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May 12, 2007

Deaf woman needs new 'helper' dog

From: Brattleboro Reformer - Brattleboro,VT,USA - May 12, 2007

By NICOLE ORNE, Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO -- "She's a giving person, and sometimes giving people need to be rewarded," said Leah Stewart, a friend of Dorothy Banges.
Banges, a full-blooded Shenaki Indian, has been deaf since she was 10 years old and has been in a wheelchair for around nine or 10 years.

Because she does not want to depend on other people, Banges has a specialty dog named Louise, nicknamed Weezy, from NEADS (Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans) in Massachusetts.

Louise was recently diagnosed with an incurable, fast-moving, aggressive type of bone cancer. This has forced NEADS to retire her, but Banges has been allowed to keep her at home so that she can "die at the house in comfort," Banges explained through a translator.

After "10 years of companionship," Banges has a hard time dealing with losing Louise.

"All I can do is cry, cry, cry. I don't want to lose Louise, she's my buddy, we get in trouble together. I want Louise but I can't anymore," said Banges.

Louise graduated as a specialty dog in 1999. She assists Banges with hearing tasks like answering the phone and service tasks like pulling the wheelchair so that Banges does not get callouses on her hands.

Along with these every day tasks, Louise has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Louise received a reward when she saved Banges' life by calling 911 when her blood sugar went too low.

The two learned English together, so that Louise can responds to requests in Shenaki, Spanish and English. Louise also knows how to count to five and can sing, with official certification from the Mohawk Intertribal School in Northfield, Mass.

Now that Louise can't work, Banges has to get another dog, but the total fee for a new assistance dog is $9,500.

Because of her disabilities, Banges cannot work. She is on a fixed income and receives $25 a month from the government for food for the dog, but she can't manage the money necessary for a new dog.

NEADS has come up with the idea for a raffle, and businesses around the community have been donating items for prizes.

Some of these include a $25 gift card to Price Chopper, a $20 gift certificate to the Brattleboro Co-op and two large cheese pizzas from Vermont Inn Pizza.

Children in the special needs community are used to seeing Banges and Louise together.

Banges tells the story of a little boy that, when told that Louise had cancer, gave Banges 4 cents and a Band-Aid to fix it.

"I try to be strong," she said. "I know Louise misses every one, I'm thankful to the community for trying to help her."

So far, though, Banges has raised $300.

Tickets will be on sale, one for $1 or six for $5, this Sunday at the Co-op in Brattleboro and again on Sunday, June 10 at the Walmart in Hinsdale, New Hampshire.

The drawing will be held on Monday, June 25. Any other donations can be made to NEADS, P.O. Box 213, West Boylston, Mass. 01583.

Nicole Orne can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 271.

© 2007 Brattleboro Reformer