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!