The Dog That Knew Morse Code

When we refer to an amateur radio operator as “SK” we mean they are a Silent Key; they are deceased, gone to join the choir invisible, ceased to be, etc. The term derives from the days when most hams were CW operators. Their telegraph keys were no longer clattering and sending streams of dits and dahs up into the ionosphere.

So how is it possible then that a small dog could be “SK”? This is the story of Trunkles, the English Setter and best friend of he who describes himself by means of the perpendicular pronoun, designated in Morse Code by “didit”.

Trunkles and I were inseparable. We hiked hundreds of kilometers of trails together from Eastern Ontario to the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. Whenever I went downstairs to my basement shack, Trunkles would follow. I would settle into my operating chair, tune up on the bands and make CW contacts. Trunkles would curl up behind me on a mat and follow me back upstairs when I had finished.

Every Wednesday at 5:00pm I would check into a CW net on 80m. The net lasted about 30 minutes and as we were finishing up and sending our 73s, Trunkles would leap up excitedly and begin pushing at my arm with her nose while wagging her tail so furiously that her whole rear end would swing from side-to-side.

I hasten to add that this behaviour ONLY happened at the end of this one net. I operated CW almost daily but there was no similar canine reaction to any of my other operating sessions.

Trunkles’ excitement was driven by the expectation of receiving her favourite treat after the net on Wednesdays. There are two possible explanations. Perhaps dogs have an accurate internal clock and can tell when 5:30pm on a Wednesday rolls around. Or perhaps she would listen to the code and recognize the callsigns of the two friends who always joined the net.

I know which explanation I prefer. Trunkles became a silent key on 22nd November 2021 at the ripe old age of fifteen.

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