Helping to Change a Fearful Heart

Kyersten and Tyco at Gambrill State Park, hiking near our home.

The Fearful Heart of a Dog

My family and I recently adopted a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound named Tyco.  Tyco is a year old male and came from a local rescue .  The rescue had picked him up from a shelter in Pennsylvania.  We have a form that his previous family filled out when they took Tyco to the pound to give him up.  All the problems they claimed Tyco had, we have never seen… but then again we don’t have him chained in the yard like they did.

My trainer (and friend) actually “found” Tyco for us, and they as a rescue always do some preliminary testing with a dog they take in for fostering.  She had told us that he was not aggressive nor mean at all.  However, although she didn’t think Tyco had been abused, it was obvious he had been hit.  When we first brought Tyco home, he was very timid around my husband and 17-year-old son.  It may be that he was not treated kindly by the men in his previous home.

Therapy that Works!

Tyco, like most puppies, chews.  When he’d pick up an iPod to chew on, (something my teens have now learned to not leave lying around), I’d say in an authoritative tone, “Tyco…. DROP IT!”  He’d drop it and sit apologetically with his ears down.  I’d come towards him to pick it up and say, “Good boy!  Good ‘drop it!’ “, and he’d cower and look away.

If we were all in the back yard “playing hard” with our canine family members, he’d cower in fear if we ran up to him to tussle over a ball… dropping it and cringing away.  So, I did what any good dog owner would do with a dog with a problem when people ran up to him in play.  I began running at him all the time in the back yard… throwing my arms around his neck and cooing, and praising him like crazy.  I gave instructions for the rest of the family to do the same.  He quickly realized that these boisterous “Tyco interceptions”, only meant lots of belly rubs and scratches behind the ears!

We’ve had Tyco for 6 weeks now, and he is still a little timid when verbally disciplined, but has really come a long way.  We taught him that we can be loud and even authoritative, but that we’d never ever hit him.  When he stops doing what we are fussing at him for, we immediately change our tone and praise him like crazy.  He’s “getting it”.  He wags his tail and “grins” at any family member loudly headed his way in a full sprint!

Denise with Chloe (who is off duty), brave enough to hike miles from home

The Fearful Heart of Someone New to Hearing Loss

Whether you lose your hearing suddenly, or have a progressive loss, it is not easy to go from hearing “fine” – to hearing poorly.  Every individual has their own issues.  These vary from person to person, due to factors which include: gender, age, relationship status, self-esteem, and even “faith history”.

My first reaction to hearing loss?  I dropped out of life. I holed up in my home and “waved a white flag of surrender”.  I felt powerless to fight the self-imposed isolation, and my self-esteem plummeted.  I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and I’ve always been grateful I wasn’t working outside the home.  I’m sure I would have quit work unprofessionally and with a chip on my shoulder, certain that the hearing people I worked with were out to get me.  As it was my marriage and friendships imploded, and activities in my kid’s school and our church came screeching to a halt!

Therapy that Works!

Patiently and stubbornly my husband helped me see all that I still had to live for… in spite of not hearing well.  Even my audiologist handed me a flier about a support group that met in her offices one Saturday a month.  (Don’t you wish all audiologists cared enough about their patients to give them support information that will help them when they are not an an appointment WITH THEM?)

At the time HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) was SHHH (Self-help for Hard of Hearing People).  Self help?  My first reaction was that I wanted someone ELSE to help me… I didn’t want to help myself.  I was a whiny, bitter, angry, young woman.  Finally, a friend at church who happened to be the leader of the support group, talked me into attending.  Part of going to a support group is the satisfaction and “growth” one experiences when you reach out to help someone who needs it more than you.  I needed plenty of help… AND FOUND IT.

No organization is perfect, and HLAA has it’s faults as well as benefits.  (On the side-bar of my blog, you will see the links to numerous organizations that help people with hearing loss.  All provide great resources, and serve a purpose).  In a support group, I was able to find people just like me… those who had lost their hearing later in life.  This meant the WORLD to me.

Now I am part of a hearing loss support group in Maryland.  I look for people with a fearful heart.  They are easy to spot!  They look like what I saw in my own mirror every day for a long time.  Sometimes that person needs somebody to catch their eye and then sprint towards them with open arms and praise them like crazy!  Sometimes a “fearful heart person”, needs another peer to quietly listen and empathize.  I’ve even met people that I could tell needed me to gently scold “DROP IT”.  Their fear and pain were destroying who they were meant to be.  They needed help to recognize that.

I see some of those changed people every month at support group meetings.  They don’t wag their tails like crazy, but their smile of welcome is like a beam of sunshine shot straight from what was once a fearful heart.  They hug my neck, but only briefly… someone has just walked into the building with a fearful heart that they recognize needs THEM.

The thing I love about HLAA, is that even if you do not have access to a local chapter that meets physically as a group, they offer support, networking, friends and advice through their online chapter and message boards as well.  You can live ANYWHERE, and find the help your late-deafened fearful heart needs!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

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2 thoughts on “Helping to Change a Fearful Heart

  1. Denise,

    I found your blog through Julie, over at Hearding Grasshoppers. This post REALLY spoke to me. We recently found out my son is hard of hearing, and we aren’t 100% of the extent yet. Its a very scary new world, and I feel SOOOO uninformed and overwhelmed. I think I qualify as a fearful heart person 🙂 If only there were more hours in the day, I would have the time to go and research things, argue with Early Intervention, figure out what test results mean, etc. The number 1 challenge with us is the lack of time. My husband and I both work at least 2 jobs, and then have a third on the side, just to pay the bills and copays for the baby’s medical needs. We feel just….I guess, lost, and very fearful, because we know we don’t know enough, but we don’t know how to solve the problem.

    On top of it, I am seriously concerned that my husband’s hearing (from a totally unrelated nasty case of Lyme disease a few years ago that took 70% of hearing in his left ear) is getting worse….I don’t know how much more of the “honey, would you please just LISTEN TO ME?” I can say 🙂 Frustrating for him, and frustrating for me, to be sure!

    Thanks for posting the bit about the HLAA, I can check them out too! I’m adding you to the list of blogs I will check out!

  2. Hello Ambulance Mommy!

    I think you might benefit from information you can find at HLAA. There is a great deal of info online, as well as a place to “connect” with people online.

    For your son, you would probably benefit from contacting A.G. Bell more as they deal primarily with children and families who have a child that has hearing loss. Their website is also listed on my blog on the sidebar.

    I hear the “help I’m floundering” in your voice in spite of my own hearing loss! GRIN. I’ve been there! It does get better, and knowledge + educating yourself makes it easier to cope. If I can help in any specific ways, please let me know. You can email me at denise.portis@gmail.com

    Denise

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