“A dog is man's best friend,” a well-known universal truth. But some dogs exceed that descriptive for special reasons. There are dogs that serve in various ways, the most common is the police K-9, yet others are “service dogs” trained to be of assistance in specific ways.
One such animal, Velamina, lives with Al Pethel of Hernando, MS and helps him with his limited ability to hear.
Pethel is legally deaf, having lost most of his hearing due to his years in music, both as an instrumentalist and vocalist with some of the most famous bands and groups of the 20th century. It came to the point that Pethel had to learn to read lips to augment his inability to discern different tonal ranges of sound.
Then Pethel came in contact with “Canine Companions for Independence” (cci.org) and he was put on a list for a dog. The wait was two years, during which time Velamina was born in 2016 and began training, learning basic obedience skills. The next phase took her through months of daily training at the CCI campus.
Pethel's application was approved, and he went to receive Velamina and to complete a two-week personal training course. There he became familiar with the 27-odd commands she understands how to let Pethel know what needs his attention. She does so by nudging him, and then with physical clues Pethel understands what she's conveying.
Velamina's life is strictly regulated in every way, including her diet. And nothing can be altered or varied.
Being with Pethel 24/7, she wears a special harness/halter that is labeled so that the public is aware that she is not to be petted when they're in a facility that allows service dogs. And, being a special companion dog, she is never refused entry because of Pethel's dependence on her ability to hear what he cannot. Pethel can read lips when communicating with people, but Velamina picks up on hundreds of sounds that he's unable to hear.
Since dogs normally live 10+ years, and asked if her longevity is something Pethel will have to eventually deal with, he commented, “Well, it'll be tough but I'll just have to move on in life without her. She's been with me now, every day and night, and I rely on her. It's not going to be easy to say good-bye when the time comes.”
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