Boo goes to meet Hylton the Hearing Dog
Hylton is an official assistance dog and wears with pride the burgundy livery of a Hearing Dog. He has been Sheila’s partner for just 9 months, and it is delightful to see a strong bond between them. More about the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People later. Firstly, Boo meets with Hylton on a soggy Friday morning in January. After the tail wag greetings, Boo is cautious.
Boo: Hello Hylton, my names Boo – am I allowed to approach you whilst you’re working?
Hylton: That very thoughtful of you to ask Boo, I am actually just wearing my working tabard and harness so you could recognize me as we haven’t met before. But normally you’re right, I have a little sign on my lead that says “Please do not distract” Of course that’s really for the human folk as most dogs I know can’t read.
Boo: I wear a sign on my lead too sometimes – it says ‘Therapy Dog’. I go into hospitals to help lots of poorly people feel better. You have a special job with one person though don’t you?
Hylton: Yes I do. I help my partner Sheila as she doesn’t hear very well – basically I am her ears! I listen for sounds that she needs to know about like the smoke alarm or the door bell. And then I tell her by running up to her and giving a signal, like a nose bump or lying down.
Boo: I’m good at telling people that someone at the door too! I run around like a crazy thing and bark my head off. Do you think I could be a Hearing Dog?
Hylton: Hmm I’m not sure that would be helpful Boo.
Boo: OK so what training did you have to do to become a Hearing Dog?
Hylton: I started training when I was a little puppy; training for us HD’s is all based around fun and experiencing lots of different places and activities in a relaxed way and at our own pace. I did lots of socialisation with other dogs, humans and even other animals. Hearing Dogs have their very own progress recognition system called Puppy Stars. My socialisers say I did really well with earning my Puppy Stars. I attended puppy classes and learnt through playing games and getting rewards for making the right choices. I spent the last part of my training journey at a lovely place called “The Grange” Here I learned to recognise and alert my human to sounds they need to know about. This is called sound work. I also met Sheila her and we learned to work together before I left to be with Sheila in my forever home.
Boo: Sounds like you have to pay attention a lot! I get distracted a bit too easily! Do you get playtime?
Hylton: I do but I actually love doing my sound work. I also love playing with all my toys, especially the tug ones. I love going for walks and playing with my tennis balls and running through puddles, the muddier the better and occasionally chasing a pesky squirrel.
Boo: Me too – I love chasing squirrels! Apart from alerting Sheila to sounds she need to know, do you help in other ways? I’m very good at finding my mums slippers when she’s lost them!
Hylton: Sheila says that she feels safe now in her own home knowing I will alert her. I raise awareness to her hearing loss when out and about in my uniform and give her confidence to go out on her own. She says I am the reason she has to get up and out each day. Lots of people now speak to mom because of me, she says she felt invisible before she had me. I am her companion and her friend as well as her working buddy. I sense she is less anxious with me by her side. Having me has given her the confidence to start volunteering for the wonderful, life changing charity that is Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Boo: Sounds like you have made a huge difference. My mom volunteers too – we speak to groups about the work of Hearing Dogs; do you think you would like to come to tell people about the difference you make?
Hylton: I would love too! Although I think we better leave the story telling to the humans!
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People was founded at Crufts in 1982, by Bruce Fogle, Lady Beatrice Wight and dog trainer Tony Blunt. Right from the start Hearing Dogs recognized that there was a great need to help deaf people develop confidence to live an independent life. Trained dogs, they felt, could play a significant role with this.
By 1986 Hearing Dogs had placed 20 dogs and attained full charitable status.
In 1999 the charity opened The Grange in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire. This renovated farmhouse and outbuildings is the home to head office and training centre and boasts a top quality restaurant and gift shop. I can personally vouch for their cakes!
Hearing Dogs are relatively young in the assistance dog world and are not as well known as Guide Dogs for the Blind for example who, by comparison, have been around for 90 years.
You can help in a number of ways:
-Sponsoring a puppy
-Joining in with the annual ‘Great British Dog Walk’ events across the country
You can find out more at www.hearingdogs.org.uk where you can also sign up for a free newsletter.