Over the years, I have gained a better understanding of how much being deaf hurts me. For starters, I cannot hear birds chirping, friends calling, high harmonics playing, etc... There are so many bad things and faults which I can pin on my hearing loss and hearing aids. I can blame my paranoia around water on them; I can blame my social awkwardness on them; I can blame lack of money in my college fund on them; I can blame all sort of things on deafness and hearing aids. But there is one thing that I could blame them for but I won't blame them - instead I want to thank them. I could blame my dog on my deafness.
Before I continue, with how deafness rose from being a curse to a blessing, let me introduce you to my dog, Oreo. You may be familiar with him from “The Talk” already. He’s one big bundle of love and trouble. He’s both mischievous and sweet. He loves eating kleenex and food, along with sharing the loving and taking naps. He’s part of our family, and nothing can ever change that now; however, if I was born hearing, he would have never been part of our family.
Here’s what would have happened if I was born hearing. My parents would rejoice at having a healthy little baby girl. I would grow up normal-ish, maybe my speech would be perfect and I would be the popular girl at high school (wishful thinking here). I’m sure at some point I would have asked for a dog, or a cat, or a pony; I may even have begged to have a four-legged creature to become part of the family. But the answer would always be the same, no.
My mom grew up having zero pets. Animals were intimidating to take care of; a horse was too big; my mom was allergic to cats; and dogs were too mischievous.
Now when my parents got married, my dad had to agree to three things - no trucks, no moving to New Mexico, and absolutely no dogs! Well, I already told you I’m a New Mexican, and we have a dog, and there’s a truck in the driveway of my house.
When my parents learned I was deaf, they did all the research to find the right audiologist, the support groups, and the accommodations needed for deaf children, including, possibly, a hearing dog. By the time we moved to New Mexico and I was in grade school, I really wanted a dog. I was too young to meet the criteria for an official hearing dog, so my parents decided to get a dog to be a hearing buddy for me. Oreo was a sweet puppy, fitting easily in my dad’s hand and my arms. We potty trained him and took him to puppy kindergarten. When he was ready to begin training as a hearing dog, we discovered that the hearing dog trainer in New Mexico had left the state! Now what should we do with a dog who barks at mailman and get into trash cans? Our answer, turn him into a family member.
He never turned into a hearing dog, but he’s a lap dog, a loving dog, a bio-vacuum, a dog to cry on, a party entertainer, and a great quasi-brother. I can not imagine my family without him, but we would never have gotten him, if it was not for my deafness. So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my deafness and most especially, Oreo. Thank you Oreo!