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Lacey, the Service Dog, Offers Freedom to Woman with Hearing Loss

By PetcoFoundation on Mar. 23, 2017

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Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Jude Heimel won Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society in Santa Fe, New Mexico a 2016 Holiday Wishes award. 

Lacey, a 20-pound black and white spaniel mix, was on day eight at an overcrowded Los Angeles animal control facility. It was Lacey’s day to be euthanized. But a transport van from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society (SFASHS) pulled up and picked up all the dogs they could fit in the crates on their vehicle. Lacey narrowly escaped being euthanized and began her long trek across the Mojave Desert to New Mexico.

I have significant hearing loss – total deafness in my right ear and considerable loss in my left ear. I cannot tell which direction a sound is coming from. That can be dangerous. It is frustrating not to be able to hear conversations, and friends get tired of continually repeating themselves. I avoided group events. Also, I was recovering from an accident that shattered my right shoulder. I was lonely.

I heard about an animal adoption event and resolved to search for a companion among the small dogs. In the SFASHS tent, I found Lacey. She captured my heart. Even as we took a leashed walk, I felt joyous. After weeks of being in a kennel, Lacey seemed to enjoy the warm sunshine on her back. I called to her. She turned and raced back to me, her “lacey” tail wagging back and forth full throttle. I got down on one knee and hugged her. We quickly bonded.

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Lacey and I started a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) course, and we did well in training. One morning after class, Heidi, the dog trainer, remarked on my hearing loss. Heidi volunteered with disabled veterans wanting service dogs. She suggested we train Lacey as my service dog. We met every weekend for a year. Heidi gave me instructions and Lacey and I practiced throughout the rest of the week. We addressed basic obedience training, public access training and specific disability task training. After 600 hours of training, we took off the “Service Dog in Training” vest and put on “Service Dog” vest. I was so proud.

At home, Lacey alerts me to the tea kettle, stove timer and microwave. She locates my cell phone since even if I hear it, I cannot tell where the sound is coming from. She alerts me to vehicles arriving in the driveway. She does all this by rapidly coming to me, touching my knee and then scampering off toward the sound. She seems to delight in her duties.

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Last week, while walking on a road with no sidewalks, she alerted me to a car coming up fast on my deaf side. Thanks to her, we moved out of the way just in time.

Curious and friendly, Lacey likes to engage with other people. She pulls me into conversations that I would have shied away from before. I am no longer lonely that’s for sure.

Learn more about the Petco Foundation by visiting www.petcofoundation.org.


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