Bella, one of the support dogs
Visit to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
My dog, Gus and I visited Hearing Dogs for Deaf People at the Grange in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire on 8th August 2019. I was there to assess a grant application towards their Active Hearing Dog Partnerships. While there, I met Michele Jennings, Chief Executive and Laura Matthews, Trusts and Foundations Senior Officer.
The history of Hearing Dogs for the Deaf
The organisation was officially launched at Crufts in 1982. Started by Bruce Fogle and Lady Beatrice Wright, it began as a three-year pilot scheme. At that time, the dogs were trained in the living room of founding member Gill Lacey, and there were just three members of staff.
By 1986, over 20 hearing dogs had been placed and as a further 26 deaf people were waiting to be matched, Hearing Dogs was granted full charitable status and the charity bought its first property in Lewknor, Oxfordshire.
Today the Charity has two training grounds; the Grange in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire and the Beatrice Wright Centre, East Yorkshire.
How hearing dogs support deaf people
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains dogs to alert deaf people to sounds they would otherwise miss, simple sounds that many people take for granted like the doorbell, alarm clock and even danger signals like the fire alarm. Thanks to a hearing dog being aware of these sounds, a real difference can be made to deaf peoples’ lives. This can be truly lifesaving.
Hearing Dogs can also help to stop a deaf person feeling isolated by giving them a newfound sense of independence and confidence, as they have a loyal companion and a true friend by their side. Currently, the Charity supports 939 deaf clients and their hearing dogs.
Hearing Dogs makes sure that, once a deaf person has been matched with a dog, they are guaranteed a hearing dog for life. So when their first hearing dog retires at about the age of 11, they will soon be partnered with a new dog – and a lot of deaf people keep their former hearing dogs as pets!
The challenge for the Centre
Chief Executive, Michele Jennings explained that despite being the second largest dog support charity in the UK, they are only a twelfth the size of Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Hearing Dogs have a different attitude to some charities working with dogs, as no training dog is kennelled overnight. All dogs are cared for by a volunteer or staff member. This has two advantages; the dogs are less stressed and take to their training better and it also reduces the amount of buildings the charity requires.
I have come across this ethos before at Medical Detection Dogs, which Michele informed me started at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Michele also explained that if a deaf person is not suitable to receive a dog for whatever reasons, then the charity supports that person in other ways such as helplines and volunteer support programmes.
Facilities at the Centre
I was given a very extensive tour of the Centre which included the day kennels and the training facilities. I was also able to watch a demonstration by Bella (pictured above), one of the support dogs, which was incredible. The Centre includes a restaurant and shop which is open to everybody and their dogs. The profits are channelled back into the charity. I was very impressed with the Centre.
To find out more about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, please visit their website: