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Service Dog TV Show Helps U.S. Disability Dogs




Service dogs for people with multi-disabilities have never come to the forefront as much as they have when the television series, “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye” aired on PAX TV. Becoming increasingly popular with over 28 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States, the story is based on the life of a 52-year-old deaf woman from Ohio named Sue Thomas who had moved to Washington, D.C. at the age of 30 when she learned of a position open at the F.B.I.  Her first full-time F.B.I. job began with analyzing the lines of fingerprints but within two months she was reading the lips of suspect for their agents. She did so well that in the 1980s she became an F.B.I special agent for about 3 ½ years until her health forced her to retire.

The television story itself is how a deaf woman by the name of Sue Thomas and a service dog named Levi work at the F.B.I. as special agents, even though in reality Levi did not come to live with the real Sue Thomas until after she had returned home from her F.B.I. job.  Once Levi passed away of old age, her next service dog was a golden retriever named Gracie who now is dying of cancer. True to the freedom of television writers, in the television series the service dog is named Levi but looks like the golden retriever Gracie. Today, Sue Thomas not only is deaf but losing her sight, in addition to being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (M.S.). Her next dog will need to be a special service dog, one that has been trained to work with individuals with multiple disabilities. Uncommon in the United States, the training of service dogs for people with multi-disabilities is where the real Sue Thomas comes in.

Availability of service dogs for people with multiple disabilities

The United States is full of organizations that train service dogs, but only to meet one specific disability. When Sue Thomas began her search for a dog to replace Gracie, it needed to not only address her deafness but also multiple sclerosis. She ended up going to Canada to an organization by the name of Dog Guides to get Katie, her current dog, who is trained as a special dual-service dog who meets both the challenges of Certified Hearing Dog and Special Skills Dog for Multiple Sclerosis.

The price to intensely train one of the best service dogs for people with multiple-disabilities is around $6,000 to $10,000 each with only the best dogs accepted in the programs—Certified Hearing Dogs for the Deaf; Guide Dogs for the Blind; and Special Skills Dogs for the Physically Disabled. Through her organization, the Levi Foundation, Sue Thomas is planning on starting a training center for dogs to assist people with multiple-disabilities in the United States.

Message:  I never heard of Sue Thomas until my brother brought her to my attention. Chronically disabled himself with a cat Koko who is the love of his life, the show meant something to him and he thought it would be something worth sharing with everyone.

RESOURCES:

Sue Thomas-the FBI’s Top Weapon

Sue Thomas-Inspirational Speaker

“Deaf woman’s service as a lip reader for the FBI inspires TV series”

Sue Thomas, former worker at F.B.I.

The Levi Foundation



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