On Thursday 8th September 2016 we kicked off the Autumn season with a heart-warming talk from Marion Sweet on the work of the charity, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf. Marion was accompanied by her own four year old hearing dog, Echo, her constant companion for the last two years. In the UK, one in six people are deaf –approximately 900,000 and of those 45,000 are children. Bruce Fogle, Ben Fogle’s father, together with the late Lady Beatrice Wright, co-founded Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in 1982. The charity trains dogs to act as ears for profoundly hearing-impaired people and is now a worldwide organisation. The charity has its own Kennel Club Approved breeding scheme and it sources its dogs from reputable breeders of cocker spaniels, labradors, poodles and a small number of crosses of these breeds. There are two training centres for the dogs. The first was created in Oxford in 1986. By 1990 the charity had placed 100 dogs with deaf people. By 1994 the charity had raised enough funds for another centre in the north of England. Now the southern centre has moved to High Wycombe. By 2010, 1600 dogs had been placed with a deaf person and by 2014 the number of dogs placed reached 2014.
Marion has been profoundly deaf from birth. She applied for a dog in 2009, and in 2014 Echo became her hearing dog. Echo had lived with a trainer and his family as a growing puppy until he was 12 months old, meeting other trainee puppies and their families at the training centre once a fortnight for a friendly playing session. Then from 12-18 months he was trained for response to sounds and signs at the Centre specifically for deaf people’s needs, finishing with intense training from 18 months – 2 years old, resting in kennels during the day and going home in the evening. For example, they were taught to alert the deaf person when hearing smoke alarms, a baby crying, post dropping through the door, knocks at the front door, the washing machine ending its cycle, traffic situations etc.
It took a year of observing Marion, her house and environment before she was matched with Echo, who is a brown cocker spaniel with a wonderfully calm temperament. Marion said, “I realise since I’ve had Echo how much I couldn’t hear.” She was introduced to two year old Echo at the Training Centre where they had a three day session of getting to know each other, sleeping in the same room overnight. Marion was finding out what Echo could do and how she should respond to him. Back at Marion’s home, Echo’s training continued. Marion’s husband was particularly grateful for Echo’s response to the cooker alarm as it meant he didn’t get any more burnt black bits in his food! Also Echo alone has to respond to sounds and do the set tasks and he will only communicate with Marion. It costs £20,000 to breed and train a dog for 2 years and there are still costs to the Charity for the 11 or 12 years of the working life of a hearing dog. For example there are two visits every year to the vet. Marion has to pay for Insurance, injections and food. The only funding to the Charity comes from fundraising.
Marion has gained independence, confidence and companionship in her partnership with Echo. Care for Echo is her number one priority. The trust, love and companionship between Marion and Echo are very plain to see. We were all very grateful to hear Marion’s and Echo’s inspirational story.
News: At the August Bank Holiday CarFest in Laverstoke, over the three days the WI tea tent raised £2,536 for Children in Need and our own Carolyn and Debbie worked hard on Sunday and Linda Sennitt, Carolyn and Debbie provided some cakes. Well done! Also, Carolyn welcomed to the WI meeting Sharon Calviou, a newcomer to the village. Why not come and join us as a guest, a potential new member, or as someone who is interested in listening to a particular speaker? You will always get a cheery welcome from this fun loving group. If anyone would like to come along or would like more details please contact Carolyn Brown. email@example.com
Thursday 13th October 2016: John Richard will talk about, ‘Life under German rule in Guernsey during WW2.’ This is an open meeting so please, men and women of the village, come and join us!
Thursday 10th November 2016: ‘Great Ormond Street Hospital’. Julie Anderson, Legacy Development Manager, will talk about the history of GOSH and life-saving breakthroughs with young patients’ moving stories.
Thursday 8th December 2016: Home entertainment with a quiz, lots of chatter, mince pies and mulled wine.