Doug and Ellen know that the language of love is not necessarily one that can be heard or spoken. Ellen lost her hearing at three years old, and Doug was born Deaf. Yet, they celebrate life and a family together just as people who can hear would.
In 2003, Doug graduated with Hearing Assist Dog Nala from Can Do Canines, and Nala passed away in 2016. Beyond losing a friend, the couple and their two daughters felt the unease of losing a sense of security. There have been several instances—namely a near-choking incident and a home invasion of their Rosemount house—when the couple was in danger because they were unable to hear a significant sound.
Ellen and Doug wear cochlear implants during the day, and when they take them out every night (and sometimes during the day), they cannot hear anything at all. Doug’s job keeps him “on-call,” so at night, in order for him to get some sleep, Ellen would stay up and listen for his phone to ring. Taking shifts sleeping is certainly not an ideal situation.
Even when they have their implants on, they sometimes miss noises that should keep them engaged and safe. Adaptive equipment in their home includes a doorbell with a camera that sends notifications to a cell phone, a text-based telephone that allows them to read and write instead of using audio during a call, appliances that light up instead of just making a noise, and an alarm clock that vibrates slightly under the person’s pillow when it goes off. However, many important sounds still went unheard.
A dog would have made all the difference in the world, but Doug and Ellen needed time to grieve Nala before considering another hearing alert dog. However, with no one able to hear consistently, despite cochlear implants, Ellen and Doug decided it was time to apply for another Hearing Assist Dog from Can Do Canines.
A Gentle Giant with a Heart to Match
There was no question it would take an exceptional dog to provide assistance for two handlers, and that’s precisely the match Can Do Canines made. Ily is a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever and Newfoundland mix, aptly referred to as a “Newfador.” The couple now treasures an enhanced sense of security as she increases their awareness of sounds beyond the ones she was taught to alert to. Her body language, alone, often does the trick.
Ily alerts Doug to his alarm clock going off in the morning. She can go from one person to the other and notify him/her with an alert, then return to the original person since the couple cannot hear the other calling for them. Since Ily moved in, sounds such as a door knock, smoke-CO2 detector, oven timer, and the captioned telephone ringing no longer go unacknowledged. If the person she is with drops an item and they don’t hear it hit the ground, she nudges their leg and even offers more assistance by retrieving the items. “She exceeded our expectations, she really did,” Doug says. Along with providing trained tasks to help Ellen and Doug, Ily alerts others to the additional needs for her current handler. People who can hear don’t realize how social interactions rely so much on sounds, but having an assistance dog lets the public know that Ellen or Doug require accessible considerations.
A New Chapter with the Same Gratitude
Ellen and Doug have worked tirelessly with Can Do Canines staff to make Ily feel like a part of the family. They describe her as an affectionate, fast-learner, loving her in a similar way to Nala while embracing the new experience. How does life feel with Ily? “Complete,” smiles Ellen.
To everyone who helped make this incredible team possible, Ellen and Doug say, “We cannot thank them enough. They have no idea how grateful we are for everything they’ve done for Ily.” They acknowledge the improvements made from the process used when they were placed with Nala, saying it was a good experience then but even better now. “We are very impressed, and it’s just beyond our expectations all the things she can do.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: The Chelgren family
Puppy Raiser: Katie Cormier
Special Thanks: Karin & Elroy Balgaard, Federal Correctional Institution-Sandstone, the FETCH program
You: Thank you for your donations!