Despite hearing aids and a cochlear implant, Army veteran Stephen Hood’s hearing was rapidly deteriorating, making daily tasks challenging and dangerous for the retired Chicago police officer. Fortunately, his outlook on life turned around when he found NEADS World Class Service Dogs. The nonprofit connected him with Charlotte, the highly trained working dog who now never leaves his side.
How long did it take for you to bond with Charlotte?
One day. And now she really doesn’t like to be away from me. I take her pretty much every place I go — grocery store, on an airplane, you name it.
What are some of the things she helps you with?
Well one of the things that’s most annoying, when my wife calls me, she gives me a kick [laughs]. When the doorbell rings, she will come over to me and run to the door. If I drop something, she will pick it up. At night, when my hearing aids come out, I am really profoundly deaf, and my wife travels somewhat. So, I am alone here. If a fire alarm or other alarm goes off, I’m not going to hear it. Charlotte wakes me up. Prior to having her, I had a lot of anxiety at night.
Do you have any funny service dog stories?
At a restaurant, I will put her under a table or booth. She will lay down and stay there the entire time. When I’m done, she’ll come out. I’ve had some very strange looks. Most people don’t even realize there’s a dog under there.
How do you keep Charlotte’s skills sharp?
When I first got her, she was already trained — they [NEADS] were actually training me. But you still have to keep it up. We practice all of the time.
What do you think of the NEADS experience?
What I would tell other military people or former veterans that have any type of problems is that NEADS may have a dog that can help. Even if you’re not certain you need a service dog, go ahead and talk to them.
For more information on NEADS visit Neads.org.