Canines who become assistance dogs are pretty special – just ask Amy Hogue. She relies on her hearing assistance dog Mindy to be her ears, alerting her to specific sounds and situations.
“With Mindy at my side, I don’t feel anxious about what I’m missing out on because of my deafness,” Amy says. “Before Mindy, my world was sedentary and gray. Then she came into my life, and it’s as though it exploded in technicolor. In so many ways, she has taught me how to live and experience life.”
Danielle Kempe, a development manager for Dogs for Better Lives (DBL), never tires of stories like Amy’s. Since its founding in 1977, the nonprofit has worked to professionally train dogs to help people and enhance lives. Today, it specializes in hearing assistance, autism assistance, and facility dogs, and is the only accredited service dog organization that serves the entire U.S. Along the way, the nonprofit has rescued and placed more than 1,300 dogs.
“Our assistance dogs can be a powerful tool for restoring autonomy and independence for individuals living with a disability, and a welcome addition to many families and support networks,” Danielle explains, emphasizing that DBL trains and places rescue dogs at no cost to the client.
The group’s hearing assistance dogs learn to alert people to household sounds that are necessary for everyday safety and independence. Its autism assistance dogs enhance the safety of children with autism by acting as an anchor and preventing the child from bolting. Its facility dogs work with professionals such as physicians, teachers, counselors, police officers, and child advocates, providing a calming, accepting and comforting presence, often in difficult times.
For more than 40 years, Dogs for Better Lives has been enriching the lives of both canines and clients, and Danielle says DBL looks forward to continuing this mission for another 40 years. “Too often, individuals living with a disability are forced to sacrifice a measure of independence to navigate their lives safely,” she says. “Our assistance dogs make a huge difference in their lives.”