Anyone who knows me well knows I love dogs. I haven’t owned a dog in my lifetime….yet….
One day I will and that dog will be spoiled! 🙂 I definitely want a medium-large sized dog with lots of energy.
One of my early childhood memory was when I was 4. I was at my cousin’s 6th birthday party. He used to get one “big” gift every year. To find that gift, he had to solve clues (scavenger hunt). I remember following him all over the yard until he found his last clue which led him to his father’s pick-up truck. In the back of the truck was this adorable puppy who I immediately loved.
My cousin named her Blondie.
I learned I enjoyed being around animals. I quickly learned, as a deaf person, that you didn’t have to hear to understand what they wanted.
I wanted to be a veterinarian for quite a bit. I think a few people were surprised I didn’t end up in that field. I remember in the 2nd grade writing a report about how I wanted to work with sharks. In 4th grade, I made a dog-shaped book with a story about dogs. One of my favorite memories as a kid was catching frogs and putting them into my mini pool for Barbie dolls. Anyways, you get the idea I was slightly obsessed with dogs and animals for a while. 🙂
Every time I visited people who had pets I would immediately make a beeline for that animal and just constantly tag after them (poor animals, lol). It was my way of escaping awkward situations that would often arise when I was around hearing people. Me feeling left out because I didn’t understand what was going on, people becoming impatient because I couldn’t lipread everything, me not being sure of myself, etc. I could communicate with animals in an entirely different way and could understand them. They understood me.
Animals never judged me. They never questioned how much I could understand. They never left me out. They didn’t care if I wore hearing aids or not. They didn’t care if I couldn’t hear.
As an adult, I still find myself making a beeline for other people’s pets. One perfect example was at the annual picnic/bbq party at my graduate program director’s house a few years ago….she had a couple of dogs. They were lifesavers for me. In situations where people are constantly mingling and I’m the only deaf person there….I will oftentimes find things to ensure I don’t feel 100% left out. I will play with kids, try to get people involved in playing games (e.g. ping pong, frisbee, throwing a ball around, etc.), or play with pets. A big part of that tendency is also my personality. I am active. I like to get out there and move around. However, I think being deaf does amplify that.
People’s pets are also great conversation starters. Oftentimes when I play with a person’s pet…I will either ask about their pet or they will start telling me about their pets. It’s SO easy to lipread stories about animals. So many of the words are predictable and so are the stories. I’ve also found sometimes people become more animated while telling a story. This makes it so much easier to follow along while lipreading. It’s a great ice breaker.
Another example of how I find company with pets at events was at a recent birthday party for an aunt. While several of my relatives do go to great degrees to communicate with me….it is difficult at gatherings with several different conversations going on all at once and when it’s not 1 on 1. My reaction upon arriving was to hang out with my dad’s cousin’s dog who was a sweetie. It helped get rid of that “feeling alone/left out” moment and gave my parents/relatives a break from trying to interpret what was going on. It also helped a couple of people who are sometimes uncomfortable talking to me in fear I won’t understand them….become more comfortable. They wanted to tell me about a family member they loved (their cute dog).
When visiting people with pets I end up relying more on the pet than my hearing aids/CI. They react so much to sounds and I’m so used to reading body language. Those 2 characteristics together means I am more aware of what is going on around me.
I’ve always been shy using my voice because it’s not clear and would oftentimes avoid using it with people I wasn’t familiar with. Many times I would find myself talking to pets or giving verbal command. They didn’t care what I sounded like. They didn’t correct my speech. If they didn’t reply to a verbal command, I would simply pronounce it over and over in different ways until they reacted correctly to the command I was giving. In a way, they were my speech therapists for simple verbal commands. 😉