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A Vest for Frijole - A Hearing Assistance Dog

  • Published: 2012-03-29 (Revised/Updated 2014-04-27) : Wendy Taormina-Weiss.
  • Synopsis: A service dog is one that has been trained or is being trained to assist a person who is physically disabled other than sight or hearing impaired.
Assistance Dog
Service Dog - The catch all term for any dog that helps a physically or mentally disabled person.

Categories of Service Dogs Include:

Walker Dog: Helps the handler walk by balancing or acting as a counter balance. Does many of the tasks that the Mobility Assist Dog does.

Combo Dog: Some programs, Paws With A Cause, for example, have started training dogs for people with multiple disabilities, like a guide/mobility assist dog.

Mobility Assist Dog: Pulls a person's wheelchair, carries things in a backpack, picks up things a person drops, opens/closes doors, helps the handler get dressed or undressed.

Seizure Alert/Response Dog: This dog is trained to respond to a person's seizures and either stay with the person, or go get help. Some dogs are trained to hit a button on a console to automatically dial 911. When the dog hears the voice over the speaker, the dog starts barking. The disabled person would have arranged that the system is dog activated.

Psychiatric Service Dog: A person with a mental disability may need a dog to be able to go out in public (agraphobic), or may be autistic and need the dog to keep them focused. These dogs are trained NEVER to leave their handler's side.

Signal Dog: A dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog alerts the partner to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping). A person with autism may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.

Main Document

Quote: "Despite the close proximity of the State of Oklahoma, we are not about to pile into the car and drive there."

The 28th of March found my husband Tom and I traveling to Denver to pick up our little dog Frijole. He has been at the American Canine Academy, receiving training not only in basic commands such as, 'sit,' 'stay,' and, 'heel,' but also to alert Tom to specific sounds in order to help him as a hearing assistant dog. Frijole alerts to sounds such as the dryer buzzer, the smoke alarm, or the door bell; sounds Tom misses most of the time.

In the State of Colorado where we live an, 'Assistance Dog,' is one that has been or is being trained as a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog. A, 'guide dog,' is one that has been or is being specially trained to aid a person who is either blind or visually impaired, while a, 'hearing dog,' is one that is trained or is being trained to assist a person who is deaf or hearing impaired. A, 'service dog,' is one that has been trained or is being trained to assist a person who is physically disabled other than sight or hearing impaired. 'Disability,' in the State of Colorado has the same meaning as set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tom is a person with various disabilities, to include osteoarthritis, epilepsy, and a hearing impairment. He is a tall guy at 6'1" tall and he weighs (don't tell him I told you) around 225 pounds. Frijole is far too small to support him in any way, but there is something rather interesting... Frijole is helping Tom in a physical way that is not usually mentioned. The very fact that Frijole is small makes it easier for a person with osteoarthritis to handle him! A larger dog would drag Tom all around the block, so to speak.

So what to do with our now trained little Frijole - Hearing Assistant Dog? The first thing Frijole did when he came through the front door was attempt to make friends with the Kitty-Cats and oh my...the cats certainly do remember HIM. It was time to set boundaries all over again, although they are getting along much better this morning (smile). It is amusing, watching the cats chase the dog, and then the dog chase them while they have fun with each other. When they stopped, they all fell asleep together.

Image of a Hearing Assistant Dog patchFrijole is far more polite and well-behaved, and his training is showing. When he stops for any reason he promptly sits down and waits for a command, for example. Our little guy needs some attire suitable for going out in public, where he can serve Tom. But what about that nosy neighbor of ours - the one who seems determined to pester the HOA board about the two service dogs on our floor? The State of Colorado has laws concerning trained service dogs and people who attempt to use authority to deny the services of these dogs. For example:

"Any person who wrongfully obtains or exerts unauthorized control over a dog guide or service animal with the intent to deprive the dog guide or service animal user of his or her dog guide or service animal is guilty of theft in the first degree."

We own a home on the fourth floor in a complex and Colorado also has laws concerning housing. A, 'housing accommodation,' means any real property or portion thereof that is used or occupied, or intended, arranged, or designed to be used or occupied, as the home, residence, or sleeping place of one or more persons. There is certainly no questioning the training Frijole received - the American Canine Academy is a qualified trainer of an assistance dog under Colorado State Law; one that is qualified to train assistance dogs.

So, with no major concerns about the position of Colorado State law in relation to Frijole, his training, our housing, or the attempts by our rather pesky neighbor who appears to dislike People with Disabilities (he hasn't complained about the untrained and rather loud dog below him), we started reviewing places to get Frijole an appropriate Hearing Dog vest and so forth. We couldn't purchase anything for him until he came back home because we didn't know if he would continue to grow; he is right around a year old.

We found some different places to purchase the items we want, but the one we chose is the LDS Leather Company. The company is small and family owned and is located in the heart of leather country in the State of Oklahoma, a State right next door to us. The LDS Leather Company has a lengthy history of training, working with, living with, competing with, as well as loving dogs.

Image of a dog with a Burgundy Service Dog VestDespite the close proximity of the State of Oklahoma, we are not about to pile into the car and drive there. The company has a website we can order items for Frijole from. The company's leather products are incredible, but Frijole is indeed one little guy. Looking through their products we found a nice, nylon vest, as well as some different patches the LDS Leather Company can sew on it.

The vest we have chosen is Burgundy in color, and one of the patches is a, 'Hearing Assistant Dog,' patch that will go on one side. Another patch is an, 'Assistant Dog,' patch that will go on the back. On Frijole's other side we are going to have a see-through window sewn on that we can put his identification card in.

Many people with disabilities have larger service dogs, and the LDS Leather Company has leather dog leashes, dog collars, and all kinds of other gear that lasts for a long time. The family members who run the company use their own products and design them for their own use - they demand the best and provide them to others. After checking out some of their leather items, we kind of wish Frijole was a little bit bigger; sigh.

When we read that all of the company's products are hand-made, we sort of expected their prices to be well...outrageous. After looking at other places to get Frijole some gear, we found out that the LDS Leather Company actually has very reasonable prices. The company also realizes that dogs come in all shapes and sizes; fortunately.

Image of Frijole, sittingToday we are going to measure Frijole around the chest at the largest point, behind his front legs, and then order him his Hearing Assistant Dog gear. We are continuing to work with our little guy, and soon we will begin taking him out in public. It has cost us a thousand dollars to get Frijole trained, and we had to live without our friend for two months while he was being trained. It has all been worth it. What about costs related to State fees or other costs

In Colorado State, people who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or otherwise physically disabled have the right to be accompanied by an assistance dog that is specially trained for them without being required to pay any extra charges for their assistance dog in places of public accommodation or on public transportation, as well as any housing accommodation that is offered for rent, lease, or other compensation in the state. People with Disabilities are exempt from any state or local licensing fees or charges that might otherwise apply in relation to owning an assistance dog as well.

Before too much longer, I will write an article about Frijole's experiences at the American Canine Academy (ACA). A little dog, among so many larger ones...but the ACA trains little dogs too. Assistance dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds, and the services they provide to People with Disabilities are invaluable. Welcome Home Frijole!

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