The members had a wonderful meeting listening to Alison Chester (who is deaf) telling us all about her experiences with her two dogs (Dodger and Bruno) who are Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Sadly Dodger is no longer with Alison and she just has Bruno a beautiful black poodle cross. He was so calm and very obedient whilst Alison told us how the dogs are trained. All the dogs are matched to each owner and training is very vigorous. They are first trained to go to the owner and touch them with their nose when the doorbell or telephone rings. They are rewarded (titbits) for doing this so it becomes quite difficult once they are placed for the owner not to have to give rewards all the time.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People became very important after a lady who had a dog that wouldn’t go ahead when commanded. The story came out in the papers about the dog who had kept his owner away from a fallen log by not going ahead when commended. The lady and dog appeared on TV Pebble Mill and the charity took off.
32 years ago they started by using rescue dogs, but not terriers because they have to be retained. The best dogs are Labradors, Spaniels, Poodles and Retrievers. They are trained from three months old and 2 years as they go through an adolescent period. The dogs are kept with a Social minder for a year and go through a rigorous programme. It costs £7,500 for a dog to be trained. The dogs receive all the medical care and inoculations before being placed with their owner.
Alison has been deaf since she was 8years old and she lost her Mum when she was 13 years old. Alison was bullied at school but left and became a Nursing Sister and was finally married and had three children. Alison told us that she can lip read very well. She got her first dog after her husband died and she was unable to hear the burglar alarm going off. Alison went through a very strict vetting process but finally was accepted for her first dog, Dodger. She had us all laughing at the antics that she went through before being accepted. She told us all about meeting Princess Anne with Dodger and on meeting Princess Anne for the second time Princess Anne remembered Dodger much to Alison’s amazement. Princess Anne was introduced to her new dog, Bruno. By getting her first dog Alison told us that her life completely changed for the better.
Alison said that now dogs are being trained to work with children from 6 years old and that the dog can tell when the child is ill and will go and tell the teacher, amazing! They are working with dogs with blind people now so it will not be long before these wonderful dogs all get good homes.