When someone thinks of a service dog they usually picture a police or seeing eye-dog, but one canine that is out of the picture is the loveable and courageous hearing dog.
At Colorado based, International Hearing Dog Inc. (IHDI) dogs are trained to assist deaf owners with daily things such as when the telephone rings or someone knocks on the door, by going from the source of the sound to the person and back again. The dogs are trained 5-10 minutes each day on average for around 8 months to a year. At IHDI they use a training method called praise and repetition. “We make it fun for the dogs,” says Robert Cooley, a field representative and placement counselor. By using praise and repetition the dog then learns skills to help them “serve” their deaf owner. One thing that the dogs need to learn in order to become a hearing dog is the ability to tolerate cats. So at IHDI they have a special cat, named Hank that helps get the dogs used to being around felines. Once the training is complete the dog will be placed with a recipient based on their preferences.
After the recipient is chosen for each dog, the hearing dog’s trainer then goes with the dog to the recipients home where they will prepare the recipient (and dog) for their new lifestyle. In some cases the trainer and dog have had to travel as far as Hawaii to reach their new home. Though the training costs $8000 the hearing dog is free to the recipient. The only cost that the recipient has to pay for the dog is a $100 fee after owning the dog for three months. $99 out of the $100 goes towards the dog’s needs such as a leash, collar, food bowl, etc. while the other dollar is a fee that allows the recipient to have full ownership of the dog. After the fee is paid the recipient has no obligation to donate to IHDI.
IHDI will have a 5k human-and-dog event this summer as a fundraiser. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/1ET0WtQ
After 36 years of successfully rescuing dogs from local Colorado shelters and turning them into hearing dogs, IHDI has matched over 1,100 dogs with deaf owners. Since 1979, founders Sandi Kilstrup Sterker, Agnes McGrath, J. Emlynn Wood, and Martha Foss have all made a big difference for deaf people and shelter dogs alike. Now, run only on donations and funding by the Minnesota Lions, IHDI has improved the lives for many across the USA and Canada with these loveable hearing dogs.