George the versatile Whippet
I was absolutely delighted to meet “George the 99% Whippet” when Dianne Wadsworth approached me at the Pet & Animal Expo at Caulfield in February one year. I think this clever little fellow deserves to have his story told. The following are Dianne’s words. RCM
The Lions Hearing Dogs have a phrase, which says it all: “A Hearing Dog can give or restore independence and confidence to a deaf or hearing impaired person”. This is very true and is definitely George’s role in my life. After having had him since August 2001 it is hard to imagine life without his help. He has certainly restored my confidence and independence. I am now able to do things and get involved in the community to a degree I would never had dreamed of prior to getting him. The Hearing Dog program was conceived in 1980, first dog delivered in 1982. The training centre, in the Adelaide Hills, has 29 night kennels, 4 quarantine kennels, a utility room for washing, grooming and worming, outside exercise area and new training area – a replica of a house. Various breeds of dogs are used – no particular breeds. All dogs are selected from RSPCA and Animal Welfare shelters. They are medium sized and aged between 8-24 months. They’re tested for response to sound and their disposition. Only 1 in 10 dogs tested is chosen. They are trained in basic obedience and then their training on sounds begins. George is trained to respond to the following sounds: Door knock or door bell Telephone Oven timer Bedroom alarm clock Smoke alarm And some deaf/hearing -impaired people need help with other sounds such as: Whistling kettle Microwave Baby crying Children crying How does a Hearing Dog work? The dog investigates the sound Alerts the owner by touching – not barking as many Hearing Dog owners are deaf Leads owner to source of the sound The dogs are regularly assessed on their performance during training and graduate at the successful completion of it. Then they are matched as closely as possible to a waiting applicant’s requirements. The Lions Clubs support the program through the sale of Christmas cakes, mints and donations. The Hearing Dogs are provided free to the applicant although their training costs over $10,000. The Clubs assess the applicants for eligibility and provide ongoing assessment once the dogs are delivered. Hearing Dogs make such a difference. Hearing loss and deafness are invisible disabilities. You seem like a ‘normal’ person yet you miss out on so much in your life. In my case this meant withdrawing, sitting on the sidelines, not having the confidence to go out or deal with people. George has changed that. He is a visual reminder to people of my hearing loss. He is an opportunity – people ask me about him, what does he do, how does help, what is a Hearing Dog? These things allow me to raise the issue of my hearing loss whereas before I would not have mentioned it. | Without my Hearing Dog my life would be so much more difficult. He allows me to live my life fully and takes away much of the loneliness associated with a hearing disability. For example I used to miss family and friends when they came to visit. They would see my car outside, knock on the door or ring the doorbell but I wouldn’t hear them. They would even walk around my house knocking on the windows to see which room I was in – very scary! My hubby would come home, walk in the door unheard, walk in the kitchen unheard and then find me in my home office – still I wouldn’t hear him. He would walk up behind me and tap me on the back or switch the light on to get my attention – frightening the life out of me in the process. I never leave George home alone – wherever I go, George goes. He’s been to work, out shopping, to restaurants, to the cinema, to the Doctor’s, on a ‘plane Interstate to Adelaide and Perth and even on a coal mine tour! My first impressions of George were - Timid, small, tiny. But now I know George I know not a lot fazes him. He’s loyal, friendly, playful and clever – a good Hearing Dog indeed – and he’s made such a difference to my life I wouldn’t be without him! He’s recognised when out and about by his orange collar, which states that he’s an accredited Hearing Dog, and his orange Lions Hearing Dog lead. He also usually wears a black coat with the words Lions Hearing Dogs on it. So please come and say hello if you see us, or any other Hearing Dog out shopping or in the community. It helps increase awareness and you can tell your friends, family and neighbours about the program too. Postscript: Unfortunately I received the unhappy news that Dianne’s hearing has worsened dramatically so now George is really earning his keep!!!!!