Dog of the Day
"Where are we going Dory?"
by Carie Broecker
When Myrtle Glynn’s little terrier, Dory, starts running back and forth, hopping up to put her front paws on Myrtle’s legs and barking, Myrtle doesn’t scold her and ask her to be quiet. Instead she asks her, “Where are we going?” Dory then runs over to whatever is making noise in the house – the telephone, the front door, the kitchen timer, the smoke alarm, or the teakettle. Dory is Myrtle’s hearing dog. She alerts Myrtle, who started going deaf before her fiftieth birthday, to sounds that she needs to be aware of. She even accompanies Myrtle to doctor visits, alerting her when her name is called in the waiting room.
Almost ten years ago, Myrtle read an article about Dogs for the Deaf (DFD), a nonprofit organization based in Oregon, which rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to be hearing dogs and autism assistance dogs. Myrtle had been deaf for twenty-five years, and she thought a hearing dog would enhance her life. She put in an application for a dog, along with a report from her audiologist. DFD then sent a representative to her home in Pacific Grove for an interview and home inspection. She was asked to patch some holes in her fence to make it more secure for a dog, which she did right away. She then waited patiently. Two years went by and still no dog for Myrtle. Then she had to have hip surgery and took herself off the waiting list knowing she could not care for a dog. A year later when she was fully recovered, she got back on the waiting list. Another year went by. She was approaching her eightieth birthday and started to think she might be too old to get a dog. She called Dogs for the Deaf with the intention of withdrawing her application, but instead she was told they had a dog for her!
When Myrtle was told she was getting a dog and to clear her calendar for the week she would arrive, she started crying with joy. She had been so lonely for a dog. DFD sent Myrtle a photo of her new dog and she carried it around, showing it to everyone she knew, just like an excited new grandmother!
The dog that had been assigned to her was named Doris. She was rescued from the Klamath Falls Humane Society and had been in training with DFD for six months. Her training had been sponsored by a chapter of the Good Sams in memory of Doris Daverso. Only thirty percent of the dogs rescued by DFD successfully complete the training to be a Hearing Dog. It can be a challenge to find a dog with the confidence, energy level, friendliness, and motivation to work that it takes to be a hearing dog. Doris had what it takes!
Doris (now shortened to Dory) and a DFD trainer flew to California for four days of intensive training. Dory and Myrtle worked on basic obedience commands together, and Dory was trained to recognize and alert Myrtle to all the different sounds in her home. They also practiced going out in public together by visiting restaurants and going shopping.
One of Dory’s main jobs when out in public is to alert people to the fact the Myrtle is deaf. Dory is an icebreaker and helps hearing people make a connection with a deaf person like Myrtle. This in and of itself is a great service to someone who otherwise could become very isolated from much of society.
At eighty-five, Myrtle is active and upbeat with lots of stories to tell of her life, her adventures, and some of the hardships and tragedies she has endured. She goes for daily walks with Dory on a path along the ocean. Last year, Myrtle tripped and fell while walking Dory and ended up with a hairline fracture of the pelvis. She had to stay in the hospital for four days and was then moved to rehab for another eight days before returning home. Dory, being a service dog, was allowed to stay with Myrtle around the clock in her hospital room. Some hospital staff complained about this at first, until Myrtle reminded them that it was the law that Dory could be with her. A schedule for Dory’s care, which included four walks a day, was posted in Myrtle’s room. Many of the staff loved being able to take Dory out. Others, who apparently were not dog lovers, put up a fuss. Myrtle views times like this as opportunities for education. In the pocket of Dory’s service vest is a booklet that spells out the laws and rights of people with service dogs. Myrtle happily gets out this booklet to show anyone who questions Dory’s right to be with Myrtle 24/7!
Dogs for the Deaf (DFD) was founded in 1977 by the late Roy G. Kabat, a long-time Hollywood and circus animal trainer who raised animals for motion pictures and television shows including "Dr. Doolittle" and "Born Free." His daughter, Robin Dickson, is his successor and the CEO/President of DFD. The mission of DFD is rescuing and professionally training dogs to assist people and enhance their lives, and maintaining a lifelong commitment to all dogs they rescue and all teams they serve. DFD is supported by private donations. For more information about DFD visit www.dogsforthedeaf.org or call 541-826-9220.