One of the greatest joys from writing about a fictional pet sitter is that I get mail from real pet sitters, real dog and cat rescuers, real trainers, real breeders, real assistance animal providers. They all expand my knowledge and awareness. I’m continually amazed at the just plain downright goodness of people who love animals and who serve as links between four-legged beings and two-legged beings.
People, for example, like Sheri Soltes, founder and President of Texas Hearing and Service Dogs in Austin, Texas. Sheri’s group of dedicated people train dogs to work with people whose lives would otherwise be limited because of difficulties with hearing or mobility. Hearing dogs let a person know when the doorbell rings, when the oven timer sounds, when the baby’s crying, when the phone rings, or when the alarm clock is going off. On the street, they not only alert a person to dangers like oncoming cars, their presence lets other people know they can’t be heard, and that it isn’t rudeness that makes a person fail to respond to an unseen greeting.
A service dog makes it possible for a person with any kind of physical disability to live a normal life with more confidence. At the same time, the dog provides loyal friendship and unconditional love. I especially like the fact that Texas Hearing and Service Dogs adopt adult shelter dogs and train them as service dogs. Sheri says they “turn strays into stars” by taking dogs the rest of the world has thrown away and transforming them into sophisticated assistants. They take pride in the fact that all their training techniques are positive — no corrections, no metal collars to choke or pinch, no scolding. Their methods are very similar to marine animal training, and for fifteen years they have had mentors from the marine animal training world.
When I meet people like Sheri and her coworkers, I am awed at their generosity of heart. You can learn more about them at Texas Hearing and Service Dogs.