When we got Tilly, our rescue dog, she’d gone from five years in a cage at a puppy farm, to a period of living on the streets of London, to seven nights in the pound on Death Row to five glorious months with her wonderful foster carers. In all that time, she’d never been outside with an owner, walking off lead, running and playing. After two weeks with us, all that was about to change…
We’d had a little practice with her ‘off lead’ on our allotment and she’d been great at coming to each of us when called and happily ran to and fro between the pair of us until we settled down to some digging and planting and she just came and sat on the path. Luckily for us, we seem to have a dog who doesn’t like getting her paws dirty so, she stayed off the beds without needing to be told.
Her next outdoor adventure was a brief time off lead at a nearby local beauty spot. She had a ball, by which I mean a ‘good time’ rather than an actual spherical object as she still doesn’t yet know what to do with one of them.
Next, a trip away to the dog-friendly Moors Inn, gave us the opportunity to do some more training ‘off lead’. Then, the ‘big day’ arrived: a trip to Scarborough and, what we can only assume was Tilly’s first encounter with the sea. After some time on the lead at the dog-friendly beach, meeting and greeting some of the other dogs, we had a brief window of opportunity when she was the only dog on the beach. “Shall we shan’t we?” we thought. “Let’s do it!” And with that, we let Tilly off her lead for the first time in a public place. My heart was in my mouth as I worried about her running off but I needn’t have worried at all: she ran up and down the beach with me that day like she hadn’t a care in the world and the enjoyment it gave us was beyond measure. Richard captured it on camera so we can enjoy that memory forever – and we even sent a couple of photos to her fosters so they could see what fun she was having with us.
I ran until I could run no more and then we played with Tilly, calling for her to run between us, making the distance a little further each time. [This is still the only way we can get her to run as she is still clueless when it comes to playing ‘fetch’.] We didn’t want to push our luck too far so, when another dog came on the beach, we popped her lead back on and went to lounge on the grass by our favourite beach hut. It was truly memorable day.
From that day on, mine and Tilly’s confidence has grown about her being ‘off lead’ (this was never an issue for Richard who has, unlike me, owned dogs before), although I’m still a little wary about some breeds of dog who like to run up to us to ‘say hello’.
Now, in terms of Tilly’s skills as a ‘Hearing Dog’ when we’re out and about, I’d have to say, they’re pretty limited. She has no road sense to speak of – well, she doesn’t run in the road and I’ve got her trained to always walk on the inside of the pavement – but she certainly wouldn’t stop me from stepping out in front of a car. She does, however, give me an incredible amount of confidence and I have been out on my own more in the past 12 weeks than the previous 18 months.
The only downside of having such a cute dog is the amount of strangers who stop and speak to me, wanting to pat her and ask about her. Previously, I would have done anything to avoid such encounters with strangers but strangely, these too have helped my confidence soar.
I’m getting used to the types of questions asked so I can predict them and more easily lipread them. And, twelve weeks in to dog-ownership, I have now been known to go up to other dog-owners and strike up a conversation with them about their dog. If I don’t know what they’re saying, I tell them I’m deaf and that Tilly is my unofficial Hearing Dog so, it’s all good!
Angie is a part-time journalist, food and travel writer, photographer and co-founder of Twitter’s top weekly business networking event, #Yorkshirehour. She is also the new External Relationships Manager at Hearing Link. She is a chicken-keeper, gardener and ‘foodie’ living in glorious Yorkshire with her husband, Richard and their precious Westie, Tilly. Angie started going progressivley deaf in one ear at the age of 30 and then suffered total sudden onset hearing loss in her ‘good’ ear in 2011. You can check out her website, blog, twitter account, Facebook and Linked In.
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