IM this article to a friend!

June 22, 2004

Dog eases life for deaf woman

From: Lahontan Valley News - Fallon,NV,United States - Jun 22, 2004

Becky Bosshart
June 22, 2004

It was Erma Boepple's third day with Dani and it's already love.

The nearly 2-year-old fox terrier jumped into her lap, licked her face, then ran around the small living room of her Churchill County mobile home.

Boepple's eyes filled with tears when she talked about how long she waited for Dani. Boepple started loosing her hearing 32 years ago. Now it is almost completely gone. Dani is the 80-year-old woman's hearing companion.

She got a phone call two weeks ago when she learned that a dog was ready to be delivered to her. Tears formed in Boepple's eyes again. She told her daughter the news first.

"She alerts me to the phone, to the oven timer, to the door bell or someone knocking and the fire alarm," Boepple said about Dani. "She's doing real well."

Dani, a small white dog with spotted legs, and a black and brown face, is a hearing dog from Dogs for the Deaf, an international hearing dog training and placement service.

"I haven't been able to hear the door bell in so long," Boepple said. "She gives me security."

Her reddish hair is curled neatly around her head. Boepple wears two hearing aides, the most powerful kind made and yet she still only hears about 5 percent of conversations. She also wears A Dogs for the Deaf T-shirt.

Boepple signed up for the program about three years ago, and she has been waiting for a dog ever since. She didn't think the time was ever going to come. Her daughter Mavis Lawrence lives down the road.

"What we were concerned about was that I would call her and she wouldn't answer the phone," Lawrence said.

"And I'd come over and knock and knock at the door and she'd never hear me. And she'd be sitting right next to the door."

She was concerned for her mother's safety now that she lives all alone. Boepple's husband died of Alzheimer's Disease about three years ago. He was at a Carson City nursing home before that.

Dogs for the Deaf is a non-profit organization that depends on outside donors to support the work of rescuing dogs and enhancing lives, according to the organization. All hearing dogs are placed in the qualified applicant's home free of charge. The Nevada Good Sams Club provided sponsorship for Dani.

The Sams Club is the largest recreational vehicle organization in the world. Jan Zumwalt, the Sams' state director, said so far the Nevada group has sponsored five dogs for deaf residents.

Tanya Diaz-Casillas, a Dogs for the Deaf trainer, said all of their dogs are sponsored by donations from service clubs such as the Sams.

"The total price for a team - which is the deaf person and the dog - for the rest of the dog's life is $25,000," she said.

Diaz-Casillas said a large percentage of the dogs come from animal shelters. Some are in training for up to a year. Diaz-Casillas, who has been training Dani for months, said they look for dogs that are energetic but teachable. The dogs come to their new owner's homes already trained, they just have to be taught where the sounds are in this new home and who they should alert.

During the training time she often waited outside because Dani needed to get used to having a new master.

To demonstrate Dani's skill, Boepple set her kitchen timer and then went into her bedroom. She called "hup!" to the dog. Dani responded by running to Boepple and putting her paws up on her lap. Two minutes passed by and the kitchen timer went off. Dani's ears perked up, she ran to the timer and then to Diaz-Casillas. The second time around the dog gets it right and goes to fetch Boepple to the kitchen timer. The dog is trained to bring the deaf person to the origin of the sound, which could be the door, the phone or the kitchen.

"Often a dog will run to the trainer first," Diaz-Casillas said. "She's still getting used to Erma."

Dani gets rewarded with a doggie yogurt drop, and for a spot by Boepple's feet, which she'll keep for as long as she's needed.

Becky Bosshart can be contacted at

© Copyright 2004