Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Game Hannah Made Up

Besides playing tug with the soft rubber toy and catching it -- after she learned to catch popcorn -- Hannah made up a new game.  Sadly, I don't have a video of us playing her game but I'll describe it.

Hannah would bring the toy to me and offer it to play tug.  We tugged for a bit but if it got boring and she let go first and I got it, I would have her sit and tell her to catch, then toss it to her.

She would await the toss.  Usually she caught it and we'd play tug again.  But there were times when, instead of catching it and playing tug, she would use her nose to bounce it back to me.  The first time it happened I was totally surprised.  Really, Hannah, you can do that?!  She was teaching me a new game.  Her aim was pretty good, too, because I rarely had to run after it.  Sometimes I could predict when she would bounce it instead of catching it -- there would be the slightest twitch of her nose.  Other times I had no idea whether the ball would come back to me or she'd catch it.

Occasionally, once in a while, we would toss the ball back and forth several times in a row without anyone catching it or it dropping to the ground.  I was always surprised and impressed that she was able to do this and that she'd made up the game herself.  We called it bounce-n-catch.

Airedales are so creative!

How I love Hannah and loved having her as part of my life!


Monday, July 15, 2019


Hannah loved these soft, rubber, squeaky toys with long tails.  She seemed to like the white ones best but sometimes we bought other colors.  She went through a lot of them through the years.

She liked to chew on them to make them squeak, bounce them, and play tug with them.  But two can only tug for long before getting bored and the game's over.

She'd been with us a few months when I thought this toy might be a good way to teach Hannah a new word.  I tossed it into the air toward her and said, "Catch."  It bounced off her muzzle onto the floor and she looked at me with a puzzled expression.  She may even have thought, "Why are you throwing my toy at me?"

It takes time and some repetition to teach a new word or command, so I tossed and said "catch" again, with the same result.  No matter that the toy was super soft and wouldn't hurt her, I didn't want to keep hitting her with it so we stopped.

I always thought dogs inherently knew how to catch but they don't.  I suppose many dogs learn the command as puppies but Hannah hadn't.

A few days later I was eating popcorn and realized it could be the perfect way to teach "catch" because it was so lightweight and would also be appealing to Hannah.  I called her to where I was, had her sit, and said "catch" as I tossed a piece of popcorn toward her.  It landed on her muzzle -- and stayed there.  I think her eyes crossed as she tried to see it.  I lifted it off and gave it to her.  I tossed again and the same thing happened, at least six or eight times.  By that time, she was panting and waiting for me to give her a piece of popcorn to eat.

I suddenly realized that I should just try tossing the popcorn into her open mouth.  If my aim were good enough and it landed in her mouth, I hoped she would get the idea of what the word meant even if she hadn't technically caught it.  I missed a few times and she ate the popcorn when I handed it to her.  Finally, once, the popcorn landed in her mouth.  She looked surprised, and then I saw that she'd made the connection between the word "catch" and what it meant.  Catching suddenly became a fun game. 

From then on, if we had popcorn, Hannah believed that she should have popcorn, too.  It was one of the few foods she begged for.

We always shared it with her.  And if we bought fresh popcorn at the store, we were careful to save her some.

No matter how happy a memory is, it can be sad to recall it knowing there won't be any new memories.  As always, I'm missing Hannah.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Talking to Hannah

I have a friend whose husband claimed there was no sense talking to a dog because dogs couldn't understand words.  He didn't know Hannah.

Hannah learned commands, of course, and she also seemed to understand more words and language than I ever purposefully taught her, though I don't know how.  Perhaps it was because I talked to her throughout the day, telling her what I was doing, where I was going, what was going to happen next, what I was thinking.

When we rode in the car I learned that if I told her, "Hang on, Hannah, we're turning left (or right)," she would lean against the turn so she wouldn't lose her balance. 

When we were leaving I would tell her whether we'd be back in a little while or we'd be gone for half the day, or most of the day.  She settled in differently depending on which I said.  Eventually, we began giving her a kong with peanut butter when we were going to be gone most of the day.

During the last year or two year she lost most of her hearing except for very loud sounds.  It was hard because she could no longer hear my explanations of what was happening, or what was going to happen next.  She couldn't respond to any commands unless she could see hand signs.  I didn't mind having to get her attention by petting her but I felt sad for her because she seemed so isolated from the general conversation in our home, as if she'd been left out.

Her last day was the hardest.  When she woke up she couldn't move even enough to stand, but she was alert and interested in what was going on.  She looked at us as if to ask, "What are we going to do today?  What's happening next?"  It broke my heart to see her alert and know she wouldn't be with us later in the day.

And it broke my heart not to be able to explain this last visit to the vet, what would happen there, and tell her how sorry I was and how much I loved her.  I wish I could have explained that I wasn't leaving her, that I would come find her when I get to where she was going, that there were other Airedales waiting there to meet her.  I wish I could have explained about the separation of body and spirit, about going to the vet, about needles and sleeping and death. 

We Airedale lovers like to imagine our 'dales waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge, happy and carefree, without pain, and playing with other Airedales.  I hope that's true for Hannah.  But she really didn't enjoy playing with other dogs, or even humans, for that matter.  She loved me and the rest of her family but she didn't enjoy other people or dogs.  (At the dog park she would walk to the outer perimeter and sniff along it, ignoring the other dogs, including the Airedales.)  Instead of imagining her happy, I imagine her lying alone, watching what's going on, but not participating because she's lonely and waiting for the people she loves.

There have been a few times in my life when I've wished I could turn back the clock.  This is one of those times.  I would turn it back a dozen years and begin life with young Hannah all over again.  How I miss my dear girl!