Dr. Cara Miller, an associate professor of psychology and faculty member in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., has a deep appreciation for her unique canine partners who have been by her side. Her profound deafness prevents her from hearing most sounds in her environment. For over 15 years, she has partnered with expertly trained Canine Companions service dogs to connect her to the important auditory cues, alarms, voices and sirens that occur daily.
Cara’s newest addition is Service Dog Frank, affectionately known as “Frankie.” Frankie is her third Canine Companions service dog, and with the ever-vigilant “supervision” of her retired service dog, Turf, he’s fitting in and loving his busy life as Cara’s ears.
“Before getting a service dog, I craved a greater sense of security related to environmental awareness,” Cara explains. “I worked so hard to be aware, even intentionally approaching hotel managers about ways to get my attention if the fire alarm sounded overnight, as visual alert systems sometimes didn’t wake me up.” She hoped for more independence and a service dog gave that to her, supporting her awareness of the happenings around her, both unheard and sometimes unseen.
Enter Frankie, whose acute abilities allow him to alert Cara to many important sounds – starting with her alarm clock each morning – with the unparalleled enthusiasm that comes from knowing that breakfast is the first step of the day. Together, Cara and Frankie work on new sounds that people with hearing may take for granted, such as the shrill whistle of the teakettle; the sirens from approaching emergency vehicles; or the sound of someone calling out their name.
As an associate professor, Cara studies and teaches about the benefits of the human-animal bond. “Canine Companions coaches clients in expanding the skills of service dogs, like Frankie, including adding sounds that are most important to us,” she says. “I know I can rely on Frankie to support my safety and awareness, and with our growing bond, I know that trust only gets ever stronger.”
Cara repeatedly turns to Canine Companions for her service dogs because she knows she can always reach out for support, guidance and even to celebrate successes. With a Canine Companions service dog by her side, she is more aware of her environment and has greater peace of mind. Additionally, her ability to establish meaningful connections with those around her has greatly improved.
As Cara told Frankie when they were first matched by Canine Companions, “Bud, we’re going to have some adventures.” There’s no denying that this duo will make that a reality for a lifetime.