MUST LOVE DOGS: Through Canine Companions for Independence, Dominic Bartola met Plato, a yellow Labrador whose awareness has filled the gap left by his deafness and given him a brand new lease on life. 
Photo: Crissy Delacy / Let Me See You Sparkle Photography


For Dominic Bartola, growing up with bilateral severe to profound deafness was not easy. It meant feeling isolated from peers and struggling to communicate in a group. However, the implications of living in a silent world became more apparent for Dominic as he transitioned through college and adulthood. 

A growing challenge

In his second year of college, Dominic was selected to be a resident advisor in his dorm. He jumped on the idea, only to realize that he wasn’t aware when students knocked on his door or needed assistance. “I slept with one eye open the whole year,” Dominic says. “If only I had known about Canine Companions for Independence back then, I wouldn’t have needed to worry.”

“Plato… is trained to alert Dominic to sounds in his environment with an insistent nudge to the leg and then lead his handler to the source of the sound.”

Dominic made a decision that would change the way he lived his life with hearing loss — to apply for a hearing dog from Canine Companions for Independence. In 2013, Dominic received Hearing Dog Plato III, a yellow Labrador, entirely free of charge. Plato, like all Canine Companions hearing dogs, is trained to alert Dominic to sounds in his environment with an insistent nudge to the leg and then lead his handler to the source of the sound.

Four legs to the rescue

Plato is Dominic’s connection with the world around him, alerting him to the doorbell, a knock on the door, alarms and even to someone calling Dominic’s name. He provides peace of mind, always letting Dominic know something important is happening with a nudge of the nose. Dominic credits Plato for introducing him to his wife, Melanie, who fell in love with the guy on four legs at first glance, using her connection to Plato as a deeper introduction to the human half of Team Bartola. 

Now, Plato’s impeccable awareness of the melee of sounds Dominic can’t hear is even more important than ever. Dominic and Melanie are expecting their first child, and it’s Plato’s job to wake the dad-to-be when the baby cries. “Without Plato, I would feel the same fear as I did in college — what if I don’t wake up? I am truly more connected to my growing family because Plato is my ears.”