You’re So Vain…

chloe hug

I love my local grocery store. Not so much that I was pleased I had to go twice this week after forgetting a few items, but the aisles are spacious, the employees know me (and Chloe) by name, and I save a lot of money in both sale items and even gas points. My unexpected impromptu second visit this week was disastrous, at least from an emotional standpoint. I came down the aisle looking for those elusive cotton balls that I failed to remember on my first trip and met a lady only slightly older than me with two canes. We stopped to chat for a minute and thought I had met another who understood when she surprised me by saying, “I just couldn’t work with a dog. It seems so vain because so much attention is brought on by being with one“.

I could feel the heat creep up in my face and I blinked back tears as I stuttered out, “Well different strokes for different folks I suppose“. (I’m always so proud of how eloquent I am in a pinch *rolls eyes*).

I really had very little left to say so quickly cut it short and moved on to find those STUPID cotton balls. Because ya know? Now I was MAD after that initial “kick in the gut” feeling so I determined then and there those cotton balls were stupid. Made me feel better anyway.

My husband and I kid around about how vain Chloe is. Her biggest fault as a service dog is that she is too friendly. She’s a flirt. She gets gently reprimanded on days my balance is really off if I put her in a sit/stay while talking, but then she wags and flirts and stretches for a kiss. Heaven forbid someone actually switch their attention to HER! Then she is like, “You love me. Denise loves me. We all love me. I love me.” She’s so vain! (♫♪ Chloe, you probably think this post is about you! Don’t you? Don’t you?♪♫)

Many people with invisible disabilities are not in favor of mitigating their disabilities with a service dog because it DOES bring attention to you. As a matter of fact, I know of cases where folks drop out of training programs when they discover that this service dog will bring unwanted attention to them. That isn’t worth it in their opinion. And… that’s OK. I have Meniere’s disease (a balance disorder) and am hearing again with cochlear implant technology. I HAVE chosen to mitigate those invisible disabilities with a service dog. I wear bling-bling on my cochlear implant processor. On days my balance is REALLY bad, I use a bright purple, metallic cane. This works for ME. It doesn’t mean it will work for YOU.

could’ve should’ve would’ve

If I could’ve… if I shoud’ve.. or if I would’ve – I suppose if I hadn’t been on the verge of tears I would have told this woman:

Do you know that before Chloe, I spent 20-30 minutes before work each day changing outfits trying to find one that hid all the bruises from my falls?

Do you know that when the elevator was temporarily out of service this week I didn’t have to cancel class because Chloe was able to counter-balance for me on the stairs?

Do you know this cochlear implant bling-bling helps people remember to face me when they speak if it is obvious I’m not hearing well?

Do you know all these patches and certification tags on Chloe’s vest legitimize her role as a service dog so that I have less access issues?

Do you know it takes me 45 minutes to get groceries each week now because Chloe picks up the things I accidentally drop compared to the 2 1/2 hour trips I use to have?

Do you know I never have to ask a stranger to pick up something for me now?

Do you know I’m working again because I don’t have to worry about putting students out to pick up pens, erasers, markers, or papers for me in the classroom?

Do you know I never have to worry about missing a phone call now?

Do you know I have the sweetest, “kiss me awake” alarm clock in the whole, wide world?


Ok… maybe that last one is unnecessary.

But the reality?

weather vane

People with invisible disabilities or chronic illness are more likely to deal with VANES instead of vanity each and every day. We have things we pay attention to so that we stay SAFE, red flags that remind us we are pushing our limits. Boundaries in place to keep us from over-doing things. I know my body better than anyone… even my doctors. This past week we had torrential rains on Thursday. On Wednesday, I was in “full disability regalia“. Chloe, cane, and fresh batteries in the “ears” and still I wobbled and fumbled my way through the day because there was a system coming into our area! A student said, “Wow your balance is really off today!

I replied, “Yes! I’m a human barometer and much more accurate than the Weather Channel!

A thoughtful pause and then, “Is there an app for that?” (snicker… I love my students).

Like a weather vane that helps farmers or meteorologists know which way the wind is blowing, people with disabilities have things in place that allow them to “take their pulse” each day to see how to safely navigate the world around them.

I’ve met a good number of people who have a service dog. I’ve never met anyone that I suspected of choosing to do so because they wanted the attention. And so please understand that the only one who is vain in my partnership is CHLOE.

♫ You’re so vain
You probably think this POST is about you
You’re so vain
I’ll bet you think this POST is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you? ♫

That’s OK. If Chloe’s weakness is that she is warm and friendly… I can live with that.

Denise Portis

© 2013 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

8 thoughts on “You’re So Vain…

  1. Wow. I’ve never thought of visually disclosing one’s disability(ies) as being vain. Usually people have seemed concerned that being open about one’s disability will bring on negative consequences, but hiding one’s disability often causes other people either confusion why your behavior is not what they’re expecting or forgetting about your disability-related needs.

    We can’t please everyone all the time, obviously.

    I would far rather see people with disabilities taking pride about maximizing their ability to function well than to worry about the rare negative response. The fact of the matter is that some people do have negative attitudes about disabilities and will be critical no matter what we do. It can feel like a slap in the face to run across someone like that, and the sting hurts, but we need to persevere. (And for what it’s worth, perhaps the person had had a stroke that impaired her judgment and/or her inhibitions or other cognitive functions. If she had known what you experience ahead of time, she surely wouldn’t have chosen to say what she did.)

    Thanks for writing about this, Denise! Great posting!

  2. I wonder what she thinks her two canes say about her vanity? You can’t fix stupid. I find that pride keeps one from loving and being loved.

  3. You know, the first thing I felt when I read what the woman said to you was PITY. I mean, what a stupid reason to pass over the chance to have a service dog. She would probably get more help with a dog but instead chooses to struggle along … for a completely ridiculous reason.

    I can relate though — I always compose GREAT retorts to insensitive or rude comments I’ve received. I just think of them hours later, unfortunately. LOL

  4. That woman needs to get over herself. My daughter has a therapy dog and, interestingly enough, after I came to live with them while recovering from my fall, the dog recognized that – at this point – my needs are different, but equal to my daughters. She splits her time with us when we are home, but works exclusively for my daughter out of the house.

    This isn’t about looking for sympathy or attention. This is about surviving with profound illness, injury, etc.

    Thank heavens the woman doesn’t have a service dog. She’s temperamentally unsuited for one and the dog would suffer.

  5. Some choose a smaller life, fretting about what some friend or stranger may say about them. You chose a bigger life that faces these challenges head on. The smaller life is easier and not as scary, but little meaning or adventure can be found there.

  6. I know you know that it’s about her (or the “other”) and not you (or “us”) when we do things that bring attention to our hidden disabilities. But I know that sock-in-the-gut feeling you speak of. Oh how I wish it were different, how if I had been in that position that you described that I could have said, and believed, that gee, gal, why would you think it was vain to simply do what you need to do to get along, you with your two canes that no one can see! 😛 I’m just annoyed that she even opened her mouth. 🙂
    Of course, as always, you leave me with new thoughts about things, disability-related and otherwise. Thank you, my dear!

  7. Great blog, you actually teach me . I never thought about the loss of balance I am blessed with just poor hearing that seems to be worse lately. Such is life.
    My dog is a pet but is my therapy because she is so happy to have me home after work waiting for me at the window
    Take care.

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