Daisy's Daring Rescue: A Hearing Dog Steers a Deaf Woman Clear of Danger

You've heard of Seeing Eye dogs, but Dawn Cirrito's "hearing ear" terrier is every bit as much of a lifesaver.
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A Close Call

Dawn Cirrito, 46, was on vacation in Las Vegas with her husband, Vince, when she was seized with a craving for independence. Completely deaf and mostly wheelchair-bound, Dawn was tired of relying so heavily on her husband. With plans to eat dinner at a restaurant across the street from their hotel, Dawn asked, "Can I go alone and meet you there?"

Vince didn't like the idea. She read his lips: "Too dangerous."

"But there are crosswalks and lights!" Dawn countered. "And I have Daisy!" Daisy, a 2-year-old mixed breed with big pudding eyes, wagged her tail. It was true: As a hearing service dog, she knew how to paw, nudge, jump on or lick her owner to attention anytime she heard a sound she was trained for -- a ringing phone, for instance -- or a sound that seemed odd, like breaking glass. Since her arrival two months prior, Daisy had given Vince peace of mind that Dawn could be safely left alone. Still, he worried. Alerting Dawn to whistling teapots was not the same as shepherding her through eight lanes of traffic.

Giving in -- 26 years of marriage had taught him when to fold -- he watched nervously from the hotel valet area as Dawn wheeled out from the curb. Then, halfway across four lanes, Daisy froze. The traffic light turned from green to yellow; cars and trucks were about to start moving toward them. "There was nothing I could do but watch and pray," Vince, a retired Marine, recalls. "Yelling wouldn't help and I couldn't possibly run to them in time."

At first when Daisy refused to budge, "I really started to panic," Dawn said. She couldn't see any reason why Daisy had stopped in the street. Then she remembered the fundamental rule of partnering with a hearing dog. "The main way a hearing dog helps is to get your attention if something is unusual, so you have to learn to look at your dog, feel your dog, and listen to your dog," she says. "I had to trust that Daisy knew something I didn't." On faith, Dawn rolled back to the curb she'd started from. Immediately, a police squad car barreled through the spot she'd just vacated. She hadn't been able to see the vehicle hurtling toward her because of a truck in the turning lane.

"I started to cry," recalls Dawn. "If she hadn't alerted me to danger, we could have both been hit."

Continued on page 2:  All in a Day's Work


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