Betty Brietkrietz-Miller and Hearing Assistance Dog Hazel
Author: Sarah Selz
Can Do Canines first came into Betty Brietkrietz-Miller’s life by chance while watching the evening Mankato news. Upon seeing coverage of local assistance dogs, Betty immediately thought, “Oh, that’s something I would like to do!” Now, over 15 years and three assistance dogs later, Can Do Canines has become an important part of Betty’s and her family’s lives.
Betty’s “aha” moment upon seeing assistance dogs on the news stemmed from multiple needs. Betty was born deaf and also deals with anxiety, depression, arthritis and Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can cause episodes of feeling like she’s spinning. This combination of challenges meant that an assistance dog could help Betty in multiple ways, both for hearing needs, such as alerting her to the oven timer, smoke detector, or alarm clock, and for physical needs, such as picking up items she’s dropped on the floor.
After reaching out to Can Do Canines, Betty received her first Hearing Assist Dog, Pepper, in 1994. She was living in her own apartment at the time and hoped Pepper could help her become more independent. Recalling the experience, Betty says, “Back then, I did most of the work myself.” She met with Pepper’s Can Do Canines trainer, attended obedience classes, and even worked on Pepper’s training herself. Although working with Pepper took effort and patience at first, Betty had a positive experience. This led her to apply for another Can Do Canine when Pepper passed away in 2006 and, again, when her second assistance dog, Claire, passed away in 2016.
Enter Hazel, a two-year-old blue merle smooth-coated Collie. When Betty first saw Hazel, she thought, “Wow, what a beautiful Collie!” Of course, Hazel is more than a beautiful dog. After only two months together, Hazel has already helped Betty feel comfortable and secure in her own home. “It’s nice to have Hazel in my life to help me with sounds. I feel a lot safer. She’s my security blanket. I know I can trust her.”
Hazel is also a great asset outside of the home. “I love taking my dog out in public for safety reasons. Hearing Assist Dogs also help build a social bridge between others and myself so they become aware that I’m deaf and so that they learn more about us.” Betty describes how her appreciative husband, Duane, is more at ease knowing that Betty has Hazel. “If I’m home and something happens, Duane knows Hazel will take care of it for me.”
While Betty is thankful for such an incredible dog, her patience, understanding, and adaptability have made it possible for her to adjust to three different dogs at three different levels of training as Can Do Canines has grown over the years. Reflecting on her experience with many trainers and volunteers, she says, “Hazel is well behaved, she listens and she does a fabulous job! I appreciate everyone’s work. It’s really hard to put into words.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home – Ron Norton
Puppy Raiser – Jerry Schendel
Dog donor – Amy Ross