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Dr. Michelle Ludwig, fiancé John Goodrich and Marguerite
What does a CCI graduate team do following two weeks of training classes? Live life to the fullest! We caught up with Dr. Michelle Ludwig and Marguerite, her hearing assistance dog of eight years, recently to find out how life with her trained hearing dog was progressing.
Michelle is a 2007 graduate. Her late husband had met a Canine Companions hearing dog team during a business trip. Realizing how a hearing dog would benefit Michelle when he was traveling on business, they went through the application process together. As Michelle stated, “It’s a little scary being by yourself when you can’t hear.” During this period, Michelle had been working 100 hours weekly completing her residency. Tragically two months prior to Canine Companion’s team training notification, Michelle lost her husband to a heart attack. It is said that when one door is closed another opens. Perhaps Marguerite was opening that proverbial door.
Today Michelle is in her eighth year as an oncologist in Houston, Texas. How fortunate so many patients are encountering both Michelle and Marguerite in their medical care. Besides Michelle’s medical skills, this team provides an additional emotional care that must be amazing to witness. Many times a “lab visit” can be the highlight of a patient’s day. Seeing Marguerite’s wagging tail as the doctor gives the good news that a tumor has reduced in size - well, dogs just know how to celebrate. Michelle shared, “When bad news must be provided or a patient is having a particularly rough time, Marguerite comes into the room to help me with those difficult discussions. Depending on the patient, sometimes she sits by them and puts her head on their lap. She responds to their emotions with empathy that only a dog is capable. Other times she helps entertain children while I speak to their parents.” On surgery days, Marguerite has the day off.
Dr. Michelle Ludwig and Marguerite
During Michelle's time away from the hospital she loves horseback riding, which includes polo and fox hunting; clearly more than just a casual ride. The fast paced action of a polo match or the terrain encountered during a fox hunt might surprise some when they learn of her balance loss. Losing her hearing at age two from spinal meningitis also resulted in the loss of her balance making horse riding even more challenging. While Michelle is on horseback, Marguerite is playing with two Labrador friends from the barn. Marguerite enjoys cross country skiing too. She has learned that she will sink into the snow unless she stands on the back of Michelle’ s skis as they stop for a break. That’s team work!
It was interesting hearing how Marguerite assists Michelle. “Before I had her, I would miss friends stopping by the house. They would ring the doorbell that I couldn’t hear. Now she lets me know when they are there.” When the doorbell rings or the oven timer sounds or phone rings, Marguerite will nudge Michelle. Then using the command ‘what’ Marguerite will lead Michelle to the sound. Whether in a crowded room with someone across the room calling Michelle's name or while walking trails with a biker passing by the side, Marguerite gets her attention with a nudge. This assistance keeps these two active while enjoying a wonderful bond.
Canine Companions states, “We place our dogs in teams that will utilize their training and celebrate their spirits.” This team has truly met this goal from a nudge by Marguerite alerting Michelle of key sounds or assisting with “lab visits” and by Michelle sharing Marguerite with her patients. The comfort this team provides is priceless.
A special note from the Canine Companion family: We all congratulate Michelle on her engagement to John Goodrich! With Marguerite’s approval the wedding will be in September 2016.