It All Starts With a Sponsor

I recently received some pictures from Chloe’s puppy raiser. Wasn’t she the cutest thing? She barely fit in her vest!

Now she is a 3 year old, “red vested” and fully certified assistance dog through Fidos for Freedom!

I can’t believe how time has flown as we are now in our seventh month after “match”.

I don’t forget the fact that all this started with Chloe’s sponsor(s). Her sponsor is listed as “anonymous” on Fido’s website, and she was donated by the Animal Welfare Action Group.

If it weren’t for the sponsors, there would be no assistance and service dog program at Fidos For Freedom. If not for Chloe’s sponsor, I would not have the well-trained and indispensable partner and friend that I have!

Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly thoughtful, or even thankful (like this week of Thanksgiving), I find myself wondering if Chloe’s sponsor knows the part she has played in my life… and the life of my canine partner? I am very blessed to have actually MET my sponsor. I wish I could take her hands, look into her eyes, and somehow explain what it means to me in that she sponsored Chloe. The reality? I would cry the entire time. It’s far to much of an emotional thing for me.

If not for the love and commitment… the “giving back” of someone who believes in what a dog can do for a person with disabilities, I would not have Chloe. I wonder? Did she get to meet Chloe prior to agreeing to sponsor? Did she only see a photo, and donation receipts from the rescue group? What did she see in this little floppy-eared, mischievous pup that made her believe she would be such a help and blessing to someone like me one day? (I know for a fact that Chloe was often mischievous… those who knew her “when” assure me of this fact!)

How often did she get to see Chloe while she was growing up? I wonder if she was surprised at how big Chloe became… I know the trainers had not anticipated her to be the size she is. Her “guessed at” mix breed has changed several times over the years.

One thing I am sure of… I am very thankful for Chloe’s sponsor. The training all began with that first check… that first dollar towards training a very special dog. Chloe!

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

The Bee Movie and Reading Lips

This past weekend, I took 17 teenagers to the movies. Before you think I was totally out of my mind (which I am on very rare occasions), I had 3 other grown-up chaperones with me. Ok, Ok… I realize that may not make me less crazy, but let me get on with my story!

Chloe, of course came along… and as per the norm was “good as gold“. She’s not a stranger to the movies, but I do believe this was her first animated one.

There was one scene where the main bee character found himself on a tennis court and stuck to a tennis ball. As tennis balls on a tennis court do not normally just “lay there”, he found the ball to which he was “stuck to”, picked up and SERVED. I hope my mouth was not the only one hanging open in awe that he survived the serve and several hits back and forth! (Of course, had he been squished, the movie would have been over and thousands of kids traumatized!)

Now let’s stop and think about it from a working dog’s point of view! I wish I had a camera to snap a “kodak moment” of Chloe’s astonishment at the size of that tennis ball on the big screen. If HER jaw could have dropped open when the ball began to volley back and forth on the big screen… all the while SCREAMING (due to the “stuck” bee), I’m sure it would have. Needless to say I’m glad the tennis match was quickly over. It took Chloe a full 5 minutes to settle back down in a “down/stay”!

The movie was good, but I have to admit I struggled some through it. After calming Chloe, I found myself trying to listen… by reading the bee’s lips. Before you laugh out loud, think about it for a second! Could YOU read an animated bee’s lips? Do they even HAVE lips? (groan)

So I forced myself to ignore the bee’s … ummm… “lips”, and concentrated on what my CI was picking up. It took me a few minutes to sort of “tune in” to what I was really hearing (and not seeing), but it DID work! I could hear the bee talk.

I’m sure my audiologist will be glad to hear I have a new “CI moment” to share with her. I would imagine the last time she mapped my programming, she didn’t envision that I would be able to hear a bee talk!

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

Stress and Hearing Well

You know I’ve heard a lot of different speakers discuss the different things that can make hearing difficult. Background noise is a common culprit, as well as poor technology or NO technology. Soft voices, people who chew gum, covering your mouth, or the common cold can all make hearing difficult for someone who has a hearing loss.

I don’t often hear (pardon the pun) people talk about how stress can affect hearing, however. I wonder why that is? We all have various levels of stress depending on our jobs, relationships, health, etc. I tell myself that there is NO WAY I am alone in the fact that stress greatly affects my ability to hear. And yet… I have not read or seen that it has been openly addressed in any forum or list serve.

Stress greatly affects my ability to hear. As a family, we just experienced one of the worst weeks we’ve probably ever had. As “mom” I struggle to answer questions and concerns in a calm way, trying to relay my assurance that everything will be ok. As “wife”, I try hard to encourage and affirm my husband. I think even prior to hearing loss, my personality was such that I tended to “shoulder responsibility” for the emotional well-being of those I love.

Do you know how difficult it is to be supportive and helpful when you aren’t hearing well? Stress tends to negate any positive assistance even the very best of technology has to offer me! I love my CI. Even so, this week has been a difficult “hearing” week for me. I think it’s because I am so very distracted… making it difficult to concentrate fully on communication.

People with normal hearing interact verbally and communicate with little concentration. I remember being able to peel potatoes over the garbage disposal… WITH the water running… WITH the radio on… all the while discussing how great the Denver Broncos are with someone else, while in the kitchen with my back turned! (Hey! Long ago when I could hear, the Broncos were awesome! Go Orange CRUSH!) Yes, now I am able to hear voices so much better, and communication is so much easier. Yet I still burn calories just listening… at least compared to folks with normal hearing. (Why doesn’t the scale show that listening with a CI burns calories? grimace)

But when I’m feeling overloaded with stress, grief or despair… that distraction is enough to keep me from hearing well. My family have all shot me looks of surprise this week in the number of times I’ve said, “Will you repeat that?” They, too, have grown accustomed to my hearing better and communicating with confidence.

I guess I didn’t realize that communication for someone with a CI still requires concentration. I am encouraged, however, as I simply cannot see around the fact that this must get easier. The longer I have my CI, I really think that I will have to concentrate less. Perhaps stress will not be a hindrance to hearing well in the future.

For now… I am saying “huh?” a lot!

I imagine, that is why prayer has been a constant in my adult life. It’s only through prayer that I communicate with ease. I don’t have to read God’s lips… I can disconnect my CI and feel very confident in my ability to express myself to Him. Stress doesn’t come into play at all. As a matter of fact… when finished I find there is less stress anyway.

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

Bobble Head

Have you ever looked at something before, and no matter what kind of mood you are in you JUST HAVE TO SMILE?

At the 9th Annual Stroll ‘n Roll for Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, MD, (October 20th), I purchased a “bobble head” dog that looks similar to Chloe. It’s probably actually called something different, but it is what I call it! This bobble head always makes me smile… even when I’m having a really bad day. I can step out in my van, secure Chloe in her seat… adjust the doggie mirror under the rear view mirror so I can see Chloe well… and then I look down and there is my bobble head. I can’t help but grin ear to ear! It’s contagious too. I’ll start grinning, and Chloe? Well heck, she’s always happy! But if I’m with my kids… running an errand… this very strange transformation takes place at every stop light. The driver (me) is also umm… “bobbing”. My teenage son has started “bobbing” too. My teenage daughter has started… well actually she is usually hiding under the seat at this point.

I think it’s important to have things in our life that “just make us smile”. Like taking that walk after the first real freeze, and all the leaves are turning every color of an autumn’s paintbrush. You can’t help but smile… at least in your heart. Or that first daffodil you spy when walking as spring comes sneaking in after winter? Doesn’t that make you smile?

How about a Sponge-Bob Square Pants cartoon? Come on! You have to admit seeing a square sponge with the “suds” (aka … a cold) puts a smile on anyone’s face!

How about the Coca-Cola Christmas commercials with their popular Polar Bears? That will put a smile on the face of the biggest scrooge around!

Isn’t God a very special kind of Heavenly Father to care enough to put things in our path, or bring things to our attention that will bring a smile to our face? I think He cares.

Every morning, Chloe bumps me awake and tugs on my covers when my alarm goes off. I struggle to the coffee maker like a zombie. I trudge back to the bedroom to get my shoes on to take her out… all the while trying to calm her down, and “Yes, Chloe I know it’s morning and GOOD MORNING to you too!” (Did I already say that Chloe is ALWAYS happy?) I put my CI together, slip it behind my ear, and connect the magnet into place with a “pop”! Instantly… I hear.

A smile immediately follows.

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary