"My hearing dog Marshall saves my life on a daily basis"
Posted by Matt Sadler
Joanna Jones was at her lowest ebb when she applied for a hearing dog.
For most of her life Joanna has battled anorexia, anxiety and depression as well as deafness. Now 59 years old, she feels able to share her story for the first time, and how a sweet black and white Cocker Spaniel named Marshall saves her life on a daily basis.
Because of the Coronavirus crisis, and a change in treatment for an autoimmune disorder, Joanna is in the ‘vulnerable group’ and is unable to leave her home.
While Joanna says lockdown triggers frustrations and worry, Marshall is giving her a reason to smile and is reminding her every day of the importance of living in the moment.
Joanna tells her story in her own words:
“I remember clearly the day I submitted my application to Hearing Dogs. I was really, really struggling with very black thoughts. This was me desperately reaching out for a lifeline.
“Growing up I’d always felt the odd one out. The family set up was not good and it caused a great deal of self-doubt and low self-esteem. I had a really unhappy childhood. I felt unlovable and unlikeable but believed this to be all my fault. I’ve carried those feelings of chronic guilt from my childhood throughout most of my adult life.
“My way of coping, of finding some means of control in my life, manifested itself in an eating disorder. I’ve lived with anorexia since I was about eight.
“In my early forties I began to struggle at work when using the phone. I couldn’t follow conversation. I was referred to an audiologist who told me I’d probably been severely deaf since childhood.
“A decade later, increasing deafness and tinnitus along with declining mental health, resulted in me feeling more and more cut off from life. I withdrew from social situations. I avoided shops, banks, cafes – anywhere I thought people might try and speak to me. Eventually I had to leave my job. Not working made me feel even more isolated and alone.
“Everything unravelled. At my lowest point I considered ending my own life. A friend suggested I should get a dog. That’s when I contacted Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
“Discovering my application had been accepted gave me hope. Then in April last year Marshall bounded into my world and totally transformed my life. His exuberance and happy nature have truly rubbed off on me. I can honestly say he saves my life on a daily basis. It’s having something immediate, you know, he’s right there, he’s on my lap, he’s having a cuddle. He’s my protective factor. He needs me and I need him.
“I’m much more relaxed now. He’s a very tactile dog, he loves his cuddles just as much as I do. Just being able to touch him is soothing and my anxiety levels go down.
“Marshall offers peace of mind to my family as well. Before I was partnered with Marshall, I was often home alone. One night the smoke detector went off and I didn’t hear it. Luckily one of our daughters happened to be staying, so she was able to wake me. It turned out to be a false alarm, but it showed us how vulnerable I was to danger. Now they don’t worry as they trust Marshall to alert me.
“Since having Marshall my life keeps getting better and better. His uniform indicates that I’m deaf and this gives me confidence. Whereas before, I would avoid talking to people, now I’m far less anxious about not understanding them so I no longer hide away in the shadows.
“It feels like he’s been here forever, he’s just wonderful, I’ve invested in him emotionally... you can’t put a price on it. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable he is to me. He’s so precious. I was introverted, withdrawn and lacking in confidence before. I’d hop aisles to avoid seeing people. I’d check streets to make sure I wouldn’t bump into anybody I knew. Now there’s no missing us, he’s such a visible dog in his burgundy jacket. Marshall has pulled me out of the shadows and into the light – literally.
“Marshall affirms me. He gave me the confidence to be normal and upfront about my hearing loss. This has helped me to own my deafness. It feels liberating.
“I’m no longer afraid of going to a new place. I just say, “Come on Marshall, we’ll do this together”. I couldn't do it without Marshall. I just love him to bits. He has helped me realise that we are all loveable just for who we are, and he gives me that message very loud and very clear, every day.
“Before the Coronavirus lockdown, I did wonder why a dog can get so excited by anyone walking past the front window. Now I know – it’s exciting to see signs of life!
“While not being able to leave the house can trigger frustrations or worry about how long it’ll last, Marshall reminds me of the importance of living in the moment. He accepts the new normal and makes the best of it, which is very inspiring.”
Meet the pups in our Puppy Training Scheme
These cute puppies are training to become life-changers. Sponsor them from £3 a month and follow their journey as they learn how to help a deaf person.
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