Responding to a ringing phone or doorbell, or a call for help from another room was nearly impossible for Lorraine Zuber of Palmerton, who had begun to lose her hearing when she was 20 years old.
After her first husband became wheelchair bound from injuring his neck in a fall, Lorraine became his caregiver, only she couldn't hear him from another room.
She had read articles about Hearing Dogs that alert their owners when certain sounds are heard, and wrote to the several addresses where they were being trained. It was around 1984, when the first "hearing dogs" were becoming available from private trainers on the East Coast and Dogs for the Deaf was just a few years old on the West Coast.
Within a few years after graduating from high school, she was noticing that she was unable to hear things like the ticking of a clock. She began using hearing aids of various varieties, first in her better ear – her left – and then for both ears.
Recently, she had a cochlear, a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound. It's often referred to as a bionic ear.
From the letters she wrote, Lorraine received a response from a Massachusetts hearing dog trainer, Bryant Farms. At Bryant Farms, Lorraine met Honey, a part Pomeranian, who she would love and depend on for the next 15 years.
"She was exceptional," Lorraine said. "Everyone loved that dog. Even people who hated dogs. Honey would alert me to the phone, the doorbell, someone knocking at the door, the timer, alarm clock, and my husband calling," Lorraine continued. "My husband would go 'Yoo-hoo' from his wheelchair when he needed something and Honey would get me."
As every silver lining has a cloud, Lorraine's was her husband's favorite TV show.
"My husband watched the Simpsons and invariably once or more than once the doorbell rings and Honey would be running back and forth. I had to put the dog outside," she said.
Honey was followed by Scout, and Scout by Shaggy, a shelter dog that Lorraine planned to train after she learned of a potential five-year wait for a Hearing Dog.
A year later when a dog became available, Lorraine wasn't sure what to do. When she received a photo of the Pomeranian and realized it looked exactly like Shaggy, and a little girl named Katey wanted Shaggy, and the daughter of the donor was named Katey, Lorraine felt this was meant to be.
They had been planning a trip to Florida, a typical 1,200-mile drive, so they rerouted their itinerary to pass by the Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. headquarters in Central Point, Oregon, a roughly 5,000-mile side trip, and came away with her new Hearing Dog, Colby.
"Colby is so good in public and makes a perfect representative for Dogs for the Deaf," Lorraine said.
She would like people to know about Dogs for the Deaf, and was recently talking to people about it at the Carbon County Fair.
For information about Dogs for the Deaf, see: dogsforthedeaf.org, email: email@example.com, call: 541-826-9220, or write: Dogs for the Deaf, 10175 Wheeler Road, Central Point, OR 97502.