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The Transformative Bond: Nicole’s Journey with Hearing Assistance Dog Freya

By July 13, 2023No Comments

Hearing Assistance Dog Freya was one of the first puppies from the Dogs for Better Lives “F Litter” to be placed with a client. Freya was placed with Nicole in New York earlier this year. We recently interviewed Nicole to find out how their first months together were going. Nicole is running in support of Dogs for Better Lives this summer at the Falmouth Road Race, where she’ll raise funds to pay it forward to other individuals in need of a Service Dog.

Support Nicole’s fundraising efforts for the Falmouth Road Race by donating to her fundraising page. Read on for excerpts of our interview with Nicole.

Q: Did you have any hesitations about applying for a Hearing Dog?

Nicole: I had thought about getting a Hearing Dog for a while but I didn’t love how other organizations required I travel to them for training. I’m a nurse so getting that much time off from work, plus the cost of travel and lodging, would be challenging. Dogs for Better Lives brings the dog to the client and trains in your hometown, which made me choose DBL. I was nervous about how I would integrate a dog into my work, but I saw that DBL had placed a dog with a pediatrician before which made me confident that DBL had the experience to support me.


Q: Do you remember meeting Freya and what that was like?

When I found out Freya would be placed with me I was in total shock. I felt like I must be dreaming; it felt unreal. I immediately called my family to let them know but had to keep checking that the email was still there. The day Freya arrived I spent the whole morning rearranging her toys and cleaning- I was nervous and wanted to make her homecoming perfect. When she got out of the car my first thought was that she was so small! In pictures she looked much bigger, but she’s just a petite princess. She was so full of love and kisses from the first minute. I cried several times that first week when it hit me that she was really mine.


Nicole and Hearing Assistance Dog enjoy a stroll together

Q: How has life changed since Freya was placed with you?

Everything has changed since I got Freya. She makes me feel so much safer, both at home and out in public. I’m more confident with Freya by my side because I know I won’t miss an important sound. Freya is also a great conversation starter with new people, which makes the challenge of socializing as a Deaf person a little easier. This summer Freya and I went camping alone for the first time; before Freya I never would have felt safe enough to do that. We had an incredible weekend of swimming, hiking, and lazing by the fire. Freya lets me be my most authentic self.


Q: Are there any specific moments where Freya surprised you since you’ve had her?

We’ve had a few moments of surprise since I got Freya. The second day of placement was the first day we did public access training. She was full of energy and curiosity at home so I didn’t fully believe that she was going to be good in public, but when her gentle leader went on her entire personality changed. She was attentive and focused, and her little face was so serious! She’s marvelous at public access, and still is a goofy sweetheart at home.

The first time I went to visit my parents, I brought Freya into the backyard where there’s a pond. She dove straight into the pond and began swimming laps! That’s how I learned that Freya absolutely loves the water.

Sometimes Freya will hear a sound that seems “important” and alerts me, even though it isn’t one of her trained sounds. For example, I live near a fire station, and every time a truck drives by with sirens she runs over to give me a tap.


Q: What does Freya like to do in her down time?
Freya’s hobbies include playing fetch, swimming in Lake Ontario, and chewing on her favorite duckie toy. She also is a huge cuddle bug and insists on snuggling every night after dinner.

Q: You’re running the Falmouth Road Race this summer as part of the Dogs for Better Lives Team. What inspired you to sign up as a runner and fundraiser?

I began running during nursing school. I found it was a great outlet for both the stress of losing my hearing and the stress of school. I had to learn to be at peace in silence while I ran. Running and my deafness are inextricably linked- now I use my running time to practice listening to books and music through my cochlear implant. When I saw that Dogs for Better Lives had a team I was so excited- I want to give back to the organization that gave me so much. I’m looking forward to melding two of my favorite things- my love for Freya and my love for running- while raising money so that more people in need of service dogs have the same opportunity DBL gave me.

While I now live in Rochester, NY I grew up in Massachusetts. I’m most excited to be able to race in my home state and have family and friends there to support me. I’ve also heard that the Falmouth road race is a beautiful course so I look forward to enjoying all 7 miles!

Freya’s tasks and ability to perform as a service dog are absolutely incredible- no doubt. But my favorite thing about her is how much love and affection she gives. Becoming Deaf can be incredibly isolating- conversations with the people closest to me are challenging. Freya doesn’t care how much I hear, or if my cochlear implant is on. She loves me exactly how I am, and we understand each other perfectly. Her silly antics at home always make me smile, and her serious demeanor at work makes me so proud. I can’t thank DBL enough for the gift they gave me in Freya. She’s my world and my life is immeasurably better with her in it.


Hearing Assistance Dogs are trained to alert people to household sounds that are necessary for everyday safety and independence. They are trained to alert to sounds by making physical contact (jumping on you, or nosing you) then leading you to the sound. Additionally, many of our Hearing Dogs are also trained and certified for public access.  Learn more about Hearing Assistance Dogs and apply at dogsforbetterlives.org/hearing-dogs

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