I have been going deaf since my mid twenties due to Otosclerosis, caused by a hereditary condition Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My hearing has steadily deteriorated so now I can’t hear the doorbell or the phone – and with no hearing at all on one side, I get really frustrated that I cannot tell where sounds are coming from.
The answer – a hearing dog.
When my daughter’s collie had pups I just couldn’t resist! ‘Mr Wilson’ is named after my hero, the great socialist Prime Minister. He started his training at 8 weeks old with the usual, sit, lie down, lead work etc. He’s my third collie, so I undertook his training myself (with a bit of help from YouTube videos!)
To become a hearing dog, I discovered you have to go through ‘basic training’ first as an assistance dog, so Mr Wilson goes everywhere I go. He has learnt the art of shopping – to Pets at Home, absolute doggie heaven – and Sainsburys, a more sedate experience. He’s learnt to be nice to quite scary large animals and has visited an old people’s home to have a go at being a Therapy dog – he even came to band practice and an outside performance – that’s me on flute with Nantwich Concert Band.
At around 4 months old we started ‘doorbell’ work. I taught him to tell me when he hears the bell – but that’s only the beginning. After he’s told me the bell has rung, he must lie down by the front door – and try not to rush out and greet the visitor when I open it! He already does other useful stuff. I can’t bend down to the floor easily, so he picks things up for me – it’s brilliant!
He naturally shows me where sounds are coming from by his body language – but my ultimate goal is to teach him to tell me when I have a visitor to the Gallery, so I can be in the garden, or the house and not miss customers. This will eventually mean I will be able to open up more often – but that’s a whole new stage …..