Passing with FLYING Colors


Dolphin Show? Nooooo Problem!

We’ve been to the National Aquarium in Baltimore since my “match” with Chloe, but I choose to sit out during the Dolphin Show. We were “new enough” that I did not know what to expect. This past Saturday we met some new friends at the Aquarium. After soliciting the advice and opinions of fellow Fidos For Freedom folks (geesh… say that 5 times really fast!), I decided to take Chloe to the Dolphin Show. I went a little early so I could pick my own seat. I knew I didn’t want in the “Splash Zone”, but I also did not want to sit as close as where the hearing assistive section was situated. I hear “voices” well enough with my CI, so I decided we’d sit where it was best for CHLOE.

This decision meant in the back and up HIGH – grin! With my poor balance, it took some quickly whispered prayers, Chloe’s steady counter-balance, and a husband walking immediately behind my weaving, dizzy, umm…. BEHIND, for me to get where I felt “safe” for Chloe’s sake.

aquarium-005 Most of the time she stayed down on her blanket, and I was not even forced to reinforce the behavior with her treats. She was OK until she heard the dolphins making sounds. I couldn’t hear it, of course, but my husband said they chattered, chirped and made other interesting noises. Chloe would “pop up” to take a look, but would immediately go back down when I reminded her to do so.

At one point, the crowd burst into applause and exclaimed, “OH!” very loudly. Chloe popped up to take a look, and I found her staring in astonishment! A dolphin was doing the “high jump”, where it burst from the water to touch a ball extended high above the water. If Chloe’s jaw could have dropped open, I’m sure it would have. (I did have to ask her twice after that to go back to a “down”!)

Chloe did great at the Aquarium. aquarium-001 I suppose the biggest “chore” was just keeping her from being stepped on by the crowds, and insuring she was in a “safe place”. I had to put her in “place” a couple of times (opposite of “heel”, to the right). I can’t leave her there very long due to…

… As the World Turns

Meniere’s disease is different in every individual. Although symptoms may be similar, they are never identical. Some people develop Meniere’s along WITH unexplained hearing loss, some people have it without any evidence of hearing loss at all! Some people experience tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, whistling), nausea, dizziness, vertigo, blackouts, blurred vision, and much more.

In a simple, layman’s description:  my world spins counter-clockwise. With Chloe in “heel” (although a modified one as she is slightly forward of a formal “heel” due to my inability to see lower, left peripherally), she actually provides a “check” to my slowly, moving world. As my visual field and brain cause me to feel as if I’m spinning left, her “brace” in “heel” sort of SNAPS my visual field back to where it belongs. She is standing, or sitting STILL, which allows my focus to re-establish center as I am NOT “sitting still”. When she is in “place” however, her body isn’t in a position where it enters my counter-clockwise “spin”. Confusing? (grin) Try explaining the individuality of Meniere’s someday!

Let’s just say I’m glad she is in “heel” MOST of the time. I practice “place” and “circle right” as they are occasionally needed.

All So “Normal” for Us

We also went to the shops near the Aquarium, and then waited for about 45 minutes to eat at The Cheesecake Factory. I can hear voices in quiet environments at normal speaking levels. I cannot hear voices in places with a great deal of background noise, nor can I hear whispered things. I tend to miss all of the exclamations from the general public when they see Chloe do something for me.

When she rolls her own blanket up for me so that it is high enough to reach, or picks up her own leash to hand it to me, I do not give it a 2nd thought anymore. She picks up the end of my cane until it’s high enough for me to grab, picks up dropped items like menus or pamphlets, and just has a GRAND time doing it! Although my family are also accustomed to Chloe being by my side and “helping”, they hear those comments that I do not when we are in a new place.

What can be really fun is to see the look on everyone’s face when I remove Chloe’s vest outside for a short break. My dog morphs into “Miss Congeniality”.

Something is ALWAYS Learned

Even when everything does NOT go as smoothly as Saturday did, I still learn important lessons. The least significant lesson may be a reminder of what should be worked on with more diligence. “Reality checks” are great teachers.

Having a working dog does not mean that I do not have to WORK at adapting. My cochlear implant allows me to hear, and yet I am still deaf. I use a bright purple cane, but I still fall sometimes. Chloe acts as my ears, but I will still misunderstand even a noise I am alerted to at times! How we react when everything does NOT go “great” is a good measure of how we are “really” coping with an acquired disability.

Tomorrow I may have a different opinion, but right now I think I’m “passing with FLYING colors!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

7 thoughts on “Passing with FLYING Colors

  1. Oh how I hate Meniere’s. It is part of why I lost my hearing. I never did have balance or vertigo, but after my second CI surgery, all heck broke loose. My service dog Johnny, has been trained to use a harness for me to hold on to on my bad days. I am now doing much better after 4 months of rehab. But I am still glad Johnny is there to help me get from point A to point B.

  2. I love reading your blog everyday! I know Meiniers stinks. First my dr before I was diagnoised with seziures thought I had it. Im glad Chloe is by your side everyday! I cannot wait to get a hearing dog someday soon..

    I wanted to ask… on her vest it saids ” hearing dog, DO NOT PET”. Why cant people pet hearing dogs?

    I remember a student in college when I was teaching ASL her dog was blind and She let all students pet the dog. I was just wondering how come a hearing dog you cant?

  3. Hello Danielle,

    Really no service dog of any kind should be pet by anyone other than it’s handler when it is in vest.

    When a dog is in vest, it is working. A distracted dog (which happens when it is happy and licking or playing with someone who is petting them) does not do hearing alerts, may jerk on a leash and cause their person to fall, etc.

    If your dog’s attention is not on you, they are not working or doing what they were trained to do. When I take Chloe’s vest off, others know they can interact with her then. Prior to doing so, I make sure that I’m in a “safe place” and can’t be knocked over, and I usually have someone I know well who can alert me to sounds I may miss when she is out of vest and visiting with others.

    I’m surprised a blind person especially would allow people to pet their service dog, as they would be in danger of accidents should their dog reach for a friendly hand and no longer stay in “heel”, etc. Every person is different I suppose! For my own safety and the well-being of my dog, I enforce the “no petting” rule when she is in her vest. Hope this helps!


  4. Hi Denise, that helped alot thanks for letting me know. Im still learning… I should be getting a dog in a few months once I pay these hospital bills off. I cant wait!!!


  5. I do not have Meniere although I like to learn about different disabilities. However I do have a service dog for multiple issues.

    Service dogs should never be petted without first getting permission, henceforth the signs that are put on. One of my pet peeves about people not reading the signs and just assumes it’s ok. When children or parents comes up and ask if it’s ok I usually allow this but only after my dog gets the cue to greet. I do this to continue socializing him with strangers but as soon as I say enough ignore he is back right where he should be.

    But I do get really hyper if somebody just thinks it’s OK to pet without asking. Most people respect this but there are some that just don’t.

    Anyway it sounds like you all had a really good time.

  6. One of the many things I like about reading your blog hon, is learning the “little things” about SD–like as outstanding as Chloe is, she still breaks a down stay to check out the dolphins. Typical dog stuff (Until you put her back). Or that you still use treats at times to reinforce.
    I’d never even seen an SD before I decided to owner train Kenai, so I learn all the “little things” that I don’t have to stress about. He pops up, just put him back!
    I learn so much daily stuff from you!

  7. This is wonderful how Chloe has been trained to assist you with your balance issues in addition to hearing assistance. I’ve had Meniere’s for many years now. I wish that I’d also had my hearing dog trained to assist with my balance problems. He has been a wonderful service dog and companion, he will be 11 next week.

    Like PsD-SD I will allow children,etc. to pet/greet him, ‘shake his paw’ IF they ask first. I have now learned never to give out his name as salesclerks, kids, etc. remember his name and will call out to him when I can not hear. I was in WalMart’s carrying shampoos, hairspray, etc. rather than using a basket when suddenly my service dog jerked around to ‘look’, causing me to drop everything I was carrying! The clerk was apologetic and I learned quite a lesson!

    I like for people, especially children to be educated about service dogs and will do ‘demostrations’ at the library in the summer. Kinda, like a little skit . . . really fun and the kids love it!

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