"This little ball of fur has completely changed my life"
Posted by Matt Sadler
James is a deaf 28-year-old from London who says his amazing hearing dog Cracker has completely changed his life. Here, James shares his story in his own words:
“I started losing my hearing as a toddler and I’m now profoundly deaf. My deafness has had a huge impact on every aspect of my life. I couldn’t hear important and potentially life-saving sounds, like the smoke alarm.
“I felt unsafe at home when I was on my own. Deafness created barriers for me on a daily basis. I found every day a struggle.
“I found my deafness really isolating. Apart from with my family, some of whom are also deaf, I felt like the odd one out almost everywhere.
“I have a wonderful group of family, friends, and colleagues but I always had to ask for ‘special treatment’ – I’d always have to ask people to repeat things or would need to ask for a spot at the table where I could see everyone’s lips when we were able to have social gatherings. It could be a bit hard sometimes not to feel like a burden.
“I decided to apply for a hearing dog and in 2018 I was partnered with Cracker, a lovely cockapoo, shortly before my 26th birthday. This little ball of fur has completely changed my life and has made things so much easier for me.
“He immediately made me feel so much safer at home, particularly when my wife wasn’t in. I can’t hear the doorbell or fire alarm, so having Cracker means I can be at home on my own and not have to worry. It also means that I don’t have to be constantly switched on, because I know Cracker is there listening for me, so I can relax.
“This is really important because constantly worrying about not hearing sounds and constantly trying to lipread others – whether that’s face to face while social distancing or over video calls – can be really exhausting.
“Being at work and being out and about when we were in ‘normal times’ was enormously different to how it was before I got Cracker. It still is now when I go for our daily exercise walk. People weren’t often aware that I am deaf.
“Before I got Cracker, people used to start conversations without making me aware that they had started talking to me, or they wouldn’t always remember to talk to my face without covering their mouth so that I could lipread. This made things difficult every day.
“Since I’ve had Cracker, particularly at work, people have become much more aware of the adjustments they need to make to communicate with me. This makes things so much easier.
“Cracker is my constant companion and a steady supply of happiness and love. The feeling of loneliness and isolation I felt before has completely gone because I am never alone; he’s always there to provide support, comfort, and distraction.
“I used to do everything I could to hide that I was deaf. It wasn’t something that I was proud of or acknowledged as something good about myself. Aside from my family I had no connections to the deaf community, and I avoided accepting any help that would single me out as different.
“Things are different now that I have Cracker. He’s made me much more accepting, and even proud of being deaf because he’s a very cute and engaging symbol of my needs.
“Cracker was trained by a volunteer for Hearing Dogs, whose name is Steff. Because of the excellent work Steff did, he is such a well-behaved, well-trained boy. None of the ways he has changed my life would have been possible without her, and I will be forever grateful for that.”
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