Hearing dogs sound friends for the deaf
WHAT a wonderful view is to be had from Holme upon Spalding Moor church high on the hill above the East Yorkshire village. I had arrived there early on a chilly but beautiful sunny morning to meet Yorkshire FWC members.
I eventually found the village hall, as did a highly trained dog called Anthea, a hearing dog for the deaf named after that well-known television presenter Anthea Turner. She is a one-year-old Labrador collie X, who along with her brother Eamonn, was given to the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf organisation, explained Jonathan Trail who had brought her along to the meeting to illustrate his talk.
Hearing dogs can react to up to nine different sounds to alert their masters or mistresses. When a deaf person needs alerting, the "hearing dog" will go and touch them and lead them to the source of the noise, such as the front door bell or a baby crying.
All the dogs have standard training for reacting to smoke and fire alarms.
They attract the attention of their master or mistress, and when asked "What is it?" by an open arm gesture they lie down instead of leading the person to the source of the sound.
Jonathan Trail, Antheas trainer, explained that the most important factor in choosing a dog for this work was the dogs temperament, it had to be solid and sound, but any breed or type of dog could be trained.
Most of the dogs trained are from rescue centres and of all shapes and sizes, others are given as puppies.
Initially handlers put them through a socialising programme to get them used to many situations. They are thenassessed by a trainer and
checked over by a vet before being matched to a deaf person who comes to meet them for a day. Jonathan stressed the need to have the right dog for the right
person. If all goes well 16 weeks training commences.
Once training is completed the recipient goes and stays at the purpose-built training unit for a week to make sure everything is in order. A final assessment is made after five months, when a yellow coat is issued to the dog and it can then officially start work.
Inquiries: Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, London Road, Lewknor, Oxon. (01844-353898).
Trainer Jonathan Trail introduces hearing dog for the deaf Anthea to FWC organiser Jean Howells during the Yorks groups meeting. Below: Anthea tackles a bone while Jonathan gives his talk.