Month: April 2013

Hiking HoH


Today was so nice out the dog got walked twice.  In fact, I awoke early and did the first tour of the neighborhood while the sky was still brightening – and also took some photos for the photoblog.  Later the roomie took the dog on another peregrination of the local streets.  About 10 a.m. I decided to take him for a longer walk so we drove to Weir Hill.  I should have just walked, but then I’d have had to lug his carcass home because he’d poop out by the time we got there – as in he’d be unconscious with his body wrapped around my neck whimpering “Take me home!”  I have to get his stamina up. Anyway, I figured it was early enough not to run into many dog folks.  So I decided – what do I need a hearing aid for?  You’d have thought I’d have learned from the store experience.

So, we’re walking up the hill and Duke the dog is doing his “Oh, my, other dogs have been here – let me smell!” thing and I’m trying to be accommodating while still going UP the hill.  Then, in the splendid silence that is my world I realized the dog is freaking out.  As in – there is something in the leaves and pine needles.

Wiki media – brown common garter snake

It was a nice size tan garter snake, minding it’s own business.  Probably Duke scared the poor thing out of a year’s growth.  I wondered if I’d have heard rustling of leaves or something rather than just realizing the dog was about ready to levitate off the ground.  I’m not really worried about rattle snakes here, but then I got to wondering if they actually have them in New England.

Back to working our way up the hill, which is basically on paths that appear to have been developed by spring runoff and other walkers/hikers – pretty much the kind of path you need to pay attention to unless one wants a broken ankle.  And since my daughter broke her leg/ankle in four places (and dislocated it in about as many places) this time last year I was looking where I was going.  SURPRISE!  Fortunately the big wet dog was nice and happy to see us.  Big overgrown waterdog pup.  So was the second one.

I wonder how much noise these dogs and their owners make when you can hear?  Do hearing people know other people are coming? I suppose so.  

The last dog was a lovely Alaskan Malemute – one of my favorite dogs of all time.  Lovely bitch with impeccable manners.  I was trying to talk with her owner when suddenly he didn’t have any voice and I realized he was totally out of range (which is a few steps or just turning away).  Oh, well…

Got back to the car, fished the hearing aid out of the case, put it on and wondered what I missed by hiking half-deaf.  Tomorrow is another (better hearing) day.

Restaurants with blaring music


Someone please explain to me the trend in restaurants that play music so loud that I am swamped by the sound. I have no hearing on one side and significant hearing loss on the other side.  I complained and took my hearing aid out.  Even when it is “turned down” I feel as if I need closed captioning to understand waitstaff.  I can only imagine that in a few years the servers are going to be going, “Eh? What was that you said?  Could you repeat that please?”  Or maybe we’ll all be using American Sign Language by then.  Because we’ll all be DEAF!

What happened to soft music?  Even a juke box is less annoying than piping in satellite radio stations at full blast.  Do you have any idea how annoying FUN’s “Some Nights” is at 100db?  And I like that song, just not screaming through overhead speakers like bombers taking straffing runs.  Or Heart’s “What About Love crashing through the air like a bomb exploding rather than a song. The only one there who wasn’t bothered was the totally deaf/blind person.  I’m surprised she didn’t feel the throbbing of the speakers.

I wish there were a jamming device I could use on the incredible sound.  I really do.  I am going to load a DB meter on the iPhone and start becoming the Sound Harpy!

Shopping HoH Style


My plan was simple.  Since it was cool out, the dog would “guard the car” and I would jet into the local Stop and Shop, grab a hand scanner, throw the stuff in my re-usable bags, scan out, and dash back home in time for a quick dog walk.

I’m assuming that in most major metro areas there is one store (or more) with the little hand scanner that technically allows you check out in nothing flat so you know what they are. These gadgets make a beeping noise when an item is logged in.  Or at least they do when I am wearing my hearing aid.  When I am not wearing my hearing aid I have to eagle-eye it to make sure the item rang in.

Tonight was a non-hearing aid night since the battery beeped out on me.  Everything went great – right up until checkout.  It was my opportunity to get randomly audited.  The clerk had to re-scan five items. He’s having problems scanning one of them.  And because I can’t hear the beep and I can’t see the machine I’m trying to figure out if it didn’t scan to begin with.  Because he’s having problems of his own he’s not answering me – or if he is I’m not hearing him because he’s mumbling (probably speaking normally) while looking down at the hand scanner.

And because time was of the essence (for me), his supervisor had to be called over to help him.  Since deleting the 5-item checksum didn’t work, then another supervisor was needed.  My eyes were sort of bugging out, trying to look around corners so I could figure out what was going on with the darned hand scanner.  Then, thankfully, some bit was twiddled and the order went through –  in silence.  They were elated.  I realized it would have taken less time to get all my stuff scanned and bagged at a register.

Next time, I swear, I am going to take the time to pop a new battery in the hearing aid and wear it into the store!  Not that it would have saved time, but at least I’d have understood what all the hoopla was about.

No, the dog never got his walk, but he did a treat of mashed sweet potatoes when we got home.  BTW, apparently sweet potatoes = noxious gas.  OMG…

And if you haven’t read the book, Walter the Farting Dog, please consider doing so.  It’s a riot.  🙂

Pogo-Stick the Not-Wonder Horse


The first time I laid eyes on her I was looking for a colt or filly to raise and finish out myself using  gentle techniques I was learning from horse training books.  I had my eye on a beautiful bay stud. This was the last visit to look for a colt or filly, but Dad and I had pretty much agreed on the bay.

The conditions the mare and filly were kept in were deplorable.  The dam was an Arabian – a hot blooded horse – who was a broken wreck of a thing – skinny, cowed, terrified.  Her eyes rolled and there were healing slash marks on her sides from a whip.  The filly hadn’t been beaten but she was no less terrified and out of control.  Those were the days before animal rights organizations intervened and my Dad was not yet a judge.  I wanted to beat the living shit of out of the “owner” to see how he liked it.

The little bay stud was gentle, hand raised, would walk up and nuzzle you, expecting nothing but goodness.  The  filly shied away, bit, and kicked, her eyes rolling in fear.  It was a clear choice for Dad.  “It’s the bay.”  I shook my head.  “Can I get both of them?”  I pointed to the dam and the filly, “Both of THOSE?”  Dad looked at me like I was insane, and in a way, I suppose I was.  I’d never attempted to deal with an abused horse before.  It was way out of my league.  “You don’t want that filly.  She’s ruined.”

Two weeks later the filly came to live with us.  Yes, I am stubborn.   I guess Dad figured it would teach me a lesson. What it taught me, was that patience, compassion, endurance and  kindness alone cannot fix all the problems created by early abuse.  I don’t know how that horrible man got her into the trailer, but when she got out in the pasture with my Welsh pony and Quarter Horse mare she was a wild and terrified thing.  Fortunately, my mare and pony were very calm and great role models.

The man would not sell the brood mare – I will give Dad this, he tried. I often wondered about who got the lovely bay Quarter Horse stallion.  He was a great horse.  The best horse for me.  But the filly needed me.  He didn’t. He would go to a great home.

It took a month of bouncing grain in a pan for the horses and having the other two greedily consume almost all of it  before I could lure the little one. I’d have to pour her portion on the ground, then move the others away so she could scavenge.

I kept bouncing grain in a pan and leaving offerings.  I offered apples and carrots. I waited without moving, fending off the other two horses with small motions as they almost trampled me in their eagerness to get her goodies.

I curried the mare and the pony, brushed out manes and tails, removed mosquitoes and biting flies from their ears and dabbed them with insect repellent.  No one got hurt.  Life was a lazy dream in the pasture with the little brook full of clean, cool water and thick with grass as well as one thickly canopied tree for shade.  The little filly got used to standing between the pony and the mare, tails swishing flies.

One day I walked up with the curry comb and finishing brush and started working on Patches, the ancient Welsh Pony who was round as an old oak barrel because he was so fat and lazy and well-loved. I scratched his ears and gave him a carrot out of my bag of goodies and started in brushing – and Zuleika (her registered Arab name) didn’t panic and take off.  She just stood next to him, her tail lazily swishing flies off his face as his did the same for her.

After a few minutes I discreetly offered a carrot around his tail… and she TOOK IT!  I just kept brushing Patches and handed Golden a carrot like nothing unusual was going on.  I wanted to run around waving my hands in the air and scream, “She’s accepted me!”

I’d like to say life with Pogo-stick was easy after that.  It wasn’t.  She was destroyed by a monster – a sub-human who should have been taken out and shot for how he treated horses.  If there is a hell, there is a special place for people like him.  I knew she’d never be “my horse.” I’d probably almost never ride her, if I ever could; but one thing I could do was keep her safe.

In time, she learned that I could use a mudder (mud removing rubber brush), curry comb, and finishing brush and she would not be injured.  Our farrier was a kind man who understood abused horses and Mr. Robertson helped me round her up and keep her quiet while he trimmed her feet to keep her healthy.  He always praised her even when she was so afraid that he had to hobble her front (or back) feet to keep her quiet.  I always had her head, holding her in place, touching her, speaking softly, keeping her attention on me instead of him. And sometimes she bit the snot out of me if I wasn’t careful.  Over time it became less traumatic for her, but never an easy thing.

Eventually, I could (carefully) pick up a hoof to check her for stones in the frog.  However, she had to be short tied or she’d remove part of my posterior with her teeth.  Fear biting was a huge problem with her.  She could have seriously injured me as she grew – or someone else.  I didn’t want to have to have her destroyed.

In the end I had to resort to aversive training to stop the biting.  It just about killed me, but I used the hot potato method since nothing else had worked.

Boiled potatoes were put on a towel on target areas and strapped down with gauze with a long sleeve shirt over that and then I gave her the opportunity to bite that area.  She thought I was careless and lazy so she took it.  She jerked back like she’d been stung – which she had, by something very HOT. I  cried inside to see her with a seared upper palate, but it grieved me less than putting her down would have done.  I was desperate.  I was all out of options.  There were no “Horse Whisperers.”   However, Pogo was a quick learner when it came to searing pain,  and rarely ever bit a human again.  When she did,  it was  a nip not a full-out savage bite from the fear and terror zone.  A burned palate heals. Death is not so easily overcome.

Over the years Pogo grew into a tall, lanky, half-Arab/half Thoroughbred mare. With that combination of bloodlines she was hot-blooded in spades.  By then she was not so crazy and dangerous that she was a danger to the general public. She rarely nipped unless she felt really threatened, and she’d stopped kicking much after some creative hobbling Mr. Robertson taught me that convinced her kicking people equalled almost tipping over.  I am glad our farrier was willing to help me with her since Dad figured she was a waste of horse skin and pretty much ignored her.

I was unable to hand gentle her to ride.  Everything that worked with other horses made her crazy.  She was overcome with terror and it converted to rage. I read every book, used every trick, asked for hints and tips from every good horseman I knew.  Finally I got a guy who did horse breaking to come over and let her crow hop around a corral with him doing the rodeo cowboy thing.  No spurs.  He was just a nice cocklebur, since he knew her history.  Eventually, she gave up crow hopping and let him ride her.  Not long after, I could ride her, but never entirely safely.

Pogo got her name from the fact she had such a horrible gait.  She was like riding a Pogo-stick if you got past a gentle walk.  Her trot was abysmal.  Her canter only slightly better.  She had trouble changing leads and teaching her was out of the question – I was lucky to just be astride.  She had an awesome gallop.  Since I did mostly trotting and cantering I was pondering an English saddle and posting with her, but she just never got ridden that much.  She broke a snaffle bit and ran off (with me on her)  finally stopping when she was too exhausted to go further.  I’m lucky she didn’t kill us both — and I never told my folks about my harrowing, out of control ride.  It would have been the end of her.  It was at that point I put away all the bridles, put hackamores on all my horses, and never looked back. I still think hackamores are more humane than bridles and a horse can’t spit out a bit that is not there.

In the end there was a guy in the Canyon County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse who heard about Pogo.  He was a big guy, well over 6 feet and he was strong enough to deal with her.  He had  experience with horses who were headstrong and skittish, and he could ride her.  After I was pretty much grown and gone off to college, Pogo went to live in her “forever home” and learned to do precision riding.  Whenever I saw her she looked great. Plus she LOOKED happy and content, which counts for a lot!

What does this have to do with being Hard of Hearing or Deaf?  I don’t know that it does.  But I do know that being a HoH kid I knew what it was like to feel not understand what was going on, what people wanted from me, and feeling alone.

I knew that I’d rather have a horse I could never ride than see her suffer any more.  I knew that I was the right human for her, even if she wasn’t the right horse for me, because I would give her the time and attention and care she needed rather than making demands.  Maybe I wished someone other than my mother and older brother had done for me what I did for her.

Lest you think she was totally dysfunctional, she was a great herd member.  She respected Golden as the leader.  She was a great auntie when Gemini came along.  She was pals with Patches, even though she was twice his size by the time she was grown.  She just didn’t have a lot of use for humans.  I can understand why.

Maybe being on the outside looking in as a HoH kid made me willing to try an enormous, overwhelming task like this.  Or maybe I am just soft in the head, like Dad said.  Either could be right.  Maybe both are.  I just know that even though Dad considered her a waste of hay and grain, that she was one of my greatest teachers in so many ways.

She’s long since gone, of course.  They all are.  Only I remain to remember it all.  The dogs. the horses, the chickens, gleaning grain from the local fields to feed my horses, gathering sugar beets for them, feeding them the sweet white bull rush bottoms, dandelion blossoms, just the whole nine yards of life in rural Idaho.   

I only wish I’d found her earlier; other than that, I would not change a moment.  Yes, I’d have had more fun with the bay, but I’d have never learned life’s lessons about what happens when animals are abused.  And I had my beloved Golden Butterfly as my main horse to ride and bond with.

Golden was sweet and easy and loving – having been raised by the awesome Laurie Tipton.  Patches had raised dozens of children and was about as knowledgeable and headstrong a horse as there ever was – also good natured.  Gemi was my sweet, sweet boy who was spoiled rotten and eventually became a barrel racer.

Only Pogo absolutely NEEDED someone to understand her and help her transform from an angry, terrified horse to a content, if not quite happy,  horse.

Are there horses in “heaven?” If not, I want to go to where the critters are – the dogs, the horses, the barn cats, the toads and frogs and all the other creatures I grew up with.

Sugar cubes, handkerchiefs and horses


As a HoH kid growing up in rural Idaho I quickly discovered that I could relate to animals – especially dogs and horses – better than to most people. Why? Well, because horses and dogs don’t talk with words, they talk with their entire being – as if they were deaf.  You can read ears, tail swishes, quivers, and snorts or growls.  They are total communication creatures.

I never really understood why I got along so well with farm animals until recently. I’ve been reading two books sort of simultaneously. One is Zoobiquity and it talks about the treasure trove of information Veterinarians have on medical problems that relate to the human animal as well as all the critters they are trained to treat.  The other is a book called Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin.  I  highly recommend these books for the physical and emotional insights provided.

In particular, the Grandin book explains to me why I was largely so simpatico with dogs and horses.  They communicate in ways I could see and respond to. As a HoH kid I was very attuned to behaviors rather than words – to expressions.  To this day, I remember faces far more easily than names.  I learn how to get places by landmarks rather than written directions (turn left, go 1/4 mile, etc.).  I see seasons change – don’t need a calendar to tell me when to plant or harvest.

When I was in my mid-teens I realized that I could train my colt to perform tricks.  I’d already taught his dam (mother)

Thanks to Superwoman 79, photobucket, for a good likeness of my former colt.

to drink out of a soda bottle by holding it between her teeth and lifting up her head so it drained into her mouth.  Cute trick, but in this case I decided to do something Gemini could make a name for himself with.

It began with a sugar cube and a handkerchief.

First I presented him with a sugar cube – beloved by all horses (although not particularly good for them).  And he lipped it off my palm with great gusto.  Then I put a bandana on my palm and put the sugar cube on it.  In a little while I folded the handkerchief over the sugar cube and he learned that either a red or blue bandana equaled a yummy sugar cube.  I started sticking the bandana and sugar cube in an easily accessed pocket.

Soon, every time he saw a farm worker with a handkerchief in his back pocket that little horse would sneak up, lip the edge of the bandana and sort of nudging the guy with his head in an affectionate manner until he could get a corner of the handkerchief with his teeth and pull it out.  Then he’d lift his head and trot off, waving the bandana like a flag.  Triumph!  And sometimes he’d curl his upper lip back in a horse laugh.

Just shows what a HoH kid who is into behaviors can pull off with one little sorrel half-Arabian colt and a Quarter Horse mare.

Like Grandin says, animals make us human.  🙂

ASL Meetup #2


We missed David from Deaf In Prison tonight.  Seems he was tied up somewhere.  Hope, not literally.

Someone asked me this week if I was concerned about going to heavily populated areas because of the risk of being bombed.  I responded that I cannot live my life in fear.  That being said, when I was with a customer this week who was lugging a black backpack I locked it in the car trunk once he didn’t need it in the store – no point in scaring the natives.

Anyway, we had a good turnout at the Meetup and I reflected on how relaxed I am there.  I am still learning and sometimes I don’t “get” the sign, but just as I do for others, people finger-spell the word for me.  It is so relaxing to be somewhere I can understand what is being said.

12 people there tonight (myself) This panoramic function is sort of fun.

It’s also interesting because no one tries to talk over someone else.  We only have two eyes so we have to take turns talking.  Doesn’t mean there can’t be more than one conversation going on because we have enough folks to have various conversations going on, but no one jumps in and interrupts unless it is to say, “excuse me” (moving between two people to go somewhere) or flapping a hand at someone to get their attention for some reason.  In some ways sign can seem rude (like the old sign for “fat”), yet on the other hand, people don’t talk all over each other like hearing people do.

One gal and I wondered if the reason we have such a hard time with names is that we don’t recognize voices the same way hearing people do.  Then a hearing signer said she has trouble with names as well.  There goes that theory.  🙂

We continue to be a fun mix of the deaf, the hard of hearing, the hearing, and people who want to learn to be ASL Interpreters. Who knows, maybe someday you — dear readers — will end up signing at a Meetup somewhere and thinking, “Wow, this is just totally cool and neat.” 😉

ASL Meetup


Tonight David of DeafInPrison.com  came to his very first ASL meetup.  (Deaf clapping!)  He’s a pretty darn good finger speller and we learned that his mother signed and that’s how she kept secrets from him when was a boy.  Elaine said that her parents spoke Italian to keep secrets from her.  Isn’t that how parents are?  🙂

Anyway, part of the night I was his voice terp (which is pretty cool for a HoH chick with a hearing aid in a noisy place) and part of the night he did a very good job understanding Heidi, a Deaf woman who attends Meetup.  I know he was exposed to a lot of words in ASL, which was a good thing.  And I’m sure some he will forget by next Wednesday, but some he will remember. It is how we all learn – a little at a time.

David told me that hearing people often talk with one hand full (of coffee, food, whatever) and when he is signing he’s found out that he needs to put things down to communicate.  And he’s right, at first you need both hands.  One handed signing comes later.

He also learned more about old and new signs as well as dialects in sign.  We talked about how in English I’d say, “Are you finished eating?” whereas in sign I’d say, “Finished eat you?” and he immediately compared it to a language he knew.  And he shared with me that ASL, as a non-spoken language, makes you smarter.  Hey, didn’t all us signers already know that?  😉

We had a nice group tonight. Maybe 15 people. Some were baby (new) signers and some were old timers.  I think we all had a great time.  Maybe we will see some of you locals at the North Shore Mall in Peabody on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.  (waves)