Not too long ago I stopped at a friend’s house. When I arrived, she was standing in her driveway talking to someone. As I pulled in, she smiled and waved, then turned to the person and said, “This is my deaf friend, Debbie.”  . . . I read her lips.

I have to admit that I was shocked and a bit stunned. I sat in the car for a few seconds, feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. 

True, I AM hearing impaired, but I never expected this friend to label me.

It made me reflect on labels we place upon people. I would never reference a friend with a label. . . my autistic friend; my Jewish friend; my black friend; my dyslexic friend, my gay friend . . .

What’s the difference? We’re all homo sapiens!

Labeling is a pandemic in today’s society. Race, sexual orientation, political, handicaps, anything “different” than what is perceived as an acceptable norm.  And social media has spawned a new generation of label-driven animosity.

Differences and diversity drive a successful society, and individuals need to learn to be more compassionately inclusive in their thinking and behavior. Labels almost always trigger an immediate preconceived reaction and often an uninformed, inaccurate perspective.

Opening one’s thinking to diversity and inclusion embraces an authentic balance in one’s perspectives and contributes to a society where differences are accepted and respected.  

Promoting diversity is the first step to not just “tolerance,” but a true understanding of another’s actions and behaviors. Through exposure to and communication among different people with unique ideas and cultural backgrounds, individuals may recognize that increasing familiarity and a comfort level with these differences can diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination and hatred.

Often the label of deaf carries with it an accompanying label of stupid.  When I was growing up, the phrase “deaf and dumb” was commonly used. I remember the day when my mom and I were going through the grocery store check out lane when the cashier said to my mother, “Is she a dummy?”  Even though the term dumb referred to lacking the ability to speak, many misinterpreted it to mean stupid.

Growing up, many of my peers considered me “not too smart.”  My grades seemed to reflect that. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s there was no academic support for students with challenges. Hour after hour of exhausting lip-reading and trying to follow what teachers were saying while pacing or turning their backs to face the blackboard made it very difficult for me to acquire information. And forget classroom discussions — impossible! In spite of my parents being huge advocates for me, 98% of my teachers just didn’t “get” how they could support me nor were they willing to make the extra effort.

College was much easier because I only had two or three one-hour classes a day. Fatigue was no longer a factor, and most professors were much more understanding of my special needs. Post graduate work was a cinch, and I was hired by a premier school district to be a school librarian and later promoted to the administrative position of district library-media coordinator.  The administrator who interviewed me had her own hearing challenges and a brother who wore a hearing aid. She intuitively knew that my hearing impairment would not be an obstacle to being a school librarian. She embraced differences and diversity, and there was no deaf label.

I’ve always been very up-front about my hearing challenges and have no qualms in telling people that I lip-read or asking for assistance. Diversity and inclusion are a reality in our world. While differences can be recognized and acknowledged, there’s no reason to resort to derogatory labeling.

Yes, I am hearing impaired.

My name is Debbie, and I’m human, just like you.

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”   William Sloane Coffin, Jr


When I got Hannah as a puppy, I was determined that she would never hover around the table while I was eating, nor would she allowed to beg for hand-outs.  So, from day one which is when training really begins, Hannah was NEVER fed from the table. But as time went on, I found that I wanted to share slices of apple or bits of carrots with her while I was eating. She was already well established in lying quietly in the corner of the kitchen while I ate, nor did she beg for handouts from the refrigerator. 

So, one autumn day while I was eating a delicious and huge Honey Crisp apple, I cut a bite sized piece and slid it off the opposite end of the table.  Hannah heard it drop and lunged for it.  I nonchalantly continued to eat but reserved another little piece for Hannah. When she was least expecting it, another piece of apple suddenly dropped to the floor far away from where I was sitting. Again, she happily dove for it and gobbled it.

Other times a baby carrot would mysteriously drop in a far corner of the kitchen where I’d secretly flipped it while getting something out of the refrigerator. 

When this became somewhat routine, Hannah developed a stance. She would alertly stare at the floor and watch for a tasty morsel to appear.  And I started calling them “apples/carrots from heaven.” 

Naturally, when Heidi joined the family, she also quickly discovered that wonderful tidbits dropped from the sky. 

When I traveled to Iceland, my friends Sharon and Tom kindly offered to take care of Hannah and Heidi.  It didn’t take them long to figure out that Tom had a special connection to heaven. Anytime he was around, carrots and apples would rain from the sky.  Sharon was much more disciplined in her offerings, but she was the chief cook, so she also had an inside line to heaven’s offerings of tasty morsels.  (Sharon even bakes the most delicious cheese flavored dog biscuits cut into mini-bones.)

Then Leia arrived.  Leia developed a love of ice cubes, and she comes running to the fridge every time she hears ice cubes dropping from the chute.  I knew if I began feeding them to her right from the dispenser I would be in trouble, so I never started it.  Besides, she’s so smart I was afraid she would learn how to put those huge paws on the lever and dispense ice cubes all over the kitchen floor.

So, I resorted to the heaven foolery.  After dispensing ice cubes into my glass or water bottle, I reserve a few bits and drop them randomly away from the refrigerator when Leia is least expecting it. Oh joy! But she’s still trying to figure out why and how they appear out of nowhere.

It won’t be long until she realizes they are ice cubes from heaven.


Heidi, the informer

I often say to Heidi, “I’ll pay you to keep an eye on Leia.”

Yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen table working.  Heidi and Leia were dozing in the family room.

I was doing visual checks regularly since Leia is still NOT to be trusted unsupervised for any length of time.  Often, I bring Leia up to the kitchen with me and close the gate, or I crate her. 

Occasionally I get so absorbed in what I am doing and forget that Leia is “at large.”

. . . and I got engrossed in a creative project in my kitchen. 

Suddenly, I felt a gentle nudge on my arm. It was Heidi. Her gaze was intense.

And as clearly as if someone were speaking to me, I silently heard her say, “Leia is doing something bad.”

I leaped out of my chair and went down to the family room to find Leia chewing on a Netflix DVD. The return mailer had already been ripped to smithereens. 

“Bad girl!” I said emphatically.

Her tail wags . . .

So, I guess I have to mail it back with the age-old phrase, “My dog chewed my homework (substitute DVD).”

So, it’s not the first time I’ve received telepathic messages from my animals. 

Over twenty years ago, I heard an animal communicator speak who was a protégé of Penelope Smith who is considered the “mother of interspecies communication.” I was intrigued.  I read Penelope’s book and discovered that another of her students was doing workshops locally. I signed up for the basic workshop.  Enter Anita Curtis of Gilbertsville, PA. 

Anita’s workshop was fun and revealing; I immediately signed up for level two the following weekend.  One of the biggest hurdles, for me, was trusting my intuition and what I received telepathically. I never knew if it was “real” or a self-imposed imaginary response. 

Because of my lack of self-confidence, I signed up several months later to repeat level two instead of the advanced workshop. When I walked in, Anita asked me, “Why are you here?”  I explained my lack of trust in what I receive and felt I needed more guided experiences.

As part of this particular level two workshop, we were given a photograph of a pet belonging to another participant along with a question to ask the animal.  My photograph depicted a Jack Russell terrier, and the owner’s question was, “Who would you like to spend more time with?”

We then dispersed and each of us found a quiet space where we could center ourselves and establish contact with the animal.  I immediately got a picture of blue jeans and brown shoes. I made a mental note and persisted, trying to gather more information.  I asked for a name. Nothing.  Just the image of blue jeans and brown shoes; I finally surmised that because the dog was small this was what he would “see” of the person.  Then our time was up, and we gathered as a group for sharing. Many of the participants were unsuccessful. I hung back, my insecurity and lack of trust in what I received made me feel a bit foolish.  Finally, it was my turn. I shared the image I’d received of blue jeans and brown shoes and the process of trying to get additional information. And before I could finish, the owner of the dog exclaimed, “That’s my brother! He always wears blue jeans and brown shoes, and my dog adores him!”  I was flabbergasted. Anita turned to me and quietly said, “And you think you’re not ready for the advanced class?” 

One of my teaching colleagues heard about my foray into animal communication, and she asked me to communicate with her cat Dakota to find out why she was refusing to use the litter box.  I decided to do the session over my lunch period and went into a supply closet where I wouldn’t be disturbed.  After going deep and connecting with Dakota, I was overcome with a strange feeling of being dizzy.  It was difficult to establish any two way connection, and the only thing I could get was that Dakota did not like the blue crystals in the litter.  When I shared this with the owner, her jaw dropped. She told me that Dakota was at the vet and recovering from anesthesia.  No wonder I experienced the sensation of being under the influence of drugs! Her owner purchased a different litter without the blue crystals, and Dakota returned to using her box faithfully.

One of the funniest and most unexpected incidences occurred while I was riding my beautiful mare Lark in a first level dressage test – each test is comprised of a series of movements. When a horse and rider consistently master the movements, they can then advance to the next level. This particular first level test included a serpentine done the entire length of the arena.  We had executed several movements and were in a trot, approaching the corner closest to the judge. As we entered the corner, I silently heard loud and clear, “Oh, now we do the wiggly worm!”. . . and I yelled silently, “NO! Not yet!” Lark relaxed and continued trotting forward, executing the rest of the test beautifully.  It was a struggle to contain my hysterical laughter and probably contributed to my own state of relaxation which set up a beautiful partnership throughout the test.  We won the class.


Obviously, many people are skeptical that this type of dialog can occur between human and animal.  I had to experience it myself, both as a telepathic receiver, and by using the services of an authentic communicator such as Anita Curtis. 

I love hearing what my animals have to say. 

. . . and I’ll continue to pay Heidi, the informer.