hear much better. While we hear till 20k Hz, our canine buddies can hear up to 60k Hz. They have many more muscles in their ears than we have, making it possible for them to rotate their ears and pick up different sounds in each ear. Imagine the onslaught of signals. No wonder she was neurotic.
She had an uncanny ability to present herself in a straight line. Front paws by her side, back legs tucked under her belly, tail straight out in the back, and her floppy ears resting neatly next to her head.
She would hear a subsonic sound and her right ear would move to the back of her head while the rest of her stayed still. It was a sight to behold. They say that dogs can hear from four times away compared to humans. I believe Hershey was capable of this feat, except she was too lazy to do more than move one ear at a time.
When she picked up a deer scent, she was gone for hours. I mean gone. Poof. No sight. During these great escapes, we could hear her howl from deep in the woods near our home, but enticing her back was futile. Hours later, she'd turn up bruised and bloodied from her (mis)adventures. Then I'd patiently "de-tick" her, I'd drag her to the tub to bathe her, I'd feed her, and then she'd sleep for hours, with me cursing the whole time in languages known and unknown. I have no doubt that she knew precisely how to tune out my frequency during these trying times for both of us.
She didn't understand words. Only the tone. So a sentence that ended in a high pitch was a time to rejoice. And one that ended in a low pitch was a time to look down. She was good at signaling her remorse by placing her tail between her legs. And boy, did she know the sound of us opening up a wet food package. She'd come dashing into the kitchen, bad back notwithstanding. Instantly, I would be reminded of the puppy she once was, captured perfectly in this sketch by Tarun.
In the last year of her life, she became progressively ill. There were good, bad, and terrible days. We cared for her as long as we thought she was able to fight. No doubt, the hardest decision of our lives was to put her to sleep. I will always wonder whether she knew.
Did she hear our anguish in the tears we shed, in our cuddles and kisses, in the steak and bacon send-off, when we carried her in a sling to the vet, and while we stroked her as she took her last breaths? There was no high pitched talking. No low pitched anger. Just silence.
I want to believe that our turmoil translated to a frequency she could hear.
And I hope she heard, "We love you sweet girl. Goodbye until we meet again!"