My Hearing Dog, Merlin

  Posted on 9/28/2023

Otosclerosis has slowly robbed me of my hearing since my teens. After three failed surgical attempts to enhance my hearing, I lost any remaining connection to the hearing world entirely. As my wife and I awaited my final post surgical appointment, I realized I entered into a world of disconnect. I couldn't hear when my name was called for my appointment. I would need help to continue successfully navigating my life independently. Serendipity, luck, divine intervention, my wife looked at me and asked, I wonder if there are dogs that assist deaf people? 

The search began with lots of dead ends.  

We encountered unrealistic requirements that included pricey travel costs or commitment to years of fundraising not to mention long wait times for a dog match. Not easily deterred, we happened upon The Sam Simon Foundation. It seemed too good to be true & incredibly it was true.

Then came Merlin, a 3-year-old black Labrador Retriever.


Prior to Merlin coming into my life, I was very isolated.  The difference in my life because of Merlin is huge.  If forced to choose the most important task Merlin performs, I simply cannot choose one as they are all vital to my well-being, physically and emotionally. 

When the phone rings, Merlin alerts me.  He finds me and nudges me with his nose which clues me to follow him. My Clear Caption phone is fabulous, but it is worthless if I don't know it's ringing.  Sure, it flashes, but what good is that if I am not in the same room with the phone? 

If someone knocks or rings the bell, Merlin finds me and leads me to the door. Another important task: the name call.  Merlin alerts me when my wife shouts out my name, regardless of where she is in the house or backyard.  As you can see, I never quite know where I am being led. Even if he is sound asleep, he is on it as soon as he hears one of his sounds.

Before Merlin came into my life it was not only isolating it was dangerous.  One example is when my wife, Mary, came home unexpectedly.  She was stuck outside our home.  I had locked the doors leaving her unable to get in.  I could not hear her pounding on the door, shouting through the mail slot, or calling me on the phone.  My wife ended up traveling to her sister's home who lived an hour away, to get the spare key to our home.  It was that or call a locksmith.  Merlin is my lifeline. 

We go on a daily 5-mile morning walk.  I have always enjoyed walking, but Merlin has created a new dedication and purpose to go daily.  Only heat and rain deter us from our walk together.  Every month Merlin and I go to Descanso and Huntington Gardens to walk. Since pet dogs are not permitted, Merlin is the only canine in the crowd 99.9 % most of the time.

Did I mention how much Merlin LOVES his toys?  One of our favorite activities is playing fetch with his toys.  The only thing Merlin loves more than his toys is food.  We play catch multiple times a day with his rather large inventory of toys that he earns for alerting me to sounds.  He has his favorites. A good percentage of his collection is being rotated through the toy hospital getting rehabilitated from his enthusiastic love and attention. Mary's sister brings a new toy every time she comes to visit.  I am fairly certain she is his favorite visitor. 

During the day he sleeps exclusively on his big pet bed.  We don't allow him on the sofa.  However, when we go to bed at night, we let him sleep with us.  He just knows the bed is only for overnight.  Since he is 70 pounds, I have him sit and stay until my wife and I are both situated in bed, then I tell him to join us, otherwise, space for us in the bed would be at his discretion.  He is so enthusiastic it's like having a well-behaved toddler cuddle with us.  It's sweet and I love him being with me. 

Merlin is a great comfort to me as my hearing loss has become profound.  He has become an extension of me as my ears.  At 3-years he still has some puppy in him (and I wouldn't change that for anything) yet is very attentive and always on alert.  No doubt, Merlin will extend my life. He is part of my family.  I love him.

Stuart. P


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