The Vest is Really Always “On”


All Work and No Play?

Chloe doesn’t wear her vest in the house, and I sometimes take her to places where the “vest” stays in the van. Harper’s Ferry is one of those places… although I make her wear it if we are there during “peak” season because the crowds are so large. Lucky for us we live close enough that we go frequently, and normally NOT during peak season!

It’s good for her to “just be a dog” sometimes. And yet… Chloe doesn’t “turn off” her training when she does not have her vest. On the contrary, she does MOST of her hearing alerts when her vest is hanging up by the front door! I work 4 days a week from home, and so when the phone rings, kitchen timer beeps, or doorbell dings, she alerts me to the fact and “takes me there”. Even at Harpers Ferry we discovered she still realized I couldn’t hear well and would alert when “vest-less”. It was at Harpers Ferry that we first realized that she alerts the same and takes me to whomever calls “Denise” OR “Mom”.

Chloe gets plenty of playtime, but she really seems to “get” that regardless of that vest, I need her ears.


There have been a few times when I left Chloe at home and went to something without her. When my daughter (who has a horrible phobia of needles) went to get blood work prior to starting college, she needed my undivided attention. As a matter of fact, she not only needed my attention, but also both hands and a knee to keep her propped up after swooning. The girl hates needles!

When our family went to Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, I wisely left Chloe at home. It’s not a great idea to take a working dog to a place where things would think she was “dinner”.

On these rare occasions, I have felt positively NAKED without that leash in my hands. I am so accustomed to her presence and help, I feel very strange indeed to be without her. My husband is always glad to have her along as well, for he gets a little irritated when I slip up and tell him to “heel“.


It’s Great Knowing She Likes to Work

We were at the bank today taking care of some business for our chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. As I sat waiting for the woman I needed to see, Chloe stayed in a nice down/stay at my feet. We finally were able to go back and see the woman we had an appointment with, but were stopped by a man waiting in line. He had big tears in his eyes and he told me how beautiful Chloe was and, “… she just adores you! She watches you non-stop… every move you make! She only looks away when someone new walks into the bank and she flops her tail at them and then turns to stare at you again!”

Chloe loves people, and loves to work. That has to rank right up there to being one of the most important things about a working dog… that they love to work.

My “Spiritual” Vest is Always “ON”

Hopefully I’m a person of faith who lives what I believe even outside of Sunday morning services. I try to be “real” and genuine. My faith has become such an ingrained part of who I am, it’s impossible to separate the two. I get some “good natured flack” from time to time about mentioning my faith on the blog so much. However, I’m here and functioning as well as I do as a direct result of my relationship with Christ. I can’t pretend to be something I’m not, and I’ve completely HIS.

Sure, sometimes my mouth negates the fact I am a person of faith. When I sin? It’s ALWAYS with my mouth. My prayer every morning before my feet hit the floor is “Lord, guard my tongue today!” I pray He can use this big mouth for some good. I’m grateful He does not call the ‘qualified‘, rather He ‘qualifies” the called. May I always live like my “vest” is on!

My Teacher Hat is Always On

I guess because I’m a teacher, it’s really hard for me not to be in “teacher mode”. The kids tease me sometimes about making “everything into a learning session”. From correcting their grammar when speaking, to insisting on learning the history and background of a place we are visiting for the day, I end up in a “did ya know?” speech nine times out of ten!

Now that I’ve started back to school myself with the goal of eventually teaching on the community college level, that will likely get even worse. I’m working towards my Masters in Psychology. I noticed on the online biography “background” page, that I’m the only one pictured in my profile with a dog.  (smile)

She’s THAT much a part of my life…

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Simple Woman

simple-woman-daybook-large1 … Entering the Daily with Peace and Notice

For Today…

~Outside my window~

It is snowing lightly – just a dusting really! It’s so beautiful! Big, fat, thick flakes that melt on impact. I love the snow and am praying for one “big one” before Spring. It’s been awhile!

~I am thinking~

I have been getting a lot of feedback about the workshop entitled, “My Hard-of-Hearing Valentine” that Terry and I did on 2-14-09. So many deal with problems “bigger than the norm” when one has an acquired disability. Some of the emails have been very sad.

~From the learning rooms~

Chris and I are doing Geometry this morning. I love the subject, but to Chris? Oh my, it’s like a foreign language! We have to struggle through! His SAT’s are in May.

~I am thankful for~

I am thankful for the snow, green tea and our church… not necessarily in that order. Church yesterday was wonderful as our Pastor talked about the “B” in H.A.B.I.T.S.  “Bible Memorization” is something I’ve let slip. I was working on the book of Phillipians, but that seems like years ago. He gave some super challenges that I intend to embrace this week.

My green tea is almost ready for me to add some “Splenda”.

The snow really is awfully pretty!

~From the kitchen~

I need to thaw out some chicken breasts for supper. Hubby is home sick so I need to plan something that will tempt his appetite. I better stay clear of chicken tacos, so I think I’ll just bake them.

~I am wearing~

My pajamas! Today that consists of some old tatty sweatpants and an over sized t-shirt. Hey! It’s been cold at night! My glasses are perched on my nose since I haven’t had time to put my contacts in and right now? I’m deaf. (No CI or HA)

~I am reading~

Canine Body Language by Brenda Aloff. It has taught me a great deal… even about people as they tend to “react” to their dogs.

… To Love, Honor, and Vacuum by Sheila Wray Gregoire. Right now I’m getting a lot of the section “Chores and Gender”. Who says men can’t cook? Not Sheila, and not I!

~I am hoping~

Hubby gets to feeling better. He doesn’t do “sick” well. I also hope it the rest of us do not get it. We have company coming at the end of the week.

~I am creating~

I am creating a new schedule. I need one as my life is sure to pick up speed when school starts on March 3rd. I am trying to prioritize the household chores, and make sure my google calendar is up-to-date.

~I am hearing~

A faint ringing in my un-implanted ear. Tinnitus has been my close friend for over two decades now.

~Around the house~

I really need to clean this office I’m sitting in right now! I need to make time for that after lunch. If I do an “ok” job, it will only take me 15 minutes because the office is so small! (10′ x 10′).

~One of my favorite things~

Green tea. I’m absolutely hooked on the stuff. It’s a wonder I’m not turning green. Costco has the best green tea, and it’s CHEAP. (Gotta love Costco!)

~A few plans for the rest of the week~

I need to prepare for the classes I teach on Thursday, and I need to finish my schedule so that I can start classes next week. I need to make sure I get with my daughter about the company coming for really they are “her” company. I need to finalize what we are going to do and where we are going to do it. I love this kind of “company” because they aren’t staying with US!

~Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you~

Terry and I doing a skit at the workshop, “My Hard-of-Hearing Valentine”.


Denise Portis

“Worry” is the Darkroom in Which “Negatives” can Develop


Chloe in her new “Gentle Leader” harness hlaa-feb-0362

chloe-gl-002 Oops… the strap is a little crooked!

Hounds a-Worryin’ Over It!

Premier Pets did a DEMO for Fidos For Freedom on Saturday. I registered in advance, and for my efforts received a “Gentle Leader” harness just for attending. Chloe and I use a “plastic prong” collar for training and “work”, although it is rarely needed now that we’ve been working together for so long. I still utilize it because to Chloe it means “I’m working” as much as her vest does. If someone who is illiterate notices her and tries to coax her close for some petting, I need only gently pull and release and she immediately remembers to stay in a nice sit/stay. Numerous teams at Fidos For Freedom use the “Gentle Leader” however, so since I was going to get one free I wasn’t going to argue!

Chloe is NOT thrilled with it. Honestly, when I first put it on her, her EYES ACTUALLY CROSSED looking down at the strap on her nose! I laughed hysterically, which hurt my poor hound dog’s feelings. After apologizing, I adjusted straps and made sure the fit was right… begged for some 2nd opinions, and then walked her around the training center for about 20 minutes. I’m sure if I NEEDED the control of the “Gentle Leader”, she would become accustomed to it fairly quickly.

For that first 20 minutes, she “worried” over it almost obsessively. She followed commands, but even when in “heel” tried to rub it off against my leg! When we stopped, she’d use her paw and try to slip it over the edge of her nose! (A proper fit insures this cannot be done!) Bottom line, the harness looked lovely on her, but her attitude was peeved. She “worried” over it until our stops in a “sit/stay” had her pouting and turning her head away from me. After about fifteen minutes, her tail was even drooping. “Worry” had quickly cultivated real “negative weeds” in the heart and mind of my friendly working dog! In the end, she was just TICKED OFF. Right before we left I slipped it off of her so I could get her to “hurry up” (potty) before loading her in the van for the long trip home. As soon as the harness was removed she began kissing me in “thanks” and even whining her heartfelt gratitude!

I’ve made sure she’s had it on a little bit at home, but again as I don’t see a NEED for it right now… “don’t try to fix what ain’t broke“. Who knows? I may have a need for it one day.

People a-Worrin’ Over it!

I’m many times like my hound dog. I can “worry” over things that are new, and not completely to my liking. It may be something new that can’t be helped. So exactly what good is accomplished over worryin’ over it?

The past week we’ve been blessed with some beautiful dustings of snow in the mornings. I just love snow. I love the way it feels in my hands and under my boots. I love the way it looks as it falls in big white flakes, or swirling in the wind of a near blizzard. I love shoveling snow. (Aren’t I insane?) I like the sound the snow shovel makes when it hits, lifts and displaces the snow. I love looking behind me at the “path” I’ve created and feel a sense of accomplishment equaling the birth of a child. (OK, yeah… that’s a stretch!)  Snow doesn’t affect my vertigo and balance the way rain does. At least until this past week…

I have had some “near misses” in falls, and have had some real trouble in my balance during this week. I’ve been a little peeved about it. Peeved to the point that I’ve been a little bit snippy. When I realized I was reacting in a fairly negative way to almost everything, I tried to reflect on what the problem might be. After a little “self-discovery” of the underlying cause, I vowed to change my attitude then and there! I mean? Why worry over something that cannot be changed?

A New Normal

For me, this is just part of my “new normal”. It is normal for me to have bad “balance days”. It is normal for me not to hear well in crowded places. However, I can adapt and make necessary changes in order to live my life with passion, respect, and value. If I do all I can to be healthy, then on days I find I’m staggering around, I must accept as part of my “new normal”.

If I get angry, depressed and negative about it, I end up with family members trying to decide “what is UP with HER?” Hubby asks, “Are you PMS’ing?” (The only reason they even call it PMS is because Mad Cow Disease was taken.) How smart is it to say something like that? It did snap me back for a second however, to see what THEY were seeing. It was the impetus I needed to do some soul-searching.

I can worry 24/7 and nothing positive will come of it. On the contrary, negative thinking tends to choke out every rational thought I have. And frankly? I need to stay focused and rational about my problems! Evaluating, weighing, and finding solutions to problems is a whole lot different than worryin’ over them.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Little Boy’s Voice – LOST


Chris Portis – 18 years old (Junior year for CCA yearbook)

This morning I emailed Chris’s yearbook picture to the mother who is in charge of the CCA yearbook.  I think it is due the 20th.  For ME, I’m cutting it kind of close being that I am normally the first one to submit things due to those in leadership for our homeschool co-op!

Perhaps I was just tired (it WAS early, and I had a lot to do today so didn’t sleep well for “worryin’ over it”), but I was a little tearful lookin’ at the “mug” of the baby of our family. I felt as though my little boy’s voice was LOST.

Chris had speech problems, and started school late as a 6-year-old.  This is ironic as his is the best voice I “hear” in my family now. He enunciates really well (at least for ME), and he has great volume and projects well. (Likely in part due to a couple of years of Debate)

I was emotional about it, for I don’t have a “little boy voice” memory of Chris. We have some videos of the kids when they were little. Now that I “hear again”, I can make out what Chris use to sound like.  But his voice is “lost” for me… I have no memory of it even after listening to tapes. Many times when I “hear” someone that I’ve known for a long time, I have a twinge in my memory. It’s like a growing pain – as my brain stretches and searches – to see if there is a memory of that person’s voice.  I don’t burn any calories hearing the voice of someone “new”.  I don’t have a memory of their voice.

When I was activated on May 13, 2005, it was the FIRST time I had ever heard Chris.  My husband and daughter chuckle at some of their memories of Chris’s voice changing. That adolescent “crack” of a maturing young man’s voice left no imprint on me – for I did not hear it.  I am unable to reminisce with them.


I learned to really WATCH my kids when they were growing up. We’ve all been told that mom’s seems to have an extra pair of eyes in the back of their heads.  I made sure I made use of mine.  Desperate to understand and connect with my children, I made sure I WATCHED. I looked carefully at body language and facial expression.  I wanted to know how they were feeling, and wanted to understand what they were trying to convey.

I had to know that when both rushed inside talking at the same time, that I had to see AROUND the story of the squished worm. I had to see on Chris’s face how gleeful he was to have squished the worm, and how it felt.  I wanted to identify with his pleasure of this, and deciphered the look on his face to know he was eager for that “Mama high 5“!

My daughter, however, had tears in her eyes and her lip was all a-quiver.  She recited the same story.  Yet, her chest heaved with indignation, and her finger shook as she pointed it at the human I had just given a “high 5” too.  It seems the worm was squished all right, but done so on her arm!  So I had to smother a laugh, and commiserate with the little darling all the while wiping “squished worm” from her skinny little arm.

Still Adapting

I am truly blessed to be “hearing again”. However, hearing with a cochlear implant is not “perfect hearing”. I have learned to make some changes now that I am hearing through the miracle of a cochlear implant.

I hear voices great. Other sounds?  Not so great… I also don’t hear well in busy, noisy environments.  These are just two of the reasons I ended up training for a hearing assistance dog.

I have learned to watch Chloe. I pay attention to where her focus is, and try to always be aware of what she is hearing. She has these great “hound dog” ears that perk up, and her eyebrows are especially expressive as she concentrates, and alerts to the sounds around her.


(See how tired she is after a shopping trip?)

I have changed the way I shop. Chloe does great if I run my errands in the morning, and she is more alert and “ready to work” when I remember to take care of things early in the day.  If I end up having to go do something later in the day, she still does her job… but there’s a bit of a “drag” to her step. No dog can look tired like a hound dog can! I realized it was more fair to her to do “work” early in the day. We still do things at night like movies, eating out… but she is normally able to curl up on her blanket until needed during those times.

hlaa-feb-034 Here Chloe is resting at a late morning meeting while I am giving a workshop on “HoH Valentines”.  She has learned to rest when she can, and work when it’s “time to do so”.

This morning she and I went grocery shopping. I never use to attempt going to the grocery store alone.  Talk about feeling housebound!

Today while shopping, I unsuccessfully pulled to the side to get out of the way of someone in a hurry. In order to keep Chloe from getting trampled on, I dropped my shopping list and 4 coupons.  Chloe does an “automatic retrieve” of things dropped. Within 45 seconds I had my shopping list back in hand with 4 slightly damp coupons. (Bending to the floor to pick up something flat, can cause me to GO FLAT due to Meniere’s)

We were almost finished shopping, and I noticed that Chloe’s ears were up and could even tell from watching her muzzle a low growl was erupting from her chest. I quickly shushed her but looked at where she was so intently staring. A man sat on the floor near the magazines – all sprawled out – and apparently making himself at home.  Chloe knew this was unusual, and wanted to make sure I knew he was there.  After we rounded the corner, I reached down to pat her head and said, “Good girl, Chloe”. She wagged her tail and knew I had acknowledged what she had seen and HEARD.

Adapting – My List

I believe every WISE person learns to adapt.  If you look back on your life and see some real growth, chances are you learned to adapt at some point.  Adapting is not “caving in” to other’s ideas, peer pressure, or external stimuli.  In actuality, for one to adapt one must consciously choose to make necessary changes in order to succeed.  We don’t ever adapt in order to “fail on purpose”.

I made a list of adaptations I have made in order to “succeed”. By no means an exhaustive list, this hopefully will help you come up with a list of your own.  It’s very helpful to “track changes” and record progress.

♥ Shop/run errands early so Chloe performs “best”

♥ Taught Chloe to walk in a modified heel… slightly forward as I have poor peripheral vision to the lower left

♥ Go to Costco on Monday or Tuesday mornings to avoid crowds

♥ Move my chair in church to allow Chloe room right in front of me so she doesn’t encroach on other folk’s space

♥ Follow-up with every face-to-face meeting with an email to make sure I understood

♥ Use Facebook to know how to better pray for others as I don’t talk to many people in person and NEVER by phone

♥ Watch the show “24” with enthusiasm as I’ll have to watch it anyway to be with my hubby on Monday night’s…

Give you any ideas?  Now go make your own list! (smile)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Simple Woman


Peggy Hostetler, founder of Simple Woman“Are you content to linger on the simple things of life…then join me in taking a little look into the day plans and thoughts of those of us who are focusing on simplicity…the beauty of the everyday moments around us. That is my vision for this idea!”


An online friend of mine has been writing a blog entry once a week called “Simple Woman”.  It seems like a great way to start a week, as it sort of forces you to take stock of TODAY, and plan for TOMORROW. Not in an obsessive, neurotic way… rather, a quiet and peaceful way.  I’m going to start “giving it a shot”.

I get too busy sometimes.  This seems a simple way to reflect and search my own heart for the peace that comes from a simple lifestyle.

Many times I have “wished” to become a recluse and go away into the mountains and STAY for a decade!  (smile)  However, I do enjoy being with people as well!  Why does “busy”-ness tend to crowd out much of the good in a day? Perhaps by doing this simple journal entry each week, I will better appreciate the simple things in life.  I plan to use it for the first time this coming Monday.

For my students – these Monday journal entries will not count towards extra credit. (smile)

Denise Portis

©2009 Hearing Loss Journal

“Memories… Light the Corners of my Mind…”


Look into these soulful brown eyes, and one can believe she remembers those she loves very easily!

“Memorieeesssss… light the corners of my mmmmind…”

Your age will likely influence whether or not you started singing along, and finished the line, “Misty, water-colored Mmmmemorieeeessss… of the way we were….”

Dogs remember

I’m always amazed at what a dog can remember.  Not so much “tricks” and obedience commands, for in truth, they remember those types of skills as the result of an owner/trainer who consistently practices and hones those skills.  I “smack my face” in shock at times, as to what a dog can remember that is NOT the result of  training. (Yeah, yeah, I know!  You’d like to smack my face for me? Grin).

Chloe constantly amazes me at being able to remember a “dog” she hasn’t seen in a really long time, and going all a-wiggle at just a glimpse of her “buddy” across the parking lot.  She was “rushed” and received a bite from a white poodle once.  She still quivers in fear at the sight of one, and it she isn’t even seeing the SAME one. Chloe has a great memory!

Wednesday, I had to rush to the grocery store to pick up a few items to last my family through the week.  I carried one of those baskets, instead of choosing a cart. I’m convinced that I need to remember to ALWAYS reach for a cart now, no matter how few items I may need.  The cart actually helps me balance some, and it also allows me to block Chloe from “oh I gotta pet you/cuz I can’t read” hands.  (Honestly, you’d think her vest said “PET ME PLEASE!”)

I dropped a coupon and was in the middle of asking Chloe to retrieve it for me, when she heard something and dropped the coupon mid-“retrieve”.  Actually it was kind of comical, because when she dropped the coupon her mouth still hung ajar!  I’ve never seen my “hound dog” surprised by what she’d heard before! I could tell right away she was hearing something, as she became very still, and her head cocked to the side.  Her ears perked up and she looked in the direction of the next aisle.

I was able to get her to focus and retrieve the coupon (with a little EFFORT), and we continued down the aisle.  She was literally “a-tremble” with excitement, and kept looking at the aisle next to us with her ears all perked up. I was kicking myself for not having a cart, but bravely rounded the corner and headed into the next aisle. I saw some ladies rounding the corner of the aisle next to us. Fortunately, they were going in the opposite direction so we were now going to have an aisle between us.  UNFORTUNATELY, Chloe didn’t like that.  She barked a high-pitch yelp/bark.  I shushed her immediately, and scolded her quietly as wouldn’t you know the end of the aisle was also nearest the cash registers and front-end employees?

I put her in “heel” and headed down the next aisle.  She continued to “hop/walk”, listening intently, and still all “a-tremble“.  I tried to listen to make sure that as we rounded the end of the aisle, those ladies were not doing so as well.  Being that I’m not a lucky person by chance, I of course came to the end of the aisle at the same time they did!  Thankfully, this time I was BETWEEN the ladies and Chloe, but she ducked her head and looked between my knees at the ladies.

One of them noticed her peeking between my kneecaps, and said, “Oh look at the beautiful dog! Look how wonderful she is!” Something about the voice made me start “thinking quickly”, but I couldn’t put it together quite yet “why”.

One of the ladies she was with said, “Oh my! She’s beautiful!  What does she do?”  She stepped closer to read her vest.  The closer she got to me, the clearer her voice became.  Chloe was attempting to sit in a nice heel position, but was just trembling from head to toe.  The lady said, “Oh she’s crying!”

Darn.  I can’t hear Chloe whimper sometimes, so I looked down and said, “Chloe… shussh!  Quiet!”  I turned to the lady standing there and said, “I’m sorry she’s not normally this way. She seems very excited to see you.”

The ladies moved closer and continued to talk to me (as they realized talking to Chloe was making her no longer SIT).  Right as one lady was explaining how thrilled she was that dogs could help a deaf person – it hit me.  I was so startled by my epiphany, I dropped my basket… on my foot! (At least it wasn’t Chloe’s!) Thankfully, I only had some boxed items in it so it wasn’t very heavy. The ladies were turning away to go, and I in a bold and desperate move, reached out and motioned to them to stop.

“Excuse me.  I love your accent, and I think my dog actually recognizes it from a trainer she had when she was young.  Can I ask where you are from?”

Although she had lived here for over a year, she and one of the ladies with her were from Vaspy, Sweden. (I’m sure I’ve spelled that wrong, but I’m spelling it like it sounded and HEY!  She had a Swedish accent so I was having trouble!).

They walked away from us to finish shopping and I stood rooted to the spot.  I think perhaps my mouth was hung ajar like Chloe’s had been after the coupon retrieve.  One of Chloe’s earlier trainers had a Scandinavian accent, although I do not know where she originally “hailed” from.  Chloe had HEARD these ladies voices, recognized the ACCENT, and thought Jolanthe was in the next aisle!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been QUITE that surprised by the turn of events.  After all, Chloe can hear Pat’s voice (her most recent trainer) from the next room and become really excited. Heaven help us if we ever happen upon Pat in a store now…

My Ears Want to Remember

My cochlear implant is a wonderful miracle really!  I never thought I’d be hearing voices as well as I do “this side of Heaven”.  But hearing through the miracle of bionics is not hearing PERFECTLY.

Sometimes I hear things and know “something isn’t right”, but am unable to put my finger on the “what”. Take a cat’s purr for example.  If I hold one of our cats right up next to my implant I can “hear” the cat purr.  They aren’t very thrilled to be dangling from my hands and smushed up against my implant, but they will continue to purr – believe it or not!  I think part of it is that I can feel the vibration of the cat’s purr, and this aids in “conjuring up memories” of a cat’s motor.  But when I hear one of our cat’s purr, it’s a little “off”… something isn’t quite “right”.  I have a memory of a cat’s purr, but what I’m hearing is just a little bit “mechanical” compared to what I remember.  My daughter tells me all our cat’s purr differently. I suppose I’ve had a hearing loss long enough to not really quite understand how a cat’s purr can sound different.  Even more remarkable to me, is knowing my daughter claims she can tell the difference!  I just can’t quite put my brain around the fact that someone can hear THAT well!

I’m coming up on my four-year anniversary of “hearing again”.  I still hear things “for the first time” since activation. For example, this past Christmas I was shopping with my husband at Home Depot.  Around the base of one of the Christmas trees, a little miniature train chug-chugged along.  I stood there in front of God and shoppers and wept.  I could remember the sound of my older brother’s electric train set and “hearing it again”, was emotional!

I’ve spent the past summers “remembering” the sound of lawn mowers, and leaf blowers.  I’ve experienced autumns remembering how a rake sounds pulling leaves into a pile.  If it’s quiet, and the noise isn’t distorted by other background noises, I hear… and REMEMBER.

Something that makes me sad – if I let it – is not having a memory of how my kids sounded when they were little.  We’ve a few old VHS tapes, but hearing the tapes triggers no memories for me as I HAVE NONE.  I can usually cheer myself up pretty quickly, in simply recognizing the fact that I have amazing conversations with my young adult children NOW. (Reading their lips, “More juice please” was likely more endearing than “Can I have the car keys” though…)

May all of us take the time to REMEMBER.  Don’t waste energy remembering negative things (unless they taught you something).  Remember good times, good friends, and heck yeah!  GREAT DOGS!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Camera Shy

The dogs were having such a great time in the snow this morning, I decided to “dash” inside to get the camera. (At least I did a “dash” for one such as I!) By the time I returned, they were still “throwing snow” at each other so I quickly turned the camera on and began taping.

Yeah. You guessed it, I’m sure. My kids tell me the camera makes a beep when it starts taping. Perhaps that was their “cue” to stop acting so darn cute! Regardless of the “how”, they did put an immediate stop to their antics.

Documented Proof

The dogs were having a great time skidding around in the snow – true. But I’ve also been trying to surreptitiously document how incredibly nutty our puppy is in the snow! He’s an “arctic dog”, and honestly I have to force the little booger inside when the temperature drops below freezing. As it is, when he is tired, he tries to find the biggest patch of snow on which to nap!

I thought I had a perfect “Kodak moment” (or maybe candid camera?) when I sneaked the camera outside. Turn the silly thing “on”, and the dogs slid to a halt. Sigh. We adopted Tyco from my trainer who also does Norwegian Elkhound rescue. I’ve also wanted to tape and document how happy Tyco is with our family, and how perfect a “match” he is for our family. Now Pat will have to take my word for it! Grin.

Invisible Disabilities

This need for “proof”… finding a viable way to show something was true above and beyond the value of my “word”, reminded me of my deafness is some ways.

I get some “flack” for wearing my hair up which allows both my hearing aid and cochlear implant to be visible. I’ve had some culturally Deaf folks give me “heck” for not only choosing a CI, but for wearing “bling” on the device as if I were proud of it – as I am! I’ve had late-deafened people question my sanity for choosing to make something visible that doesn’t need to be. Some try to “blend in” and “look like everyone else”, desperately hoping their hearing loss does not interfere with relationships, a job promotion, or other’s perceptions of their abilities.

I suppose in the beginning I was the same way. I didn’t deliberately TRY to hide my hearing aid, but my hair is long and it did the trick without my trying! However, there came a day when my hearing loss changed from “moderate” to “severe” to “profound”. Speech reading is not an exact science, and my hearing aids were no longer giving me any benefit. I was “missing things”. If people were not aware that I had a hearing loss, they did not know to get my attention prior to communicating with me. I said things at inappropriate times (and still do), or missed what the topic was that was being discussed. I decided to try to make my hearing loss more visible. I did this to help both OTHERS, and myself! I wore my hair up, and wore a magnetic badge that said, “Please Face Me. I read lips!”

After I received my cochlear implant, I decided then and there that I was going to continue to make my invisible disability – visible. I wanted “proof” that I had a hearing loss. I was tired of being misunderstood, or labeled as slow, stuck-up, or mean. My CI allows me to hear voices really well (although I still benefit from a person getting my attention first), but I still miss a lot of things to in crowds and big cavernous locations like malls, restaurants, arenas, gyms, etc. I wanted to SHOW my ears and technology, as a reminder that in many circumstances I am still deaf!

For those who don’t know me, my visible technology lets them know I hear differently. A little patience and good communication skills will insure we communicate just fine. Chloe actually “shouts” the fact that there is something different about me anyway! Everyone notices her FIRST. They “mosey over” to read her vest and THEN look up and check out my ears!

For those who DO know me well, I’ve found my “visibility” reminds them I am still deaf “in spite of” my cochlear implant. We had a fire inspector come and test the alarms at our school a couple of weeks ago. My director planted herself right next to me, as I think she was afraid of what Chloe may do. She didn’t want me “falling down” on her “watch” – smile. When the alarm went off Chloe cocked her head and listened. My director explained that there was a voice as well as the alarm. (Evidently, it explains the emergency and instructs people where to go?) I was talking to Chloe to keep her calm (as she was visibly shaking), and I kept an eye on the blinking lights of the strobe section of the alarms set in the hallway.

Later at lunch, my son found me and asked out of concern, “Gee mom! How did Chloe do during the fire alarm?”

I proudly explained how she remained calm and sat in heel during the entire thing. I told him how the director of our school came to stand next to me to “help if needed”.

Chris contemplated that a moment and then said, “It’s a good thing you wear your hair up so those of us who know you remember you still are deaf! You act so normal now!”

(So pre-implant how does that mean I behaved? Gulp!)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal