Do You Really Need A Hearing Dog?
Written by Bug
Getting a hearing dog to work sounds for you in your home and possibly go with you into public – can be a life-changing experience. But it’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone. And it will be frustrating at times. Not everyone would agree, that’s understanding. In the past I thought that would be ridiculous to have a hearing dog just because you are deaf. I love all kind of animals. I love dogs. I respect the people with guide dogs and service dogs but hearing dogs? “Why do you really need one?”, I thought. I could do on my own without help…I didn’t need a “helper” in my life. I didn’t need my mommy to wake me up. However, I changed my opinion about the hearing dog. Here’s my story.
One day I worked at the Aspen Camp School for Deaf in Colorado. I went backpacking with the campers in the woods. On that day a camper was wandering around and disappeared. All of us were looking for him. I knew he had a whistle with him but how could any of us hear him? No hearing person was present. We searched for him for about 2 hours. I told myself, “I wish I have a hearing dog….” I sent my staff out of the mountain to contact the police. The rangers, searchers, sheriff, and firefighters came. There were about 50 people searchers looking for him. 12 hours later my camper was found because he blew his whistle. He was fine. He explained that he was curious and walked off the trail and got lost. He slept beside a dead log because he was tired.
After that I thought about getting a dog for some reasons. I just wanted to have a companion. Another reason was that I lived alone. I contacted International Hearing Dogs, Inc and applied for a dog. I got a beautiful trained hearing dog. She was a black mixed collie and retriever. Her name was Fancy. It was overwhelming to have her as a new family member in my life. She was more than ready to work sounds for me in my home and anywhere I went. It was a life-changing experience. This has given me a stronger sense of independence and security I didn’t realize how much I missed the “sound” around me.
Someone tried to break in my place, my dog was there to scare some burglars. How did I know? My doorknob was unlocked and open. Other time I was driving on a long road. Fancy jumped in the front seat from the back seat, she alerted me. I pulled over. She was pointing her nose at something so I opened my hood and found a broken fan belt. I was impressed! Other time I trained Fancy to search for the lost kids. She did very well by finding me the playful kids hiding behind the bush and woods. She would let me know when there was a person at the door. I thought it would be nice to have one, in case a fire alarm went off or something. At night Fancy would jump on the bed to make sure I was asleep before she went off duty. She would jump on me if I didn’t wake up when my alarm flashed. Something she enjoyed more than chasing squirrels. She was my best friend.
On the Flag Day, June 14 2002, Fancy was doing what she usually did in my vehicle on warm summer nights, hang her head out the window with her ears flapping, barking at the cows, sheep and horses. I noticed a truck traveling in the wrong lane. I flashed my lights warning him but the driver didn’t react. The driver crashed into us. I remember spinning around and watching the windshield shatter. I was hurt and bleeding. When we came to stop, I reached out to Fancy. She was scared and hurtful, she nipped on my palm. Fancy was bleeding. I could see her bones sticking out from beneath her fur. Most bones inside her broke. I pulled her to my legs and laid her face on my lap. She was looking at me. It was the most painful experience. I think she was trying to tell me good bye. My teardrops fell.
I was taken to the hospital where the state patrol later told me my dog had died. An officer said he was heartbroken to see my dog so he put her in his state patrol car. My body still hurts. My spirit and heart were broken. State Patrol officer said that driver was arrested because he was a habitual drunk.
Four days later I paid tribute to my hearing dog Fancy, with a full- blown funeral including music, spiritual readings and no fewer than 40 mourners. I believe animals have souls and spirits, the same as people. I buried my best beloved hearing dog Fancy at the Precious Memories Pet Cemetery near a creek because she liked water. “My last mile with you will never end. I love you. Eric,“ the headstone reads.