Hearing Assistance Dog Client
Three reasons would be my Assistance Dogs, Fritz and Elvis and Slim:
- Fritz was my first Hearing Dog who arrived in 1981. I applied to Dogs for the Deaf (aka Dogs for Better Lives) because my hearing was really bad. I was a single mom and my kids were 10 and 9 years old. We lived in our own home, and I was depending on the kids to take phone calls and to let me know if they heard things in the house. When I found out about Dogs for the Deaf, they responded with forms and applications that I returned, and someone came to interview me and to look over my house and yard to be sure everything would be safe for a dog. They also sent a trainer when Fritz came, and the trainer stayed in a motel for about 5 days coming daily to the house to train ME and to train Fritz to the sounds. She had solutions for everything including the predicament of having the doorbell chime located in the same hallway as the smoke detector. Her solution was a post it note on the doorbell for visitors to simultaneously knock on the door as they pushed the doorbell. Fritz caught on quickly after that. An amusing situation occurred when she had my children go to different places in the house, out of sight from me, and she had them call my name. Fritz would supposedly alert me and take me to the child. The only problem there is my children call me “Mom,” and Fritz had been trained to search for someone calling “Jane.” We laughed it off, and Fritz was retrained before the trainer left.
- After 16 loving years, Fritz passed away in December 1997. My children were older now, and I was often alone in the house. I really missed having a hearing ear dog. Again, Dogs for the Deaf was with me through this difficult time. I was cautioned there was a waiting list, and I still needed to apply and be interviewed and my house and yard checked out. I was prepared to wait, but in February I was contacted that they knew it was very soon after Fritz passed, but they had a dog returned. They wanted him placed as soon as possible because the dog was depressed being back in the kennel. I jumped at the possibility, and Elvis came to snowy Binghamton in February, 1998. He was very different than Fritz, and Fritz’s cat-buddy (Oscar) wouldn’t go near Elvis for several days. But Elvis settled in, the trainer taught me Elvis’ ways, and again, Dogs for the Deaf did not disappoint. How he helped me as my home became an “empty nest!” During the time I had Elvis, I had a cochlear implant, and I was very nervous that Elvis might have to go back to Dogs for the Deaf. They were very fair about this, simply because there are too many hours in the day that the CI is not on. When I would be sleeping, I really needed Elvis to alert me to sounds. Also during my Elvis years and learning to use the cochlear implant, I applied to graduate school and entered the MSW program. For two years I was a student, got my degree, and has hired by an Independent Living Center serving people with all disabilities. Elvis was welcome to come to work with me, and while he wasn’t on duty alerting me, he was certainly a wonderful therapy dog for those for came to my office for counseling. Elvis crossed the rainbow bridge in May 2013.
- Once again, Dogs for the Deaf was with me through the process of losing another fine animal, and helping me fill out forms, applications, interviews and inspection of my house and yard. This time, because I was alone in my house, the idea of a hearing dog was even more important to me. Elvis’ cat-buddy (Wesley) and I comforted each other, and it was not until the end of 2014 that I was contacted about Slim. Slim arrived in January 2015 about 18 months old. I was warned that Slim did not pass his final certification as a hearing dog because he barked too much. He still alerts me, he still takes me to the sounds, but he continues to happily bark all the way! He also is welcome at work even without his certification, and we work really hard at avoiding any barking. Usually he sits in the doorway of my office acting as Chief Hallway Monitor. It was a great loss for Slim when Wesley passed away. The house seemed very empty and sad, and now he has a new cat-buddy (Hardy) who is only 5 months old and a real challenge for Slim who only was used to an old cat. Now there are several races through the house with Slim alternately chasing Hardy, and Hardy chasing Slim. Slim is getting so much extra exercise now that he can eat a bit more. Life is good for Slim.
- In addition to the above 3 reasons… or to amplify why I chose Dogs for the Deaf/Dogs for Better Lives: They rescue dogs that have potential to be trained as service dogs. Dogs that have no home or future are tested for demeanor, intelligence, etc. and learn to be fantastic partners for people like me.
- The last of my five reasons: there is ongoing communication between trainer and the new dog owner. It is great to know that I could communicate at any time if some issue popped up for which I needed advice. And amazingly, whoever I would contact would already have a history of my dog, and would offer best possible solutions. They don’t simply drop off the dog and cut the ties. Over the years I’ve had Fritz, Elvis and Slim, there have been required annual reports, some actual visits if the trainer was in the area, and always a quick respond to any emails.
Jane provides counseling services for people with disabilities in New York. Slim is Jane’s third Hearing Dog and the two have been a team for 5 years.