GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — Deb Morrison is a lively, fun and energetic woman whose life was altered after her case of Meniere's disease decided to take a turn for the worst.
“It started about 24 years ago when I was actually pregnant, and it was only the left ear, and so I had hearing loss in the left ear," Morrison said. "Then, five years ago, it decided to go into the right ear, except when it went to the right ear, it destroyed everything."
Morrison says when it destroyed everything, her confidence was included.
“It was just hard — I would walk away from conversation, I would maybe ignore people if they would talk to me and I’m real social, so that was real hard," Morrison said. "Part of it was hard just interacting with my family, like having people over. I didn’t want to have people over for dinner because I couldn’t hear the conversation.”
However, thanks to her daughter, Morrison became aware of Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization providing service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice and educational settings.
Morrison says thanks to Canine Companions in Ohio, she was gifted with more than just four helpful paws but the return of her independence.
“I went for the interview in Ohio, and then I got the acceptance — I was on the list," Morrison said. "And then I remember when I got the call that it was my turn, and that was really exciting."
Morrison's dog Mango has a wide array of skills.
“She lets me know the refrigerator has gone off. You know, if I do the toaster, she lets me know that has gone off too," Morrison said. "We’ll go to work, and if she goes to work and there is a siren behind me, she’ll alert me to let me know, 'Hey, there is a siren behind you, you need to pull over.'
"Another thing that’s so simple, we’ll be in the parking lot, and I’ll drop my glasses or I’ll drop my keys, she will pick up my glasses and hand them to me — she lets me know that I dropped my keys."
However, once the pandemic hit, Morrison says the changes such as staying inside and wearing masks set her back five years before she lost her hearing.
“It also kept us inside, so we lost a lot of our skills like being able to be out in public and her not losing focus," she said.
Now nearly two years since the start of the pandemic, Morrison and Mango are working to regain their social skills and a sense of normalcy.
“We’ve had to reintroduce going back into stores and back around people and how we ignore people, which we were already in a groove before COVID-19 happened,” Morrison said.
Nonetheless, Morrison says she is happy to have Mango by her side every step of the way.
“Most people see Mango as a dog, but to me, she’s my best friend,” Morrison said. "So Mango has given me the confidence to feel secure in any situation. I can go anywhere, talk to anybody — I don’t have that hesitation anymore because I’m able to be who I have always been but just a little better version of that."