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Every once in a while, a heartwarming story comes along that reaffirms our faith in humanity and the incredible bond between humans and dogs. Charlie, a Wheaton Terrier/Poodle mix, is one such tale of resilience, hope, and the remarkable journey of a dog who found his calling as a Service Dog in an unexpected way.

 

The Backstory

Charlie’s story begins with a Craigslist ad that caught the attention of a Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) staff member. His previous owners, a mother and daughter, had been displaced by a devastating wildfire. Unable to take their beloved pet with them to their new location, they tearfully decided to find Charlie a new home, hoping he would make a positive difference in someone’s life.

When our training staff met Charlie, it was evident that he had a sweet and silly personality that could melt anyone’s heart. Despite being matted and flea-ridden, his eyes sparkled with happiness and playfulness. His new journey began with a visit to the vet and a much-needed grooming session. Charlie aced his initial assessments, and his response to sounds was promising. Once he was feeling great, inside and out, he embarked on his training journey in DBL’s Hearing Dog Program.

 

Certified Assistance Dog Trainer Dana with Charlie at his graduation photo shoot.

Training for Success

Charlie flourished under the skillful expertise of Certified Assistance Dog Trainer, Dana. Dana’s patience, knowledge, and commitment to Charlie’s progress played a pivotal role in shaping him into the exceptional Hearing Dog he is today. Together, they practiced recognizing and responding to a variety of sounds, ensuring that Charlie was not only proficient in his duties but also confident and reliable.

During Charlie’s transition to his new life, he spent some crucial time with DBL foster volunteer, Christina. This period was instrumental in preparing him for the significant role he was about to undertake. Christina provided the love, care, and extra support necessary for Charlie to excel in his new role as a Hearing Dog.

When Charlie returned to campus, he showed Dana and the training team that he was ready for his next step as a Home Hearing Dog. Charlie had become the best possible version of himself and was ready to provide his future client, Joanell, with the support and companionship she needs to navigate her world with confidence and joy.

 

Joanell’s Journey

Joanell’s life took a sudden turn when, at the age of 70, she lost her hearing completely. “All I could think about, was how was I going to manage my life without sound,” remembers Joanell. While cochlear implants offered a glimmer of hope, she still struggled to manage sounds in her new world. Joanell knew of Hearing Dogs but didn’t know how to get one.

Through extensive research and numerous inquiries online, Joanell was inspired by heartwarming testimonials, she decided to take the plunge.

Expecting a long wait of 12 to 18 months for a dog to be trained and placed with her, Joanell was ecstatic when, just seven months after applying, she received a life-changing phone call. There was a Hearing Dog available, and his name was Charlie. “I jumped out of my chair with joy,” said Joanell. “I couldn’t believe it!”

 

Joanell with Home Hearing Dog Charlie during his placement.

The Meeting

Charlie’s arrival at Joanell’s home exceeded her expectations. DBL Field Representative, Laura, lead Charlie up the sidewalk to Joanell’s home.

“I couldn’t hold in my joy! I greeted them at our front door and Charlie immediately licked my hand,” said Joanell.

Charlie immediately nuzzled against her, as if he knew he had found his forever home.

 

Charlie, the Sound Superstar

From the moment Charlie stepped into Joanell’s life, he took his role as a Hearing Dog seriously. Since placement, he has taught himself to alert her to various sounds. “He learned the tea kettle whistle recently, without my showing him. He heard that sound, which I didn’t, and came to get me.  I followed him to the kitchen and his nose was toward the stove, looking at me as if to say “don’t you hear that?” I couldn’t believe it,” recalled Joanell.

Charlie’s sensitivity to sounds extended beyond the home. He alerted Joanell to external sounds, such as visitors at the door, which she could not hear while outside.

“His interest in the world is one of his delightful traits that I hope he never loses,” said Joanell.

Joanell relaxing at home with Charlie

Not only is Charlie a great Service Dog, but he’s also a loyal companion. “He stays by my side most of the time, but also finds my husband’s feet a great resting place in the afternoons. He’s a great joy to have around now that we are retired.” When Charlie is not working, playing ball is his life. He happily engages in games of ball, and if no one is around to play, he even knows how to roll the ball away so he can chase it by himself.

Charlie’s intelligence, enthusiasm, and keen awareness to sounds make him an excellent Hearing Dog, anticipating Joanell’s needs one sound at a time.

 

A Remarkable Partnership

Joanell’s journey to hearing may have started with cochlear implants, but it was Charlie who truly transformed her life. Hearing dog teams like Joanell and Charlie are a testament to the dedication, patience, and expertise of those who make such partnerships possible.

Joanell sums it up best:

“I want to let everyone at DBL know that Charlie is the greatest gift I could receive in my lifetime. Not only is he a great working dog but a loyal companion.”

In the end, Charlie’s journey from a Craigslist ad to becoming a hearing hero showcases the incredible bond between humans and dogs. Dogs for Better Lives is committed to training shelter dogs to become Service Dogs, and Charlie shows everyone – dogs deserve second chances at an amazing, fulfilled life.


As of the date of this article, applications are open for Hearing Assistance Dogs. Visit dogsforbetterlives.org/dogs for information about our programs and to complete an application. All Assistance Dogs are provided to our clients at ZERO cost, thanks to donor support.

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