"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Inviting Change and Accepting the Responsibility that Comes With It

I have applied to receive a hearing service dog from Susquehanna Service Dogs. They have an impressive program. When I went to the interview to meet the people behind the scenes, Kelly Blair, Patty and her demonstration service dog Steel, we left the appointment wondering how in the world did I even get along without one of these remarkable furry companions all these years.

Each dog is matched with a potential person by personality traits of both the dog and the person, then the dog is trained according to your specific help needs. It is amazing what a difference they can make. I learned that the dog will be trained to let me know when a timer goes off, the phone ring, someone is at the door, when I drop something, a tea kettle whistling, an alarm (how often I want to take a nap during the day but I can't because I'm afraid I'll sleep through and not be at the school  in time to pick up Little Fellow). These may seem like small things to a normal hearing person, but they are important when you are no longer able to hear well. Also, the dog will alert me to when someone is speaking to me. They are even teaching one dog to nudge someone when an emergency vehicle with a siren is nearby! How cool is that? I've had a vehicle behind me before and didn't notice right away. I looked up in my rear view mirror and saw the lights. How long had it been there, and how long had I been in their way, I wondered.

It would be so much easier on my family, too, having the extra help. Just today I told my son I wish he had let me know when the water was boiling over. My husband has had to come into the room from the other part of the house just to tell me the tea kettle was whistling. I had a friend waiting on my doorstep recently because no one answered the doorbell. I came out when I saw her vehicle outside.

My only concern is that taking care of the creature is a huge responsibility and I know nothing about the care and maintenance. I mentioned this to my friend Cathy the other day when we were at lunch. She put it so aptly direct, "You can either sit at home on your a** the rest of your life, or you can take the responsibility and get that dog and get out and live.  You have only one shot at this life and it's short."

That's a good friend, someone who puts it into perspective and tells you how it is. I thanked her. I knew exactly what I needed to do that moment.

I came home and filled out all the extensive paperwork, personality evaluation and answered all the essay questions. My references have gone out to everyone except my doctor. I have an appointment with her this coming week. Then it's time to wait.

It can take up to a couple of years to find the right match between the human and the dog, and then both go through rigorous training. This is a service dog I'm applying for, not a companion. I need a service dog that will accompany me everywhere I go to help me "hear". This means they will be trained for public transportation, to behave in restaurants, appointments, at the school where I volunteer, etc. Speaking of appointments, I'll never worry about sitting in a waiting room wondering if they called my name and I didn't hear them or see them call me. Though I inform the receptionist I'm hearing impaired and need to be sure I see them when they call my name, sometimes they forget.

I'm so excited about this, but I still worry about being a good caretaker for the furry creature. I know so little. Fabulous Husband has had dogs, and his last one lived a long and healthy happy life. That is reassuring to me, knowing that I'll have someone to help, but the brunt of the responsibility is on me because we are to have a working bond and in order for that to work, I have to be the one that does all the care and tending. It was explained that it will be like having a baby, everywhere I go, the dog must go, such as fitting rooms, public restrooms, etc. I will never be alone. That's an odd thing for someone who has spent a lot of her life alone. With babies, they grow and then they go off to school eventually. With the service dog, they are a constant presence. With that, comes a sense of peace, not having to worry about missing a call or visitor or the alarm and so many other things I once took for granted when I had better hearing.

Life is full of interesting changes. I'm looking forward to the changes a furry friend will bring to our lives.

Check out Susquehanna Service Dogs here: http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/ssd/ssd.php


  1. good luck with this! My wife was on the waiting list for almost 3 years when she finally gave up and we bought our own dog... hope it doesn't take that long for you!

  2. I'm sorry it didn't move along more quickly for your wife. I've read about people getting their own dogs and having trainers work with them as well.
    Sometimes it can take up to as many as 5 years to find a good fit, from what I read at Dogs for the Deaf in Oregon. I don't mind waiting to be paired with the right personality. These are highly trained dogs that are bred and trained specifically for this.