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Master of Friendship and Guidance

Cristina and her hearing dog Tatiana.

Cristina Saint-Blancard lost her hearing as a teenager and lost her independence along the way. But when she was matched in 2011 with Tatiana, she slowly began to regain that had been lost. Cristina explains that Tatiana is a "reminder that everything is going to be ok." The black Lab alerts Cristina to key sounds by making physical contact with her. The canine also increases her feelings of security and self-confidence by making her aware of environmental sounds. Christina also suffers from asthma and one sweltering summer night, Tatiana proved to be the hero that she needed.

One Plantation, Florida summer night at about 2:00 am, Cristina began struggling to catch her breath. Then suddenly she could not breathe at all. Hearing dog Tatiana sprang into action and alerted her family. Her mother found her unresponsive and immediately called the paramedics. "I have a history struggling with asthma which is exacerbated by frequent ear infections as a result of Meniere's disease," explains Cristina. "That night when the paramedics arrived, they said that Tatiana had saved my life. Tatiana is truly a Hero Dog."

Tatiana also gave Christina the courage to graduate from Purdue University with a Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering. As she walked across the stage, Tatiana was right by her side, also wearing a cap and gown. Tatiana's diploma reads "Master of Friendship and Guidance."

The hero lab is a finalist for the Hero Dog Awards sponsored by the American Humane Association which was created to recognize and honor the powerful relationship between dogs and people. There are 8 categories including Search and Rescue Dog, Service Dog, and Law Enforcement/Arson Dog. Tatiana was a finalist in the Hearing Dog category.