I remember when I found out about hearing dogs. I thought it was a pretty cool thing to have and I begged my mom to get me one so I could wake myself up and try to hear things without her help. I also wanted a dog because my life was boring and lonely besides school and dance. There are not a lot of kids around my age that I can hang out with and hearing kids are so hard to understand. I was hoping that a dog would help keep me company. I imagined that it was going to make things better and I would not be so lonely. After we applied for the dog a long time seemed to pass. I was worried if I was even going to get this dog.
Well I have waited and waited for a long time. It was about two years. I even thought that I was not going to get a dog. I used to get upset and cry a lot because it felt like it would never come. I got news in June 2006. One day I came home from school and my mom told me the N.E.A.D.S program was ready to work with me. I was extremely excited. I was so happy I could not stop smiling. N.E.A.D.S. told my mother and me that we should be prepared to stay there two weeks.
When it was time to leave the end of July we got ready for our one and a half hour drive. We said good bye to the family. My little sister was very sad. The ride was long and full of excitement. The first day of the training they described what was going to happen for the training and all other stuff like introducing each other, where we were going to stay, and then discussed what was going to happen for each day. All that talking was making me crazy. All I wanted to do was meet my dog.
When I first met Snickers for the training I was happy to see her but we had to stand like super man and not make any eye contact. We worked hard in the hot sun. I couldn’t wait to pat her and tell her I love her. Finally the day came that she could come back to the house we were staying at. That first night with her was fun but I had a hard time sleeping. Snickers felt anxious being in a new place and I felt home sick. I missed my family and my own bed at home. Eventually, I found a comfy spot and I kept peering over the bed to make sure that this wasn’t a dream. Snickers was cuddled up on her bed sound asleep.
Exerpts from email sent June 2007: Parent’s Perspective
From a parent’s perspective I think there is just no way to prepare a child of 11 for the enormous responsibility. While I think some children may be naturally predisposed to manage that task others are not. I guess because I could do it as a child and Emily seemed so invested I believed she was ready. I think I did not give enough consideration to the role her deafness plays in exacting an emotional toll of its own on a daily basis.
In any event, Snickers is healthy, I think happy to serve and does a good job for the most part….. It is hard for Snickers to not respond to my husband or me or my older daughter as we all participate in walking her at times without Emily when she refuses. Snickers does still respond to sounds appropriately but sometimes she needs prompts for the wake up as she is not always interested in getting up! . It is actually Emily who still needs to learn to be more aware of what Snickers is telling her. Snickers does understand that Emily is in charge but I think she is torn at times because my husband and I are put in the position of being more attentive to her and she will prefer our company when Emily wants to go up to her room…
In all I think this is going okay and is a work in progress. I know Emily loves Snickers and struggles with the responsibility issue and also wanting to make independent decisions about Snickers. Sometimes we are forced to override her decisions when they are not in Snickers best interest. I hope this helps in some way as you think about other child candidates.
Ginny Catalfamo Brennan