“Take a Deep Breath… and Trust Your Dog”


Thursday was a particularly nasty, rainy day, and I dreaded “the walk down the stairs” more than usual.  Funny thing about Meniere’s disease – rain and other types of weather systems can really make a difference in how steady I walk.  I finally remembered my camera too, and I can’t tell you how many tries it took me to STAND AT THE TOP OF THESE STAIRS, on a RAINY DAY and TAKE A PICTURE!  Grin!

The school I teach at is on the campus of a beautiful Nazarene church.  It’s a “new campus” for us this year.  I remember at the first teacher’s meeting hearing everyone laugh and remark on “Moses and the Red Sea” on the stairs.  Me?  I’m thinkin’, “You can look at a MURAL while going down the STAIRS?”

When I arrived at school on Thursday, I stuck my head in the door of the director’s office to grab some paper for the copier.  She grimaced slightly and said, “Oh boy, is this rain affecting you today?”  Actually, I made light of it and explained to her that really… this is just sort of a new kind of “normal” for me.  I don’t really get up in the morning and think, “wow I’m really wobbly today”.  This is my “normal”!

Meniere’s disease symptoms that fluctuate with weather systems, also usually produce worsened tinnitus.  Meniere’s disease folks always have a hearing loss, but when tinnitus really kicks into “high gear”, those who are simply “hard of hearing” often hear very little when the tinnitus is in a full-out ROAR.  I’m actually very blessed, because I hear through the miracle of a cochlear implant.  My cochlear implant masks tinnitus, and so even on days my vertigo is worse, I hear just fine!

I showed my husband this picture of “the dreaded staircase”, and we laughed about how some of my “fears” have certainly morphed through the years.  When we first got married 22 years ago, I had a very irrational fear of spiders (even little ones).  Now I fear staircases, but I argue it’s completely rational!  Smile!

I have to tell you though, it’s a very powerful emotion that burns through me when I take that first step down this flight of stairs.  On “good days” it takes me about 2 minutes.  On “bad days” it takes me about 5 minutes.  Chloe is very intuitive.  I don’t think she walks outside and sees the rain and puts that together with … “oh my we are going to be taking the stairs slowly today”. However, on “bad days” she patiently takes me all the way to the bottom, even if I have to stop and wait for the stairwell to stop spinning.  (I even had to sit rather suddenly once, and she just sat there next to me looking around as if this was perfectly acceptable to her!)

I’ll never forget when we were first matched, I spent a great deal of one-on-one time with my trainer.  Admitting to her that I was scared of stairs, insured that we spent some time at a local mall at the foot of a very tall flight of stairs! I remember turning to her with Chloe in “heel”, admitting with a quivering smile, “I’m going to have to do this slow!”

My trainer is a runner.  She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Denise, this isn’t a sprint. If you need to take it slow, then take it slow.”  So I did… and on that staircase came the realization that I really could trust my dog. If I were going slow, she would too.  My trainer had me take the stairs at the mall, in the closed stairwell at the training center, and in her home.  She never helped me look for a way around those stairs. Because of her, I go down stairs.  I take a deep breath… and I godownthe stairs.  Why?

Because I can.


Chloe?  Well she’s not real happy when the rain interferes with her “W – A – L – K ” at lunch hour.  The van is boring.

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

4 thoughts on ““Take a Deep Breath… and Trust Your Dog”

  1. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Now I can indeed appreciate the school obstacle – – – the parting of the Red Sea makes it look even more daunting.

    Thank the Lord for dear Chloe!

  2. I think that staircase makes ME a bit dizzy too!

    Interesting that the weather affects the Menieres… anything to do with barometric pressure? (Maybe that’s a random thought… pressure, pressure in your ears, ears affecting balance…)

    But weather affecting the Tinnitus too… I’ll have to watch for that with Tate. Of course, here in the evergreen PNW, rain is very much the norm.


    You’re very brave with that staircase!


  3. Chloe is taking SUCH good care of you! Emmy is doing the same for me. Rainy weather makes my fibro and arthritis worse – especially when associated with a cold snap (these can occur in the summers, too, when the temp drops from the 90s into the 80s). These are the days I just want to be “left alone to die,” as it were.

    Those stairs look scary to me, too. I don’t have Meniere’s, but the arthritis is such that I can’t even walk down stairs anymore – never know when a knee will “give out” and pitch me down the stairs! So I wouldn’t even try that set of stairs! You are V-E-R-Y brave to do it, and Chloe deserves every bit of the credit you give her! She is doing exactly what she should, and doing it properly!

    God bless our service dogs, what would we do without them?


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