July 26, 2000
Alaska's First Certified Hearing Dog
By Donna Lindsay
Puttin' on the Dog
is 15 years old and in quite good health, considering her advanced years.
She came to Alaska from Alabama. Because the housing market was tight
and there was pitbull-hysteria in the air, her owners couldn't find a
place to rent that would allow pitbulls and she was eventually sent to
the Alaska SPCA in Anchorage.
of mine, John Ledum, was trying to start a hearing-dog program in Alaska.
He and a local veterinarian, Dr. Joyce Murphy, temperament-tested 170
dogs and RCA scored the highest, so she was chosen to be the first hearing
dog in Alaska. At the time she completed her training and was certified,
there was talk of banning pitbulls in the city of Anchorage and the SPCA
was concerned about placing her with someone who might have to give her
up. So they decided to make RCA their demonstration dog because it would
also promote the idea that pitbulls are smart, loving animals with good
a demonstration dog, she made numerous trips all over to Alaska and the
lower 48 states. Her demonstrations helped raise funds to finance the
training of more hearing dogs. But her favorite demonstrations were at
elementary schools because after working, she would get to go down a long
line of children and kiss them all. Then John would take her through the
drive-up at the nearest McDonald's and reward her with a hamburger of
her very own. She's got scrapbooks with letters from about 700 schoolchildren
and once had a full-page feature story written about her in the Anchorage
met RCA when she was first in training and living with her trainer, John.
I was captivated by her charm and obedience. Later, when I got my first
Sheltie and I would bring him over to John's to visit, she was incredibly
tolerant to this rambunctious puppy and would bring him toys to play with.
Of course, her favorite toy was a tug toy and she always won.
anyone had told me I'd ever own one of these dogs I would've told them
they were crazy, but about that time I let it be known that if she ever
retired, I'd love to take her. And that's just what happened. After about
five years of working, she was getting a little burned out and when her
trainer left the SPCA, he decided to let her retire and come to live with
us. He couldn't keep her because he had been living in the training facility
and he couldn't find a place that would rent to him with a certified-hearing
dog that happened to be a pitbull. That was before they enacted legislation
giving hearing dogs the same privileges as seeing-eye dogs. She started
her life with us eight years ago when she was seven years old.
the years, she has tolerated many puppies and cockatiel chicks. She'll
lie down so the puppies can play with her more easily and lets the chicks
chew on her ears. She's the one dog I always trust to tolerate human babies
and small children, not to go ballistic when someone walks too close to
the car and she loves everyone. We joke that if a burglar ever came in,
she'd show him around and let him take her for a ride in the getaway car.
greatest joys in life are to go for rides in the car and to rescue logs
out of our favorite lake. Her main pastime is sleeping, of course--she's
very good at that. She's selectively deaf now, particularly when we want
her to move over on the bed to make room for us, and her sight is going
(but currently stable), and she's a bit arthritic, but the vet says she's
healthy enough to give us a few more years of her splendid company.
RCA died of cancer on June 29, 1997 at age 16. She was sick a very
short time and was active until the last few hours. She did not