A VETERINARY surgeon from Hartford received a special canine thank you from a little dog who helps look after her deaf owner and keep her safe.
Miniature black poodle Jessie visited orthopaedic and spinal specialist Charlie Sale at Oakwood Veterinary Referrals based at the Willows Veterinary Hospital in Hartford with her owner Thelma Mannington of Sandiway.
The pair were there to show their gratitude to Charlie, 48, who battled back from a bout of flu to successfully complete the Wilmslow Half Marathon and raise £1,345 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
The charity trains dogs to alert deaf people to important sounds such as the doorbell, alarm clock and danger signals like a fire alarm. But they also become much-loved companions who help their owners integrate more fully into the hearing world.
Charlie, a father-of-two, is Clinical Director of Oakwood Veterinary Referrals which is part of the independently owned Willows Veterinary Group.
The group offers a wealth of knowledge and expertise through 24 small animal practices, a referral veterinary hospital, two equine centres and a five-office farm practice which are located across Cheshire and into the Wirral and Staffordshire. Willows is accredited by The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Charlie has previously treated hearing dogs from the charity’s training centre in York. He was inspired to support the cause after learning more about their work and the kind and dedicated way in which they approach their training and look after these very special dogs.
Charlie, who has his own dog – a Springer Spaniel called Teddy and a cat called Jaffa, said: “I have treated Hearing Dogs in the past – pre training, while they have been in training or once they have gone out to be with a recipient. It was important to me to understand better how they were trained and what they were being asked to do so that when I was asked my opinion about how best to treat them, I had a much better picture of their life as a working dog.
“I went over to the training centre and I was able to learn more about what the demands on the dog were. What I also discovered and was impressed by was the care with which these dogs are looked after. Their welfare is extremely important to the team who care for them and if for any reason they do not make it as a Hearing Dog, then the organisation works hard to make sure the dog is in as good shape as possible to find a loving home.”
Charlie was later invited to the charity’s annual awards dinner. He said: “I sat next to the husband of a lady who had a hearing dog and was the main award winner of the night. He was a very nice man who told me all about his wife and his own story and I was certainly influenced by his description of how receiving a hearing dog had transformed their lives.
“Along the way, I’ve met some amazing dogs and their recipients. I’ve watched them go through their paces in training and seen just how much they transform the lives of the people they form life partnerships with.”
Jessie’s owner Thelma understands first-hand the value of a lifelong Hearing Dogs companionship.
Her first hearing dog Emi, a bichon frise, sadly passed away in September 2014 aged 11. The pair helped raise more than £10,000 for the charity over their time together and had a very strong bond which left Thelma heart-broken when her beloved companion died.
Thelma said: “When Emi died, I was very, very sad. I felt like I had nobody to talk to and she helped me so much in my life that I really didn’t know what to do.”
Thelma had an 18-month wait for her ‘loveable’ Jessie while the charity took a great deal of care to find a suitable dog that met all her requirements and put the now two-year-old dog through her training.
An already inseparable bond has been formed between the two of them since Jessie’s arrival in January and Thelma explained: “She follows me everywhere. She looks after me and I look after her. She’s my sunshine, my ears and I am so happy to have her.”
Jessie, who has a weakness for sausages, is trained to go up to Thelma and nudge her with her paw when she hears the doorbell or the phone ringing. She then leads her to where ever the sound is coming from. She also alerts Thelma in the morning when her alarm clock goes off and generally makes day-to-day life less challenging for Thelma who lost her hearing in early childhood.
Thelma and Jessie thanked Charlie for his charity run efforts and added: “We really appreciate it because these dogs are so important and both Jessie and I really do thank him very much.”
Bryan Richards, Chairman of the Cheshire fundraising branch of Dogs for Deaf People, explained that the charity does not receive any Government funding and relies entirely on donations from fundraisers like Charlie.
He said: “The difference a Hearing Dog can make to the life and personality of a deaf person is instantly recognisable.
“You see them before they first receive their dog and they can often feel isolated and lacking in self-confidence.
“Suddenly, they are out more, mixing with people. Other people are more inclined to stop them and ask them about their dog so they start to engage a lot more with the world. It’s wonderful to see.
“We have now started a scheme to partner dogs with deaf children and it has been such a big success that when the money was exhausted from the initial Children in Need grant, Hearing Dogs continued it as a mainstream activity.
“The difference in the children is wonderful. They tend to start mixing better at school, find a new grown confidence and start to develop an independence which they didn’t have before.”
For more information about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, go to www.hearingdogs.org.uk