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(Updated 30/8/01)

Paw power

Essex lady, Ann Barford, who is profoundly deaf, is finding that her shopping is taking a lot longer these days since the arrival of her hearing dog, Jinty.

The three-year-old Shetland Sheepdog accompanies Ann everywhere she goes but they have to allow more time now for shop assistants and members of the public to stop and talk to Jinty. The dog has become something of a local hero since she alerted her owner when their neighbour fell over in his garden. He had not been well for a while, and whilst out pruning in the garden he fell, cut his face and was unable to get up. There was no-one else in the house and he lay there for some time until Jinty and Ann went outside into their garden.

Immediately Jinty sensed trouble and when the eagle-eyed dog spotted him she ran to alert Ann. At first Ann thought Jinty was letting her know the phone was ringing, but when asked "What is it?", the clever dog led Ann to the boundary of the garden where she saw her neighbour lying on the grass and went to help him. If it had not been for Jinty he could have been there for a very long time.

As well as keeping an eye out for trouble, Jinty has increased her repertoire of sounds to which she is trained to respond. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trained Jinty to alert Ann to several household sounds including the doorbell, telephone, alarm clock, smoke alarm and cooker timer, but she has added another herself. She now alerts Ann when she hears the saucepan boiling over, which has proved very useful.

However, Ann's husband, Keith, who is hard of hearing himself, is not too sure about Jinty's eagerness to work. When the alarm clock sounds Jinty alerts Ann by jumping on the bed to wake her as she was trained to do, but if Keith has not got up by the time Jinty has had her breakfast, she goes back up to the bedroom and jumps on Keith to wake him too!