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December 2, 2002

Students raise $3000 for dog guides for the deaf

From: Charlotte Sun-Herald, FL - 02 Dec 2002

Students raise $3,000 for dog guides for the deaf

PORT CHARLOTTE -- When teacher Wendy Owens started the Pennies for Pooches fund-raiser at Port Charlotte Middle School she was surprised at the students' high interest level.

Students started collecting pennies Nov. 13 and in just two weeks amassed $3,000 -- almost twice the amount Owens expected -- to train guide dogs for the deaf.

Owens had only hoped to raise $1,800 -- enough to train one dog through a Bradenton-based training company, Florida Dog Guides for the Deaf Inc.

"We didn't count on having this much participation," she said.

The school made the fund-raising campaign a competition between homeroom classes. Once the winning homeroom is determined, those students will receive a pizza party.

But Owens said the students weren't asking questions about pizza, but about how the dogs were trained and how they help the hearing impaired.

"They're really into the reason behind it," she said.

Like seeing-eye dogs, who provide their owner's sight, deaf dog guides serve as their owner's ears.

The training company teaches dogs how to react to specific sounds and lead their owners to them. Dogs are also trained to lead their owners away from danger and to check doors for heat in case of a fire.

About 96 percent of the dogs selected as hearing guides are rescued from animal shelters across the state, while the other portion are pets the owners already have.

Those seeking dog guides have to prove they have a 100-percent hearing loss in either one ear or in a combination of both without the use of hearing aids.

Before dogs can be trained, Owens said they are tested to see if they are capable of being a guide. The training is conducted in the home so dogs can learn to respond to sounds specific to their house and the needs of their owner.

"Their obedience has to be perfect," Owens said.

Owens, a special needs teacher, is deaf herself and can only hear with the aid of a cochlear implant. Her own dog is currently being trained to serve as her guide.

On Tuesday, Owens and her class counted pennies and change homerooms had collected in white and blue "Pennies for Pooches" cups. Counting and tallying up totals for classes was also a good skill for her special needs class, she said.

The training school uses donations to offer grants to those who need a dog guide but cannot afford the fee.

For Owens, raising funds for the program was not only a worthy cause, but a good way to get students interested in helping those in need.

"It's a good thing for kids to get involved in," she said.

You can e-mail April Frawley at

Staff Writer

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