Whoopi is my hearing dog and is a 4 year old golden retriever/labrador retriever cross bred and trained by the fantastic volunteers and trainers from Canine Companions for Independence. All dogs that enter in to the CCI advanced training program originally start out training as a service dog (dogs who assist those with mobility issues) and through their first phase of training is when trainers will determine what type of service they are best suited for. CCI trains four different types of dogs and they are service dogs, assistance dogs (which is where hearing dogs fall under), skilled companion dogs, and facility dogs.
Here is an image of Whoopi and I during the first two weeks into the start of our journey together when we were at CCI’s Team Training in Santa Rosa, California nearly two years ago! The image shows me sitting in a chair with a timer in my hand that’s going off and Whoopi is enthusiastically trying to get my attention by nudging me in the leg with her nose. Her nudging me with her nose is the indicator that the timer is sounding off. She does this for all alerts and then once she has my attention – I ask her “What?” and she will take me to or indicate the source of the sound.
Whoopi alerts me to several ringtones on my phone, my tile key fob to let me know where my keys are, my alarm clock, my watch timer, the oven timer, my keys being dropped, my name being called from the other room, the doorbell, and smoke alarm. Every morning the alarm goes off and Whoopi comes and alerts me even when I am burrowed under the covers. Her favorite thing that she loves to alert to is the “Go get Megan” command when my spouse or family needs me. When we are home, at work, or out and about – I am also able to watch her reactions to our surroundings to help determine what may be going on around me. Whoopi is my constant companion and goes with me nearly wherever I go. With her by my side – others have a visual cue that I am different and there may be a reason why I may not respond to them if they say something.
The work that CCI (Canine Companions for Independence) to help people like me further our independence is amazing. I am proud to be a CCI graduate and I am honored to have Whoopi in my life. I look forward to our journey together next year on the trail, and I hope we are able to raise as much money as possible for CCI so that others can experience the independence and companionship that I get to experience everyday.