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

3 thoughts on “The Vest is Really Always “On”

  1. You two are a great team! And I love reading your insights… feel almost like we’re neighbors :0)

    And, I know this should be obvious to people who know dogs better than I do, but… what kind of dog is Chloe?


  2. Our service dogs learn certain behaviors are expected when dressed (vested or harnessed) for work but they know that we always need them too. Ralph only wears his harness when we are either away from home or I am using my manual wheelchair and I might need him to pull. I don’t leave home much and usually it is right near home where all the stores and hospital know Ralph so I don’t have any access problems. I always have harness or backpacks in the car in case I need them though. It always seems to amaze people when they see a service dog playing or being allowed to visit but it is good for them to know that unless told otherwise they are working and should be ignored so they can work. Chloe is gorgeous! And she obviously loves her job too.

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