One night as I sat in my oversized chair, Angel walked up to a nearby window, looked out and started barking.
A normally quiet, hearing-impaired dog with a paralyzed larynx, Angel’s deep bark startled me. Noting that nothing was outside, I praised my 14-year-old for protecting us and she went back to resting in her bed.
After her adoption, I remember hearing Angel bark for the first time. I adopted her when she was 11. It took her a couple of weeks to speak, but one day while she was standing in my backyard, one or two barks came out.
I was in the house at the time and ran outside to see whose dog was barking. I learned this was my girl’s sultry bass voice.
When you adopt an older dog and have little to no history about them, your time together is an adventure.
I find it a fun and sometimes challenging study of behavior. It is rewarding when they finally become comfortable and show you their personality.
Since Angel’s window barking event that one evening, she has now established what I call the “2 A.M. drink and bark” in my kitchen.
Around 2 A.M. Angel gets up from beside me in my bed, slowly makes her descent to the floor and then downstairs to the kitchen. She stops immediately at her bowl for a drink and then there is a quiet pause followed by a steady string of barks at the kitchen window that overlooks the backyard.
The first time she did this I rushed down to the kitchen in a stupor and found her standing with her front feet up on pet stairs that lead up to the kitchen table (where my cats eat). She can get a better view out the window this way.
I stood and studied what might be inspiring her barking. There were no bunnies or people. Perhaps there was a bush shaped like a person.
Analyzing the situation further, I think she sees her reflection in the window and believes a dog is outside looking at her.
I have to touch her to make her stop barking because she can’t hear me. She often can’t hear me even if I clap my hands. I tap her and wave to her that it’s ok and to come with me back upstairs.
After a few weeks of this nightly barking, I now just let her talk until she feels her mission is accomplished. Her barking sessions have decreased. Sometimes I hear her go to the front of the house to my art room and bark out that window. Then she slowly climbs back upstairs to my bedroom.
One night while I was sleeping, she started barking in my office beside my bedroom. I ran to her and found her staring at herself in a long mirror, woofing.
Now if I sit in my chair with the television on, she randomly barks. If I’m standing in the kitchen, she does the same.
I joke that she is barking at the “spirits” – things I cannot see or hear.
I think she hears select tones on the television. Other times, my hurried movements may make her think someone is coming in the back door.
I’m sure there is a tad bit of senility involved at this age, but Angel is determined, proud and this protective display will never upset me.
For the amount of arthritis she has, every physical effort is commendable. Despite a paralyzed larynx, she makes her voice threatening. Even though her eyes are slightly cloudy with cataracts, she sees shapes and wants us safe. While her hearing is impaired, she detects some sounds and knows they aren’t normal.
With a senior dog, their behavior seems to change quickly as they age, bringing endless layers of antics.
Sometimes Angel walks into the shower, turns around and comes back out.
Sometimes she tears open a trash bag I briefly leave on the kitchen floor.
Sometimes she picks up a loaf of bread or chips that falls to the floor in the kitchen and brings it to me between her front teeth to share.
Sometimes she stands at the bottom of the back entry stairs and looks about with confusion on what to do next.
Sometimes she slips off of the back seat in my car leaving her front legs dangling between the front and back seats. I have to stop my car, crawl into the back and pull her up.
One day she noticed a long skin tag on her back left thigh that had been there for a year. She obsessively started pulling at it like it was a bug stuck to her fur.
I just accept these actions, smile and embrace what will one day soon be gone. Everything, frustrating to laughable, is a memory to treasure.
What antics does your senior dog do?
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her children’s book, “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight,” to your collection. All proceeds help 7 humane organizations.