By Susan Byers -
Meet Dov Ber, a young husband, father, and Jewish educator living in Milwaukee.
Dov Ber was born without any hearing in one ear and limited hearing in the other. In his youth, he wore a hearing aid which enabled him to participate in mainstream education and social activities among the hearing community. “My parents always encouraged me to be a part of the hearing world,” he said. “As such, I never felt limited by hearing loss.”
In adulthood, Dov Ber decided to get cochlear implants in both ears. Given his mainstream upbringing and newfound ability to hear, Dov Ber never considered that he might be eligible for a Hearing Assist Dog. In fact, he resisted the idea, in part due to concerns that having one may interfere with ritual observances in his orthodox Jewish home. But later, when he and his wife, Chaya Gitty, started their family, they reconsidered the idea."
“Someone told us about Can Do Canines, and we decided to pursue an assessment even though we didn’t believe I would qualify,” Dov Ber explained. “But the process got me thinking how a Hearing Assist Dog might make life easier–not just for me but also for my family’s safety.
Ultimately, Dov Ber was eligible for a Hearing Assist Dog. It took a couple of years before a match was made. By that time, Dov Ber and Chaya Gitty had four children (ages 12, 10, 7, and 2) and a new baby on the way. In Spring 2022, Dov Ber met Cinco–a 3-year-old black, female Labrador Retriever. “Meeting Cinco filled me with such emotion–like love at first sight,” he said.
Like most Labs, Cinco is smart, sweet, and eager to please. As the two trained together, they practiced Cinco’s skills of “go mat”–her place to lie down and wait to alert–and “nudge” to get Dov Ber’s attention. “It’s inspiring to see how motivated she is to work and support me,” he said.
Just as remarkable is how well Cinco fits in with the whole family. For all her exuberance, she is very calm with all five children. With consistency and training, Cinco is learning to discern the many sounds in a busy household and remain focused on Dov Ber’s needs.
Here are five ways that Cinco is making a difference:
- Cinco the Alarm Clock: Because Dov Ber removes his cochlear implants overnight, he can’t hear anything, even after he first wakes. Before Cinco, he would rely on a vibrating signal from his phone, but that proved unreliable. Now Cinco nudges him awake and engages with him until his cochlear implants are in place.
- Cinco the Alert Dog: Like other Hearing Assist Dogs, Cinco is trained to respond to ringing phones, door knocks, doorbells, timers, and smoke alarms. Yet, for Dov Ber, it is still necessary to further train Cinco to discern other sounds in a busy household. For example, Dov Ber is working with Cinco to alert him when his children call out from a different floor.
- Cinco the 24/7 Worker: With a new baby at home Chaya Gitty gets up in the middle of the night for feedings. Sometimes their 2-year-old will also wake up crying. Since Dov Ber is not wearing his cochlear implants overnight, Cinco is learning to wake Dov Ber so he can help soothe the toddler back to sleep.
- Cinco the Back Stop: Each week during Orthodox Jewish observance of the Sabbath, the family refrains from using electrical devices. That means Dov Ber’s cochlear implants are not charged overnight. If they shut down, then he is unable to hear anything for the duration of the day. At those times, Cinco proves invaluable by alerting Dov Ber and leading him to what he can’t hear.
- Cinco the Reconnector: Dov Ber’s work involves studying philosophical Jewish text. Because that requires deep concentration, he finds it helpful to take out his hearing devices. However, not being able to hear anything conflicts with his desire to stay connected to others. With Cinco nearby, Dov Ber can achieve dual goals: to invest deeply in learning while also knowing that Cinco will alert him when it’s time to reconnect.
Dov Ber is grateful to all those who brought Cinco into his life. “When people invest their time–whether it’s raising a puppy, training an assist dog, or serving clients–they find joy in the process even though they seldom get to fully experience the results,” he noted. “I want each Can Do Canines staff member, volunteer, and donor to know that I am inspired by the work you all do so selflessly to help people like me.”
A high five to that!
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Whelping Home — The Nervick Family
Great Start Home — Amy Ogrezovich
Puppy Raiser — Stanley Correctional Institution
Special Thanks — Laurie Dupont