Have a Great Imagination?

Chloe and Denise at an old Rock Quarry April 2010

So do you have a great imagination? Unfortunately, I did not have my camera when the incident occurred that I’m about to explain. Even had I located a camera at the time, I certainly would not have had time to “snap” pictures! (You’ll understand in a moment).

So allow me to try to explain with words what happened at work yesterday. Perhaps it is just “one of those things” that happens to people with assistance dogs. This had never happened to me, however, and so I was totally taken by surprise!

I tread carefully in the tellin’ for it took place in the bathroom of all places! Ever wonder what a person with an assistance dog does when they have to go to the bathroom? It’s not like you can hitch your dog up at the post while you go in and “do your business”. You do not want your assistance dog sitting or laying on the floor. I mean… we are in the BATHROOM, folks! A “stand” and “stay” is the perfect obedience command for this environment.

If the handicapped stall is free, I always head for that one. The extra space is nice when accompanied by a furry partner. Sometimes the handicapped stall is NOT free, so then we have to make do with the smaller area. Yesterday the handicapped stall was free, however, so Chloe and I went into that space.

I put Chloe in a “stand” and “stay” first. She rarely moves, however she will sometimes duck her head to peek into the next stall. I try to watch for this because honestly? What would you do if a furry, friendly head looked under to say “boo”? (I’ve heard screeches and even SPLASHES before… so yeah. I try to keep her from doing this!)

Now yesterday was a sunny day. For those readers who may not know me very well, for ME this means that my balance was pretty good. My Meniere’s disease is at its worst when it is rainy outside. Mine seems to be triggered by the weather. So on a sunny day, I … like most grown women… have the ability to erm… HOVER. It’s very handy. (Men just have it made in this regard, don’t they?) On rainy days I have to make sure I can locate a seat protector, or take the time to lay toilet paper down to cover the seat. On sunny days, I can get right down to business and out of there fairly quickly.

My restroom “OH MY GOSH I’LL HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT THIS” escapade was one of the last things I accomplished at school yesterday. I already had my car packed up, and only took my keys and Chloe to the restroom. Because it was sunny, I was able to HOVER, but I needed to be able to put my keys somewhere. They have a long purple strap on them so that Chloe can pick them up easier on my “bad days” should I drop them. I put the purple strap in my TEETH, hovered … and took care of business in 10 seconds.

Without going into a lot of detail about what happens immediately following the “hover” (use your imagination), I still had my keys in my teeth. Chloe was still in a dutiful “stand” and “stay”. Remember that this was a “good balance day”? I never flush the toilet with my hands on a day I can stand on one foot and accomplish the task with my other foot. It’s the germs ya know? So I did a “karate kid” immitation, and used my left foot to flush the commode.

Chloe decided to side step out of the way. (She’s seen this WEEBLE wobble and FALL DOWN so many times, she evidently wanted to make sure she had space to move if needed). I saw her out of the corner of my eye getting ready to move, so I said, “Ach… wrong”.

Funny thing about holding something in your teeth and deciding to talk at the same time? Yeah. The natural law of gravity will never let a person down. My keys tumbled and bounced off my extended “flushing” knee and right into the toilet!

I screeched. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t quietly.

Chloe retrieves objects that I drop in what the trainers call an “automatic retrieve” for partners with hearing loss. So she scooted around me and looked down into the disappearing water in the commode at my keys in the bottom of the bowl.

I screeched. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t quietly. (This isn’t a typo… it simply happened twice).

I was scrambling… what to DO? I didn’t TRAIN FOR THIS. Chloe put her paws up on the toilet seat to better lean down into the bowl so I reached for my treat bag, and my hand connected to my clicker. Now… I was running on adrenaline at this point. When my hand came into contact with the training clicker, I did an automatic “click”. (Erin would be so proud…) So now Chloe thinks that what she is doing is what she is SUPPOSE TO BE DOING! I clicked … which indicates to HER… “YUP, you got it right”! She now has her head down in the toilet bowl and is bobbing for apples my keys.

I screeched. I’m pretty sure is wasn’t quietly. (yeah… you get the picture!)

I pushed her wagging body out of the way and quickly reached in to pluck my keys from the toilet bowl. It now had completely filled back up with water. Chloe stood there expectantly … eyes on the keys… waiting for me to drop them again. Cuz, ya know? This was a TERRIFIC GAME!

There I stood in the bathroom of Chieftain Institute on the campus of Gaithersburg Church of the Nazarene with dripping keys in one hand, while looking into the dripping face of my assistance dog. I had two choices. I could laugh – or cry. So I…

screeched… I’m pretty sure is wasn’t quietly. (There was a 3rd choice).

I exited the stall with as much grace as I could muster. I washed my hands well, and my keys. I tried to avoid getting soap and water in the electronic key to my car, but honestly? Did it matter at this point?

I walked forlornly to my car with a very happy assistance dog in heel, my head bowed in defeat. As I neared my car I tried to unlock my car with the very wet key… which of course didn’t work. I went around to the driver’s side of the car and looked for the “unlock” key hole which I had NEVER HAD TO USE BEFORE. After loading Chloe up and getting her settled, I climbed into the car and adjusted my mirrors. I caught sight of Chloe’s wet head and finally saw the funny. (You really DO have to laugh to keep from crying sometimes!)

When I pulled into my driveway about 45 minutes later, the first thing I did was use a hair dryer on my key. (Yes… no worries! Chloe got a bath too!) Would you believe the key is working this morning? It will lock and unlock my car just as if I hadn’t given it a “swirly”! I DID have to give it a new attachment though! I carefully washed my other keys and rings, and used a macrame stitch to create a new “bob” for Chloe to be able to pick up.

On the bright side of things, at least it matches Chloe’s vest now!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal