Emily Roback always knew she would get a dog some day.

What kind of dog, and what size, well, that part she wasn't so sure about, but she did have some other very specific characteristics in mind.

"What sounds can you hear, how far can you hear?  Do you have the potential to go and get something and come back?"  says Roback.

Important traits in a dog that was going to be trained to be a helper for someone who is hearing impaired.

Roback was born with hearing loss in both ears, a condition known as bilateral central neural hearing loss.  

"When I don't wear hearing aids, I don't hear anything."

When she found Ivey, a Weimaraner, she know she had met her match.

"She was the perfect fit, in so many ways," Roback says, as she watches Ivey run in the dog park in Yellowknife.

"They assessed all the puppies with the test I'd given them, she did all of them. The other dogs were mix-and-match all over the place."  

Increased independence and confidence

Roback is already an accomplished woman: a chiropractor and a triathlete, who recently moved her practice to Yellowknife.

She's the one who trained Ivey to help her with some of the challenges of living with near-deafness.

"In the beginning I would actually talk and I would sign at the same time. Good, bad, food water. She knows all those signs. I even taught her 'Where is your bear?' and she will go get the bear and bring it.  That was practicing retrieving."

Ivey helps Roback manage a lot of things people with hearing might take for granted.    

"It's just warning me of something, an ambulance, fire trucks, when it comes to sounds, the phone's ringing.  She'll basically take her nose, nudge me in the leg … and then I realize my phone is ringing.

Preventing the finger

As a single woman, with the extra vulnerability of a hearing impairment, Roback says Ivey makes her feel more secure.

"Power goes out, I'm downstairs I can't hear or see anything.  The first thing she does is come down and make sure I am ok. I can feel her, and I'm like, 'I'm ok.' "  

Ivey even acts as a training partner, and accompanied Roback during one of her triathlons, wearing her own doggie running shoes.

"Prior to having her I've had bikers, walkers, hikers, runners give me the finger because I was not listening. I and I'm like 'What?  This is not fair!' "

Having made her recent move to Yellowknife, Roback says Ivey's also helped her make new friends.

"She gets me out of the house, she's an ice-breaker."  

Like all good dogs, Ivey gives Roback companionship and comfort, but also independence, as she waits for her boyfriend to make the move to Yellowknife.

"I'm not alone anymore. Times where I was going through a lot of changes and she's just been there. I'm not alone I can get through this. There's just a lot of emotional support, I think dogs can do that."