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This is a picture heavy diary, with various pictures and explanations of Itzl's signals and sign language.

Some of y'all already know Itzl, and how he's a signal dog, or a hearing assistance dog for me, a person with a hearing impairment. I'm not deaf, but I can't hear essential sounds: sirens, alarms, warning signals, horns, children's voices, microphone feedback, baby cries, cat yowls, small dog barks, and so on and so on. Some of it I'm glad I don't hear (microphone feedback, fingernails on a chalkboard....). Some of it I miss dearly (music). Itzl bridges the way between what I can't hear and what I need to hear.

We've been partnered for nine years, so we've developed a language of our own that is almost invisible to others, but I've managed to capture some of them in pictures, and I use them in his Service Dog Logbook.

If you have a service dog, I highly recommend keeping one because it allows you to track the effectiveness of your dog and alerts you to problems before they get bad, plus, if you self-trained your dog and you have to prove to authorities that s/he really is a service dog, a logbook of training with pictures can be very useful.  And when your dog is retired, it serves as a scrapbook of your dog's career so when you are ready for a new service dog, you have all that documentation to help you either train a new service dog or gives a training and placement service an idea of what you expect and need from a service dog.

These are some of the pictures in Itzl's logbook.

Itzl likes to greet visitors to my office, and he will often alert on them when they are still outside on the sidewalk leading in.  He's been doing this a long time.

Here he is as a "teen", with that anticipatory "Look, Mom, someone's coming!" stance.

Itzl Greeting Arrivals

It's one he's kept through the years, now just for strangers.  When he gets up on the ledge of my desk like that, I know an unknown person is walking up to the door and will be at my desk within the next 2 minutes (they have to get through the airlock entry at the south end of my office).

Itzl Monitoring the Hall

When he's on the floor, he has a two part alert because he's not as visible as he is when he's on my desk. He stares intently at me, then turns to the door and stares at me again "Look, someone's coming and you need to pay attention!"

First Half of Itzl's Door Alert

Second Half of Itzl's Door Alert

When he was younger, he was much pushier about phone alerts. My work phone is routed through the computer with a voice-to-text program. Between the VtoT and what I can still hear I can usually figure out what the caller wants. Lately, though, I've been having to have people repeat because between the VtoT gibberish I sometimes get and my faulty hearing, I can't always understand what they want.

Anyway, he was much more aggressive about "Mom! Phone's ringing!" when he was younger.

Phone's Ringing

Now, he's much more laid back.  Since I placed one of his beds behind the phone, a lot of time, he doesn't even stand up anymore. He stares at me, pats the phone with his paw, and stares at me until I answer it.  Instead of panic, he's all, "Dude, get the phone already."


Here is when I first realized he had a special body posture for trains. Note his right ear is laid back farther than his left. That's his "train" tell.

Itzl Alerting

Another train alert:


And another train alert. Note he still lays back the right ear more than the left to let me know it's a train he's alerting on:

Telling me a train is sounding

Alerting on an alarm at the vet's office:

Alerting to a Beep

Alerting on a police car - note how he looks like he's standing at attention. He will come to attention like this, stamp his front right paw, look at me, then stamp his front right paw again, staying at attention (that's his "stiff man car" alert for police):


This is part of his alert for ambulance:  he sits, lays both ears back, then crunches his eyes at me, then look in the direction of the siren and then back at me to crunch his eyes, his "sick man car" signal:


Boss is coming - he places his wrist against his nose then draws his paws across his chest wile staring intently at me:



This is part of his "dirty paw person" insult (I've never gotten the beginning of it, where he stares at the person and licks his paw before turning his head to gag and clean out the "dirt" from his mouth):


Itzl giving me the "we've been made" look that means someone is about to challenge us about his status as a service dog:

Itzl Alerting at SoonerCon Mtg

Alerting on someone in his inner harem approaching - his inner harem are the people he loves (my children, my siblings, his trainer, and a group of select women).  His tail will slide over his back from right to left and back, and he will smile with his eyes crinkled almost shut. The tongue is optional, but makes a frequent appearance:


His alert for "stranger coming" - he stares directly at me with both ears raised, his back left paw extended back and he'll raise it, shake it, and plant it back again:


This is is "lightsaber" alert, he's tapping his head against my chest and waving his left front paw:


Here he is alerting on a police siren while we're in the car, he rises up at attention, lifts up his right aw to tap it on the edge of his car seat, then back down at attention again, and stares at me with a side glance to make sure I notice:


This is him relaxed and paying attention, but not alerting. He spends most of his time watching me to make sure I see him when he needs to alert.


On long drives, he relaxes more, but he still makes sure he watches me to see if I'm ready to respond to his alerts:

Itzl and Xoco Going Home

This is part of his "danger look jump" alert for a back up beep coming from an SUV. We're in a safe place on the sidewalk, but he's stepping on my foot and pushing me away from the sound of the beeping with his paws while staring up at me so hard his eyes squint:


His alerts are fast and they've become increasingly subtle as he gets older.  What was exaggerated when he was a year old or two or three has mellowed and become refined. This makes them harder to capture on camera.  That and the fact that he's usually too close to me for a good picture.

But I thought you'd like to see what his alerts look like, his signs and body language to tell me what I need to know.

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