Tag Archives: dog

An Rx for Hope

She was smiling when she entered the soundproof booth. “You were right; your hearing is better. But when I reviewed your diagnosis before you came in, I expected to give you bad news. Tell me what you did.”

I’ve fielded that question many times since. My short answer is, “Everything. And then some.”

It was late in the spring of 2021 when I suddenly lost hearing in my right ear. Standing in my kitchen, chatting with a friend, my ear died, as I described it at the time. I assumed it was simply clogged and would clear up. But it didn’t. I casually mentioned it to a friend who told me she knew someone else it happened to and urged me to seek medical attention immediately or the damage would be permanent. Susan texted me, emailed me, and left voicemails. I told her to stop; I was nervous enough without her harping.

An intuitive friend told me my hearing loss was caused by unresolved grief. My 12-year-old golden retriever had died a few months before, compounding my sense of COVID isolation. I wanted to believe she was right: If I just cried more, releasing the trauma of loss, I’d heal.

So, I cried more – over my dog and my ear – but my disability remained. Thanks to Susan’s persistence, I called seven different ENT offices explaining that I believed I had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) and must see a specialist immediately. One-by-one, they offered appointments weeks and months off. I begged; they couldn’t get me in sooner. Until one offered an appointment within the week. The right one, I’d soon realize.

By my appointment date, I was a wreck. I couldn’t follow conversations in public places; TV and radio sounded fuzzy. I couldn’t distinguish where sounds were coming from or what they were. My dad had been a teacher of the deaf, and I feared that would be my fate by some cruel coincidence. My online research indicated that my age, hypertension, and delay in getting treatment could all work against a full recovery. Plus, I suddenly knew of three other people who never regained their hearing after a similar episode.

The doctor examined me, then sent me down the hall to an audiologist who confirmed the diagnosis of SSHL (or sudden deafness) caused by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This mysterious syndrome is not new, but only 10% of cases have an identifiable cause (hence idiopathic). Over 200,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, most common among those 40-60 years of age.

Her report concluded I was a candidate for a hearing aid.

My heart raced as the doctor prescribed low-dose short-term steroids to reduce inflammation – because both the cause and the treatment are speculative. I told him I’d read that as high as 50% of reported cases never fully recover, and he calmly assured me I could regain my hearing; it was definitely possible, he said. While acknowledging the importance of early treatment, he told me about a man who’d waited a year to seek medical attention and still regained some hearing. This busy specialist sat in a chair and talked with me until I ran out of questions and concerns. He told me his colleagues call him “the nervous-patient whisperer”.

What he gave me was a prescription for hope.

Afterward, I thanked Susan for being relentless and told her how reassuring the doctor had been. She repeatedly interjected, “That’s not what Dottie’s doctor told her.” I told her I couldn’t afford to have words of doubt and fear seep into my ear canals. I turned inward, reflecting on what my other friend had said about grief and knew there was some truth to that as well. I committed to a regimen of Western and Eastern healing modalities to restore my hearing.

In addition to the steroids, I enlisted Reiki, craniosacral therapy, holistic chiropractic, essential oils, acupressure, herbal and vitamin supplements, journaling, affirmations, and visioning. I prayed and donned a holy medal. I openly grieved the passing of my dog, even crying in stores if a trigger presented. But the greatest tools I had in my arsenal were hope and gratitude. Hope, first generously bestowed by my ENT doctor, was amplified by my healing circle who offered their encouragement, wisdom, and skills. And new-found gratitude for every sound that was slowly returning; chirping birds filled me with such joy.

Four months later, the audiologist confirmed that my hearing had been restored in all but the high-pitched 8th kHz, which has also improved since. I told her and my doctor how I’d supplemented the prednisone; neither dismissed their possible effect. Friends more scientifically-inclined than I suggest I should have introduced one treatment at a time so I’d know what worked. But why not use every available resource according to what we are intuitively guided to do? They all kept my hope alive – the most powerful of all healers.

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Patricia A. Nugent

January 2023

Follow this blog at http://www.journalartsspress.com.


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Dog Feet

We wake to the first snowstorm of the season. Pristine, white, and sparkly, a soft blanket covering my yard.

“Damn! The forecast was right,” I mutter. “And I gotta take this dog out.”

Grumbling, I drag out all my snow gear – hat, hooded scarf, ski jacket (making sure there are treats in the pocket), and tall boots. I put them on, one by one, as Dolly waits patiently, ears primed to hear the words, “Okay. Let’s go, little girl.”

I pull on my mittens and open the door. And then…dog feet. Dog feet go running out of my house, the proverbial dashing through the snow. Leaving dog prints, pounding down the white coverlet.

Dog feet. Everywhere. Running, leaping, playing. Dog feet excited by the opportunity snow offers. It’s crunchy, it hides toys, it gets between toes. Best yet, it’s edible – like everything else!

Her first winter, I begrudged Dolly destroying the smooth glistening appearance of my marshmallow-coated yard. I wasn’t ready for everything a dog can do in the snow. To the snow. But now, I chuckle and join in. Dog feet aren’t the only ones trampling it; I’ve learned that play makes snow better. How else to deal with harsh, unforgiving winters in the Northeast?

Dolly remembers why I took her outside, and then prances and twirls all over again. She looks to me to play, so I throw a tennis ball for which she’ll dig to China if I don’t intervene.

I wouldn’t have gone outside in this fresh snowfall were it not for her. My lungs wouldn’t have filled with fresh cold air. I wouldn’t have witnessed the tall pines with delicate snow-kissed branches. I wouldn’t have playfully chased a ball in my makeshift snowsuit, reminiscent of much younger days. I wouldn’t have laughed with pure delight at my exuberant fur-faced companion. When I tell her it’s time to go in, she reluctantly heads toward the door, ball in her mouth for safe-keeping. I’m grateful to have a dog to force me to experience all four seasons in their rawest moments. She and nature continue to teach me the ways of the world.

Excerpt from Healing with Dolly Lama: Finding God in Dog

© Patricia A. Nugent


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She is the Color of Autumn

Dolly is the color of autumn
Of falling leaves, forsaken pine needles

We walk together on this fall day
Her color indistinguishable from nature’s hues

She blends in, walking gently on this earth
No pretense, she just belongs

Dolly is the color of autumn
Dolly is the color of love.

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Today, She Swam Again

Dolly swam this morning. Like many mornings this summer. In and out. Smiling as she wades in, wagging her tail until it’s submerged. Smiling as she runs out.

She doesn’t know it’s Labor Day, doesn’t realize the significance of the fireworks that scared her half to death last night. Doesn’t realize that summer is coming to an end. All she knows is that she went swimming.

She doesn’t know that it might be the last time she swims this season. That the cool evenings will give way to cool days. That too soon, the lake will be frozen once more.

Because she isn’t cursed with that knowing, Dolly suffers no melancholy. But she also isn’t blessed with knowing that she should savor every moment because it’s fleeting – and perhaps should linger a while longer in the cool waters of the mountain lake.

I’m both blessed and cursed with awareness that things change; life is ephemeral. Yet I still fought back my desire to swim in the dark blue water under the stars last night.

Tonight, maybe I’ll have another opportunity.

-Patricia A. Nugent, September 2016


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