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Hearing Dog Program

Hearing Dog Team Graham & Birdie

Hearing Dog Team Graham & Birdie

As Graham’s nickname is “Birdie,” it may just have been in the stars for him to match with hearing service dog Birdie!
The journey that united the two Birdies began four years ago when Graham first applied to IHDI. Graham was born Deaf due to a congenital condition and received bilateral cochlear implants during elementary school. He grew up bilingual in English and American Sign Language, yet applied for a hearing dog to help him navigate the world as “even with cochlear implants, I don’t always get everything. And when I don’t have the implants on, I have to rely on sight and feel.”

Birdie, a beautiful and spirited black Lab, was welcomed into IHDI’s Puppy Raiser Program three years later. Olivia, a University of Denver graduate student, IHDI intern, and Puppy Raiser, raised Birdie until she started intensive training with Master Handlers as part of IHDI’s PAWS’abilities Program at the Wyoming Correctional Institute. Upon returning to IHDI, Birdie was on a solid path and ready for the final stages of training.

Graham believed he would be the perfect fit for Birdie’s exuberance, as did IHDI. He leads an active lifestyle and looks forward to Birdie’s abundant canine energy. As an engineer, Graham naturally maintains the analytic approach to Birdie’s training.

At last, Graham and Birdie were able to begin working as partners at team training. Leah, Director of Dog Operations at IHDI, said, “Graham works well with Birdie’s energy and helps her channel it appropriately. He enjoys challenging Birdie with her sound alerts and obedience cues, yet loves to see her chase balls, play, and just be a dog. They make a great team. Both are clearly dedicated to this partnership.”

Graham and Birdie have settled into their new life and work daily on sound alerts and obedience cues. Birdie accompanies Graham to work and even has her own security badge. True to their adventurous natures, Graham and Birdie walk miles together daily and embark on weekend excursions. When asked what the best part of life with Birdie has been thus far, Graham shared, “It has been successfully introducing her to the many people I care about in my life.”

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