I adopted Marley from a family who decided to surrender her when she was one year old. She knew no commands and when I had her on the first day, she learned to sit in American Sign Language (ASL) within minutes. Being Deaf with ASL as my native language, it only made sense that I use it with her. I encourage people, deaf and hearing, with deaf pets to consider the use of ASL and portions of Deaf Culture's way of life that benefits deaf pets. Hearing pets as well people do benefit from ASL. It would bring everyone together in name of ASL everywhere you go!
Marley was a very feisty dog with her own mind and was not an easy dog. She also had separation anxiety and I have been working with her to overcome it. Something a lot of people wouldn't have patience for but I accepted her for who she is. She got better over the years but was still the same old Marley. I was grateful she came to me or else she would have been tossed around a couple more times like many other deaf dogs. I stuck it through with her although she drove me crazy sometimes. All the happiness and laughter she brought me on top of her craziness make her extra extra special. I was prepared to love her unconditionally as animals are good at teaching us that.
She was diagnosed with liver disease. It was all relatively new to me and I didn't wait to absorb as much as I can about liver disease as it is the most crucial organ although I still learn everyday about liver disease. The best way to do this was to provide her with a managed low protein diet under the advice of holistic veterinarian(s) and eventually with medicine management when Marley needed them. Marley was not a good candidate for surgery if things got worse for her. Also, to put her under anesthesia would be risky as it is known to metabolize through liver. Because of low protein diet and medicine management, Marley was able to lead an active, crazy, happy and normal lifestyle for the next 5 years. For a pet to have liver disease, I want everyone to know that it is not a death sentence and Marley is a living proof of this. It has cost me more than $20k over the years but do I regret it? No! Did I learn to get pet insurance? Yes!
There have been times during those years when there was a scare but Marley was always a fighter and surprised everyone at the vet office and hospital by coming back every time, except for the last time. Knowing Marley, she dreaded being separated from me and the sooner she is well enough, she will go home with me. That is what seemed to give her the will not to give up.
One morning I rushed her to the hospital when something didn't look right. Upon arrival, she was taken into the room. The vet technician came out to tell me that Marley was bumping into everywhere and was blind. I told her that it is not possible as she could see when we got in. That was when I learned that her brain swelled up to a point that it was fatal and it had impaired her vision. Her bloodwork and values were off the chart. She was given medication to help with the brain swelling and put on an IV. The doctor didn't seem to have much hope.
That evening I came to visit Marley with one of my old shirts that I had worn for her to have through the night with my scent. I knew it was very hard for her not to be with me. If she could, she prefers to be with me 24/7 or she gets anxious. As I entered the hospital to spend time with Marley, I wasn't certain what her prognosis would be. The nurse told me there had been no change since late morning and that she was still blind. I saw Marley lying at a distance on the lower kennel hooked up to an EKG machine. All of sudden, I saw her weakly lifting her head and sniffing at something familiar. The closer I walked towards her, the more she knew it was me and waited for me. As I sat down, she excitedly crawled on me and laid down on my chest to rest. The nurse was amazed and said that was a good sign. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart was broken. I stayed for a good period of time. It was so hard to part with her that evening.
When I went home. I cried and prayed for her through the night. The next day, I was notified that I can take Marley home. I had to pinch myself that it wasn't a dream. I couldn't believe my eyes and said what?! The lady said, "Yes, her bloodwork looks great and she is ready to go." When I arrived to pick up Marley, here she came out running to me and jumped on me repeatedly as to say, "Why did you leave me behind!?" and acts as if nothing ever happened.
Fast forward to a couple of years later, there was no surprise comeback like many times before. I had opted to bring Marley home from the hospital after leaving her there for the day to find out what's wrong and was asked to bring her back on Monday if she was not improving. I did not leave her at the hospital for several days this time as I saw in Marley's eyes that I needed to bring her home. I never wanted her to die alone in the hospital so either she died at home or by euthanasia in my presence.
The next morning I took her to the local vet for bloodwork that was recommended by the hospital and then I went to the clinic to drop off a foster cat to be vetted. Marley was with me and a couple of people saw her at the clinic and noticed that she was lethargic and quiet, which was unlike of her. That evening at home, I was lying down with her next to me with her on the pillow to make her comfortable after she fought with me when I gave her medicines and she threw up. I signed to her that I'll have to take her back to the hospital in the morning. I did massage on her that she loved - something I always do for her from time to time. I don't normally stay up this late but it was midnight. When I left her side to get something, I get this sense of urge to look back. When I did, she already lifted her head to see where I was going and then she gasped for air. I ran to her and held her close to me until she became lifeless. I didn't accept reality that she was gone, especially when several times over the years, she surprised me with her comebacks.
I wrapped Marley in a fleece blanket and drove her to the hospital. Part of me was hoping she wasn't dead. The vet confirmed her death. I was in shock and the first night without her was very hard. It didn't sink in until a few days later that she was really gone. I remembered that week after she passed away, I woke up to a fan spinning one morning and on a different morning, I woke up to a light turned on. I also had intense dreams about her. Something I have never experienced. I believe it was her way of telling me she's ok and is still around me.
Marley really enjoyed meeting all foster dogs that were brought home. Some were from the street, some from surrender and some from rescue. They were either mutts or purebreds. It was fascinating to observe her interaction with each one of them. She is known to be alpha and often makes it clear to other dogs. With the exception of this 6 lbs dog named Sophie, to my surprise, Marley willingly gave her spot with me on bed to this dog and lets Sophie dominate her such as chasing her off the bed. Then there's Eli who she adored and treated him like a boyfriend. Eli returned the favor. They would play all day long. With Shauna, she had her serious fight regardless the fact that Shauna was 5 times bigger than her and I would put Marley at fault for initiating it. She came out of it unscathed whereas Shauna was bruised. I think it is healthy for my pets to have this kind of experience where they get to meet different dogs and in the process, it saves lives through fostering. My pets and foster dogs have learned something from being together. It is one way to show love not only for my own but for others.
Anytime I give her a treat before I stepped out of the house for work or to somewhere, she would spit out the treat, barked at me and jumped on me to let me know she is refusing to be bribed. She was very food motivated but she knows when not to accept it. She can be too smart for her own good. She hated it when I have to leave her no matter how many times she saw my loyalty to her by keeping up with the consistency and structure. It hurts me every time. When I get home, she would be like a jumping bean and get all lickety with me that it was difficult to hold her still while she was at it.
This is one of many funny stories about her. One summer I bought a huge inflatable pool for my backyard. It was for me and my other dog, Murray, who loves water. Marley hated water and would avoid it at all cost. One day, Marley wanted to play with Murray and would go non stop until Murray had it enough. Marley won't give it up and kept playing. Murray decided to run towards the pool and jump in it and go to the middle of it so he's not reachable to Marley. Marley barked to tell him to get out but he stayed there, enjoying the water all while avoiding Marley. Marley wouldn't dare go in the pool so the next thing that happened was that Marley put her mouth on the inflatable pool and ripped it. I have to admit I laughed because I never thought she would go this far and it was just a few days old since I bought the inflatable pool! She was a character.
Marley loved all people and dogs. I often take her to the dog park. Sometimes she would bark so loud that may frighten some of them but it was her way of telling them to come closer or for me to bring her closer to greet them or be greeted when she is on the leash. One time she would jump in the wagon that one mother was pulling with her toddlers in it as we walked by. The mother freaked only to find Marley licking her girls face before jumping off the wagon. Marley was always good and loving around children.
Marley had the opportunity to visit a deaf school and deaf camp to educate deaf children about how wonderful deaf pets are. Deaf children were in awe and enjoyed themselves. Marley also had the fortune of participating in Tent City to give support during the Unity of Gallaudet Movement in 2006.
What I miss the most about her is that she was such a cuddlebug. She loved to sleep under the cover between my legs or under my arm or wherever else she can press against me and curl up. She would sometimes lick me until she fell asleep. Such a velcro dog that deaf dogs are often known for.
Prior to my deaf dogs, I thought Dalmatians were the only breed that may be deaf. I had even bought a Dalmatian statute a long time ago as a symbol. My deaf dogs were the reason I started the Deaf Animals facebook, twitter and website with the help of Avi, Philip and Raychelle's expertise. The goal is to help raise awareness within deaf community as well as hearing community, not only for deaf cats, deaf dogs or deaf ferrets but also for every kind of deaf animal that exists, be it domestic, farmed and wild.
When I learned that one of Marley's pictures, from Melissa McDaniel's Deaf Dogs Photobook, was chosen to be used on the cover of Deaf Life Magazine for April 2011 issue, I was honored by such coincidence as it's been almost one year since Marley's passing. I will cherish the magazine with her cover for years to come. The article is about deaf dogs and the negative mythology surrounding them. The Japanese version of Deaf Life magazine is also to be published. Check here if you are interested to order April 2011 issue of Deaf Life Magazine:
Please consider giving a home to and/or at least foster a deaf pet when you can!