Our senses help us to respond and react to things that are happening around us. Our sense of hearing, specifically, helps keep us safe by allowing us to hear sounds, such as smoke detectors, sirens and other alarms. Those annoying shrill beeps and blaring sirens tell us to watch out.
Kristen misses those sounds, since she is unable to hear most of them. She has experienced progressive hearing loss since she was 3 years old and has now reached a profound loss level. She relies on her family to let her know when noises were alerting them to danger, a phone call, or even just a kitchen timer. It’s harder when her husband is at work and her daughters are in school. When she is alone, she is constantly anxious about what she could be missing. After meeting other Can Do Canines hearing assist teams, her father told her how the dogs could help her. In January of 2019, Kristen applied for a Hearing Assist Dog, and in July she was matched with the sensational Shandi, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever that never misses a sound.
Before her canine companion, Kristen would not hear alarms, her cell phone ring, or her children calling for her. During the day, Kristen wears hearing aids, but at night, it’s even more important for her to be aware of sounds that need immediate attention, like a smoke alarm or a child crying. Now, when the kitchen timer or microwave beep, when phones ring, when company comes to the door, and when people call her name, Shandi alerts her by nudging Kristen with her nose and leading her to the source of the sound. She also enjoys retrieving items for Kristen and alerting her when she drops an item but doesn’t hear it hit the floor. Kristen goes out on her own and is home alone fairly frequently, but now she feels more confident and her family feels less worried knowing Shandi will keep her safe.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Heroine
Kristen encourages patience for people who may be anxiously waiting for a potential assistance dog just for them. “Even though the wait is hard, you know your dog is being trained to do a lot of things to help you out and they’re looking to find the best match for you. Once the time comes, [the waiting clients] are going to be really happy. I know I am.”
Thinking of all the people who have made Shandi possible brings a lot of emotions to Kristen. “I think that’s awesome [that] people out there have that type of heart, to want to help other people. I would find that hard: to gain that bond with the dog and then know they’re going someplace else. But I’m so thankful for the people who have done that. You’ve helped so many people to gain their independence and feel more secure, and given them that companionship as well. Thank you for all your selfless work.”