— By SALLY SEXTON
Brock Hibbs has always been fond of animals, but his penchant for pets got a little stronger earlier this month when he received the service dog he had been waiting for.
Cubby, a black miniature poodle, and Hibbs were united March 7, much to the delight of Hibbs.
“I love poodles,” he said. “I’m so very excited.”
Hibbs requires the aid of the dog to help him maintain his independence. The Weatherford resident has gradually lost his hearing since a seizure he had at age 4.
Cubby, who was trained with Paws With A Cause in Michigan, will help Hibbs when it comes to general noises.
“[Cubby] can alert him to smoke alarms, the telephone, if someone is knocking on the door, an intruder or even the microwave buzzer,” Wendy Dek, a field representative who trains the dogs, said. “Once he recognizes the sound, he actually goes back and paws at Brock, then takes him back to the sound.”
Back in 2011, Hibbs began the challenge of raising funds to pay for an assistant dog. He was able to raise more than $1,000, but Paws With A Cause helped out with the rest of the funds to pay for training for the dog.
“I’d like to thank everybody who helped me raise the money,” Hibbs said. “The community has helped me tremendously and I’m forever and truly grateful.”
Dek said that a majority of hearing dogs within Paws For A Cause come from animal shelters and there are even breeding programs for aid dogs.
Costs range from $20,000 to $25,000 for hearing dogs, which are typically smaller breeds, and $40,000 to $45,000 for service dogs, depending on their tasks.
“We train the dogs for four-to-six months in our program, then another six months in the field,” Dek said.
“That’s why it’s important, if you see a service dog out in public, to not touch or pet them, because they need to be focused.”
While Cubby has found a new home with Hibbs, his work isn’t over yet — he has a bit more training before he becomes officially certified.
“He’s adjusting really well,” Hibbs said.