EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: Hearing Dogs... Say it in Sign !

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hearing Dogs... Say it in Sign !


Say it in Sign !

by Diana of SayItInSign

Blake signing 'Lay Down!'

Almost everyone has heard of a seeing eye dog but a hearing dog, what is that ? Hearing dogs are specially trained to tell a deaf person when the phone rings, when someone is outside, etc.

Sadly the organizations out there have too few dogs for the amount of deaf that need them. It is absolutely amazing what the cost is for the training of one dog which can come to about $100k ! That is due to the cost of covering food, training, vets etc. The average person generally pays a fee of 100.00 and donations are raised to cover the balance.

Training organizations only use blood lines that they know are successful and even then the rate of how many are successful out of a liter is extremely small. IF the puppy raiser doesn't want the dog back then the dog sometimes is turned over to a rescue or to the animal shelter!

That saddened our hearts knowing that many of these dogs are not used to empower, improve and befriend someone just because they are not of a certain blood line or that they don't make the "cut" due to training. Sometimes trainers fall in love with a puppy and purposely don't train them so they can keep them for themselves.


At any rate, for our family a hearing dog was crucially important for Blake, our son, who is profoundly deaf. We toured Canine for Independence in Ocoee Fl a couple of years ago. CCI has strict rules, for example, someone under the age of 18 who needs a seeing eye dog or 21 if they are in need of a hearing dog... unless they are in a wheelchair are not allowed to have a dog. Most organizations abide to the 18 yr old rule.

Later on and with much research, we found an organization that will train dogs that are in shelters as hearing dogs. Regrettably, they don’t have the funding or staff to train as many as they would like to so only a few are selected. There is a high demand for trained dogs but few are able to do the training. The waiting list can be up to 5 years !


We decided that age was not going to stop us so we adopted a lab mix Odie from the SPCA. Odie was about two and our son & myself found an awesome trainer. Debby Snyder from Dog Sense Obedience. She had never worked with a deaf person nor had she specially trained dogs as hearing dogs. (You have to have a special license/insurance for training seeing eye or hearing dogs.)

However, Debby has trained dogs for over 30 years and the principles are the same... so we got started with basic obedience first. Then with Debby's help we trained Odie to Blake's specific needs. He doesn't need to know when the hearing phone rings he can't talk but he does need to know if someone is outside the house, calls his name or if his video phone rings etc.

Sadly though, even with Odie's special training we can't certify him as a "service dog" but Odie recently achieved & got his Canine Good Citizen Award!! He also has his Pet Therapy certification so that Odie, Blake and myself can share our love for him with those in nursing homes, hospice and assisted living facilities.

Besides from being a faithful loyal friend and companion to Blake and the rest of the family... what makes Odie so special ? He can understand true American Sign Language & hand signals... and not just the dog signals!

Blake signing 'Sit!'

Oh and did I forget to mention that since no one told Odie that he is not the official service dog he thinks he is… regardless... he has twice saved my life when I had a medical emergency & stopped breathing.

So, April 2008 was the happiest of times for our family because it is when we met and adopted our Odie. And on a final note, the concept of adoption is very important to our family as we believe it is one way of blending lives and making forever families. Blake and his brother were also adopted and so adopting Odie for Blake facilitated a deeper meaning & connection for him.

Blake & Odie 'hugging'

Thanks for reading our story ! Stop by our Etsy shop, Say It In Sign, and see the work Blake and I do in helping bridge the gap of hearing and deaf through finger spelling. We use a part of the money to help with different rescues.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this wondrous story, Diana !

  2. Couple of good lookin' guys you have there *grin*. Of course I may be just a teensy bit biased, (as Blake is dating my daughter and all...)
    Congratulations on your very first blog post ;o)

  3. Diana - brilliant - absolutely incredible! I am overwhelmed at this blog and all the information I have received from it - I had no idea! Absolutely amazing - :D amazing!!!!!!

  4. What an inspiring story - thank you for sharing!
    - Donna @ mystuff2.etsy.com

  5. This is such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. I have been learning sign and teaching a little to my students. I love that you brought Odie into your lives.

  6. Wonderful that you could train a "genetically suspicious" dog! The blood lines of guide dogs are so inbred that they have many health problems. We know because Mr. P's guide dog died too young. We're impressed with your post.

  7. What a fabulous story!! Everyone wins. Thank you for sharing!!

  8. This is heartwarming for all parties involved - Blake and Odie look so great together. Very glad to read this story - I love happy endings!

  9. Great story! Such a cute pic of Blake and Odie hugging! Thanks for sharing!

  10. What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing and the pictures.

  11. What a fantastic story! Really loved reading this!

  12. Thanks everyone for all the kind comments it was from our/my heart. This was my first attempt at writing a blog ( so glad no one could see me shakiing). Nicole was awesome in her encouraging words and told me write from me heart. :-) She also deserves the credit for setting it up and posting it. ( clapping hands) as that part I am clueless.
    We love all animals but dogs are our passion, okay Odie and Blake send a howdy and a thanks to everyone too!


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