Our senior dog, Jazz, is quite a chatty one. He’ll bark occasionally, but that’s not what I’m talking about. He is 15 years old, almost completely blind, and almost entirely deaf, so he is never on security detail. When he was younger, we had mastiffs running household security. It was Jazz’s job to run the house when we were gone. Perhaps due to this responsibility, he is much more likely to communicate with me vocally.
When Jazz was only a year or two old, his only dog companion, Jenna, died. The whole family was devastated, and I recall sitting around the dinner table that night, quietly in shock with minimal conversation. Jazz’s howl ripped through the silence. He sat in the living room and was howling and crying. We rushed to comfort him, and he immediately stopped and turned to comfort us in return. I wonder what we denied him by distracting him rather than letting him process his grief in the way of the Dog. I felt like we interrupted a social ritual that I hadn’t known existed before, and I’ll never know again. We’ve had other losses since that time, and we’ve not heard the same howl of grief. Perhaps Jazz learned to hide his grief like the rest of us.
For the past few years, Jazz has slept with me most of the time, occasionally sleeping on the other side of the bed beside my husband. For some reason, when he gets off the bed at night for a potty call or a drink of water, he stops at the corner of the bed when he returns. He doesn’t jump up on the stool and then onto the bed until after he yips or whines to get my attention. He will wait until I get out of bed and stand beside him, and then he will jump up and return to bed. I’m not really sure what this ritual is about. It started when we still had our silky terrier, Nutty, and I wonder if Nutty was trying to intimidate Jazz from returning to bed. The little whine or yip would never fail to wake me. My husband, of course, sleeps through all Jazz’s vocalizations. (I’m a little envious, there.)
Jazz has impressed the fellow walkers with his vocalizations during visits to the nature trail near our house. When we take him for a walk, he gets so excited he seems to forget his arthritis. He screams his enthusiasm as we get him out of the car. He’s so pumped up that he yips, yodels, and yaps until he begins to tire. I am always afraid that people will think we are abusing him or something, but if they get close enough, they can tell he is just really excited! One walker called him a “talker” and I liked that. She seemed to understand that Jazz was just sharing his excitement with the world.
When I take him for a walk, Jazz can only see colors and really large shapes. If we‘re on a sidewalk, he knows by the feel and he’s fine. It gets a lot more iffy if we walk across grass or on a less-defined trail. No worries, we have a large enough pack, four dogs, that Jazz can play bumper dogs! It’s a lot like bumper cars, but instead of running into other cars, he runs into the other dogs. He tries to walk straight, but invariably will veer left or right. When he bumps up against another dog, he heads back the other way until he bumps into another dog. Our pack takes it in stride; I think they understand the problem. Well, except for long-legged River; she has been known not to see him and run right over him. It doesn’t phase Jazz too much; he’s back to yipping and telling his love for the walk soon enough.