Sunday, August 15, 2010
I have a dog. A really cute dog. But a hearing or guard dog, she is not.
When I first got Maggie, an adorable Bearded Collie, from the Beardie Rescue, I had all sorts of plans for her. I had wanted a dog that looked like her all my life, but never could get one. Finally my dream had come true! I had also thought about getting a hearing or guard dog at some point, so, naturally, I figured I could make two dreams come true with one full sweep.
That dream never came to fruition.
Oh, Maggie’s a great dog. She doesn’t bite, hump legs (I think only boy dogs do that anyway), or pee in the house…usually. She doesn’t growl at strangers or drink from the toilet…most of the time. She doesn’t get into the trash or pester me all day for a snack either….for the most part. Come to think of it, Maggie doesn’t do much of anything. Unless you include laying spread eagle on the living room floor and occasionally licking herself doing something.
So, when I set off to train her, I had no idea where this would lead.
At first, I tried the use of signs, but there was no getting her to open her eyes, no matter how much “noise” I made. After a while, I figured I would use my voice at first and then ease her way into signs. Ease.
“Come here, Maggie!” Maggie lie on the floor, not even her ears twitched. “Maggie, come!” She shifted a bit, then sighed a huge sigh and went back to sleep. “Maggie, help me! I’m being attacked! Help! Help!” Maggie opened up one eye, licked her chops and returned to Dreamland.
I had to get serious. Even if I couldn’t have a hearing dog per se, I at least wanted a semi-functional guard dog.
I decided to try it out. I asked a friend, whom Maggie had not yet met, to barge in the front door, while Maggie lay sleeping (again) in the living room. I watched from the kitchen, and when the “stranger” stormed in, I started screaming, “Help! Robber! Thief! Murderer! Rapist! Help, Maggie! Help me!” Maggie slowly lifted her head, glanced at me, glanced at the “stranger,” and went back to sleep.
Nothing was working! It was driving me crazy! Do something, girl! Bite! Maim! Sic! Anything!
Finally, I had one last plan. I decided to fake my own life-threatening tragedy. I mean, she had to do something when she found her beloved owner lying on the floor with blood on her face, right? So, I got out the ketchup, poured it on my face (yuck!), stumbled into the living room, and “fainted” onto the floor in front of where she lay. I began to moan, “Ohhhh….someone…please….help…me….I’m…bleeding.” Then I gave a huge, theatrical sigh and succumbed to my demise.
I slowly opened one eye to see what Maggie’s reaction was. She was chasing cars in her sleep. Dreaming away, barking and moving her legs as if to run. I did what any unconscious victim would do. I flicked her really hard on her butt and tried again. “Help…Maggie…”
Thirty seconds later, Maggie slowly got up, stretched her front legs, then her back legs, walked up to me, and began licking the ketchup off my face. When she was done, she gave a good, long yawn, walked across the room, and went to sleep on the couch.
Instead of a victim to be rescued, I was a mid-afternoon snack.
I have a dog. A really cute dog. But a hearing or guard dog, she is not.
Friday, August 13, 2010
This weekend, my family is going away to Illinois. Actually, they left last night and won't be home till Sunday afternoon. At first, this seemed like a wonderful treat! Oh, don't get me wrong, I adore my husband and kids, but I've had the kids 27/7 since school got out and I'm downright exhausted! I need a break!
Like I said, they left last night. When I signed good-bye and waved to the van as they rode away, I admit I did feel a little empty. But I was still pretty excited about being alone to do ...nothing... for two-and-a-half days. I waved good-bye, clapped for the dog to come in, and shut the door behind me. And that's when it hit me....FEAR.
I hadn't been alone in that house overnight for years. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was alone in the house for the night. So when it started getting late, I started getting more and more anxious.
I don't think many people realize that it can be pretty darn scary when you can't hear a thing. Turning off all the lights (well, most, anyway), locking the doors, going to bed alone...with no way of knowing if someone was breaking in, knocking on my door to warn me of something, calling me (I only have a small light attached directly to my VP, which is downstairs in the dining room, and I can't afford more), or if there was a storm and a tornado hit.
I am poor and cannot afford signals and such. I have to work with what I have...a text pager and email. I do have a landline phone downstairs for the other members of my family or for emergency calls to 911. I can also call 911 through my VP, but that, too, is downstairs, and I hardly ever use it. I'm talking an inch of dust!
So, if someone were to break into my home, there's no way I would even know...until they killed me. Then I could look down from heaven and smite them. But I have no way of contacting 911 from where I sleep. Also, as amazing at it sounds, the last time a HUGE storm hit (I'm talking HUGE), I didn't even know it had rained till I woke up the next morning, looked outside, and saw trees laying in the street. So, if a tornado warning blares, I wouldn't know it.
So, suffice it to say, it's scary for me to be alone in my home. The only relieving fact is that I do get downtime and things might not go wrong. But is it enough to get me through the weekend? Heck, yeah! I'm alone! I'm alone! I'm alone! No kids! No kids! No kids!
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I believe that Deaf people, not being disabled (except by hearing people who choose to make it seem that way), can have power. Deaf power! Ever since that wonderful day in 1988, when we succeeding in ensuring that the president of Gallaudet University would, indeed, be deaf, I think we’ve been taking more steps to show it. However, the other night at dinner, I got to taste just how far from arriving we are.
It was interesting, actually. The previous day, I had gone to lunch with a new Deaf friend. We entered, gestured that we needed a seating of two, and followed the hostess to a booth. Once the waitress saw that we were Deaf, she was very cooperative. We pointed to what we wanted and figured out a way to convey the rest. It was a nice lunch with a new friend.
Then, the next night, my hearing husband decided to take me to dinner to get out of the house and have some alone time away from the kids. When we entered the restaurant, we were both greeted with welcomes. Because they added more than the usual, “Hi! Welcome,” Kenny interpreted for me. I responded directly to the hostess. She stood there with a deer-in-the-headlights look.
After we were seated, the waitress came up and greeted both of us. We both smiled warmly and said, “Hello.” When she asked what I wanted to drink, I showed her on the menu, making it obvious that I was deaf. That was all she needed to know. For the rest of the meal, anytime she would approach us to ask us a question, she would get my husband’s response and not even look in my direction. Often, she would come when my head was down, ask Kenny how things were, and leave. Never tried to get a response from me. Doesn’t it matter if I’m OK, too? Obviously not to her.
Then, as always, when it was time to get the check, it went directly to Kenny. No asking. No wondering. Sure, that might have been because he’s a male and I’m a female, but I think a lot had to do with the fact that, since I am deaf, she assumed the hearing person would pay for it. Why? My money’s good, too. But that’s how it always goes.
Like it or not, as deafies, hearing people will always give the power back to other hearing people. Doesn’t matter if we’re black, white, male, female, young, old. If we’re deaf and there’s a hearie around, they are the ones other hearies give the power to. And it stinks.
Let’s hope better times for the future.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Standing at the shelf in the crowded bookstore I was completely engrossed in the book I held. It wasn’t until some very elderly lady performed a full body slam on me that I was shaken from my trance. My reaction at the time? Just a bewildered expression on my face. I had said nothing to her. What could I have done in that situation? If someone had been with me, I could have signed to them to let the woman know I was deaf, but no one was with me. Should I have written her a note to ask what the heck her problem was? I’m really not sure. All I know is that, even though that happened some time ago, I still get steamed up about it. What I would say to her if I could go back in time and do it again!
The upsetting part of the whole ordeal is that, if she had simply touched my shoulder, none of this would have been a problem. I would have seen that she needed by and I would have happily stepped aside. The fact is that she must have stood there asking me to move for quite a while before she became so annoyed at my “ignoring” her that she decided to just ram me with all that she had. I simply don’t understand it. Why, in all that time, while waiting for me to respond, didn’t she simply reach out and touch me?
Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon. Oh, the body slam might not be the norm, but hearing people have a very strong fear of being touched or touching someone else. So, rather than be impolite and place her hand on my shoulder, she decided the best bet was to nicely (and quietly, I’m sure, since it was a bookstore) ask me to step aside so she could through. When this didn’t work—over and over and over again—she continued until she completely lost it and tore into me. Makes sense. (Sarcasm.)
As a Deaf person, I’ve run into this question often: How do we (hearing people) get your attention? Most of the time, it seems self-explanatory, but I’m starting to discover that that term may not exist anymore. So here are the basics:
If you’re out there in the world and you come across someone who doesn’t respond to your spoken request, please do not assume that that person is a jerk and get angry. With over 200 million people in American with a hearing loss, there is always a good chance that they may, indeed, be one of them. If you find out later that they’re not, then go ahead and proceed as you see fit. But call me first, so I can watch.
If you’re standing next to the deaf or hard of hearing person of whom you need their attention, gently, but firmly, place your hand on their shoulder. No poking, please. I have welts all over my body from people whose index finger should be considered a lethal weapon.
If you’re not within touching distance, do not throw things at them or even toward them in an attempt to get them to look at you. If there’s someone standing nearer to them than you, ask them to get their attention and then direct them back to you.
In some instances, it may be OK to flick a light switch. Be careful with this though. You will end up getting the entire room’s attention. Not to mention, if you do it for too long, it could be considered rude. Well, actually, anything can be considered rude if you do it inconsiderably.
For example, if you’re sitting with a deaf person at a table and you tap it to get their attention, that would most likely be fine. However, if you bang on the table as hard as you can and do this for a considerable amount of time, that would be considered rude. Not to mention that you’d probably scare the hell out of the person sitting with you.
The best way to get someone’s attention, if it’s possible, is to wave your hand and see if they catch it in their peripheral vision. Deaf people are very visually adept and we notice stuff like that a lot more readily than others.
Some ways not to get our attention? Don’t throw things in our general direction, pelt us with small items, jam your fingers into our arms, stomp on a concrete floor, snap, clap, or blast the television.
One time I was in the hospital and started to walk away from a nurse. I was halfway down the hall when she realized she needed more information. She began calling after me, then snapping, and finally clapping as loudly as possible and yelling short, staccato notes of, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” It wasn’t until my hearing friend came around the corner and saw what was happening that I actually discovered she needed my attention. Duh!
It always intrigues me the way this world works. Getting a deaf or hard of hearing person’s attention wouldn’t seem to be that much of a bother, but apparently anything that isn’t super easy (read: anything where you can’t just yell, “Hey, you,” and everything is solved) is considered bothersome to most hearing people.