Chihuahua Service Dog Brings Harmony to Her New Home
When R.A. was coping with hearing loss, Honeybits was there to light the way.
R.A. + Honeybits
For a former musician, hearing loss was a terrifying prospect. Then Honeybits, an adopted Chihuahua service dog, was there with loving guidance and support.
"When I picked her up and she gently nuzzled my mostly non-functional left ear, it's as though she was saying: ‘I will be your doggie. And, I know how to help you.’"
I used to be a professional musician. A few years ago, I performed at weddings. I taught guitar lessons, I composed, and I knew my way around a recording studio. Now? I read lips and ask people to repeat themselves. The low notes slipped away first. In my early forties, I found I couldn’t even tune my own guitar without electronic help. So, I stopped. The world has gotten by without my talent; there really was only one Beethoven anyway.
My world gradually collapsed inward as I became progressively more isolated. Hearing loss does that. Even something as simple as driving across town becomes terrifying. I was still able to earn a living, doing things besides music. But that was survival. The joy in living was gone. Then, along came a five-pound Chihuahua who saved me.
Service Dogs of New Mexico draws its service dogs exclusively from animal rescues. Honeybits was a rescue: just one more unwanted Chihuahua from the North Valley. Nobody knows her exact date of birth. But even as a puppy, she showed promise. She started obedience training as a 9-month-old puppy, and in April of 2018, Service Dogs of New Mexico began training us to work with each other. I was never a dog person, but the warm, sleek little creature with her pointy ears and her luminous, intelligent eyes won me over. When I picked her up and she gently nuzzled my mostly non-functional left ear, it’s as though she was saying: “I will be your doggie. And, I know how to help you.”
Thanks to Honeybits, I have something resembling a life back. I can drive in unfamiliar territory again. She points at hazards I can no longer hear, such as emergency sirens. She tells me who’s at the door, she wakes me up when a fire alarm goes off, she tells me when an alarm clock is sounding, and she even points at people or animals I can’t hear. So, I can travel again even into unfamiliar territory. We’ve gone on several road trips. This little dog has been to eleven states besides her own.
The most remarkable thing is how Honeybits has found new ways to alert me to hazards I don’t know about, despite not being explicitly taught. Her most impressive accomplishment was last December when she saved the house from burning down. I was working on my computer in a back room while cooking something in the oven, unaware that something had spilled and caught fire. Honeybits came barreling into the room and poked me in the ankle with her nose to get my attention. She darted, Lassie-style, toward the kitchen, looking over her shoulder to get me to follow her. I arrived to see black smoke starting to billow out of the oven. A few seconds more, and it would have flashed over. But thanks to Honeybits, the house and everything in it was saved. The only casualty was the meat pie. Not even Honeybits would eat it.
Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by R.A. won Service Dogs of New Mexico in Sandia Park, New Mexico a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.