Gallatin teenager Justin Cline and his 19-month-old hearing service dog Andi have been practically inseparable since the two first met last month.
With the community’s help, the 15-year-old and his family worked for more than two years to raise the $17,000 that was required in order to get the dog, which is a Papillon breed.
“She goes everywhere with him,” Justin’s mother Cherie Cline said about the dog, which came home with the family in October. “It’s definitely a life changer and we really wanted to thank the community, because without them this definitely wouldn’t have happened.”
The Clines started raising money to purchase a service dog for Justin through 4 Paws for Ability in 2017. The family was responsible for half of the overall cost – $17,000 – while the Ohio-based nonprofit covered the remaining expenses associated with training and placement of the dog.
Without hearing aids, Justin is approximately 95 percent deaf, according to his family. That’s why having Andi to alert the 15-year-old to sounds like the fire alarm, alarm clock or doorbell during times when he has to remove the hearing aids like at night is so important.
“When he gets to college it’s going to be really critical,” Cherie Cline added. “That’s why it’s so important right now because we only have about three years before he moves out on his own.”
In October, the Clines traveled more than 300 miles to Xenia, Ohio where they spent 12 days training with Andi at the 4 Paws for Ability training center before bringing her back home to Gallatin.
In addition to learning basic commands, Justin spent time with the 18-month-old dog in different public areas like malls, restaurants and stores to become more familiar with it. On the final day, he had to pass a certification test to become her handler.
“It’s really cool,” Justin Cline said about having Andi. “She helps me a lot.”
To help raise money for their portion of hearing service dog, the Clines partnered with Funds2Orgs to collect pairs of shoes, which the organization paid 40-cents per pound for. In all, approximately 4,000 shoes were collected by the family.
Local schools, churches, clubs and residents also helped by making monetary donations well as by holding other fundraisers like auctions and a pancake breakfast.
“There were so many different people that gave,” Cherie Cline said. “It really shows me that we live in a giving community.”
Andi, who is now 19 months old, should be able to continue working as a hearing service dog for Justin for about 13 more years, according to his family. However, the Gallatin teenager will need to be recertified as her handler each year.
In addition to thanking the community for its support, Cheri Cline said she hopes that her son’s story will help raise awareness for others in Sumner County about the benefits of hearing service dogs.
“There are so many people that I know that could probably even benefit more than Justin does,” Cherie Cline said about a hearing service dog. “They just don’t know it’s there.”
Local organizations that helped Justin Cline raise money for his hearing service dog include:
- Gallatin C.A.R.E.S.
- Sertoma Club
- Nashville Road Church of Christ
- Noon Rotary Club
- Simmons Bank and employees
- Rucker Steward Middle School
- Howard Elementary School
- Union Elementary S.T.E.M. and Demonstration School
- Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce
- Allstate Insurance
- Among others as well