Four Legs and a Tail That Wags

My trainer, Pat, sent me this picture of Chloe in her backyard. Chloe is standing next to Sophie, a Norwegian Buhund. Sophie and Chloe do not look at all alike at first glance. Sure – they are both dogs and have four legs and a tail that wags! However, their differences seem more obvious than their similarities when you first look at the pair of them.

Chloe and Sophie look different. They have different personalities and breed tendencies. Their exercise needs are different, and they have different nutrition requirements. Both are groomed a little differently than the other, and both have a different place in the “pack”. In spite of all of those differences, however, they both respond well to praise and rewards. They both understand correction and eagerly aim to please. Both have four legs and their tails wag.

I went to the training center at Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, MD on Saturday. ( I did my ADI (Assistance Dogs International) public access test with Tracy, one of the trainers, and then went to the training floor to practice with the rest of the clients. While practicing, it struck me how different all the clients were that were present that day. Some of the clients in training are there for mobility assistance dogs and some are there for hearing assistance dogs. Not one person present had the exact same need in a canine partner; not one had the exact same disability. Even those of us with hearing loss had completely different needs. Some have hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, some depend on sign language to communicate. Some of the clients “hear” voices better, while others hear environmental noises more clearly. Some of the clients are in wheelchairs or use walkers, and some have balance problems or limited use of their fine motor skills. In spite of all of these differences, however, we have become a “family” and seem to understand each other very well! We all know what it means to live with a disability. We understand the challenges, frustrations, and lessons learned from living life fully by doing things a little “differently”. I think we respect each other and our trainers in a very unique and “family” kind of way. Our differences brought us together to a place called “Fidos For Freedom”. Our similarities have knit our hearts together to form a unique community of wonderful people! Our differences are many, yet we all seem to “have four legs and a tail that wags“.

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

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