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Hearing Dog

At the age of 13, Andri Sartin was hit by a car. Though she survived, the concussion changed her life forever.

Andri and Cookie meet for the first time at the SDI campus in Dripping Springs, Texas.

Having grown up being able to hear, Andri was intimidated by the diagnosis of progressive hearing loss. Her involuntary journey into deafness led to her feeling increasingly isolated and frustrated. Everyday activities that had been easy for her, such as crossing the street or using the oven timer, became a source of panic. Fears of being unable to hear a potential intruder caused countless sleepless nights. Asking others for help could make life easier, but it made her feel like a burden to her loved ones. On the other hand, she feared that without help she would find herself in a dangerous situation. It was a catch-22, and she didn’t know how to solve it.

The Perfect Partner

The answer, it turned out, would eventually come running on four legs. Cookie - named for SDI Founder and CEO’s favorite treat - was no ordinary dog. She was adopted from the Austin Humane Society and trained by Service Dogs, Inc. with skills that would one day enable her to fulfill a remarkable mission - to help someone like Andri live their best life, while forming a partnership based on love and trust.

Andri finally had the support she needed, and what’s more, Cookie’s training consisted only of positive reinforcement. She alerted Andri to sounds such as door knocks, traffic, or people calling her name, never out of fear of punishment, but because she enjoyed doing it. Likewise, Andri took great joy in loving her, learning to work with her, and welcoming her into her life.

The duo formed a strong bond based on trust and teamwork. Andri found that Cookie gave her courage and awakened her to the wonderful experiences she had been missing out on. No longer fearful of her surroundings, Andri’s independence returned and her confidence came back in full bloom.

Wake-Up Call

Andri realized just how essential Cookie was to her safety after a 3am surprise. She awoke to Cookie standing on her chest and watched as she ran in and out of the bedroom, signaling to Andri to follow her. Upon following Cookie, she looked out the peephole - nothing there.

Andri tried to return to bed, but Cookie was having none of it. Relentlessly, she continued to alert Andri by nudging her, then returning to the front door. Finally, Andri opened the door. A very intoxicated neighbor was on her knees trying to force her key into Andri’s lock to let herself in. She was so drunk that she thought Andri’s apartment was hers! At this moment, Andri realized how critical Cookie was to her safety. When it came to sounds and what they meant, she would have to trust her Hearing Dog!

Overcoming life’s challenges had not been easy, but thanks to Cookie, what started with fearful, sleepless nights and feelings of loneliness transformed to life with Frisbee games, world travel, and a new best friend that showed her life’s joy had no limits.

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