I consider myself to be truly lucky to have such a wonderful hearing dog. Ivy, has been with me for a number of years now and life just wouldn’t be the same without her. The peace of mind she has offered me is priceless and she has helped me through some incredibly difficult times.

A Picture of rocky, Claire's dog

I am sure that every recipient of a hearing dog thinks their dog is something special (and of course they are right) but Hearing Dogs for Deaf people really did a good job when they matched the two of us. Initially I wasn’t sure about her, I had asked for a big dog and Ivy wasn’t that. She’s a Yorkipoo (Yorkshire terrier and poodle mix). I saw pictures of her and couldn’t really see how big she was and then we met… To say I was underwhelmed initially was an understatement; my cat was bigger than her and I have just never been one for lap dogs.

Over the course of the week training together she won me round though. She definitely has little dog syndrome and a bit of a chip on her shoulder due to her size. She’s not frightened of any dog and will put them all in their place. Quite honestly she has balls of steel (metaphorically speaking of course) and nothing fazes her. She is a bit of a princess, expecting to be treated as such and the killer stare comes out when things do not meet her expectations. Heaven forbid she should be expected to lie on a hard floor at any time.   But once you dig down a little she’s an incredibly sensitive, loyal and loving dog who responds to people’s moods and is always ready to offer a cuddle when needed. She’s a bit of a workaholic and takes her job very seriously. Let’s just say we have lots in common (although I am definitely not a princess). Our bond was forged in that first week and continues to this day.

When I applied for Ivy I was only able to see the positives; a dog who is trained to behave and be obedient already; a dog who could come with me everywhere so I wouldn’t have to worry about leaving a dog at home; a dog who would be able to alert me to sounds and make my life easier. These are all true.   Of course, a hearing dog is amazing and I am incredibly grateful to Hearing Dogs for Deaf people, but people never talk about the difficulties of life with a hearing dog.You only ever hear about the positives. I for one think that this is unhelpful and people need to be aware of the pitfalls.

In my view having a hearing dog is in some ways is like having another child. Bear with me with this if you’re shaking your head and thinking I am nuts. Having a hearing dog instantly means that your day revolves around your dog. All your breaks at work revolve around making sure your dog is ok, taking her out to the toilet and for a walk. If you make any plans the first thing you need to consider is if these are suitable for your dog. You shouldn’t be away from your working dog too much as this weakens your bond. I fact, I have spent more time over the years with Ivy than I have my own son – there’s no dropping her off to school or grandparents for a bit of a break. Your dog’s needs are always at the forefront of your mind and these needs can and often do limit your activities.   Having a good routine is important for a hearing dog, time is needed to be spent with them grooming and training. Training is an ongoing thing throughout the life of your dog.

Just like with a child, if you’re going out there’s a checklist of things you need to make sure you have with you and do before you go. Having a hearing dog means everyday things take longer and your attention and thoughts throughout the day are on your dog. Then there’s the attention that you receive when you are out. Everyone wants to talk to you about your dog and give your dog some love. My son was particularly cute (well I think so) when he was little and old ladies were always stopping me to talk to him, the same can be said of Ivy. But the attention that Ivy receives far surpasses that. People point at her and I constantly hear ‘ ahhhhhh’ everywhere I go. Having Ivy with me often means that I am the centre of attention, whether I want to be or not. Furthermore people are more interested in Ivy than me. When I bump into a previous colleague I can guarantee the first question is always ‘ how is Ivy?’ I don’t mind because as a mother you soon learn to be second fiddle anyway.

Then there are the refusals. People often do not understand that Ivy is an assistance dog and the legal rights that this brings. I am constantly approached by staff everywhere I go, who tell me that no dogs are allowed. Often just explaining that she’s an assistance dog is enough but not always. This can become tiresome and draining. I fully appreciate that I may be sounding ungrateful now and I promise you this isn’t the case. Had I known the pitfalls before I had Ivy, I am sure I would have requested her anyway but the point is I was incredibly naive and I didn’t. Assistance dogs are amazing but there’s still a lot that society can do to make life easier for their owners. People need to be educated more on the rights of assistance dogs and how to identify them. They also need to learn to leave them be.

I can honestly say I do not regret having Ivy for one minute, she’s a crucial part of my family and I would be lost without her. Let’s be honest children make our life harder but the same can be said for them. The joy that our kids bring us is immense and we love them with our heart and soul. There are lots of blogs out there documenting the trials and tribulations of life with children and yet there is very little written about the difficulties of having an assistance dog. This needs to change.

About The Author

Claire has worked with Deaf children for a number of years, initially as an Educational Communicator and then as a teacher. She recently moved into working in the community to support Deaf adults as a Community Support Worker. She is chairperson of Bedfordshire Deaf Children’s Society and secretary for Luton Deaf Football Club. She has also provided Deaf Awareness training to various organisations. Claire has her level 2 British Sign Language Certificate although she has been signing from a young age as she is deaf herself. Initially Claire was a hearing aid user but after losing her residual hearing several years ago she has had a Cochlear Implant. Claire is often accompanied to work by her hearing dog Ivy.

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