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(Updated 19/7/01)

700 dogs working for deaf people

The milestone of 700 hearing dog partnerships between hearing dog and deaf person has been reached by the national charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. One thousand four hundred canine ears are listening for their owners, alert to sounds in the home, workplace and public areas.

Hearing dog Sapphire marked this special landmark as the 700th hearing dog when she qualified after recently completing her final tests.

Sapphire was born into the Hearing Dogs scheme after her mum, pregnant at the time, was selected by Hearing Dogs from a National Canine Defence League (NCDL) rescue centre in Bridgend, Wales. To the Charity’s credit, nearly three quarters of all hearing dogs are selected from rescue centres or similar sources.

Sapphire now lives in Coventry with her deaf recipient Margaret Tidmarsh and the pair have built a tremendous bond.

Margaret, 62, (left) has been deaf most of her life and it was when her son was due to move out of the parental home that they first considered applying for a hearing dog.

“I was worried about mum when she was on her own, if my father was not at home,” said Justin. “She would miss text telephone calls from friends and watch the door for hours if she was expecting a visitor. That’s why I thought a hearing dog would be ideal, for the companionship and for the sound work.”

Owing to the Charity’s waiting list, Margaret waited nearly 16 months before she and Sapphire were teamed up. “It was such a long time to wait, but it was worth every minute.” Margaret explains enthusiastically, “Sapphire is so enthusiastic with her work. She is very quick and wakes me up in the morning when the alarm clock goes, I know I can rely on her completely.”

“Sapphire and I go everywhere together and I can’t imagine not having her. She has settled in so well at home with me, my husband and our cat Jemma. She has made me so much more relaxed. I no longer have to keep a constant eye on the door if the electricity board is coming or a friend is visiting, Sapphire will tell me when the cooker timer rings or if my husband is calling for me perhaps from the garden or upstairs. It is much less stressful knowing I can depend on her.”

With the perfect temperament, this little mongrel has all the characteristics of a typical hearing dog. Her mother Harriet, selected from the NCDL, has followed in her daughter’s paw-steps and is also undergoing training as a hearing dog.

More than eight and a half million people in the UK have a hearing disability and nearly a quarter of a million of these deaf people fall within the criteria for having a hearing dog. An invisible disability, many deaf people experience feelings of isolation, loneliness and social alienation. Not only will hearing dogs alert them to sounds such as the fire alarm, doorbell and telephone but they also help break down these social barriers.