Want to get on my last nerve? Enjoy listening to me Sputter as I desperately try to spit out a response? Want to see this kitty’s claws?
this puppy’s teeth?
this chicky’s – erm – umm – BEAK?
Then tell me I can’t do something. Heck, I’m not even the “first born” in my family! The birth order norm fairy forgot to send the memo when I was born – “2 of 4”. I can be a stubborn behind. Sometimes this is very, very BAD. But sometimes? Sometimes this is very, very GOOD.
Do you know that I credit my “can do” attitude to my hound dog? The fact that I can say, “Watch me!” can be attributed to the fact that I am partnered with an assistance dog from Fidos For Freedom, Inc.
Yes. Perhaps I would have found my courage without her. I may have discovered I am resilient on my own. I may have responded to a “Hey! You can’t do that!” with the response of “Oh yeah? WATCH ME!” by simply growing and maturing. However, I can exactly pin point the moment in time when I grew self-esteem muscles.
I was matched with Chloe in May of 2007. Shortly after that, Chloe came home to live with me and to do what she’d been trained to do. Alert me to sounds I could not hear. (Eventually she received additional training and skills to help me with my balance). I use to really enjoy bubble baths. This was before numerous concussions and worsening Meniere’s disease made the risk of drowning to real. Chloe was parked on the bath mat while I enjoyed that lazy bubble bath. I can’t tell you how startled I was to suddenly find my dog IN the bathtub with me and licking my face. My husband popped his head in the door and said, “Your phone was ring… ing. Ummm. Why is Chloe in the bathtub with you?”
From that moment on, I knew I’d never miss a phone call.
… or alarm clock, or not be able to pick up something I’d dropped, or climb stairs safely, or know if someone was behind me in a store, and friends? The list goes on…
One of the early commands I learned was “Chloe – WATCH me“. Because I talk to my dog and would often say, “Chloe – look-it that squirrel, – or – look-it that bunny”, I learned NOT to say, “Chloe LOOK”. It would make her eagerly look around at whatever CRITTER I had seen before her! However, if I say, “WATCH me“, she looks right at me. She may cock her head and obviously listen for a command; much more than just meeting my brown eyes. However, she knows that “WATCH me” means “make eye contact – pay attention”.
Chloe actually tells me “WATCH me” as well. Chloe does it with her ears and head. When her head swings in a specific direction and her ears go up, I : 1) look at her and pin point where she is looking/listening, 2) turn to look myself. It may mean I need to step out of the way of something or someone.
“WATCH me” doesn’t always mean literally, however. I was so cracked up at a meeting I attended recently. I was seated next to a person with low vision. We were in between speakers and were visiting while we waited for the next session to start. About 10 yards away, I noticed this man and lady plug up a power strip and run an extension cord over to their row in the auditorium. I interrupted my friend and said, “Hang on – they can’t do that! I’ll be right back. Watch me!”
I stood up and walked over to the couple now fussin’ with how the cord should lay across the aisle. I put Chloe in a sit/stay and said, “Oh I’m sorry. You can’t put that cord there as there are a bunch of us in this area who cannot navigate safely with it stretched across the aisle“. They looked at me with a startled eyes and then around me to the section I was sitting in. I could tell by the dawning comprehension on their faces, that they spotted the service dogs, walkers, scooters, and canes.
“Ooops. Sorry about that!” and they worked together to pick it up and roll it back into a nice handful of cords and plugs.
I casually walked back to my group and my friend said, “I saw that! Fist bump!” and she held up her fist for a “you go girl” moment.
Then it hit me. When I walked away I had told my friend with low vision, “WATCH me“. When I returned she said, “I saw that!” I started laughing. Not the kind of southern girl lady-like giggle. Oh no. I was hee-hawing. I managed to snicker out loud in between SNORTS what I had said – and what she had said. I nearly laughed myself into the floor. Yup. The kind of laugh where I had tears of mirth running down my cheeks and very unladylike hiccoughs to boot. My friend was laughing just as hard. She said, “We’re a pair, aren’t we?”
You “see”, my friend? You don’t have to have 20/20 vision to be able to WATCH ME. You can pay attention with your eyes, your ears, or your hands. You can pay attention with your heart. You can pay attention – by PAYING ATTENTION.
It’s a focus.
It’s an attitude.
One of my favorite quotes (in the opening picture above) is by C.S. Lewis: “Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will turn the necessity to glorious gain”.
I recently had someone take me to task for self-identifying as a person with disABILITY. She argued that I was basically admitting I was unable to do something. I thought, “Well how wrong is THAT?”
Every person I know who lives with disability is actually someone who has learned how to do something IN SPITE OF challenges. You find a new way to do something. You learn how to do things safely even though it may not be the way a task is done by most folks. Perhaps you have assistance because of a device, service dog, or have simply learned to ask for help.
Yesterday while on campus, I needed to drop something off at the Disability Support Services office. My balance was “good” yesterday, so I exited a door that actually opened into a courtyard that had stairs bordering the perimeter. I felt confident to go up the 20 some odd stairs with Chloe. When I reached the top, an employee was standing there with big eyes, having seen me take a slow but steady climb to the top.
“Hey!” I said cheerfully, and stepped around her. I looked up and was startled by a mass of people coming out of the gymnasium towards me on a very narrow sidewalk. I looked for an alternative path and spotted a way around through the mulch and picnic area.
Sensing what I was about to do, the lady beside me said, “Maybe you should wait“. I know she meant well. I felt no criticism, nor did I feel she was talking down to me. But… I was in a hurry, and I was having a good balance day. I had my service dog right beside me.
So I responded, “Oh, I’m ‘good’, no worries…” and proceeded to carefully pick my way around tree roots, pine cones, mulch and twigs. I didn’t retort, “WATCH me“, but if one could interpret the courage and attitude from my squared shoulders and confident stride, you would have “read that” in my departure.
Chloe and Fidos For Freedom were the “shot in the arm” I needed to become confident and independent. You may have found your own way to adapt. Having a disability does NOT mean you cannot do something. As a matter of fact, chances are if you tell someone who is differently-abled they cannot do something, you may discover by the set of their jaw, the determined look, and confident square of their shoulders that they most certainly CAN. Their body language screams,
© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal