Izzy’s Dilemma


Photo by Jim Thomason

This is Izzy, so-named because when people see a Dalmatian they often ask, “Is he deaf?”  So “is he” became Izzy and yes, he is totally deaf. When I tell people that, the immediate and predictable response is, “Oh, poor dog!” I am always quick to reply that Izzy has no idea that he should hear. He has no concept of sound, no clue that he is different from any other dog. Izzy is a happy, well-loved boy. Well, except for tonight. I think I made Izzy a tad crazy tonight.

You see, I opened the back door to let my herd of dogs inside. I noticed that our back porch had been overtaken by a good number of flies, one of the non-perks of country living. Not wanting to let them all buzz into the house, I gave Izzy, the straggler, his signal for the command “come.” Izzy has been trained with hand signals since he was just seven weeks old and responds very well to a number of gestures.

For Izzy, the signal for come is just what you might do to encourage someone who is out of earshot to come closer—elbow bent, palm facing in with your arm making a circling motion toward your chest. So, standing in the doorway, I signaled come and Izzy would take a few steps forward, but then immediately take several steps backwards.

Dang it Izzy! COME! And I would signal more emphatically, all the while trying to shoo the flies away from the open doorway. Again, Izzy would take a few steps forward and then a few steps back. What the heck?

Ok, I’m guessing you have figured this out faster than I apparently did. For every signal I gave Izzy to come inside, I was immediately waving outward to keep the flies at bay…a motion that happened to look exactly like Izzy’s signal for “off” or “move back.”

Realizing my error, I quickly motioned Izzy and about two dozen of his fly friends into the house.  My sweet, confused boy shot through the door and looked at me rather nervously. One giant hug and several cookies later, all was forgiven.

So tonight I either proved how very responsive and observant a deaf dog can be, or I successfully taught Izzy the canine version of the cha-cha. Either way I am reminded that sometimes I should worry a bit less about the little stuff—in this case a few flies—and focus a bit more on the big picture—in this case a dog trying his very best to do what I asked.  One thing I know for sure is that I have a really, really great dog. Good boy, Izzy.

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