“A dog is the only thing on earth that will love you more than you love yourself.” Josh Billings
As I turn the lights on to the Christmas tree, Pickles steps up beside me and nudges my hand. I absently stroke the top of her head. There is a silent agreement between us, dog and human; it’s that time of the year again. We recognize this place, this starting point that becomes us – the working dog and the human who so desperately needed her.
In a couple weeks it will herald the third year of our beginning, our friendship and my biggest lesson in life – how to love unconditionally. December 12th is not just an ordinary day, its Pickles arrival date in my life.
In the meantime, Pickles curls up beside the tree and I sit typing this story on my laptop. Chuckling, I can’t help but think how things have come full circle, for in a way this too resembles the beginning.
This is Pickles’ story and mine…perhaps more hers.
However the actual beginning started with me. I often mistakenly say I got Pickles a year after my encroaching deafness, in reality it was two years. The first year of my silence is another story for another day. I will say this – I fought my deafness with all I was. And yes, it was a futile battle. The quiet absence of sound would be my life from then on in. When I stopped fighting and started accepting the inevitable, I became determined to find a way back to me. You see I thought I had lost far more than my hearing and had become something less than. The reality being I had not even begun to find me - until then.
In desperation I was driven to the computer exploring every little tidbit I could find on late deafened individuals. Just as I was about to give up the ghost of finding my answer, an article highlighting working dogs for the deaf, caught my eye. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had read and how it would work to my advantage. Sadly yes, it was all about me in those days. I was lost in self pity and forlorn depreciation of life in general.
The picture above was my introduction to Pickles. I fell in love with her right then and there, more so when I discovered her story. Not only was she a Katrina survivor, she had spent the past year being passed around in shelters until the agency I obtained her from, found her. Not unlike me, Pickles was looking for a place to belong, a place to fit in.
She was the animal equivalent of me. Somehow I knew her before I ever laid eyes on her.
Pickles and I would discover all we needed to know of each other in the following two weeks after her arrival. We would be literally attached by a leash 24/7 as part of her training, to make sure she understood I was the human she would be working for. Honestly, she is a working dog with all the restrictions that come with that title and yet so much more. I no longer think it’s training but something more spirited that exist between us. Six months later I would understand that last assertion intimately.
The night before I had been sick with a lung infection, struggling to breath, weak and confined to the bed. I remember seeing Pickles pad into the room, watching me with concern in her eyes from the end of the bed before I faded off to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, Pickles was beside my bed (no small feat as there was barely enough room for her 65lb body), sitting there with her head nestled against my arm. Her bloodshot, drooping eyes signify she had been there all night, going without sleep to watch over me. I think I knew then there was much, much more to her quirky personality and me finding myself amidst the silence. She wasn’t just my working dog - she was fast becoming my teacher.
And if you’re wondering…yes, Pickles was instrumental in helping me accept my deafness. As a matter of fact, she can even be credited with me becoming a writer. How? It all began with those first few entries entailing Pickles arrival in my life.
How fitting that Pickles training with the leash ended on Christmas Eve. How perfectly she fit into my life and I hers. I get up and join Pickles staring at the tree lost in contemplation. It stands as a reminder to us of how far we’ve come. Pickled grace - indeed.
*If you’re looking to make a donation this Christmas, a chance to give another individual the miracle that is Pickles to someone else, you can do so by donating to the following agency:
International Hearing Dog, Inc.
5901 E. 89th Ave.
Henderson, CO 80640-8315
Your donations help deaf individuals who might have otherwise not been able to afford a working dog, obtain one. They work exclusively with re-homing shelter dogs. Give the gift of human connection, a gift of hearing to a deaf individual this Christmas in the form of a hearing dog.
From my heart to yours - Indigo