Hearing Dog – Do Not Pet

I just got back from the HLAA national convention in OKC! We had a wonderful time, and I love re-connecting with old friends and meeting new people!

This year I counted 5 assistance animals, one of which was a service dog. It’s great to see the different organizations who train hearing dogs represented, as well as an owner-trained dog or two!
I had a difficult time enforcing the “Do Not Pet” rule. I left some functions scratching my head as to why some people do not think Chloe’s vest and declaration of “Do Not Pet” does not apply to them!
I didn’t exactly count one petting encounter after another, but I am reasonably certain more than a couple of hundred people had pet Chloe by the middle of Day 3. I certainly do not relish having to tell someone to please not pet her, and it’s even worse if I have to intercept a hand reaching down with my own!
After thinking about it a great deal, and getting some great feedback from my trainer and others, I believe the problem in part, may be that people with hearing loss do not “hear” my pleas to not pet Chloe. I did a lot of pointing to her vest too, which helped some but certainly did not fix the problem. Perhaps, as most of the people there share my disability of hearing loss, they thought that the rule did not apply to them. In my local HLAA chapter, we have had many discussions about how we who HAVE hearing loss are often the worst communicators! We ask others with normal hearing to speak clearly, not cover their mouths, not chew gum, not yell, etc., and yet we often do those very things! So perhaps some people think that the rule applies to people who do not have hearing loss. I’m not sure, and it has certainly left me “puzzling over it” as my grandmother would say!
By day three, Chloe was reaching for every stretched-out hand, irregardless of whether or not I corrected her. I do not think people understand that her attention must remain on me and when I put her in a sit/stay, I have to correct her if she breaks it to visit with someone. Because she believed her vest meant “free” instead of “work”, I took a really bad fall on Day 3. I have 2 huge bruises, a twisted ankle that still smarts, and some major work with Chloe that will have to be “re-trained”!
Some people with assistance animals allow anyone to pet their dog. For someone like myself with a disability of hearing loss AND balance problems, an “unequal standard” of what a working dog is can certainly cause problems… and accidents.
I realize I’ve only been working with Chloe as a fully functioning team for 2 months. Some lessons are learned the hard way. I’ve learned this one! When Chloe is in her vest, I cannot allow anyone to pet her. (I’m telling MYSELF that – not you! Grin!)
Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

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