Matthew Lambert – June 9, 2017 (Pierce County Herald) – Imagine being unable to hear the alarm to get up and go to work. Or missing the fire alarm while the lasagna begins to smolder in the oven.
Betty Brietkrietz-Miller has to deal with these challenges on a daily basis. Brietkrietz-Miller was born deaf. When she moved to Mankato to start college, she knew she wouldn’t always have roommates around to help her so she needed to find an alternative option for when she lived alone.
That’s when Brietkrietz-Miller, a Prescott native, heard about Can Do Canines on the evening news, a company that trains assistance dogs for people.
Can Do Canines is a company based out of New Hope, Minn. which began in 1989. The non-profit organization trains dogs for people who live with disabilities/conditions such as hearing loss, diabetes, mobility, seizures and autism.
The company trains dogs for two years and assigns them to a certain disability category, according to Can Do Canines Marketing & Communications Coordinator Ashley Mondor.
On June 10, Brietkrietz-Miller will be part of a graduation ceremony, marking the end of training for the assistance dogs and giving them to their new owners.
This will be Brietkrietz-Miller’s third assistance dog and she is ready to get Hazel, a smooth collie, who will perform a variety of tasks.
“She alerts me to sounds in my home,” Brietkrietz-Miller said. “If I drop something, she’ll nudge me…that’s how she alerts me.”
Brietkrietz-Miller said hearing assistance dogs used to alert her by jumping on her. This way, it’s just a slight nudge of Hazel’s nose to get her attention.
Of the dogs that Brietkrietz-Miller has had, she said Hazel is the most energetic. They routinely get to play and do a lot of different tricks. Brietkrietz-Miller said Hazel shows her things she wouldn’t normally see, since Hazel is constantly looking around.
“We were at Como Park and walked around and I noticed she was looking at something…it was a beaver,” Brietkrietz-Miller said. “If I didn’t have her, I wouldn’t have known there was a beaver there.”
Brietkrietz-Miller described the graduation ceremony as “emotional” with Mondor adding “there are a lot of tears.”
In the past, Brietkrietz-Miller said she walked across the stage and met the dog and the previous owner. Brietkrietz-Miller will receive a diploma and Hazel will receive a bone to enjoy.
Can Do Canines utilizes volunteers to raise and train labrador, collie, and poodle puppies for two years, who then bring them back to the company for further training. Mondor said they are currently in need of volunteers who are interested in raising puppies; if you are interested in adopting go to https://can-do-canines.org/ for more details.
Brietkrietz-Miller described her experience with Can Do Canines as incredible; the money she has saved by going through the company is remarkable. On average, the cost of an assistance dog is $25,000.
Mondor said that at Can Do Canines, there is no cost, rather they give the dogs away for free, thanks to people who raise funds heavily. The organization implements a heavy vetting process to find suitable people and the best dog to pair with the person and their assistance needs.
Brietkrietz-Miller is prepared for an emotional day on June 10 and said having a companion like Hazel helps her immensely.
Some advice that Brietkrietz-Miller has for people that see Hazel, either when she’s going for a walk or at work at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis, is that approaching Hazel is never a good idea, or any assistance dog for that matter.
“When you see a service dog in public, it’s important not to make eye contact,” Brietkrietz-Miller said. “Don’t pet them. Don’t touch them. Just pretend they’re invisible. I know it’s hard but they need to be working for me because if you distract the dog, the dog stops working for me…and that could be dangerous.”