The rescue mutt finds an important job alerting a Massachusetts man to noises around him

By Pearl Chen
Updated November 06, 2009 09:00 PM

She may be the only Goblin who brings people together instead of scaring them away. This little mix-breed dog rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico isn’t just another set of ears for Ray Dobson of Orleans, Mass.: The animal is helping him regain social interactions in the wake of his hearing loss. “My wife saw me kind of dropping out,” Dobson tells the AP. “As people get deafer they get more anti-social.” Now, “he’s back in the mainstream,” says his wife Joanne.

Goblin jumps on Dobson to let him know others are calling his name and alerts him when the phone rings, alarms go off, visitors knock or other noises surface. Her mere presence as Dobson’s hearing dog helps observers better understand his situation and take more time to communicate with him. She also leads Dobson to the source of sounds. “What the dog does for me is hear what I can’t hear,” he says.

How did Goblin get so good at these skills? Her natural temperament is in part responsible, according to the National Education for Assistance Dog Service (NEADS), a Princeton, Mass., nonprofit that trained Goblin and has placed 1,300 dogs for the deaf and physically disabled across the country over the past 33 years. The same qualities that usually make certain dogs shelter candidates – such as hyperactivity and compulsiveness – also make them excellent hearing assistants. “If the dog wakes you in the middle of the night because the smoke alarm’s going off and you push them away, they have to not give up,” trainer Brian Jennings tells the AP.

These unique traits, coupled with training sessions that teach canines to perform without command, prepare four-legged pals like Goblin to help the hard of hearing maintain their independence. As the oldest hearing-dog program in the U.S., NEADS accepts rescued or donated puppies of all breeds. People who need one of these dogs learn to handle and work with them during two-week residences at NEADS’s fully accessible facilities, and special “graduations” at the end recognize a successful match. It’s definitely an achievement worth celebrating.