These Dog Heroes Hear for Others
By Robin Dickson for Exceptional Canine
At Dogs for the Deaf, a nonprofit organization based in Southern Oregon, we train rescue dogs to help people who are facing various challenges. We’ve placed close to 3,500 dogs across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico since we started 33 years ago.
When our trainers scout for dogs at animal shelters in Washington, Oregon and California, they look primarily for temperament rather than breed. We need dogs that are friendly and confident, because these dogs often have to go into public places.
How Our Dogs Help
We teach our Hearing Dogs to be alert to specific sounds: primarily fire and smoke alarms, the telephone, the oven timer, the alarm clock, the doorbell or door knock, the owner’s name, or a baby crying, if that’s relevant. When the dogs hear these potentially life-saving noises, we teach them to physically alert their owner by gently placing their paws on the person’s knees and then leading them to the sound.
We’ve expanded our program to train other types of dogs. Some work with autistic children, others assist professionals who work with the disabled. Still others serve as companions for people who are struggling with depression or anxiety, or those who are recovering from a stroke.
Before placing a dog in any of these programs, we evaluate its interests, abilities and talents to determine what’s most appropriate. Because just like not every human is cut out to be a plumber or an airplane pilot, not every dog is suited to be a service dog.
Each Time, an Inspiring Story
The whole process is miraculous, and it’s so inspiring because you see these dogs go from being in shelters and possibly headed for euthanasia to possibly saving people’s lives. The dogs are transformed, and the people are transformed. People who are afraid to go out of their homes go out and get jobs and become better parents. And this happens every day, not just once in a lifetime.
One recipient recently wrote to us to say, “You’ve given me my life back.”
How You Can Help
Dogs for the Deaf is a registered nonprofit, and we survive strictly by donations. The people who receive our dogs pay a $50 application fee, and when they’re approved, we ask for a $500 refundable deposit. The recipient will get that money back after being with the dog for one year. We do that to make sure they’re really serious and that they can afford to maintain a dog.
Please visit our website at DogsForTheDeaf.org to learn how you can receive our newsletter or
make a donation.
Robin Dickson is president and CEO of Dogs for the Deaf , a nonprofit organization that trains shelter dogs to assist people who have special needs. She has worked with the group for nearly 30 years.