INDIANAPOLIS — Anyone with a pet knows how quickly they become part of the family. But, for Janet McIntyre, her black lab, Rizzo, changed her life.
“I wouldn’t have thought I would be so wrapped up in her,” McIntyre said. “She just makes me laugh.”
Inside their north Indianapolis home, it is quickly apparent that Rizzo is more than just good company.
An unusual sound outside, and she perks up, turns to her owner with a nudge, and points in the direction of the sound. It’s a sound Janet can’t hear because she is deaf.
“I started losing my hearing when my son was born,” she said. “He’s 34 now.”
Although she can read lips and lives independently, Janet faces many challenges without her hearing.
She eventually learned there are dogs trained to work with people just like her.
McIntyre discovered Canine Companions through a friend. It’s a Columbus, Ohio-based organization that breeds and trains dogs like Rizzo to be of service to people with physical challenges, like Janet.
The labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, or a mix of both are trained in California and go through an extensive training program with foster families until they are ready to be paired with their future owners.
Janet and Rizzo have been together for nearly a year and a half.
“I feel like she’s been with me forever, really,” McIntyre said.
Their relationship is much more than owner and pet.
Because Janet lost her hearing as an adult, she said people don’t believe she is deaf.
“Many people told me I don’t look deaf, sound deaf, I don’t talk funny,” she said.
Having Rizzo has not only offered her a second set of ears, but a chance to be heard.
“I’ve had people ask me all kinds of questions about cochlear implants, hearing aids,” she said. “No one would ask me those things if I didn’t have her with me. I like helping people in that way.”
Although Rizzo is trained as a “hearing dog,” Canine Companions help people with a wide range of challenges be more independent.
She’s a four-legged friend making “help” a four-legged word.