Kyle & MatildaGraduate Team Kyle and Hearing Dog Matilda
Kyle with Hearing Dog Matilda
By Susan Wroble
Kyle first learned of Canine Companions for Independence through a 1989 National Geographic Special entitled “Those Wonderful Dogs.” He still keeps a copy of the program, which included a feature on a Canine Companions Skilled Companion dog named Zest. “Watching the program,” Kyle said, “even before I began having hearing loss, solidified in my mind the high standards Canine Companions sets for both the dogs and the disabled handlers.”
A decade later, Kyle began using a hearing dog. Max was a German Shorthaired Pointer puppy, and Kyle worked with professional trainers to ensure that Max was qualified for the job. When it came time for Max to retire, Kyle turned to Canine Companions . “I needed a successor that had been evaluated for health, professionally trained, and that I could depend on from day one.”
In June of 2011, Kyle was invited to a Team Training with five other deaf or hard of hearing candidates. The classes included canine learning theory and behavior, toileting, food allocation, and medical issues. They began working with puppets (to master the corrections) then rotated through seven hearing dogs. “Some dogs,” Kyle noted, “clicked better than others depending on each person’s particular style. In the end, it’s the working relationship and its ability to succeed that the trainers were looking for — and they did a good job in matching me with Matilda.” Matilda, a pure black lab, had been raised by inmates at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Miramar, California.
On a day-to-day basis, Matilda alerts Kyle to ringing phones, knocks on the door, people calling his name, or babies crying. In public, Kyle says he has better situational awareness by watching her movements and the position of her body. This helps with things like approaching traffic and people walking up from behind.
Kyle lives in the foothills and does some work as a wildlife photographer. He especially appreciates Matilda’s ability to be amazingly calm around wildlife. He’s seen her casually watching foxes and unexpectedly encountering elk. She has never exhibited either a fear reaction or a prey drive. “This is a HUGE asset,” Kyle notes, “and is something that separates her from most pets.”
Kyle has special thanks for the puppy raisers. Without the work of the puppy raisers, the Canine Companions dogs would not be as focused, confident, or follow the directions they need to acquire advanced skills. “Much of Matilda’s behavior, and that I see in other Canine Companions dogs, is the result of the tireless work of the puppy raisers. They are the ones providing the consistency, exposure to various stimuli, and providing the assertive guidance to the pups during their formative months.”